Friday, November 9, 2018

Free Advice For Amy McGrath

Years ago, as a young reporter, I interviewed James F. Byrnes, once the “assistant president” to FDR and a former Secretary of State, a name now largely forgotten.
One of the things he told me I have never forgotten:  “Free advice is the commodity in greatest supply—and least in demand.”
Nevertheless, I will now offer some to Mrs. McGrath:
DON’T run for governor.
I know your campaign manager, (a professional here as I am not) wants you to (and maybe increase his employment,) but don't.
Right now you are a new, fresh, and exciting face on the body politic, and a loser after an excellent, hard fought campaign against an incumbent, backed by a popular President, (at least here in these parts.) Many will suggest “strike while the iron is hot” and, yes, there are a lot of not-so-exciting Democrats in the wings ready to run. But, many did question why you ran, fresh out of service without much current experience in state issues and policies.  Take your time. Go to Pennyrile and Paducah; go to Harlan and Bowling Green; meet the people there---out of your home district. Tour the Commonwealth. Get better known throughout our state.
You’ve already antagonized the Gray clan, no need to take on the Beshears. Or the Lundergans.
Besides who really wants to take up the issue of our state pension debacle. Let someone else continue to screw it up.
Wait a while.
Come back in ‘20...and take on the Big Dawg!
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Congressional Debate And Marsy's Law

Taking a page from Democrat guru James Carville’s playbook, mild mannered incumbent Andy Barr became an attack dog from the start of KET’s 6th District debate Monday, charging squeaky clean newcomer Amy McGrath with being just as “dirty” as he was; if that meant running attack ads.
So the 2 top candidates went back and forth on TV ads, and their sources, and who was “more positive” while the issues got less time (and the Libertarian candidate, Frank Harris, got less time, as he noted—while making some very cogent points.  Go to his website for more, he urged voters.)
When Andy & Amy did debate, it was a mixed bag. House Republicans tried over 30 times to repeal Obamacare, but finally realized it was more popular than they thought, and came up with a new “scheme” (and that’s what it is, not a plan) to “improve” it.  Hopefully voters will see through that.
The two did debate extensively the Trump tax cuts (which a vast majority of economists feel will aid only the top richest people, not the famed “middle class” and lower.) McGrath insisted the bill will come due in 3 years, while Harris correctly pointed out its toll on the rising national debt, once a mantra of the GOP, but apparently no more.
The 2 disagreed over veterans as well.  Barr supporting vouchers for vets to go to any private MD. McGrath countered that, as with a lot of bills in Congress, those vouchers were not funded. Barr interrupted to say they were. I haven’t had time to check CQ here, hopefully one of our local media will do so and let us know.
Barr insisted McGrath’s plans would cost trillions, she denied it; Harris said a pox on both your parties; that's what causes the national debt to rise and a chief reason I left the GOP!  Barr said he tried to hold down the debt by supporting spending cuts but was in the minority of his party. Amy countered that Mitch and others will now support cutting social security, medicare & aid, and all those programs Dems hold dear, and Andy fired back “scare tactics.”  (We shall see, remember this night, folks.)
McGrath opposes Trump’s tariffs, as bad for farmers; Barr supported the China tariffs saying we have been ripped off, Harris quietly disagreed and brought up our foreign policy problems, saying its not terrorism but resources (especially oil) that got the US into “our longest war” in Afghanistan, and how would Americans like it if Russia had bases in Canada and Mexico, as the US had around the world.
It was after all, only 3 people and an hour, so maybe we shouldn’t have expected some thoughts about poverty, dark money, the electoral college, election security, etc. etc. etc., but we do thank KET for at least this one opportunity to see 3 of the 4-5 candidates in action.
Now then....on to Marsy's Law:
I am going to vote against the proposed amendment to the state constitution. It’s supposed to guarantee victims’ rights in the justice system, but please read the jumbled, extremely vague description of the amendment which will be on your ballot before deciding, and see if you think that wording really conveys trying to help crime victims. If you read the even more jumbled and vague full wording of the amendment you might wonder even more.
How all those lawyers in the legislature could come up with such ridiculous wording is beyond my comprehension.  It is, to use a phrase that has killed many a bill in other states’ legislatures I have covered "a lawyers bill” and I predict it will lead to many unnecessary, expensive lawsuits, without accomplishing its stated aims. Besides, opponents claim, many of the supposedly “new” rights for victims are already in our constitution.
Marsy's Law is a bad attempt to do a good thing. We should start over after it’s rejected.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, October 22, 2018

Debates And "Conventional Wisdom"

