Sunday, July 20, 2014

MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT

My name is Andy D. Smith, a good old American name, and why not, my family has lived in Southern Mississippi for over five generations.

I am named for a forebearer who led our family’s immigration to America. He was Anders deGroot Schmitt, of Dutch extraction, a Boer who lived in what is now South Africa. Liking America, he Anglicized our name.

When the British won the Boer Wars, we had no desire to live under their occupation, and especially under their religious beliefs, that of the Church of England. We were of the Dutch Reform faith, even a conservative branch of that conservative faith. It preached “the white man’s burden” if you will…that we had an obligation of charity towards them but not one of equality. Our theology and our preachers constantly reminded us the black man was not our equal. Since England had abolished slavery early in the 19th century we knew it was but a matter of time before our beliefs and English law would conflict.

We, my ancestors, set about finding a new land. They had read many of the tracts and speeches of your Southern preachers, of several denominations, who held as we did on this matter of so-called  equality…even after your Civil War.  Anders..Andy..led several families to Southern Mississippi around the turn of the 19th century and we settled in 3 small towns there. More families came later as we established farms, and then stores to sell our produce, and later general supplies and other items.

Our farms and  stores are all ”closely held.”  Only family members may hold stock in them, no stock may be sold or transfer to an outsider and all transactions must be approved by an extraordinary majority of family members. Those who marry into our families are required to sign documents agreeing to these terms.

We are small, a half dozen general stores, in a rural area of Mississippi, which may explain why your dept. of Justice didn’t discover us until a few years ago. They charged us with discrimination and violation of the Civil Rights act because all our store staffs are white. (Black customers are most welcome, but we do not employ them on our farms or in our stores..all work is done by family members and our children learn that “menial” chores led to better things in time.)

We have filed a brief under the so-called “Hobby Lobby” decision asking the DOJ charges be dismissed. It could hardly be clearer..we are closely held as a business, and our deeply held religious beliefs forbid hiring blacks or having anything but the merest social contact with them.

Your logic in “Hobby Lobby” is clear. You must allow us to continue as an all-white business.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 14, 2014

AND MERCI BEAUCOUP TO YOU, LA BELLE FRANCE

Today, Monday July 14 is Bastille Day in France..their Independence Day when the people rose and stormed the bastille…the Paris  jail of that day(really a fort which symbolized the oppression of the government then.)

The Bastille fell and France was free and independent..at least for a while.



We triggered Bastille Day…We being America and our own Revolution of 1776. And we were lucky. The colonies escaped the bloody repressions that followed in so many countries that revolted against royal and dictatorial governments. France was free after the bastille fell..but only for a short time. Dictators followed (Napoleons 1,2,&3 among them..and the guillotine..but in the end France, too, was free..and marks that day of the original revolt each July 14.

I celebrate it too. In many ways France is my second home. I have visited there a half dozen times, thanks to Lexington’s Sister Cities program. (An international citizen to citizen program started by Pres. Eisenhower which works thru “twining” cities..in our case Lexington and Deauville, France.)



America owes much to France..and I mean a lot more than culture, art, wine, fashion, food..we owe our existence. I have heard all the jokes about..”For Sale, One French army rifle, dropped only once.” But the truth is if the French Navy had not prevented the English fleet from reinforcing or  relieving Cornwallis at Yorktown a bloody battle would have ensued. As it was, caught between Washington’s army and the French fleet, Gen. Cornwallis did the correct thing, militarily, and surrendered. America won; Vive La France!

And then there’s the Statute of Liberty.”.the greatest gift one nation ever gave another.” 



A recent book, “Liberty’s Torch” proves this was more the work of one man, the French sculptor Bartholdi, whose vision, artistry, and determination, kept both nations at it until the deed was done and Miss Liberty stood proudly in New York harbor.

I have teared up coming home from abroad seeing her..and what she represents here—to America.
  
This day, Bastille Day, she stands as the symbol of France..the symbol of Liberty, proclaimed to the world by our two nations, and our hope for abiding friendship between our two peoples.

I'm just sayin'... 

Monday, July 7, 2014

A WORTHY ANTHEM FOR A GREAT NATION

When composer/conductor John Williams opened last Friday’s broadcast of “A Capitol Fourth” on NPR and WUKY-FM, he offered his “new arrangement” of our national anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner.”

