Sunday, March 1, 2015

NOTES ON ITEMS IN THE NEWS

1---Do NOT jump to conclusion we know who Jihadi John is. So far, only the media has reported his identity, not any government agency.  The media may be right, but….Even such a notorious person as “JJ” deserves the benefit of the doubt until we are 100% sure who he is.

2. If ever there was a case for a change of venue, the Boston  bomber case is it.  How in the world can this guy get a fair trial in that city?  I know, 5 different courts have said he can. I don’t believe it..and IF I am right and he is convicted, this would be a grounds for overturning his conviction on appeal…and that is just not worth taking such a risk.  Better to hold the trial elsewhere and avoid such a problem.

3. Sometime we learn. After years of letting Nazi  criminals live here undetected (or because our government didn’t want to know, which was worse)—several of whom lived into their 90s before we brought them to justice, the US has recently moved to deport 300 Bosnians, maybe involved in the same genocide  as the Nazis, only as recently as the 1990s. Maybe we have learned.

4. Maybe. Remember Attica? Perhaps the bloodiest prison riot in US history, forever staining the otherwise admirable administration of NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller. 40 years ago, and yet..3 prison guards at Attica have been charged with the brutal beating of a prisoner and are awaiting trial.

5. Remember those Somali pirates? They just released 4 poor fishermen from Thailand, held longer than any of their other captives. A UN agency negotiated their release. If you are out of the news,  except to your family, who works for your wellbeing? Apparently only the UN.

6. And while we are remembering, how about  Tupperware? Once a staple of American life, its biggest market is now Indonesia.  Just thought you’d like to know.

Monday, February 23, 2015

SOME ADVICE FOR THE KENTUCKY GOP



Not that they asked me..but then, they didn’t ask Sen. Rand Paul either, and he wants them to change their decades old state primary way of selecting candidates into a caucus system. Why? So Sen. Paul may run for 2 federal offices at once (President and Senate) which is now prohibited.

Bad idea.

One, the system has worked for a long time, why change to an untried system?

Two, procedures based on people seldom work as well as systems based on experience or objective factors.

Three, if you have looked into the Iowa caucus system, on which Paul bases his request, you know that it has many problems.  (A New England style town meeting it is not, and that tradition would be better IF the GOP must change.)

Four, why should we allow one person to run for two offices in the same election?  We don’t do it locally, or on the state level..and that’s from years of experience (as well as fairness to other candidates), so why allow it on the federal level?

It’s a bad idea Sen. Paul and I hope the state GOP will reject it…not that they asked me.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, February 9, 2015

COLOR ME OPPOSED



Cardinal Hill, our truly great local rehab  hospital, announced last week that it has been sold  to HealthSouth, a Birmingham based health conglomerate.

The announcement of the sale, to me, was strange. It seemed to come out of thin air; I saw no news conference footage on any local TV station, as if they just sent the sale story to the Herald Leader. If you don’t hold a news conference, you don’t have a lot of reporters asking tough questions.

And tough questions should be asked about this sale.

HealthSouth has a checkered past, to put it lightly. It was formed by a man, Richard Scrushy,  who has been charged with many SEC violations, basically for cooking the books...but was found not guilty by a local jury. He was later tried on political bribery charges, along   with the governor, convicted, but may escape additional prison time because the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the law afterwards. In Alabama, he seems to have more than 9 lives in court.   Most of these law violations were in the past, perhaps  8-10 years ago and I’m sure the firm will say "our founder’s gone, we’ve cleaned up our act..and we really want to buy Cardinal Hill.”

Maybe so, but the headline in the Herald Leader said "all services to remain the same.”  I don’t believe that. I’ve yet to see a sale like this, in any field, where everything stayed the same. It just doesn’t pass the smell test.

I don’t know if there is a state agency that has to approve this sale, but if so, I hope they look into it very carefully.  Maybe our consumer advocate, the attorney general, should do so.  And I am surprised that the Herald Leader hasn’t raised an objection, editorially, and run some story on HealthSouth’s seamy  background.