The People, (that would be you & I,) want our elected officials to come before us and discuss the issues of our lives. One good way to do that is through debates.  This is not just “conventional wisdom,”polls have shown over and over such debates are supported by a majority of voters.
Candidates, on the other hand, often try to avoid them. Why?
In politics, the “conventional wisdom” is that if you are ahead in the polls, you don’t need them (often fearing a gaffe that will cause you problems), and if you are behind, you call on your opponent to do so, hoping a good appearance will jazz up your faltering campaign.)
In the 6th district race for congress, we have seen such “conventional wisdom” supposedly vindicated,---and turned on its head.
For years I have maintained one of the major reasons Ben Chandler finally lost to Andy Barr was his refusal to debate.  Barr, who lost his first race against Chandler, kept after him to debate, and people were turned off when he wouldn’t.  Barr promised to debate if elected, but he didn’t. He shied away from such debates in his next two races (where “conventional wisdom” said he was way ahead of lesser Democratic opponents.)
But this year is different. Amy McGrath is a strong candidate, But she has agreed to only 1 debate, on KET next week. Some reports have said that Barr is running behind. He did recently call for more debates, most unlike the old Barr. (“Conventional wisdom” fed on reports he was running behind McGrath.) Most newcomers, such as McGrath would be delighted to get the free exposure on KET (and also requested by the League of Women Voters and the area’s #1 TV station, WKYT) but she has turned all such offers down—so far. “Conventional wisdom” may be in news reports her internal polls say she is ahead and, afraid of a bad debate showing, is turning all these requests down.
McGrath, however, has based her entire campaign on being the newcomer, the outsider, the independent, and not “the politician”—but here she is discarding all of that part of her image and –if those news reports are right---going along with the “conventional wisdom” of her hired political handlers—and is thumbing her nose at what she knows the People (you and I) want, which is a lot more than just one debate.
It is, I think, a major mistake, and she would be advised to rethink all this, and accept a few more debates in the closing days of this very crucial campaign.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, October 15, 2018

Our President Has Come And Gone

Leaving behind a pumped up “base” (who came here from many states, which I admit, surprised me.) More especially a pumped up campaign for Congressman Andy Barr; and the usual amount of half-truths and mis-statements along with his campaign rhetoric.
He said coal jobs were up. Not exactly. The latest report shows an almost 1% rise in the nation, and an almost 1% drop in Kentucky—an almost 5% drop since he was elected on a pledge to bring such jobs back to Kentucky.
Speakers get carried away; political speakers are often the worst offenders. He knows Democrats across the country are not “the party of crime” any more than they are “soft” on Communism, or against Motherhood. And as for letting in the brutes of MS-13, if you know who they are thank the MSM (main stream media) and its “fake” news for telling you.
Barr was probably delighted Mr. Trump claimed Barr’s opponent, Amy McGrath, was for “open borders” though she has run too many tv spots denying that. It is NOT the same thing to oppose the stupid “Wall” (and it is, ask the President—of Mexico---or the teenagers who keep climbing over its prototypes—if spending 20 plus Billions is a good idea.)
Now was she “chosen by Nancy Pelosi..and the radical Democratic mob?” That mob picked and backed Lexington Mayor Jim Gray who ran against McGrath.
But, hey, Presidents and campaign speakers are supposed to play fast and loose with the truth; it’s just that we reporters (and you citizens) keep hoping for something better, keep hoping for party reps who will “talk sense to the American people.” It’s difficult for we voters to make good decisions on the critical issues facing the USA if either party’s reps won’t do that.  (I haven’t yet spotted any such errors in the short tv clips I saw on Joe Biden’s fish fry appearance, or quotes in the papers, but if I do, I’ll pass them along.  No party has a monopoly on truth, nor is it free from errors.
Now then, inquiring minds want to know:  who paid for the expense of bringing Air Force One in for this entirely campaign visit?  I hope it was the RNC or RPK or Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, but I don’t know, and I hope my colleagues in the media will find out for all of us. It would be totally unfair (and illegal as well) if we taxpayers shared such costs.
Speaking of media here, congrats to WKYT for airing the Trump speech - at considerable cost - but a great example of operating “in the public interest” as they are licensed to do. And special congrats to its reporter Miranda Combs for getting an exclusive interview with the President, and not asking “softball” questions.  (I assume WEKU-FM also aired the speech in full, as they should have, if not I was watching tv, shame on you.)
Finally, I hope all those who spent such time and energy and money to come to Richmond to hear the President will turn out and vote on election day.  Applauding wildly at such rallies seems easy, but somehow going to the polls seems much harder these days. I wish I knew why.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Both Deals Suspect - And You And I Might Pay

