Monday, August 19, 2019

May I Point Out

In every community where mass shootings have taken place, certain things are common. One is the belief "that such a thing would never happen here. We're just not that type of place."  Reporters hear it over and over, even as the lists mount up of all those places "where such a thing could never happen."

Perhaps the final proof came recently at that Garlic festival in Gilroy, California. Here the mass shooter drove 600 miles from his home to that little festival town to work his evil. No strong bonds or reason why he drove there have surfaced, so we are left with the inescapable conclusion these evil doers don't care what place they pick, so long as they think they will be able to kill, kill, kill.

Let that sink in. No place is immune. Not even Lexington.  So, before the next place where the mayor or police chief will tell a reporter, "we never thought it could happen here," let's get the President and the NRA on board, and get some practical gun controls enacted. The NRA says its doesn't want guns in the hands of people with mental problems, but it also opposes expanded background checks, and some "red flag" laws. This does not compute. To keep guns from people with mental problems, some type of background checks are needed. Let's hope the President, and those polls showing 80% of all Americans supported expanded gun controls, may finally convince Congress to do its duty. And soon.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is under pressure to call the Senate back sooner than the planned schedule for home town electioneering, but has said he won't. If the guns of Gilroy, and Dayton, and El Paso aren't enough, how about: US-Iran relations, with the potential  for war, or those new N. Korean missiles, or serious troubles in Hong Kong which could bring in Chinese troops, or worse, the deteriorating relations over Kashmir by India and Pakistan, BOTH nations with nuclear weapons, far more serious than either Iran and North Korea. Or, more directly here at home, Wall Street laying an egg.

But members want to seek votes, and that seems more important than say, war. Shows you where their priorities are. Perhaps, as I have long supported, if House members had 4 years terms, half elected every two years, we might be able to keep Congress in session longer, instead of taking SEVEN weeks off when all those serious problems listed above are festering.

Perhaps, if members of Congress had up close and personal experience  with a mass shooter in their home, they would be more understanding of why the rest of us want something done.   But, of course, they have---they've just forgotten.  65 years ago this year, four "nationalists" entered the House visitors gallery and after a few minutes, brought hidden semi-automatic weapons from under their clothes and fired all their bullets into the House chamber below. 5 Congressmen were injured, only one seriously. All recovered. All the nationalists were grabbed since they were out of bullets, tried, convicted, and given long prison terms. What saved Congress was those semi-automatic weapons were pistols with limited magazines. Can you imagine what would have happened had they used high capacity magazines, as was done in ElPaso, Dayton, Las Vegas etcetcetc? (BTW, those "nationalists" were Puerto Rican "nationalists" seeking total independence of that island from the US. Their movement still exists but has few followers there.)
Congress reacted, by essentially tightening security in its chambers, hiring more cops, but doing little about the gun problems.  It's time for a change, before history tragically is relived even in a "place where nothing like this could happen."

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 5, 2019

Emerson Was Right

"An institution is but the lengthened shadow of one man."

The American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote that almost 200 years ago, and he was right then, and now, when we apply it to O. Leonard Press or as most people knew him - Len Press, founder of KET, who died last week at 97.

It was his vision, his energy, and his wife Lil, that together created, championed, and stamped the role that KET plays in the lives of many Kentuckians. This state would be so much poorer without KET, not just for its basic work providing educational classes for schools at all levels, but for its rebroadcast of PBS programming, as well as its own news and public affairs efforts headed by its legislative coverage, programs such as Comment on Kentucky, Kentucky Tonight, and special events such as the past weekend's live coverage of Fancy Farm.

Len wrote a book about how KET came to be, and as usual, paid tribute to many others who helped him in major ways along that journey; all true, (none more so than his wife, Lil, whose own vision sparked the Governors' Scholarship program,) but it was Len whose ideas and dogged determination made it all come together and work.

He told about this in his book "The KET Story." Read it if you want to know more, and know that the KET story is an unfinished one. As education evolves, as TV programming changes, as American society goes through many changes, KET is the institution that lets the rest of us keep up with change, and make decisions on what's best for our futures.

Len Press gave us that institution--and that chance to make wise decisions. He didn't agree with all the changes that KET has made since he left as the head man; to him the "E" in KET was the important dimension, but his legacy is we have great help in our own education, and our own ---and Kentucky's future.

What a "shadow" he has left behind.  Hopefully we will be smart enough to support it and keep it going for many tomorrows.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 29, 2019

Frustration: Or How Not To Get In Touch With Your Elected Official

Back in the day, it used to be so easy; you called your US official, a bright young staffer came on the line, you made your request, and you usually got an answer--and quickly.
Not so in these days of so MANY communication devices.

Let me explain:

Last week the US Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report on Russian interference in our 2016 elections, including reports on such interference in EVERY state, including Kentucky. I have written frequently about the need for better election security in Kentucky, so here was, hopefully, some facts on the matter I could cite in a blog urging local and state representatives to get on the ball.

