Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Happy Ratification Day!

Today, Monday, Jan. 14th is our Ratification Day; the day the Continental Congress approved the Treaty of Paris with Great Britan, ending the Revolutionary War, and legally establishing the 13 colonies as the United States of America.  Not the same as July 4th, but a much more significant day in our history than the attention it isn’t given.
So how far have we come this “greatest nation in the world?”
Well, let’s remember our democracy in 1784, a truly radical experiment, was a work in progress.
Each MAN was created equal, we told the world, thanks to Tom Paine and John Adams, and Tom Jefferson, and it was “man.”  Women didn’t vote. Blacks, even “3/5ths” of them didn’t vote. Not all white men voted; in many states/colonies you had to have “property” to vote.  “Indentured servants” (remember them?) didn’t vote. Sharecroppers didn’t vote, and, I hate to remind you, in some colonies certain religions couldn’t vote. (Those notorious Quakers among others, those quiet, most peaceful people you could find, yup, no voting for them.)
Well, OK, property requirements to vote soon fell away; so did religious tests. but it took 150 years for women to get the vote. (And by one male vote, BTW, in the last state to ratify, Tennessee.) Looking back from our wisdom of today, how in the world did that happen?  150 years!!!
And, I submit, blacks still are not 100% free to vote given the restrictions imposed by some states still, though not always Southern. And by attempts, by both parties, to gerrymander every election district they can get away with.
And as to Hispanics (the “black man” of today,) they are often found fighting to secure the vote.
(I won’t even go into what we did to American-born, Japanese citizens during WW2.)

And BTW, every person who fought for the Colonies in our Revolutionary War---every single one of them---was an immigrant. Please think about that when you hear calls to shut our borders, or make entry much more difficult, to those fleeing oppression or who seek a new life in our land---as those who fought in 1776 so often did.
All of this by way of both saluting Ratification Day, and reminding us that America is still a work in progress; a work that calls us to keep trying to live up to what the Declaration of Independence promised.
We could start by eliminating the Electoral college, which makes one Kentuckian’s vote NOT equal to the vote cast next door in Ohio, or Indiana, or Tennessee. We could demand the House (and especially the Senate) reform their  rules so that one man, even if he is a Kentuckian, can  not block new laws by refusing to bring them up for a vote. (Remember, before that one man was a Kentuckian, he was a Nevadan, and he will be again.)
We can overturn the Citizens United Decision of the Supreme Court which said that MONEY is free speech, and that while I am not a corporation, a corporation is me, a person entitled to the freedoms of every American citizen, including spending secret billions to elect people as our last few elections have actually done.
Yes, on this Ratification Day, we Americans have a lot to be thankful for, and a very lot to do to truly make this “a more perfect union” and the “greatest country in the world.”
Let’s have at it!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Some Thoughts At The Start Of The Year

After the ill-considered (and UNnecessarily expensive special session) the legislature is back in town for its 30 day session. Since regular sessions are less costly than special sessions---and better equipped to handle any issue—it is past time for another Constitutional amendment.  The legislature should be given the power (only the governor has it now) to call itself back into session, and it should not limit itself to 30 days every other year, but have “regular” sessions each year.
It should plan now for the 2020 elections but establishing a nonpartisan commission to handle drawing of state and federal election districts, with their results to stand unless overturned by an extraordinary majority of both chambers.
Another Constitutional amendment needed; eliminating the “dueling” provisions which makes Kentucky the laughing-stock of the nation every four years.
Every session some items come up which are important, which need to be taken care of, and which few thought of beforehand. Case in point: a report this week from a  national humane group that Kentucky ranks dead last in laws caring for our pets. Did you know that veterinarians are FORBIDDEN to report cases of suspected animal cruelty? Why on earth would we have such a law? What group would lobby for it? Why would lawmakers pass it? Get rid of this one right away!
Gossip—I stress gossip—says Bevin may not run again, possibly awaiting a call from Trump for a DC office. If he waits until the last minute to file, his party, and all of us voters, would be behind the 8 ball. It’s good someone has filed, but changes in the filing law are needed, including moving the date back closer the primary.
Meanwhile a major candidate, Adam Edelen, has filed for the Democratic governor's race. But the state’s largest paper, the Courier-Journal, didn’t cover his announcement, even though he has a prominent Louisville man as running mate, using a small Associated Press story instead.  This is bad journalism, and unfair to the candidate and voters. The Herald-Leader did a major article, and a 2nd one on the Lt. Governor candidate.
Yet both papers, AP, and most media do NOT cover properly or fully the “perennial” candidates, such as Geoff Young (mentioned but not his running mate)—even though they are legal candidates and could win.
Primary candidates should be required to state their party affiliation in their ads, which many did NOT do in this year’s election.
And so on and on it goes.  Frankfort has much to do this year (did I mention pensions, funding schools, roads??) Annual sessions would be one way to make Kentucky a more modern state, one able to handle its problems more effectively.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Some Thoughts At Year's End

