Monday, December 22, 2014

SANITY RETURNED, AND INSANITY BEGAN THIS WEEK IN U.S. FOREIGN POLICY



SANITY---For 50 years our  policy towards Cuba hasn’t worked. It’s past time for major changes, even the small ones President Obama set in motion this week. And, as dozens of Kentuckians who have visited Cuba recently would tell you, the Cubans they met will welcome the changes and Americanos there.

They seek our music, our culture, our visitors, our dollars…and our trade.

Therein lies the major rub. The US economic sanctions against Cuba remain…initiated by a hostile Congress years ago and thus outside Presidential pardons. American business has been salivating for years to do business in  Cuba..as all our friends do--Canada, Britain, France, Mexico, etc..and yet, the GOP, the party of business, wants to stop what the President has done, and hold back US businesses from trading there.  Give me a break.



INSANITY---While I recognize the issues of possible censorship raised by North Korea’s apparent hacking of Sony Pictures, as the President outlined..our motion picture industry often censors itself..what was the last picture you saw on corruption in China (the single biggest market for US films outside the USA) for example. These are serious, but so are other issues.

A freshman lawyer on his first case could win millions if Sony released the film, and some local theater had a bombing, or an Aurora, Colorado type shooting. (Remember Aurora?) This is a real concern for Sony, and theater goers!

But, let’s go to the beginning of this film. We are told it’s a satire, though none of us have seen it. The basic idea: two US comics are drafted by the CIA to KILL the new North Korean president. KILL? That’s against the law (though the CIA has violated that law as it has so many others. FUNN-knee? I’m rolling on the floor with laughter.  Helluva premise for a film..a bad premise. See what trouble it has gotten us into.

We don’t even know what policies the new, young guy will pursue. He’s reported to like Western films, music, and whiskey (bourbon?)  He MAY be better than his dad, and yet, without giving him a chance, we want to knock him off? Great foreign policy that.

But---don’t any of our Sony execs, or US foreign policy people remember..the US tried, officially and unsuccessfully  to kill Castro. And when JFK was murdered among the major rumors, for years, was that the Cubans were behind it as retribution. That’s what makes foreign policy  often such a slippery slope. Normally, it’s bad enough..without a quarter-baked idea for a lousy film screwing things up even more.

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

YOU..AND I..HAVE COMMITTED MURDER

OK,  it was done indirectly, but it was done in our name…by our government.



The Senate report on the CIA last week made this clear. At least one person died at the hands of U-S interrogators using “EIT”s..Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. The President called those techniques  “torture," so did the Senate Committee, and so did Republican Senator John McCain, the only member of the Senate to have been subjected to torture while a POW in ‘Nam.

EIT's were torture. No court in the U-S would permit a police department to use them to extract information  from  suspects, which is what the people we used them on were..none had yet been convicted of any crime.

But, once the Bush administration decided to use torture..water boarding being the best known example..but far from the only one---and this despite the U-S having signed the UN’s Global treaty against torture---what happened?  Did the CIA turn to a brother federal agency with the most experience in interrogations to administer the EITs?  You do not know Washington if you think the CIA would bring in the FBI with its years of experience here. No way; our turf.

So the CIA, again from the Senate report, hired two outside psychiatrists, neither with experience in such interrogations or in Al Qaida, and turned them loose..at the expense of $81 million of your tax dollars. They developed the program, which others, often with little experience applied. No wonder at least one person died…and the value of any information gotten is hotly disputed.

It was an illegal program, poorly conceived, badly run, and it resulted in---among other things—recruiting hundreds to the ranks of Al Qaida, the Taliban, and ISIS. It sullied America’s reputation among our friends..as if dozens of Abu Ghraibs had been unleashed upon the world by the nation where the Rule of Law had been a cherished tradition.

This is partly due  to the “ends justifies the means” argument among top U-S officials, excessive secrecy..usually broken by some fine reporters (several of whom have and are  facing prison for their stories,) the divided, gridlocked government in Washington..and a public which wasn’t concerned enough to protest vigorously  when these excesses were hinted at.