In that spirit I’d like to offer my own arrangement---get rid of it.



First, as written, the “Banner” is UNsingable by 90% of Americans. Those high notes, much too high notes (Williams reworked them into a lower key I think) are just too, too much. We either mumble through them, or pass altogether while the counter-tenors and altos have a field day. What good is a national anthem that citizens can’t sing? It’s supposed to rally us, not cause us to cringe as those near us try to sing it.

Second, it’s music is an old tavern drinking song..an old ENGLISH drinking song. That’s right, good old F. S. Key penned his poem of defiance to Great Britain and then used a Brit song for his music.  Lotta sense there.

Third, it celebrates just one event in America’s long and storied history..the battle of Fort McHenry in 1814…(part of the War of 1812 most historians would like the US to forget, ‘cause we lost it. Our history books pass over how the Brits burned Washington---we lost our National Capital in this war and we want to observe it in song?

Fourth, if this music deserves to be our National Anthem why did it take until 1931 for Congress to pass a resolution making it so???  118 years we had no such anthem, while using “Hail Columbia” and “My Country Tis of Thee” (a much worthier song) and others as stand-ins for a National Anthem.

Congress got it wrong in ’31…no surprise surely..but now that Mr. Williams has suggested a “new arrangement”, why not start all over..find a better song, at least one that most of us can sing…before we shout “Play Ball.”

I'm just sayin'...NOPE...not singin'...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

DON’T WE EVER LEARN???

“In an action that would have been unthinkable only a few weeks ago…”



That line turned up in several news stories recently…about the US & Iran co-operating to fight ISIS…and also in reports of Syria bombing ISIS inside Iraq.  Ah, the quirky Middle East!  (When I visited it years ago a veteran reporter told me..”you know as much today as you will ever know about the Middle East.”..and that was on my first day there.)



NBC did an excellent report this week, pointing out the 100th anniversary of the assassination that started WW1..after which the victors carved up the old Ottoman Empire (Turkey was on the losing side in WW1) without much regard for ethnic and religious concerns, and those artificial boundaries haunt us today in the sectarian strife, particularly in Iraq.



So after spending blood and treasure and time in Iraq, why should the US spend more? Even more important, why should we spend two BILLION, as Mr. Obama proposes, in Syria to support “moderates”..in an area where “moderates” are hard to determine and may only be the least BAD alternative.

Even more troubling, after all we did to train and equip the Iraqi army, 30,000 of them fled Mosul, reportedly in the face of a few hundred ISIS troops. That surely makes any policy we now adopt towards Iraq in great doubt.



A wise man said years ago…”Those who will not learn from the lessons of history, are condemned to relive it.”

DON’T WE EVER LEARN??


Trying to learn myself, I have suggested in this blog several times that Kentucky should have more “open” primaries where those registered Independent could vote in either of the major party primaries if no independent was running. I know this is tricky. 



In Mississippi last week, incumbent Thad Cochran beat the Tea Party candidate in the GOP runoff by appealing to Democrats, especially black Democrats, to vote for him. Mississippi permits this under its “open” primary laws. That is not what I have in mind for Kentucky, and it illustrates just how tricky election rules can be.

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

THOTS ABOUT THE RUPP AFFAIR

1. Do we need further proof of the incredible closeness of UK and LFUCG?  Or that at times they  must go their own way because what’s best for one is not necessarily always  the best for the other?
2. UK’s president is right to put his campus and education first. Remember, BBN, they are still STUDENT-athletes, however long they stay.
3. Timing is everything.
4. The much locally criticized legislature,  for not giving us money—as it did Lou-ah-vul-- turned out to be right. We didn’t have enough information soon enough.
5. Much still remains to be answered..chief among them..the plans and future for the civic center part of the overall project. If memory serves, back in the 90s we sold millions in bonds to upgrade the LCC so we could attract larger (i.e. more profitable) conferences. Those bonds are not fully paid off yet, and still the plan sought to expand the LCC. Why? To attract even larger conventions? That way lies madness..and possible fiscal insanity. We need a LOT more information and public discussion here.
6. Has all this blunted the chief plank in Anthany Beatty’s campaign for mayor, since he opposed the Rupp expansion. Will he come up with other ideas and issues…which may also prove to be correct?
7. Mayor Gray says the plan will remain and when the timing is right it can be trotted out again. Let’s hope so..for we spent millions to get it, and better a  tweak in the future than $tarting over—paying more and unnece$$ary tax monie$.
8. UK still has to come up with a new proposal to the city for when the current Rupp lease runs out. So there’s sure to be new talks, new plans, and hopefully people on the same page then. Better a revamped  Rupp than a new arena, or going back to playing on campus—remember those alternatives were also suggested—at one time---and they are not good ideas.
9. Patience. The best is yet to come.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

