Wednesday, January 10, 2018

NOT A Good Idea

The state corrections head recently decided to RE-open a closed prison in Eastern Kentucky.
 
His reasons: the state’s prison population continues to grow and the state was running out of places to jail them, plus putting them in local county jails was becoming harder to do and was costing more money, and the state had no $$$ to build a new prison.
 
So he plans to re-open a prison closed in 2015, and hire the same private firm which didn’t run it right then, to run it again.
 
Without going into an argument over whether Kentucky jails too many people for too many offenses (including various minor ones - and we do, ) this is a baddd idea. For many reasons:   
 
First, hiring the same firm which the state fired in 2015 for not doing its job is just stupid. OK, the old firm, Corrections Corp. of America, has changed its name. It is now CoreCivic, but the same problems and controversies it had before still exist,
 
Its record in Kentucky includes two major riots at its facilities, charges that it skimped on food for inmates (which may have led to one of the riots,) lawsuits over sexual harassment and worse, including by a prison “chaplain," at one facility, various other charges, including violation of lobbying laws to keep its contract, etc.etc.etc.
 
In other states, similar and more such charges were made against this firm. Why give them a chance to repeat or enlarge their bad operations again?
 
Security of our citizens is a major state commitment. Why turn this over to private firms? In making billions in profits annually, which the state doesn’t need to make, surely  government can operate prisons more effectively than for-profit firms. If not, governments can be held accountable more than private firms, and changes made.  Try that with Wells Fargo or Tanaka.
 
There are, in my mind, also serious legal questions. I have been told, several times, by journalists and CCA reps, that its employees are private citizens, NOT state employees, not “sworn peace officers” or lawmen.
 
How then, can such people hold inmates jailed without running afoul of the “involuntary servitude” clause of the US Constitution? I would love to see an ACLU challenge to this use of privately operated prisons.
 
Til then, and til Kentucky revisits all the minor reasons it jails so many people (America jails more people per capital than almost any nation) this decision to reopen an old prison and hire a discredited firm to run it, makes very little sense.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Some News Notes And A Correction

Correction first:
 
In my last blog, objecting to Ashley Judd’s barring broadcasters from her latest talk at UK (and the school’s going along) I said the silence from local broadcasters objecting was “deafening.” I also said the local chapter of the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) had not objected.  The president of the local group, Tom Eblen of the Herald-Leader corrects me, saying he had sent an objection to UK officials not allowing all members of the media to cover on behalf of the SPJ.  Good, but so far no changes that I know of in a bad UK policy.
 
News notes:
 
1--- When I was growing up the “Solid South” meant all those states voted Democratic. But ever since Southerner LBJ passed the Civil Rights Act of ‘64, the South has been growing more and more Republican (which says an awful lot!) Today the South is pretty much solidly GOP. So the recent victory in the Alabama US Senate race of Doug Jones over arch-conservative Roy Moore was global news. (Moore, BTW, is much worse than the recent sexual accusations would indicate. Google him for his actions as Chief Justice of Alabama for one example.)  But while the media put the major reason for his loss on those allegations, let me add another factor which may also have been a major contributor to his defeat...the charge by Pres. Trump in his next door speech in Florida that Jones “was soft on crime,”a major charge by the GOP on Democrats. Most people alive in Alabama knew that Jones, then a federal prosecutor, had been the driving force behind successful attempts to bring old Klansmen to justice in their horrendous bombing of a black Birmingham church that killed 4 young Sunday School girls years ago. State officials had done little to solve the case, and when Jones took it on in the '90s such actions could end your political career—or worse, get you killed.
 
Mr. Trump is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts, which many members of the media have spent the last year pointing out.
 
Which is the media’s job; speaking Truth to Power, trying to be the public’s advocate.
 
2---That has gotten a lot of reporters, editors, and photographers killed in 2017:  a  minimum of 81 in fact, according to the annual report of the International Federation of Journalists. (250 more were still in prison at year’s end.) The largest number were killed covering the drug wars in Mexico, while many more died covering wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan—and our disgraceful US policies in those 3 nations.
 
3---As the Kentucky legislature meets, issue Number Uno is: $$$.
 
Whether it be more $$$ for pension reform (which both legislatures and governors over the last decade or so are responsible for,) the need for tax reform (which exempts more $$$ than it brings in) or more $$$ for police agency needs, or more $$$ for adequate staffing of child protection agencies—or roads—or higher ed...or you name it, it’s still $$$.
 
Let us pray this year’s lawmakers will have the guts to tackle the $$$ issue head on, even in an election year, and raise taxes if need be to meet this state’s honest needs---but to do so without making marijuana legal, as more and more states are doing to raise more money. I support medical marijuana, and the industrial hemp industry, but recreational use, No Way. Even California won’t permit smoking weed in cars, even by passengers. We are setting ourselves up for another version of the lies and subterfuge and political corruption of Big Tobacco all over again; even if, as I suspect, smoking the darn stuff will have serious health effects too.
 
