Sunday, January 11, 2015

JE SUIS CHARLIE. JE SUIS AHMED!

France has gone thru a nightmare, a tragedy these past few days---which we need to understand and support her.

I annually do one blog on how many journalists were killed covering the news. It was 61 last year, with Syria as the most dangerous. Already this year we have lost the dozen  cartoonists and staff  of Charlie Hebdo to be listed in this year’s toll. As a journalist I am proud to stand with them and say “Je suis Charlie.”  (I, too, am Charlie Hebdo.)

But let’s be clear. That magazine is way, way over the top for America and our political correctness these days. It couldn’t be sold on the UK campus, and its editors probably wouldn’t be invited to speak to any journalism class. Do you think Joel Pett could have a cartoon published in the Herald-Leader in which he drew Jesus in a pornographic situation? But that is exactly what Charlie has done, often, for the Prophet Mohammed. Maybe that explains the firebombing of its offices two years ago.

France is more tolerant of such over-the-top journalism. It was one of  her  great philosophers, Voltaire, who said "I don’t agree with you, but I will defend, with my life, your right to say it.” That is the truest spirit of free speech and free press…and it is the extremists who most often challenge us to keep on with that support.

But, drawing extreme cartoons and spouting unpopular expressions is one thing..killing people for their views is quite another. And it is here that the political extremists like the radical Muslims cross the line..as do many religious fundamentalists,. Including some supposedly Christian sects.

Let us remember...as the killers left Charlie’s offices, one of them spotted a wounded policeman on the sidewalk, and killed him, execution style.  That cop was a Muslim, his name was Ahmed—doing his job to protect the cartoonists and people of Paris.

In the later shootout at the kosher grocery in Paris, a black Muslim store clerk, hid a dozen customers in a walk-in cooler, risking his life for them.  Before we condemn all Muslims let us remember these  people..and the chilling example of a young girl who wanted nothing but to go to school..before the Taliban got on her school bus and shot her in the head. Yes, Malala, of Nobel Peace Prize fame, is a  Muslim, too.

Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Ahmed, Je suit Voltaire.

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

WHAT DO YOU MEAN: OUR LONGEST WAR IS OVER???

There were many news reports last  week, as the US handed over more control of the war in Afghanistan that “our longest war” was over.

NOT true—at least not in my perspective.

First, Ten thousand or more troops remain..and if there’s a “surge” by the Taliban, or if ISIS moves into that country, stand by for many calls for more “boots on the ground” again. ..as we will hear if ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq seem to be winning.

We should never have been in Afghanistan. The Bush administration, frankly, deceived the American people..as it did with the WMD approach in Iraq.  Only here it was that “the Taliban is in league with Al-Qaida” and is, therefore, partially responsible for the events of 9/11. Not true.  In religious doctrine, both extremist groups did not agree. The Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11.  But in the haste…and rush to war in Iraq, the US went along. We have yet to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan..and as the poppy fields bloom again there..we  may yet have a War on Heroin if nothing else.

But, secondly,  what about the Korean “War”? The US started fighting there in 1950…65 years ago, SIX times the length of the Afghan war,  and there is still NO peace treaty between us. We maintain military forces there, and occasionally shooting breaks out, and an American GI is killed. That’s war to me..even though Congress NEVER declared war, and as a fact, has not since the end of World War Two! While Congressmen swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, maybe they haven’t read the section on the power to declare war recently.

Wars are tricky things..but if we are ever to understand them, and deal with them properly, the facts must be out there. Declaring any end to our “longest war” is no way to help America do that.

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

THE NADIR OF ABC NEWS???

This is the time of the year when we think about the people we miss…and I miss Diane Sawyer. 



No, she didn’t die during 2014, she left the anchor chair of the ABC evening news…and I miss this Kentucky gal..so does the world of journalism, for World News Tonight is not the same and ABC all along the line is slipping, badly.



ABC promoted its weekend anchor, David Muir to succeed our Diane, which is replacing a heavyweight with a middleweight, at best. I don’t notice any changes he has brought to the program, so far, except a lousy opening, but other changes are apparent.