We can not be free at home if we deny our freedoms to others abroad, especially when representatives of our government are doing the denying.  I hope the suspect murdered in my name---and yours—will at least have compensation paid to his family, and an official apology from the U.S. government.

The rest of us need to make sure nothing like this ever happens again..in your name, my name, or America’s.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 8, 2014

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

First, there’s Ferguson. After a tragic death, the protesters rightfully call for “justice.” But that justice as in Florida was really "only a verdict I agree with!” and that is not Justice. If you agree to let the Justice system decide, then you need to accept the verdict…in all but the most egregious cases. (Sacco and Vanzetti?)

That said, there are problems with  the Justice system  in the Ferguson area.  Little noted was a case  tried there  years ago. It hinged on whether police were justified in opening fire against the defendants. The police case, the same prosecutor presented, was based on their claim that a truck was moving toward them and they opened rire in fear of their lives. Despite overwhelming technical evidence the truck did NOT move, the jury cleared the cops.

That story is all too often repeated. But the time to get the Justice system  improved is not when Ferguson, a town 80% black, has but 3 black officers on a 50 plus man police force. That imbalance should have been worked on years ago.



And then there’s Staten Island..the I can’t breathe case from New York City. In my view, this is very different. The video tape, and the NYPD’s own regulations against choke holds prove this cop or these cops should have been indicted.  They may then have their day in court, and a jury, in public, will decide. All the re-training of 35,000 cops won’t change the fact that Justice was not served here.

There are major differences between these cases but the bottom line is that Justice is supposed to be colorblind..as well as occupation (cop) blind..and in our America of 2014 is isn’t.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 1, 2014

MORE COAL MINE INSPECTORS ARE NEEDED

The January short session of the legislature will meet to set budget priorities, and make changes in the budget already adopted.

Kentucky badly needs more coal mine inspectors...even with mining production falling; which may seem like a fallacy.

But recent news stories have pointed out several facts:

Kentucky has failed to collect millions in mine safety violation  fines...some from out of state millionaires. While the inspectors don’t collect those fines, they can keep after culprit mines and keep pressure on other state agencies to do their jobs.

Environmental groups have again told the state that some mines are falsifying their pollution reports...and there does seem to be evidence they are right. These groups shouldn’t have to do such reports, the state should, and with enough inspectors it can.

Inspectors are there to make sure safety rules are followed. If they do their jobs correctly, miners can work more safely.  Fewer inspectors mean, inevitably, more mine accidents and more Kentuckians injured and killed.

This is where budget priorities need to change..and where this state needs a “culture change”..no longer turning a blind eye to operator violations. Fewer eyes, more violations, and  more deaths in an already not-too-safe industry.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 24, 2014

SOME THOUGHTS FOR THE GRAND OLD PARTY

The week after the election I offered some general observations and comments for all voters.  Last week, I had some suggestions for Democrats, especially state Dems.  Today’s it’s the GOP’s turn.

You were formed 150 years ago to oppose slavery; remember?  But today, people want to know what  candidates and parties support,  Opposition is viewed more as obstruction.

For years now we have had a divided legislature in Frankfort.  Sometimes the parties get along; more often they don’t.  If they want to get new followers, and perhaps show Washington it CAN be done, things need to change.

For example: some Northern Kentucky lawmakers, mainly Republicans, have some ideas to fight the influx of heroin, there and everywhere.  They need to be listened to.  Just as some House Democrats last session  had some good ideas on the same subject, but they didn’t get adopted. And heroin keeps growing.

Surely, in the face of this problem, the two chambers, the two  parties can do what’s right for Kentucky…and in the process, each gains public approval.



Our infrastructure is falling apart. “60 Minutes” Sunday reminded us how bad our roads and bridges are. Kentucky’s fund to build and repair is tied to the price of gasoline, which has recently dropped. Yes, voters, myself included, like that…but what does it profit a driver if he has gas in his tank, and the bridge ahead collapses? This is a real  possibility.

