Wednesday, May 16, 2018

In Re: Common Sense NJ & KY

Only took 9 years, speedy by US Supreme Court standards, but by a 6-3 vote the court has held that states, not the federal government, are entitled to make rules regarding sports betting.  The case was filed by New Jersey.
Savor that BBN.
Savor that you state government officials eager for new revenues.
Savor that you anti-gambling people because you have every right to insist that some of these new monies be used to treat those afflicted with gambling; if states are smart enough and not too greedy.
Yes, there are arguments against, including the one just cited, and others that it will ruin those “amateur” sports. (Here in BBN we laugh. Remember those years we had the “best team money could buy.” Or the $$$ that fell out of the FedEx package, or the point shaving scandal, or the shoe scandal we haven’t heard the end of yet, or the “Breaking Cardinal Rules” book...or...Or...OR!)
When the recent legislature passed new taxes on services, there were the usual, considered arguments against, especially in areas that border other states. Would the new 6% tax on small animal vet care, for example,  cause people to go across state lines to get help for Fido and avoid paying a higher price?
These are legit concerns, but each time raised I wonder why we keep swallowing that gnat, while avoiding the camel? The money Kentucky loses to almost all the states around us, currently going to their casinos, betting parlors (and soon their sports betting emporiums) makes the 6% services tax a dwarf problem; and it will happen.
Gov. Bevin was one of 3 governors who signed the legal brief in this case. Bully for him! And bully for Kentucky IF we seize this opportunity, PLAN for its introduction properly, making sure those who shouldn’t gamble are taken care of (and their kids!) we can start meeting some of the social needs (and pension reforms) we have needed to do for some time.
Let the debate---and planning begin---ask your candidate for the legislature where they stand NOW.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, May 7, 2018

One Step Forward, But Two Steps Back

Bless His Heart, our guv vetoes some things he  needed too, and didn’t others..for which Thanks. Because the GOP controlled legislature couldn’t get its act together (as many Dem controlled legislatures before them) the guv was able to veto some things that can not be overridden.  He could have been a “dog in the manger” and vetoed the necessary “clean up language” for the important budget and pension bills..where his early vetoes were overridden, but he did not. (This is another lesson for both parties..don’t wait til the last minute to put hundred page bills before each chamber when no one can read them and catch mistakes.)

Our governor did veto the “incumbent protection bill” which would have moved the filing date from late January to early January. But don’t hold your breath. Now the legislature will just past this lousy idea early enough next year to allow for an overide..unless you voters complain to all the candidates during this year’s elections.

The Courier-Journal also reported recently on the latest on the guv’ new home near Anchorage. He claimed it was worth $1.6M when he apparently bought it from a friend who does business with the state..and made that price stick. That was last year; this year the PVA has valued the house&grounds at $2.9M, up a “mere” $1.6M.  Stay tuned, you haven’t heard the last of this cozy deal yet.

(Since Lexington media have not covered this new wrinkle well..check out the CJ story “Bevin’s home worth $2.9M” on 4/28.)

Another major story not covered well by local media, if at all, was the Peabody award (broadcasting’s highest) to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Louisville Public Media for their 5-part series on church leader (?) and state lawmaker Dan Johnson---who had lived a life of fraud and deceit—and who committed suicide shortly after the series started.  That was a sad ending, but the two groups stressed the necessity of holding elected officials accountable with the facts.

(You can also check the CJ’s story “Peabody Award honors local public media series” on May 1)

Investigatory journalism is one of the prices the media pays for protections of the First Amendment. All too few of our present day media seem willing to pay this price. WKYT (NB-my old station) is the only tv here doing it; The Herald-Leader does so occasionally, but not as much as in the past..and the Kentucky Kernel as well. But here student newspapers are facing serious odds to continue, often because of financial pressures brought on by public budgetary problems. I don’t believe the UK administration, or most state legislators would lose any sleep if the Kernel, and other student papers, just disappeared...and that would be a real pity. They are the training grounds for future mainstream they were for Kuralt, Murrow, and so many others.

You may also have notice, despite lousy local coverage, ISIS bombs in Afghanistan killed 9 journalists recently. It is not a field for the faint of heart.

We certainly make our share of mistakes. The annual White House Correspondents Dinner was one of them. I was glad to see the first woman of color named to be the head “roaster” altho I had not heard of Michelle Wolf before. Now I don’t care if I hear of her again. Even with the President a no show, it’s just not necessary to trot out frequent use of the “F” word. Your points and your humor don’t need that. I would not urge the WHCD to even consider censoring its guest roaster, but maybe a little more research would be appropriate in future years.

