Sunday, July 16, 2017

Was I Wrong????

Very early on in the Donald Trump Jr. Russian story, a former reporter of mine asked me if there was anything to his meeting with a Russian lady lawyer. I replied “I don’t think so. It seems like normal checking for dirt on the other party.”
 
Boy, was I wrong.
 
At that point, she was just a lawyer who happened to be Russian, offering information on possible misdeeds by HRC and the DNC.
 
But soon it turned out the info she offered allegedly came from “official” Russian government sources. Whoa! It is against the law for foreign governments to meddle in our elections. (Even though the US has officially meddled in many elections in other countries - in at least one case, Chile, causing the death of a democratically elected president.) Thus, Jr. should have informed the FBI of this approach. He did not.  (Even though he said the material she offered was not verified, several election watch dog groups have filed complaints that this amounted to an illegal election contribution. We shall have to watch to see how this turns out.)
 
BUT, when the news stories began about his meeting that’s when the FIT hit the SHAN.
 
One, he should have reported it.
 
Two, when he did, he didn’t tell all...especially as to how many attended. Since some of these turned out to be high ranking officials of the Trump campaign (One later fired for not disclosing HIS Russian connections) suspicions began piling up.
 
Three, his remarkable release of e-mails not only confirm his possible law violation, but other items which could be illegal, immoral, or fattening.
 
Four, Jr. then appeared on Fox and in his interview said he had told all, there was nothing more not revealed. 
 
Wrong.
 
Others. not previously listed, had attended the meeting, including a former Russian army man who may, or may not have been connected to Soviet intelligence...and at the minimum appears to have violated US rules for lobbying for a foreign government.   
 
This is EXACTLY what caused Gen. Mattis to be fired from his impending security post, what got Paul Manafort fired as campaign  chairman, what got Atty-Gen. Sessions to recuse himself from the FBI situation, etc. etc. etc.
 
(BTW, son in law Jared Kushner, who does hold an official government position—as Jr. does not—also “failed to reveal” his many, many Soviet contacts, which was required on his security clearance form and may cause Pres. Trump even more trouble in the end.
 
If I heard a PBS news report correctly, there have now been over 100 Russian contacts by various Trump administration people that were NOT revealed, contrary to law, until reporters ferreted them out. (So much for the press and its role in trying to keep government honest and the people informed.)
 
Out in the “heartland” of America this means zilch, if a CBS report is to be believed...Trump supporters are much more concerned about jobs and don’t think Jr.’s (and son-in-law’s) misbehavior amounts to much.)
 
We shall see.
 
It is fair to say...at this point in this whole unsavory business, it seems to hold much greater potential for impeachment than at the same time in Whitewater (remember that?) where impeachment was threatened against Pres. Clinton and the Lewinsky affair, where it actually happened. It is also far more serious---the election of a President versus sex among consenting adults or an unproven possible land fraud.
 
As fabled NYC Mayor LaGuardia once said..”I don’t often make a mistake, but when I do, it’s a beaut!”
 
I'm just sayin'

Monday, July 10, 2017

Getting Your Vote Counted

While a lot of attention has been focused on reports of Russian (or other) hacking attempts to interfere in our elections, the root cause for such concern should not be the attempts—but what could be wrong with our voting system that encourages such attempts:
 
A recent study from the Brennan Center for Justice points out two major ways in which hackers could succeed...aging voting machines and voter registration using outdated software. It listed 3 ways in which states can move to keep voting safe.
 
One, check voter registration systems regularly and upgrade if needed.
 
Two, replace old electronic voting machines that don’t have a paper trail—which allows independent checks for accuracy.
 
Three, audit votes. Only half the states do this, and often not well enough to catch ballot errors.
 
Congress and the states need to spend more money to see that these 3 things are done, done soon, and done sufficiently.
 
But there’s more...and these ideas were not in the Brennan report.
 