This is another great local institution we should not give up without a fight, or at least knowing a lot more about HealthSouth and its current operations and standards than we do.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, February 2, 2015

AS THE CATTLE CALL BEGINS



A word or two about practical political news reporting to you readers and my journalist colleagues.

Amazing.  That’s all I can say.  GOP hopefuls are coming out of the woodwork  to run for President. People you probably never heard of (George Pataki for example.) People who the Grand Old Party rejected last time.  Rick Santorum.  People who should rejected . Sarah Palin for example. People in another field who probably shouldn’t be in this field. I.E. Ben Carson


But as the cattle call increases,---probably because of the nearly BILLION dollar kitty the Koch Brothers have come up with to support their brand of  conservative Republicanism, more candidates may yet announce. Having covered 14 national party conventions, and presidential politics since 1948, a word or two to the hopefuls..but even more to my readers.

1—NO poll this far ahead of time has any validity.

2—There is no such thing, at this point, as a “front runner.”  (some political reporters will weasel a bit, and talk about a “presumptive front runner” but that’s not much more accurate either.)

3—There are no dynasties, in either party. Each well known candidate is subject to the vote of the American people.

4—all this wisdom of mine applies to BOTH major parties. HRC is neither “front runner” nor “shoo-in.” Truly, I’ve seen political reports recently that make me wonder if the writer was born after 2008, or remember how a little known Illinois junior senator could possibly win against  the Clinton dynasty/machine/etc.

5—There will be an election in 2016..and we still have that outdated, UNdemocratic Electoral college to contend with, voting machines that are unreliable (chads or not) far from tamper-proof, bad local voting laws, parties and candidates determined to hold down voting instead of increasing it, gerrymandering in many, if not all states, Kentucky being no exception, etcetcetc—it’s a wonder “the world’s greatest Democracy” gets an election done. We have much to do to live up to that phrase.

Let us begin…but in the meantime, let’s have some honest, accurate political reporting and analysis.

I'm just sayin'....    


Monday, January 26, 2015

THE FACTS, PLEASE THE FACTS



A recent letter in my favorite Lexington morning paper expressed an opinion almost totally devoid of any factual basis, but one, I suspect, a lot of people share.

It’s about Gitmo, and the suspected terrorist we hold there—and have for the last dozen years.

First, almost none, if any, of them have been “convicted”, that is, had a trial with evidence presented, their side heard, and a verdict rendered. These people are all “suspect” and their actual trials may be years away..except for a few who have been found “innocent”, that is, the military and other US government agencies which brought them to our Cuban base have decided, after years of looking into their cases, there was a “rush to judgment” and these people actually are NOT terrorists. Problem is, in many cases, they can not return to their homelands.  New governments there, old political and tribal feuds, etc would place  their lives in serious dangers, and the US doesn’t want to make a second mistake.  So these “innocents” languish there and have for YEARS while the US tries  to find new homes for them  Once in a while a little US diplomatic arm bending (likely infused with promises of aid and/or cash to these governments) and there’s a strange agreement whereby people from the boonies of Asia end up in Uruguay, or Samoa or someplace just like the home they knew in Afghanistan or Iraq!! Hey, , at least it’s better than a barbed wire prison cell..or so the US thinks. (What these “innocents” think we seldom hear because our government puts serious restrictions on their attorneys, if any, or social workers, and reporters who may talk with them.

And yes, after several years some of those cleared  do find their way home, and pay back the US for a dozen years of prison life at Gitmo by actually, now, becoming terrorists  Surprise!

Gitmo and the whole premise behind it may be worse that water boarding in the secret prisons of our “rendition” program. It is a blight on the American system of justice and the fair Play most Americans think this country represents. But to compare those few released with the terrorists of the Charlie Hebro tragedy, as the local letter did, is just plain wrong.

Gitmo’s prison and the people being held there should never have happened. But it’s continuation, year after year, is even worse. Those now there deserve “speedy trials”. (Have you heard that phrase before?) Those found guilty should be jailed; those found innocent should be compensated and set free.

This blight needs to end..but only after it is a major point of debate in the 2016 presidential campaign.

I'm just sayin'....

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'...