There is no excuse for any reason at any time for any person or party to shut down the government.
2018 seems to have brought to an end the use of a phrase which never was true where aerial bombing was concerned, "surgical strike.” An official survey by the US reported that in the 4 years the US has been involved in such bombing in Syria, a MINIMUM of 1100 innocent civilians were killed. Almost everyone connected to this survey believes the real number is higher but the US now admits to such killings, which to me are murders, pure and simple. We had no reason to enter the war, under Obama, or continue it—so far—under Trump. No Congressional Declaration of War, as the Constitution requires, for just one example. Now we admit one of the gravest errors of that decision. For all of us who didn’t object, for our Kentucky Congressional delegation—which didn’t oppose it---this is just one of the consequences; and blood on all our hands.
There is no excuse for any reason at any time for any person or party to shut down the government.
Congrats to the UK football team for its bowl win.  All season long our achilles heel has been pass defense, and it nearly cost us this game.  All season long, Stoops has not been good at time management, as it is called, especially near game’s end. This time he did it right and it saved his hind quarters.  (They will debate the field goal vs going-for-it for years at Penn State).  BTW, let’s not forget what that win also means for Coach Stoops; I think his contract calls for a $250,000 bonus, maybe more.
There is no excuse for any reason at any time for any person or party to shut down the government.
Kentucky law required people to register in a party to vote in the most important election of all—the primary. I know the reasoning, but why then do we allow candidates to run campaign spots withOUT indicating which party they belong to??? In the run-up to the November election I saw one, maybe two spots of the zillion on tv that listed the candidate’s party. One or the other of these situations should change.
There is no excuse for any reason at any time for any person or party to shut down the government.
Of the many despicable things Pres. trump has tweeted about recently the most despicable (as well as false) was to blame the Democrats for the deaths of the two children who died in government custody at the border. The policy of separating kids from parents is a recent—and Trump administration policy—as outgoing Chief of State Kelly admitted in a recent news story, blaming it on A/G Sessions. Both parties, historically, have much to answer for as to our truly bad immigration laws, but this one’s father is The Donald.
There is no excuse for any reason at any time for any person or party to shut down the government.
Doesn’t anyone proof read any more?  TV Guide informed us this week that last Sunday’s CBS 60 Minutes program was being hosted by Lester Holt. It wasn’t and the longtime NBC evening news anchor may have been even more surprised than anyone at CBS.
There is no excuse......
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What Do People Expect From Their Government?