The people who succeeded Muir on weekends are lightweights. One of them, in reporting how close a satellite would come to a comet said "120,000 miles per hour” which is not distance but speed. Another new weekend anchor told us a land-based flag was flying “at half mast," instead of "half staff," a mistake usually reserved for Journalism 101.

I watched a 2 hour ABC special on the main news of 2014. News? Gossip, you mean. The show appeared to give more time in covering a teenage grocery store bagger “hottie” than it did to Ebola or ISIS in Syria. True news events were submerged in comments from editors at “People” magazine, not Time, People..which should have been a clue to avoid wasting my time.

Is this the nadir of ABC News?  No, but the network’s journalistic efforts have slipped badly from the days of Peter Jennings or our Diane.

Locally, Lexington TV news isn’t faring much better. One station is running promos with grammatical errors. A reporter for another station and an anchor of a third both mispronounced “Roosevelt.” Apparently they didn’t watch PBS which got it right. The first syllable rhymes with “rose.” Not that KET doesn’t have its own problems. A minute before “Comment on Kentucky” last Friday it ran a promo saying that program was coming up.  It wasn’t, apparently a holiday change..but still!!!!

Let’s hope the New Year brings better Journalism…nationally and locally.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 22, 2014

SANITY RETURNED, AND INSANITY BEGAN THIS WEEK IN U.S. FOREIGN POLICY



SANITY---For 50 years our  policy towards Cuba hasn’t worked. It’s past time for major changes, even the small ones President Obama set in motion this week. And, as dozens of Kentuckians who have visited Cuba recently would tell you, the Cubans they met will welcome the changes and Americanos there.

They seek our music, our culture, our visitors, our dollars…and our trade.

Therein lies the major rub. The US economic sanctions against Cuba remain…initiated by a hostile Congress years ago and thus outside Presidential pardons. American business has been salivating for years to do business in  Cuba..as all our friends do--Canada, Britain, France, Mexico, etc..and yet, the GOP, the party of business, wants to stop what the President has done, and hold back US businesses from trading there.  Give me a break.



INSANITY---While I recognize the issues of possible censorship raised by North Korea’s apparent hacking of Sony Pictures, as the President outlined..our motion picture industry often censors itself..what was the last picture you saw on corruption in China (the single biggest market for US films outside the USA) for example. These are serious, but so are other issues.

A freshman lawyer on his first case could win millions if Sony released the film, and some local theater had a bombing, or an Aurora, Colorado type shooting. (Remember Aurora?) This is a real concern for Sony, and theater goers!

But, let’s go to the beginning of this film. We are told it’s a satire, though none of us have seen it. The basic idea: two US comics are drafted by the CIA to KILL the new North Korean president. KILL? That’s against the law (though the CIA has violated that law as it has so many others. FUNN-knee? I’m rolling on the floor with laughter.  Helluva premise for a film..a bad premise. See what trouble it has gotten us into.

We don’t even know what policies the new, young guy will pursue. He’s reported to like Western films, music, and whiskey (bourbon?)  He MAY be better than his dad, and yet, without giving him a chance, we want to knock him off? Great foreign policy that.

But---don’t any of our Sony execs, or US foreign policy people remember..the US tried, officially and unsuccessfully  to kill Castro. And when JFK was murdered among the major rumors, for years, was that the Cubans were behind it as retribution. That’s what makes foreign policy  often such a slippery slope. Normally, it’s bad enough..without a quarter-baked idea for a lousy film screwing things up even more.

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

YOU..AND I..HAVE COMMITTED MURDER

OK,  it was done indirectly, but it was done in our name…by our government.



The Senate report on the CIA last week made this clear. At least one person died at the hands of U-S interrogators using “EIT”s..Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. The President called those techniques  “torture," so did the Senate Committee, and so did Republican Senator John McCain, the only member of the Senate to have been subjected to torture while a POW in ‘Nam.