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Even If It's Legal, It's Not Right

I’m referring to the Governor’s strong arm tactics to push a qualified educator out of his job in order to get his own man in.
Gov. Bevin was within his rights to name an all new state education commission board—which he did.        
The new board was within its right (its only duty apparently) to push out (fired is a better word) the present commissioner (who had received a glowing report for his work from the old board just last fall) and install an “interim” commissioner while seeking a full-time head.
There are real problems with this entirely “legal” action, which is why it is not “right”.
1—it is a return to the brute force power politics of an age many of us hoped was past.
2---were I a betting man I would now bet , 99 & 44/100%, the new commissioner will be a Kentuckian. Why? NO smart, qualified out-of-stater would accept the job...knowing no matter how well he/she did, they could be fired on a political whim of one man. And also the guv wants his own man/woman in the job. The odds are the best person will NOT be a time when Kentucky had been receiving national praise for some of our KERA-reforms, and at a time when we are dealing with new problems, and need the best possible person at the helm—whether a Kentuckian or not.
This year’s stupid action will set Kentucky back for years.
3—In an excellent editorial last Sunday, the Herald-Leader pointed out several  laws were broken in selecting the new interim head. While too late to save Dr. Pruitt, these actions should be challenged in court.
4---This was one more example of the guv poking teachers in the eye, needlessly.
5—News reports indicate this was all planned, for some time, as a means to get Charter Schools implemented here, whether the tax-paying public wanted them or not.   
6—Neither 4 nor 5 are good politics for any party here.
It’s a good idea, on multi-member commissions, to have overlapping terms. (This has been true for years on major groups such as the UK board of trustees.) The legislature should quickly move to give this commission a better arrangement for such terms, perhaps by setting up a 3 or 4 year period for such terms, instead of 2 groups,  so no one governor can pull what Bevin legally did; or at least making sure the governor has popular support over  two  elections.
All of this should be remembered in November by all voters, not just the teachers and their friends.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lest We Forget

Presidential Oath of Office: “ I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend  the Constitution of the United States.”
 Congressional Oath of Office: “ I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same...”
Constitution, Article 1, Section 8... "Congress shall have the power to...declare war,”
LAST TIME CONGRESS DECLARED WAR:  Dec 8, 1941, as urged by FDR against Japan (and Axis powers)
I am well aware that almost all Presidents since FDR have not done this; whether Democrat or Republican. Truman had a “police action” in Korea, Bush went after non-existant WMD in Iraq, and Trump has now twice violated his oath and the Constitution in Syria. This last time he had plenty of time to get Congress to pass a war declaration---plenty of time—but he choose to go ahead without one.
That is grounds for Impeachment and it should be done.
No excuses folks!  Either we believe in our Constitution, all of it, or we don’t. Some will say there are other grounds that should be used, but this is the clearest and most unassailable.  I don’t know that Vice President Pence would be much better, but that is beside the point. My conscience is clear.  I have argued against so called “War Powers Resolutions" that Congress occasionally passes ever since Truman, as violating the Constitution. There is NO logic in saying Congress can pass a law or resolution to amend the Constitution, there is a clearly prescribed process for amendments. War Resolutions aren’t it.
Pity, just as Nixon’s greatest achievement was the “opening to China," which no Democrat could have done, I had hopes Mr. Trump could somehow negotiate a deal to defuse the potentially tragic situation with North Korea; but that too must wait.
If you believe in the American Revolution (and I do); if you believe in what the founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence (and I do) and the Constitution (and I do); and the Bill of Rights (and I do)---then there is no course left but to actively urge our Congressmen and Senators to introduce and support impeachment, and ask them about it at every possible opportunity.
Otherwise we can never call ourselves truly Americans.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Is Governor Bevin Just Donald Trump Lite?

Well, No, but Trump got the memo, Bevin didn’t.
By “Memo” I mean all the horrible things Speaker Paul Ryan told Trump would happen if he vetoed the US budget. Trump, wisely, backed down.  Bevin didn’t.
Now what?
Well, I am not sure.  I can’t remember Kentucky ever being in this situation. If the returning legislature fails to overturn the vetoes (on one or both) we are in big trouble. Our state constitution requires a balanced budget (which without the tax bill he vetoed we don’t have) and a budget before the new fiscal year. There isn’t time left in the regular session, so that means a special session, at quite an UNnecessary expense to we taxpayers.
Only the guv can call a special session, a loophole in the legislature’s power which needs changing by amendment. But once the legislature does come to Frankfort, it can immediately adjourn; which it just might do to spite Bevin. More problems. Even if it succeeds in passing acceptable (to the guv) bills later, Democrats are sure to jump on those unnecessary expenses involved. and rightly so.
But much more likely is the failure of the Grand Old Party to overturn the veto. This could be done by giving the legislators time to read the 2 bills which almost no one has done, and that could alter the votes in both parties and both chambers. More problems.
Also those shouting protestors, teachers and tax advocates and lobbyists of all persuasions have a new chance to get into the act. Who knows what sewer bill might be found in the waning moments of the session to do more damage?
Or, that independent tax study which points out the tax bill favors the very rich in our state (sur-prise!!!) could change the votes. Who knows?
For those of us who hoped a needed change in Frankfort, would came about with Republican control of both chambers, we are now much more unhappy. Both parties have shown a great ability to be UNfair to the other party when they are in control, and the people’s  business is strangled.  No one seems to have learned this is NOT the way voters want things done in our capital.
Right now the GOP is the one taking it on the chin. No matter what happens when lawmakers return this weekend, RPK is the loser—and it’s their own fault, or at least the fault of the titular head of that party.
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Our Present Legislature, Past And Future