It’s not always the same. Take Indonesians, for example, since the latest tsunami may be on our minds, as the death toll rises to 420 and keeps on going. (Bad enough, but minor compared to the huge one in 2004 that killed 230,000 people there.) Since the ‘04 tsunami, the government had promised its people a more extensive and better system for detecting such waves, and the events that cause them. But in more detailed news reports over the weekend it came out that the new system, installed by 2012, was NOT working, and no alarm sounded. Why???  One official blamed “vandalism and budget shortfalls.”
So the government of Indonesia, (one of the most earthquake, volcano, and tsunami-prone places on earth,) played fast & loose with its peoples' lives, placing a higher priority on who-knows-what over lives and safety of the people it was sworn to help and defend.
(In Kentucky, as elsewhere, “budget shortfalls” - debts and deficits in reality - are the excuses given for just about everything that doesn’t get done, including small items like retirement funding, contractual promises made state workers, who do so much for the rest of us.)
What do the American people expect from our government?
A lot more than national defense (not the same thing as so-called border security)---mail delivered daily, roads maintained, faulty medicines and food kept off the market, debts (such as Social Security and Medicare) paid on time, after all WE paid into those plans in a contract with our government to get it back later, veterans taken care of properly (I won’t even deign to go into this promise which has been so badly kept for years,) but just the same, we citizens have done our part (or we were fined and jailed), now our government MUST (ethically and legally) do the same.
There is NO excuse for ANY reason, at ANY time, for any PERSON or PARTY to shut down our government.
(And, BTW, all those “continuing resolution” stopgap measures, temporary funding bills need to remind us that Congress itself used to pass a budget by July 1st., (and when it found it could not,) kicked the can down the road to a new deadline of October 1st., (and for the last few years, found out it can’t do that either.)  Let’s remember these things when the next election comes ‘round.
In the meantime: There is NO excuse for ANY reason, at ANY time, for any PERSON OR PARTY, to shut down our government.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 17, 2018

Kentucky Pensions And President Trump

Our supreme court spoke last week on one of its biggest cases in years (gracefully waiting until after the November elections) and ruled the Bevin-GOP attempt to revise our broken state pension system was illegal.  No surprises here as it was obvious to anyone who understood the English language the legislature had violated its own rules as well as the state Constitution; in the way it passed the “reform” bill.
What was a surprise: the unanimous decision against the Bevin- GOP approach. Unanimous. Judges of both parties and of varying judicial views all held the way it was done was wrong. (Implications for other bills---and there are many—passed the same way will probably be raised soon and cause new cases.)
Another minor surprise, the court did NOT go into the pension reform itself, as many had hoped, but ruled narrowly, as courts are inclined to do, that the method used was wrong.  Unfortunately this means IF a new legislature gets it right this time, a later case—sure to be filed—(with more expense and delay) would be needed to get our worst-in-the-nation-pension system changed. The court could have saved us all a lot of grief if it had gone into the reforms themselves.
Of course Gov. Bevin and his legislative allies were disappointed. They had worked long and hard to make changes, but they had also been warned they were going about it the wrong way.
So what was their reaction?
Just as President Trump’s—when he gets a court ruling he doesn’t like—blame the judges.
Bevin, who is not a lawyer, might (might) be excused, though he should, as every citizen should, understand the Rule of Law. But for top GOP legislative leaders to react by suggesting “we need to rein in the judges” is really discouraging. They know better and their words are just one more GOP attempt to damage our system of governing; words and actions echoed by at least 2 other state legislatures under GOP control that voted recently to strip powers from governors when the elections brought in a Democrat. This shows bad faith in our system, and likely will be overturned, in time, at considerable cost to those states who don’t have extra money lying around these days.
More and more our governor and state government seems to be becoming little Donalds.
It’ discouraging to see the President constantly disparaging our system of checks and balances, of three branches of government—each with its role to play, to make America work. With each new disparagement our Democracy falters, at a time we can least afford it. Elected officials have a responsibility to improve our system, not actively work to tear it down. I hope our voters will remember.
One last word: there is no excuse, ever, at any time and for any reason, for any party or person to shut down our government.
I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Admonitions For The Holidays