The GOP can show leadership here...just as that great liberal organization,  the U-S Chamber of Commerce, did before Congress in calling for higher TAXES so the additional funds could be used to repair the roads we have and build new ones. Just always being against higher taxes simply means more and more potholes. Is that what the Kentucky GOP wants?

And, by the way, you didn’t succeed in taking over the House..but where you did gain it was often because you put up good candidates. That has not always been true, and there’s a lesson there.

Good luck. As you succeed, so might Kentucky.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 17, 2014

THOUGHTS FOR STATE DEMOCRATS



You lost.

Not just the U-S Senate race, but also allowed the GOP to strengthen its hold on the state senate. (The idea Dems might lose the House was wistful thinking and if state Dems emphasize that, they are in danger of turning Kentucky into a “red” state, as Mitch is determined it will become.)

Somewhere there is a disconnect between the idea that Mitch was at his most vulnerable this time out…and the fact that better known, experienced names in the party didn’t run against him.  That left the Lundergans, who can be party splitters, ultimately in charge..and the little known Alison got the race.

She, or dad Jerry, ran a bad campaign.  Early on it didn’t appear so..when Team Mitch made some uncharacteristic stumbles. But Alison’s ducking of questions---from the public and from the public’s representatives, reporters, badly hurt her campaign.  How much was this the reaction of a little experienced statewide candidate, or her dad, or her campaign team we may never know. But it hurt.  If you are little known you must take every opportunity as a candidate to let the voters know about you. Team Lundergan did not.

Now some in the party  think she should try again next year for governor.

I think not.

In time she, out from her dad’s shadow, may be a more viable candidate. Not now, smarting from her loss in only her second attempt. Let her wait a while, gain experience, and then…maybe.

Meanwhile I must opine that House leaders Stumbo and Adkins didn’t do the party any favors. One example: they extended the 6th Congressional district eastward into coal counties two years ago, knowing of the anti-Obama feelings there..or they should have known, it’s their home areas. Result: Ben Chandler, who also ran a bad campaign avoiding the media and debates (is there a theme here?) lost, and then first-termer Andy Barr, who might have been vulnerable, wasn’t..to another bad campaign by Liz Jensen (Is where I get my haircuts really a 6th district issue?)

Time for soul searching in the state Democratic party..or as surely as God made little green apples (and bourbon ) Kentucky will turn even redder.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 10, 2014

YOU’RE DESPICABLE!!!



One of my fave TV ads in the recent campaign ended with these words on screen about the candidate’s opponent..”Dishonest, Despicable….and Liberal”

There were a number of such ads..dishonest and despicable ones I mean..and I missed the C-J and Herald Leader’s stories debunking them.  TV stations, who grabbed scads of money from such ads, did zilch..totally abdicating their obligation to operate “in the public interest, convenience and necessity” as the law requires. The Lexington paper told me they had decided to put its analysis of some ads in their campaign stories, rather than as a separate story, which I thought was a bad call. Ads are a big factor in the campaign and deserve more prominence in news media stories.

Did all the negative ads contribute to the record low turnout in many places?  That’s worthy of a good sociological study.

So is the abject failure of so many polls..polls that got it reasonably right last time. In the Grimes-Mitch race, a 15 point difference is NOT  “too close to call.”  What happened? Inquiring readers, viewers---and I hope, editors---want to know, need to know before next time.  USA Today’s polling columnist urged the media to “kick (the) polling habit”:, a position I have held for years, but am not holding my breath it will happen.  Nationwide one survey showed polls were off by an average of 7 percent; that is not within the margin of error.

I am sure the media will study what happened..though I am less sure it will have the guts or  wisdom to consider dropping polls entirely.  Let the candidates poll all they want, that does not mean there has to be stories about poll results, especially given the recent errors the polls made.  The only poll that counts, after all,  is the one the media reports election night..your votes.

And speaking of your votes…where were you? One would think given the important offices at state..U-S Senators and governors..people would turn  out. One would think with all the ads telling them to vote for various candidates people would understand the importance of voting…but No, they didn’t   Why?  Nothing but the future of the Republic is riding on that answer.

I'm just sayin'...