I’ve covered legislatures in 5 states, and I am appalled at the recent actions of our Kentucky General Assembly ---not that other states haven’t been up to those same shenanigans, or even that past Kentucky legislatures haven’t done the same, but there is still no justification for their actions.
To take major pieces of legislation; the budget and the pension overhaul, kept them secret, fail to hold public hearings on the final versions, keep lawmakers of BOTH parties in the dark til the last minute, failing to give time to read the bills---and break its own rules during the process—that simply is much too much.       
The GOP camapigned on “transparency," a word I dislike but it means to bring  things out in the open so all citizens can understand what’s going on, and make their views known to their representatives in Frankfort –that pledge is now in shambles, and I hope voters will remember that come May and November.
But I also must point out that the Democrats have acted this way in the past, too; though perhaps not quite as much or on as serious as these matters. The Dems also ran roughshod over opponents in committee, cut time on the floor for amendments and debate, etc.  Republicans promised not to behave this way if they got into office, and we now see how little that pledge meant. (I wish I were confident that should the Dems take over either house they would behave differently, but I doubt it. Too much past history to the contrary.) 
As to the future, were I a betting man, I would wager that the courts will ultimately strike down the pension plan. Mainly because the GOP-controlled chambers violated their own rules by not providing an acturarial report, which the law requires. To me, that makes the actions indefensible and worthy of being tossed out. Similar rules MAY apply to the budget, but the courts have been more lenient on things like this in the past.
Should the pension plan be tossed out, stand by for a special session, UNnecessary & expensive.
Should the governor veto either one, in whole or by line item veto we may be in a new world of hurt.
I am happy the legislature restored many of the governor’s cuts, but why did they not understand the importance of the University Press of Kentucky? (operated by UK on behalf of many of our state colleges and universities.)  Without it, who will publish important research on our issues or our past history and culture?
What a lovely mess. 
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Stormy, Summer and the Playmate

Three women have gone to court, pressing their claims to have been sexually connected in some way to The Donald.
I have no idea who’s telling the truth, but this is where the issue belongs---in court, not on front pages or broadcast news programs.  This is how such important matters should be settled, and in this case SOON, for all our benefit.
I wish the same approach had been taken in the numerous charges against prominent men in the “me too” and “time’s up” movements. There certainly is “fire” here and not just “smoke” for the “casting couch” has long been a staple of Hollywood lore.  But allegations are not proof, and proof comes in court.  Nor are the large numbers of women making such charges “proof." Truth is not dependent on numbers. One is sufficient.  But due process was NOT followed here, and lives have been changed forever by that fact.
Trial by the news media is not the American way of justice, and this needs to change. It is true anymore than people are “guilty until proven innocent” and that’s neither right nor fair.
While I am  criticizing my colleagues, let me go one step further.  Major papers and tv casts tell us about “Russian meddling” in our elections, not “alleged” Russian meddling. That this is political can hardly be doubted, viz the competing Dem and GOP versions and reports from the House Intelligence committee. But hold on; all of this stems from the consensus of 16 intel agencies who agreed  in a joint report. I will say again truth is not just found in numbers. While I think there is strong evidence for this claim, I still remember these same agencies told us of WMDs in Iraq and helped cause a war. No part of the most recent report has been made public, and needs to be for us to make a rational decision. 
The claims that Russia is behind the poisoning of one of their ex-spies (and double agent) is even flimsier. Given two major cases in recent years, where much proof was provided, there is certainly plenty of reason to suspect Putin’s long hand—but all the nations jumping in (we have not been told the UK shared what information it has with Latvia and others to make them come on board.) seems more to get brownie points with the UK than a reasoned explanation of why Britain suspects Russia. That may come, but there isn’t an international court where this is likely to be tried. Til then, with a Cold War#2 threatened, the better path is suspending judgment until the facts come out, and hopefully they will.
GOOD news from Frankfort—(1) the budget negotiators have turned down new money for private prisons (which cost much more per inmate that state operated ones, and 2—someone is finally challenging the Kentucky Wired project, already behind schedule and way over budget. The idea is good—get better broadband thru out the state, but the way this was gone about should have been challenged from the start. It is beginning to look like a bottomless money pit with little to show for our taxpayer dollars.
That said, NOTHING is final in Frankfort til the legislature adjourns. Nothing.
I'm just sayin'...