So I decided to get a copy of the report:

First stop, my phone directory, to look up the district office number for Senator Paul. Putting on my reading glasses, because the type is small, I finally located his office number and called it.  That number no longer works, because Paul has given up his office in Lexington. (Thanks, Senator) So I called his Washington main office. Got a recorded voice asking me to leave a recording and they would get back to me. I needed to have a more definite report, because my blog deadline was already overdue, so I declined. 

Then I called his one state office in Bowling Green, where a sweet young thing said they couldn't tell me whether they could get me a copy or not, but if I called their field representative in LEXINGTON, she might be able to help. Got her number (somewhat incorrect) and after 2 attempts  on a very bad phone line left a message; and am awaiting a reply.

But, deadlines loom, so I tried calling the LEXINGTON office of Sen. McConnell. Got an instant recording saying if I heard that everyone was busy talking to someone else, so please leave a message. Now I remembered all those stories about how tough it is to reach the Senator; hadn't realized it also applied to his local office as well. (Not to be negative, but does anyone get through on their first try?) I declined to leave a recording.

Now, I went back to the current phone directory to look up the office of Congressman Andy Barr. Most helpful, they had a listing for our local congressman; but his name was Ben Chandler. (Lost to Barr six years ago, still UNcorrected) No number also.

Now, off to the internet, googling Barr. Not much more helpful, a lot of listing for him, but NOT his local offices, so I went to his DC listing, and there was the Lexington listing as well. Called the local number. Very helpful young man answered, for the first time, actually took down my request for a copy of the Senate report and asked me to hold while he checked. A minute or so later he came back on..sorry to tell me  they could NOT help me get a copy of any Senate report, apparently only House reports. I thanked him for his efforts.

I can tell you from many years of political reporting this type of runaround would not have happened "back in the day." What's going on here with requests from constituents?
As of now I have resolved not to call the offices of that Senate committee in DC or the GPO (Govt. Printing Office) to get this report. Maybe the lady field representative of Paul's will come through in time.

But I still don't have a topic for this week's blog.
Or, do I???

I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Special Session, Special Counsel, Special Numbers

Gov. Bevin is right to lay the stress he has on fixing our incredible pension crisis, although perhaps not to the exclusion of some lesser state problems; and of course reasonable people can argue over the best ways out. The crisis, decades in the making by lack of attention by many governors and the legislature, will not be solved overnight. His basic reforms, passed at the regular session show that. As they wend their way thru a major court test, he had to call a special session to correct some of the problems of the first bill...that's  now done..probably to face another court test filed by his fall opponent, Attorney-General Andy Beshear. We can only hope the courts will decide by the time of the November election, so voters may have the chance to make comparisons, or surely by the time of the regular session in January when other changes will most likely have to be made, and we may know if the corrections made in this week's special session are, in fact, corrections. Stay tuned, it's a complicated mess, but one that must be faced.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller tried to stress several things at his marathon testimonies this week. Let's hope at least one penetrated the skulls of legislators--and citizens: The Russians DID try to influence our 2016 presidential elections, and are at it AGAIN. And they are being joined, he feels, by China and Iran, maybe more. America is also NOT ready to meet those election challenges, either nationally or locally. Congress MUST face up to this but it is also a challenge that needs to be met in Lexington and Frankfort. Example: Lexington's election machines do NOT have a paper record and are thus subject to tampering that may not be discernible. And for all the political arguments over Sec. of State Grimes' powers, our state election process is not secure either. The next legislative session is probably our last chance to get our voting house in order and secure, if it isn't already too late. We need to thank Counsel Mueller for this crucial reminder.

Ever since Dr. David Roselle, an eminent mathematician, left the UK presidency, our flagship institution has suffered from some "number" problems. For the second time, UK has admitted many more students than it has rooms; despite years of cookie-cutter construction of such rooms through contracts with private builders, not itself. Can't UK count? Apparently not--and parents and citizens paying for UK need to know more about why not.  Meanwhile it has been reported that Dr. Eli Capilouto, our current UK president, is the 4th highest paid college head for public universities, over a million dollars a year in pay, benefits, etc. He's a good man, is doing well basically, but somehow this just doesn't seem right. We are not North Carolina, or Texas, or Michigan, or California and our financial resources are much more strained. Between "lifetime" contracts for a coach and this report, our priorities seem to be out of whack. Next thing you know, UK supporters will be yelling "We're number one!"

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 15, 2019

Kentucky Politics: Rumors And Reports

For some time there have been rumors that Democrat Amy McGrath, the ex-Marine jet pilot who ran a good but losing race against Congressman Andy Barr, would announce her candidacy for the US Senate seat now held by Mitch McConnell. Then came reports, from a New York talk show not a Kentucky news source, that someone named Amy McGrath was doing just that. Only it couldn't have been the old Amy McGrath.

This new Democratic candidate, unlike the first who had proclaimed her progressive beliefs, endorsed some of the Trump policies. Arrgh! And to make matters worse, this new McGrath said if she had been in Mitch's seat she would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanagh to the Supreme Court. Well, the national sisterhood jumped all over her on that, along with about everyone else--including the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer (who supposedly had urged the old McGrath to run,) and soon whoever this new McGrath was took it all back. Double arrgh!