One..the BIG one..eliminate the Electoral College.  It stands to reason if hackers want to influence a close election, concentrating on one big, but vulnerable state’s voting system offers a much greater chance of success than if we switch to "one person, one vote”—where the winner is determined by the total national vote—and where hackers would have to influence many, many more votes in many states to have a chance for success.
 
Two...require states to set the district lines for Congressional and legislative seats by independent commissions and NOT by state legislatures. About 20 states do this now, Kentucky needs to join them...and with the next census looming, needs to set up such a commission right away. The Herald-Leader twice showed this approach works by coming up with Congressional districts far more equal  and far less “gerrymandered” than what the legislature did.
 
If we truly want to stop hackers, and ensure that every vote counts we need to improve our democracy as well as our software.   
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Few Thoughts About July Fourth

Which we celebrate as the day we declared our independence from England—although the Continental  Congress actually voted that historic approval on July 2nd---the 4th was the date they signed their names to the formal document after it was officially inscribed for the members.
 
So while we enjoy this most important day for us, let it be noted a lot of our history isn’t accurate and even more Americans aren’t truly familiar with it.
 
Take “Yankee Doodle”—a song our troops sang as they slowly, thru great hardship, won the Revolution against the greatest army in the world. It was actually a song originated by the Brits, in derision of the Yanks, and as for “macaroni”—as in “stuck a feather in his cap and called it...” that word referred to a gay person in those days, a further insult to the Minutemen.
 
(all this from a fascinating article in the Sunday NY Times. If you wish to read more, and I hope you will, see “That Diss song known as Yankee Doodle.”
 
Another Sunday Times article by the well known English actor Stephen Frye argues our usual view of “Mad King George” as a tyrant isn’t right at all. We often overlook that many in the British Parliament supported the “Colonies” or that our famed Bill of Rights came, in large measure, from that body’s Bill of Rights of 1689---a century before our own.
 
We Americans are often woefully ignorant of our own history, or our friends and neighbors. A Canadian TV special, in 2001, asked Americans a lot of questions that often exposed our ignorance of our Northern neighbor. No, Canadians do not get rid of their elders by putting them to die on ice floes (!!). Nor does Canada have a “national igloo” as a symbol, as one of our presidential candidates indicated. And when some of us were asked whether the US “should be bombing Saskatchewan," we replied  “absolutely”—confusing that Canadian province with---who knows what foreign land.  (But then, in several wars the US has sought to invade Canada, most notably the War of 1812, when many Kentuckians found themselves fighting north of our borders.)   
 
So on this 4th of July holiday, let me hope my fellow citizens will “highly resolve” to learn a lot more about our world today, for ignorance is not bliss in 2017, and may well lead to wars that are as unnecessary as they are unproductive.
 
May the “world’s greatest country” truly understand its own history, and share our “blessings of liberty and freedom” with all the world...in peace.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

In Liberating Strife

Even that non policy wonk, Pres. Trump admits  he didn’t know “health care could be so complicated.”
 
But it is, except (see later)...for all the double-speak or “political speak” going on.
 
Prime example...Sen McConnell saying The GOP agrees “on the need to strengthen Medicaid.” He then offered his party’s bill which would do just the opposite. It would eventually end the Medicaid expansion under Pres. Obama, and in years to come most likely force people off the program.
 
This revelation inspired a Forum column in the Sunday C-J by longtime political reporter Al Cross under the headline “McConnell will cause many to suffer” and a full page ad in that same issue by a Blue Chip list of health care providers---doctors, nurses, social workers, etc..imploring him to “stop the mad rush to pass this bill.” (drafted in secrecy, with no women senators involved.)  They want a chance for ALL of us “to weigh in on this bill so that we might be a part of redesigning a health care system that works for the benefit of all.”  Mitch wants to pass the GOP version before the July 4th recess, which is this week. I don’t think he’ll make it, but as so many others point out “he is a master of the Senate."
 