EIT's were torture. No court in the U-S would permit a police department to use them to extract information  from  suspects, which is what the people we used them on were..none had yet been convicted of any crime.

But, once the Bush administration decided to use torture..water boarding being the best known example..but far from the only one---and this despite the U-S having signed the UN’s Global treaty against torture---what happened?  Did the CIA turn to a brother federal agency with the most experience in interrogations to administer the EITs?  You do not know Washington if you think the CIA would bring in the FBI with its years of experience here. No way; our turf.

So the CIA, again from the Senate report, hired two outside psychiatrists, neither with experience in such interrogations or in Al Qaida, and turned them loose..at the expense of $81 million of your tax dollars. They developed the program, which others, often with little experience applied. No wonder at least one person died…and the value of any information gotten is hotly disputed.

It was an illegal program, poorly conceived, badly run, and it resulted in---among other things—recruiting hundreds to the ranks of Al Qaida, the Taliban, and ISIS. It sullied America’s reputation among our friends..as if dozens of Abu Ghraibs had been unleashed upon the world by the nation where the Rule of Law had been a cherished tradition.

This is partly due  to the “ends justifies the means” argument among top U-S officials, excessive secrecy..usually broken by some fine reporters (several of whom have and are  facing prison for their stories,) the divided, gridlocked government in Washington..and a public which wasn’t concerned enough to protest vigorously  when these excesses were hinted at.

We can not be free at home if we deny our freedoms to others abroad, especially when representatives of our government are doing the denying.  I hope the suspect murdered in my name---and yours—will at least have compensation paid to his family, and an official apology from the U.S. government.

The rest of us need to make sure nothing like this ever happens again..in your name, my name, or America’s.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 8, 2014

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

First, there’s Ferguson. After a tragic death, the protesters rightfully call for “justice.” But that justice as in Florida was really "only a verdict I agree with!” and that is not Justice. If you agree to let the Justice system decide, then you need to accept the verdict…in all but the most egregious cases. (Sacco and Vanzetti?)

That said, there are problems with  the Justice system  in the Ferguson area.  Little noted was a case  tried there  years ago. It hinged on whether police were justified in opening fire against the defendants. The police case, the same prosecutor presented, was based on their claim that a truck was moving toward them and they opened rire in fear of their lives. Despite overwhelming technical evidence the truck did NOT move, the jury cleared the cops.

That story is all too often repeated. But the time to get the Justice system  improved is not when Ferguson, a town 80% black, has but 3 black officers on a 50 plus man police force. That imbalance should have been worked on years ago.



And then there’s Staten Island..the I can’t breathe case from New York City. In my view, this is very different. The video tape, and the NYPD’s own regulations against choke holds prove this cop or these cops should have been indicted.  They may then have their day in court, and a jury, in public, will decide. All the re-training of 35,000 cops won’t change the fact that Justice was not served here.

There are major differences between these cases but the bottom line is that Justice is supposed to be colorblind..as well as occupation (cop) blind..and in our America of 2014 is isn’t.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 1, 2014

MORE COAL MINE INSPECTORS ARE NEEDED

The January short session of the legislature will meet to set budget priorities, and make changes in the budget already adopted.

Kentucky badly needs more coal mine inspectors...even with mining production falling; which may seem like a fallacy.

But recent news stories have pointed out several facts:

Kentucky has failed to collect millions in mine safety violation  fines...some from out of state millionaires. While the inspectors don’t collect those fines, they can keep after culprit mines and keep pressure on other state agencies to do their jobs.

Environmental groups have again told the state that some mines are falsifying their pollution reports...and there does seem to be evidence they are right. These groups shouldn’t have to do such reports, the state should, and with enough inspectors it can.

Inspectors are there to make sure safety rules are followed. If they do their jobs correctly, miners can work more safely.  Fewer inspectors mean, inevitably, more mine accidents and more Kentuckians injured and killed.

This is where budget priorities need to change..and where this state needs a “culture change”..no longer turning a blind eye to operator violations. Fewer eyes, more violations, and  more deaths in an already not-too-safe industry.

I'm just sayin'...