An important report from the state auditor recently casts great doubt on the wisdom of the “Kentucky Wired” project; a very ambitious plan to provide high speed broadband service to all parts of the state, but especially to E. Ky. It was put forward by Gov. Beshear, a Democrat, and Congressman Hal Rogers, a Republican. It was to cost the state nominally, but somehow (no one really knows exactly how) has greatly increased in cost, and somehow (no one seems to know exactly how) we taxpayers may be on the hook for the increase.
At the same time, media reports indicate one of the guv’s fave projects, an aluminum mill near Ashland is also in some financial straits; not all the private financing has come forth. (does this sound like CentrePoint on a state basis?)  Backers of the plan says “don’t worry, the money will be there.  But doubts remain—even if this hadn’t come out about the time of the auditor’s report.
What a wonderful chance for a new probe into both projects; not by the Attorney General (son of guv Beshear) but by the auditor, an independent counsel, some legislative group, so we taxpayers can know just what is going on.
As the A/G just named a special counsel to probe Sec. of State Grimes' election activities (also needed,) let him excuse himself from these two ventures and name another special counsel.
We need to get to the bottom---and quickly—before you and I assume another billion (yes billion) or so new debt we and the Commonwealth just can not handle.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Lengthened Shadow

Emerson was right. You remember old Ralph Waldo’s famous saying; "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.”
The institution is KET, observing the 50th anniversary of going on the air this month.   
The “one man” is Len Press, who conceived the idea of KET and after many hardships got it going.  Len would be the first to say he didn’t do it alone, and his book points out the many people all over Kentucky, and in DC who had his dream and reality.  But still, this month as we celebrate KET, we must celebrate Len Press (and his wife Lil, very much also involved in KET’s history).
I hope you see the 50th birthday program which KET will be airing a lot, even if you don’t read his book.  KET is so much more than the PBS schedule in prime time many of us confuse with KET. So much more. It—and Len’s—prime mission was to bring education to those who didn’t have it, and who badly needed it.  While other states (and KET, too) have drifted from his primary goal, it is, please remember, Kentucky EDUCATIONAL Television.
I hope 50 years from now we will still have KET. If so, it will be on the frontiers of whatever good broadcasting is about. But I am not entirely hopeful. The legislature has squeezed its budget badly. Good, veteran staffers have been laid off, programs have been cancelled or cut back; more than KET will admit, and these days we need it more than ever.
But so many people realize its worth, and hopefully will continue to do so, that 50 years from now, there will be another shadow, another Len Press to guide it into another uncertain future, and for that, and for what KET has achieved in its first half-century, we may all be very, very proud.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 17, 2018

This Blog Is Not Anonymous

It’s bad enough when the public gets it wrong, worse when journalists get it wrong, and very, very bad when journalists get it wrong and cause the public to get it wrong.
I’m talking about the recent famous “anonymous” Op Ed piece in the New York times where a “senior member” of the Trump administration confessed they were deliberately opposing some acts the President wanted to take “for the good of the country”
This Op Ed was NOT “anonymous," as many news stories reported.
There are at least 2 types of so-called “anonymous” stories—and I have dealt with both in my career.
1—is the truly and totally anonymous story that comes into the newsroom from out of nowhere. It claims certain newsworthy things have or will happen and asks us to cover them. It cites no or little evidence for the claim and gives no indication who has sent in this news tip. That is a truly anonymous story, and gives reporters a hard time.  If the claim is about something significant should we use it; but how do we go about verifying that it is, that the claim is accurate and the “source” is creditable?  In most cases these tips/claims can be tossed out on their face.  Once in a while they are worth investigating to see if there is anything  truthfully there.
2---the other type of so called “anonymous” story, and this was true in the Times cases, is where the source IS KNOWN to the reporter, but insists on remaining anonymous, which in a country with a First Amendment is their right. What to do, if you are an ethical journalist, especially if the claim is about an important public issue? You can try to talk them out of their insistence, which is what finally happened in the recent story in the Washington Post about the woman now claiming Judge Kavanaugh sexually abused her. Or you can keep investigating the source’s claim, and if you can’t convince them to “go public” wrestle mightily with whether the claim is so newsworthy and the source so creditable that you go ahead and print it, keeping the source’s name out of it, as ethics require.
It’s not an easy decision to make and we reporters have had many an argument over what is the “right” course here.  Some decide one way; the Times decided another.
Which also means, since the newsroom and the editorial board room at the Times are two very separate entities, that the newsroom now has the ethical responsibility to try to uncover who the Op Ed writer is..and if they succeed, will that story be pushed?? (That one will go all the way up to the publisher for a decision, and one that will be further complicated by rumors the Wall Street Journal or CBS has unearthed the writer and is about to report same.)  Who said Journalism was easy?
We---the collective we of the US 4th Estate—has done a bad job explaining what I see as 2 very different definitions of “anonymous” here.
May I suggest, in the future, these be differentiated as “anonymous” in case 1, and “from a source known to us but who insists on not being named” in case 2.  That will help the public decide what faith, if any, to put on the story.
I'm just sayin'...