Actually there is a far less complicated way to handle health care for ALL Americans; join the rest of the world in declaring health care a “modern right of citizenship," pass a “Single Payer” bill, which is far less complicated and provides decent health care for every citizen. Naturally, conservatives in both parties will cry  “Socialism” but it works in a lot of countries, most of whom are our fellow capitalists.   
 
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The Swiss, a conservative, peaceful nation, have had enough of the climate debate. They know the world IS getting warmer, that 100,000 weather observers all over the globe tell us their observations prove it. So the Swiss have started putting special white blankets on some of their scenic (tourism producing, job producing) glaciers to stop them from melting.
 
Yes, the world IS getting warmer. There is NO argument here.  Why is another matter?  Maybe fossil fuels, maybe auto exhausts, maybe rampant consumerism, maybe Chinese hacking...but...this is where we should be having our debate...NOT denying climate change is taking place. It is. Now let’s figure out what to do about it.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

So Much News; So Little Time

Let’s look on the bright side of the shooting this week at GOP congressmen practicing for their annual charity baseball game:
 
So far only 1 serious injury, the House GOP Whip, (I pray for his recovery)...with the nut case shooter dead.
 
Other good news:  House members are re-examining their relations with each other “across the aisle” 
with the leaders saying this could lead to better, less vitriolic understandings in the future. It’s about time.
 
Also we learned much more about Congressional “security," even more important than “jobs” to elected officials, it seems. I didn’t know the whip has his own, private security detail (which you & I pay for!) or that the capital police force numbers 2200 people. It’s leader recently asked for $33 million more to hire 72 new officers. With this shooting, he’ll probably get it. (Again, you & I will pay for this.)
 
But if the major reaction of Congress is “security” and not an examination of how this mental case got his weapons (legally bought we are told,) Congress will have failed again...and the fact that, this time, someone shot at them...then the lessons of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, etcetcetcetc will be lost again. There ARE common sense things that Congress can do without seeming to capitulate, as usual, to the NRA:  (1) better record keeping on mental health cases and passing of this information on to ALL who need it, (2) close the gun show loophole, which adversely affects mom and pop gun stores, (3) outlaw AK47s, which we DID once, and expanded magazines so that nut cases don’t out duel the cops. Remember one congressman said the capital police had handguns while “he had a rifle..not a fair fight.”
 
OK, Congress, make it “fairer!”
 
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Finally, the NCAA reported on the sex scandal at Louisville...and boy, did it drop the hammer (with much more yet to come, possibly.) UofL will appeal, which as one sports reporter said was silly...because they had already admitted to all the NCAA charged violations.  And while Rick keeps saying he knew nothing about all the shenanigans which went on over 3 years, the NCAA said he should have—and so should the university. It’s sad—but it could be worse. If the NCAA decides it is worse, and orders Louisville to vacate its national title...then the litigation will really boil over (which Kentuckians will pay for.)—all because one guy and one madam screwed a good school.
 
But then, maybe Rick’s charmed life will end...maybe
 
Meanwhile..yes I will say it again..WHEN will the NCAA rule on North Carolina; an even worse case of lack of “institutional control” that went on for much longer.
 
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Gov. Bevin has asked for suggestions and comments from Kentuckians...which is both right and practical...but, as the CJ reported Sunday, he has blocked, so far, as many as 600 people from using his social media to contact him. His office said it was for “obscene or off-topic comments.”  Somehow I doubt that. It may just be one more example of thin-skinned public officials, including The Donald, from not wanting to receive criticism.
 
The Knight First Amendment Institute says this “suppresses speech. Your Twitter account is a designated public forum”..(which you&I pay for) just as are open city council and school board meetings.
 
Governor, please support free speech and set a better example for all Kentuckians...and yes, this is a way you can reaffirm our traditions...which that nut in Alexandria tried to kill.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jobs Is A Four Letter Word

Some thoughts on jobs from a news perspective:
 
It’s the most important word in our politics—at least in campaigning. And especially with Republicans, at home (Frankfort) and abroad (Washington).
 