DON’T CONFUSE ME WITH FACTS.

OK, if you are a capitalist, as I am, there is no “war” on coal.

Since the 1980's, coal jobs have been declining...for many reasons.

One, new technology. The long wall miner etc. mechanized mining, throwing miners out of work. The coal hauling railroads switched from coal-powered engines to diesel, remember..all because each technology made coal production cheaper..and the mine owners are capitalists..and have been for decades, even when we called them “robber barons.”

Even cheaper coal mining in Wyoming helped decrease jobs in Appalachia. Then came fracking and cheaper supplies of natural gas---the chief  culprit in losing coal jobs in Kentucky—and yes, the Green Revolution which sought to make our air and water cleaner. But that was probably one of the lesser causes of losing coal jobs. (And if you grew up in smoky coal towns, where some days you could cut the air with a knife, or watched streams that started clean at the top of the hill run orange and black at the bottom, you were concerned, you had to be. And BTW, new rules cutting smokestack emissions were issued by administrations long before Obama.)

So let’s realize the “War on Coal” for what it is…a cynical, politically motivated, nonfactual ploy by the coal industry, the U-S Chamber of Commerce, the GOP, and those who don’t believe in climate change to try to sell Kentucky a bill of goods..and in the process re-elect certain people to office.

This is NOT to be construed as an endorsement for any candidate, not the least Alison Lundergan Grimes..who has an unenviable role straddling the fence..when she knows, as Mitch does… the real facts about coal, and the industry’s loss of jobs.

Let me say again..I believe coal CAN be made clean..I just don’t see the industry and the “Friends of Coal” taking any serious steps in that direction.

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, June 1, 2014

BOWE, BARACK, AND BUSH

As a vet, I am delighted at the return of POW Bowe Bergdahl to US custody. While the circumstances of how he got to be a POW need clearing up, first things first..welcome home!

The President may well have violated the law in his case.  Congress passed a law requiring 30 days notice before a President can make such a deal. Def. Secy. Hegel said it had to be done for the soldier’s health..and just maybe Congress wrote a too restrictive law, given the way things in wartime often are accelerated.

I do not, however, approve of the President’s signing that bill into law, while issuing a “signing declaration” that he might not enforce all its provisions..a nefarious practice started by the last President Bush. Mr. President, either sign the law or don’t, or challenge it in court..such signing declarations may well be unconstitutional and need a legal decision.

OK, to get one GI home we shipped 5 suspected Taliban leaders overseas. They had been held in Gitmo for 10 years without ever being indicted, charged or taken to court.  This is  military justice?  This is American justice? This is what our legal traditions are?  Nonsense!

The military claims the 5 were “high risk” suspects, But that it did NOT have enough proof to make their “suspicions” stand up in court. So they just kept them in jail, in limbo. This isn’t the way the USA used to work, pre 9/11..and if you have any doubt that our traditional rights and liberties are being eroded away..no matter how much we dislike the Taliban, use the Golden rule…would you like to be held in jail for 10 years because some government official has “suspicions” you are a terrorist?  You would demand proof under our laws. That’s not what’s been happening in Gitmo and someday it will come back to haunt a non-Taliban suspect American citizen.

Think on these larger issues as we welcome Bowe home.


Last week I speculated Pure Politics on  TWC’s channel 2 might disappear when its founder Ryan Alessi leaves for Murray State.  Ryan assures me plans are in place to continue that ground-breaking show. Let’s hope so.

I'm just sayin'...