So now who is this person? And who else, real or otherwise, might seek to oppose Mitch, who definitely needs opposing, even in his own party--an unlikely event.
Let us wait and see while other Dems consider jumping into what all know would be a very tough, uphill race. The state's lone Democrat in Congress, John Yarmuth of Louisville, would be a good one. A certain lawyer, masquerading as a sports figure, might be another, as would House minority leader Rocky Adkins, though he doesn't seem so inclined.

But meanwhile we have to consider what Dems do with a candidate who won many's affections by her straight talk running for Congress, and who now seems willing to throw all that political gold away trying to be all things to all people just to win.
Don't know who this new Amy McGrath really is, but her party, and Kentucky, could use the old---and real---one back.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 1, 2019

I Smell A Rat, A Judicial Rat

And at the Supreme Court, too.

Its decision last week NOT to make a decision in 2 cases (more later) of obvious partisan gerrymandering (drawing election district lines to favor your party alone, screwing the other party and all voters) smells to high heaven of the worse kind of decision making by the high court (as bad as the decision on Florida voting ---more later--that may have cost Al Gore the presidency.)

The Chief Justice asked a legitimate question; how much partisan gerrymandering is OK? Where can the lines be drawn? And then totally surrendered his job of deciding such questions and gave up but, of course, by a 5-4 vote including the 2 new conservative judges. The court is there to make such decisions, tough or not. It has done so many times before. In the famous Florida vote case it was ultimately ruling on those famous "hanging chads," remember? Was this a Gore vote or a Bush vote? Hold the chad up to the light and try to ascertain the voter's intention. It did just that in its decision. Only the most important and powerful job in the world was at stake, yet somehow, it was able to make a decision.

But not in the current gerrymandering cases. I smell a rat.  The court had before it cases from 2 states, one where the GOP dominated state legislature had redrawn previous election district lines to favor them, and a second case where a Democrat controlled state legislature had done the same thing. What a great opportunity to reaffirm an old American tradition of one person, one vote, and say: a pox on both your houses! This is wrong no matter who does it, and when.

But this Golden Opportunity was too much for the Republican dominated Supreme Court to pass up. Indeed, I strongly suspect it waited for two cases from two states, each controlled by one party, to opt out and say  "it's too tough for us to decide." Judges  have been deciding tough cases ever since King Solomon and the 2 mothers who each wanted the same baby. But this time, with 2 cases where the gerrymandering was so apparent (and so partisan) the court gave up.

Could it be because the court knows the GOP controls many more state legislatures right now than Democrats? And with a new census but a few years away, NOT deciding gives the GOP even more of a chance to draw lines to favor it, on the state level and on the federal level (read, more gridlock in Washington.)

But the court can say, well, we had 2 cases, one from each party, that were blatantly corrupt, but we just couldn't decide where to draw the line without jepordizing FUTURE  cases that MIGHT come before us.  Meadow Muffins!

Is there any way we can garnish their salaries for failure to do the job to which they were NOT elected?

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, June 24, 2019

Congress, Again And Again

Remember a few weeks ago, a spate of stories about how Congress had bills before it to act on all those anoying robo-calls many of us get? I thought about a blog topic then along the lines of "what took you so long?" How many YEARS has this problem existed and it's only now that our Congress gets around to it?  BTW, nothing definite yet--from the body that is supposed to represent us.

Jon Stewart was right, also, to call Congress out for not acting on aid for the First Responders who have suffered grievious medical problems from their work in lower Manhattan during 9/11. He complained, rightly, their benefits were expiring soon and Congress had no timetable to taking up extending them. Our Mitch smugly replied that Congress often acts at the last minute-but it would take action here. Meanwhile, a few more 9/11 victims have died, and their families are up in the air in many cases because "congress often acts at the last minute." This important matter has been called to its attention and for the senate leader and others, to take more time than is needed, is inefficient, impractical, inhumane and ought to be remember when next he--and several others-run for office.

But Stewart also missed a major point, one that rankles me a lot, and shows another side. Congress acted VERY swiftly after 9/11 to pass a bill EXEMPTING those airlines who carried the terrorists from being sued by the families of the dead passengers. Congress can act quickly when it wants to and it wanted to let American, United, et al off the hook, and also not let defense lawyers circling to sue from getting their cases heard. Forget the facts that the TSA/FAA and airlines were monumentally negligent here; as news story after story, and actually tapes of the terrorists getting thru screenings proved beyond doubt--oh, and overlook the airline industries political contributions as well. These sad parts of the "First Responders' "  is still with us, and will be for some  time I suspect.

Congress is a century late, some tell us, facing another issue: "reparations for slavery." This may become a hot button issue in the campaign, but it shouldn't. There are just too many unknowns and intangibles here, such as who today should get reparations for all those dead people we did greatly harm then?  Do we even know--for certain? It's a bad idea, and it's out of place. IF we wanted to pay such reparations today, let us begin with the people we really injured much earlier, even before the first slave arrived in Virginia. I'm talking about the American Indians, or Native Americans if you prefer (I don't) or better, what Canada calls the "First Nation." If we are going to do reparations, we need to start there, and work our way up to a more present time.

I'm just sayin'...