Gov. Bevin keeps stressing it...and for the well being of most Americans I guess they should...although sometimes I wonder about the emphasis they place.
 
For example, our guv issued a news release on 15 jobs coming to E. Ky. with an aviation facility last week. I remember years ago a new fast food chain restaurant opening in Lexington with 65-120 jobs involved. I was surprised; maybe you are too.
 
It’s good to know the spirit of enterprise is alive and well in Frankfort. Kent Downey died this week...one of several who went to jail in the '90's during the BOPTROT scandal. He ran whores out of his state office for legislators and others. And we learned this week also of a new whistleblower case there...a woman who charged she was fired when she reported two state employees were selling adult toys out of their office in the state capital.  The more things change....
 
Speaking of BOPTROT, both parties in succeeding legislatures have systematically undone all the improvements made after that scandal...and the courts seem determined to undo even more. The recent decision allowing lobbyists free range to BUY, yes BUY legislators is exactly what BOPTROT changes were designed to end. If lawmakers truly want to operate ethically, they MUST move to meet these court decisions with new laws.
 
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Off the subject of jobs, but I cannot end this week without writing of my utter amazement that there is a guy named Alex Jones (“InfoWars” whatever that is) who believes the killing of 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook is a hoax, that it never happened!
 
Talk about “false news” or “alternative facts!”
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, June 5, 2017

Thoughts On Recent News Stories

1.Bevin calls for Prayer Patrols...So far the governor’s only action to end violence in Lou-ah-vul was to call a meeting in the troubled west end and urge these. (He tried to keep the news media from the meeting but found out he couldn’t in that building.)
 
I believe in the power of prayer. It can’t hurt, and it may help.
 
But as a former Notre Dame football coach wisely said “Prayers work better when the players are bigger.” And this is,  as Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug program “Just Say No” was, truly a band aid.
 
Especially since it’s the governor’s party (here and in Washington) that allows so many guns on the street...with few background checks, bad rules against the mentally ill getting guns, the gun show exemption, larger magazines, etcetcetc.  Let’s pray our legislators realize their responsibility to end gun violence.
 
(And if you doubt that, as the Texas legislature ended a rancorous session, one GOP lawmaker  told a Democratic opponent he would “shoot him in self defense.”  Austin, as Frankfort, allows lawmakers to carry guns into sessions.)
 
2. America’s “longest war” (Afghanistan) took a horrible turn when insurgent bombs killed 90 in the capital, not far from the Presidential Palace. (Our White House.) Just one of such blasts recently. This while our president considers sending more American troops there...while corruption remains strong, tribal rivalries grow, local militia run many areas, etcetc.
 
(BTW, the US under Trump continues our policy of being one of, if not the largest seller of arms around the world. He inked a $350 Billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia on his trip there...just what the war torn Middle East needs. He argued this was a jobs creator back here. Maybe so, but it is sure to create jobs there...morticians, casketmakers, grave diggers, white helmets, etc.)
 
3. As we observed Memorial Day—if we observed it, instead of seeing it as another 3 day weekend...it was pointed out that there are still EIGHTY thousand US service members missing in action from WW2 on. That does not include the missing from WW1...and, perhaps, that “police action," officially, known as the Korean War. A thought to remember when next Congress or the President sends us into war...as has already been threatened in the first hundred days of this new administration and Congress.
 
4. Coal continued to slip...in terms of annual production---and JOBS---in the latest official figures. (SUR-prize.)
 
5. Jim Bunning died...a staunch conservative (and better baseball player) who represented Kentucky for many years in Washington. In KET’s tribute to him on “Comment on Kentucky” our fine public broadcast service couldn’t find a way to use a picture of him on its air.
 
I'm just sayin'...