1---Be careful when you read the ingredients of holiday goodies.   
     I like bourbon balls, often buy them this time of year. Recently I bought some from a major candy maker, who used a well known distillery’s bourbon. Didn’t care for taste, so idly checked the ingredients list. There were 10 major ingredients listed (but some of the ten were actually products with 5-8 ingredients themselves.  Sugar was the main one..followed by “invert sugar” as number 2. Included in the 10 were four other major ingredients which included some form of sugar in their formulation.)  Water was the fourth highest in use ingredient. Bourbon was the 8th ingredient listed---or put another way, 3rd from the bottom as the smallest amount contained in this candy.
Maybe we should call them “Sugar Balls.” Or “Bourbon flavored Sugar Balls” since sugar made up 40-plus% of the candy, by weight.
2---Those Xmas commercials.
Each season there are a few really thoughtful, interesting and unusual commercials on the air. Often its those of the Budweiser Clydesdales; but so far this year, a Meijer’s commercial is primo - the one about the little dog locked out of the house during present wrapping—and what happens next.  Check it out. (Liked the dog-centered Mercedes spot also for a few airings, but I could look at the Meijer’s spot many times.)
3---Now if I could just get area radio stations to play my all-time fave Xmas “commercial.”—one that was banned by some stations when it first came out 60 years ago. To find out why, and cheer the sentiment contained therein, Google “Stan Freberg’s Green Christmas.”  Just “Green Christmas” won’t do, that’s  a popular song by some other group. You can find just the lyrics, or on some websites, including Youtube, hear it played by his acting company. Well worth it.
I'm just sayin...Happy Christmas to all—and to all a Good Night.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Bush 41 And Bevin

Former President George H.W. Bush visited Kentucky a number of times, and as a journalist I was privileged to meet with him as part of a small group of broadcast reporters interviewing him. He impressed me with his sincerity, pleasantness and civility---in person and as hallmarks of his administration.  Reagan talked of “compassionate conservatism” but didn’t really delivery it; Bush did.
His “Thousand points of light” program was just one example. Trump has disparaged it, but it was truly nothing more than the old idea of volunteerism for America, helping your neighbor as a tradition on our nation. The Bush family, as the Kennedys and others, exemplified this in the extreme. They had profited by being Americans and felt an obligation to give something back.  You might disagree with their policies but not their desire to serve. (Several Kentucky communities were honored for their work by this program.)
Bush probably was a one term president because he broke a promise not to raise taxes. Yet, at that time, it was probably the right thing to do. But the Old Guard in the GOP never forgave him, and with a fractured party, Clinton won.
Today’s GOP is not the party of Pres. Bush; I wish it were. It was, as he put it, a “kinder, gentler” type of administration, which we lack today, both nationally and in Kentucky.
Gov. Bevin keeps trying to change the Medicaid rules so people must do some work  (or even Bush-type volunteering) to keep their benefits. Lawsuits stopping his first attempt here kept Kentucky from being the first in the nation with such a project. But appeals to DC have led them to tweak the program, in an effort to avoid the lawsuit they lost, and now Bevin is trying again.  But the same objections by opponents still apply: in many parts of Kentucky, especially Eastern Kentucky, there just aren’t the jobs—or even the opportunities to pursue volunteer projects—to meet the requirements so people will lose their benefits.       
One has to believe this is what the governor really wants. (Hardly either compassionate conservatism or a kinder, gentler approach.)  And now we have some proof. When the first lawsuit delayed our program; new lawsuits have been promised and other states went ahead. One in Alabama, was the subject of a recent report on the PBS Newshour. Surprise! In those areas of that state, where, as in our state, jobs are scarce, people could not qualify under the new work-volunteer rules and they lost their benefits. Many, as the report showed, have sunk into greater poverty, and much poorer health—much poorer.
Can we not learn from this?
Can Gov. Bevin not learn, and in the spirit of our former president, end this charade and return his party to Mr. Bush’s approach? It would serve many Kentuckians much better than these proposed new work rules; and, by the way, it’s much better politics.
I'm just sayin'...