That’s not the way to raise $$$, as we have learned through the health and other costs of smoking.  One evil does not justify another.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 18, 2017

Has Ashley Judd Gone Hollywood On Us?

I have admired Ashley Judd for years...not because she is from Kentucky, or a UK grad, or a BBN supporter, not even for her good looks and acting talent, but because she came from modest circumstances and has truly made something of herself, while giving back to her home, her country—and even on the international level where she is a activist working to end AIDS and human trafficking for various UN and other agencies.
 
So, it came as something of a shock when she spoke recently at UK and barred radio & tv stations from covering her address. To my knowledge she had never imposed such a ban in her several previous talks at UK. Why would she now impose such a ban, and why would UK even agree to it???
 
Several weeks of digging leave me very unsatisfied...but UK says its PR people received this request from her representatives, not Judd herself. Surprisingly, for people in the media relations business, they didn’t ask why? So we don’t know why someone whose career has been promoted by all the media, both at home in Kentucky and around the world, would try to cut out some of the media, especially TV, from covering an important step in her career.
 
Even more, why would UK agree to such a ban? It can’t help its relations with local media, and, IMHO, it is probably illegal. I have some memories, which at my age should be treated carefully, that there are some court cases that say a PUBLIC institution may not bar any of the media from covering a PUBLIC event, which this was, without violating the First Amendment.  I have been googling this,  but so far haven’t come up with anything definitive.
 
Private schools may be different, so are private individuals...but she is not. She is a “public person” as the courts have defined in previous cases.
 
So I am left puzzled...as I am on other points-- why would UK say it would go along? I think it needs to answer this to Kentuckians, and to local media. Why would Ashley Judd even ask for it? I think she, not her representatives, need to answer this question also.
 
Even more, why have local media not protested? That includes the Herald-Leader, which as students were, was allowed to record her talk “for note taking purposes only.” What’s the difference from that (which print reporters learned long ago---from broadcasters---was important for getting a better and more accurate story) and letting radio reporters actually cover her talk?   BTW, the H-L has a “news partner,” a local TV station, so why not object and uphold the First Amendment? The silence from local media is deafening ...as it has been from the local chapter of the SPJ—the Society of Professional Journalists. Maybe they don’t think her one fall from grace is important. Time magazine would disagree; it named her as one of its “persons” of the year for her work in bringing out sexual harassment claims, and bringing down a group of alleged perpetrators.
 
Once anyone gets away with such bans, which I do believe violates the First Amendment, other violations become that much easier—and we are all the losers here.  Let’s hope, on her next visit to UK, she has a better view of our history—as she works to improve America, and the world.
 
And let’s hope all the local media live up to their responsibilities to that First Amendment as well.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

WILL THE REAL #RealDonaldTrump PLEASE STAND UP?

We know the President is a tweeter—his campaign tweets changed the course of US politics, and he continued tweeting as our Chief Executive; many of them at odds with what he tweeted during the campaign. Was that (1) inconsistency (2) change of mind (3) typical politician’s breaking promises, or (4) something else?
 
But thru all of this, Mr. Trump maintained the tweets were his own. Indeed his # (hashtag) “REALDonaldTrump" emphasized and reinforced this. Reporters questioning White House officials were assured all these bearing that hashtag were from the President, even though some appeared rather outlandish to many of us.
 
Now, we have been told otherwise.
 
Which raises more questions about our President.
 
It seems one such tweet was actually written by Mr. Trump’s lawyer instead; though it was put out as coming from #REALDonaldTrump.  It was an attempt to get the President off the hook in a probe Congress and the Special Prosecutor are conducting into possible Russian meddling in our elections.
 
While this admission didn’t get much media attention recently, I think it’s very significant, and so do some federal courts.  One hearing into his travel ban on majority Muslim countries has caused his administration big trouble. Trump maintains in court that his ban is not religiously oriented, but an attempt to ban people from “terrorist nations” from coming here and threatening our security. (Despite the fact that no terrorist plots in the US have come from people from most of these nations.)
 
But Mr. Trumps tweets say otherwise, and this has been cited in court. A majority of the 4th US Circuit court cited his tweets about Muslims as indicating the ban’s real motives were religiously based, and that would mean a possible violation of the First Amendment; and an end to the bans, unless the Supreme Court decided otherwise.
 
So his tweets have gotten the President in trouble, BUT suppose the offending tweets were NOT written by him (as he claims) but by someone else in the White house, as his lawyer has claimed already in another case???
 
Who can we poor citizens believe?: a President who has been a model of inconsistency, saying one thing on the campaign trail and the opposite in office?? OR his lawyer, or some other White house official, whose job it is to make the Boss look good???
 
More importantly, can we now take any tweet coming from #RealDonaldTrump ever again as coming from our President?
 
“Fake News” has been succeeded by “Fake Tweets.”
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 27, 2017

Washington & Frankfort: Some Thoughts

In Frankfort recently we have seen the sexual harassment tragedies bring down a good man, Republican House speaker Jeff Hoover, a stunning blow to many of us. But while the end result of this is still not known, there are some things we can comment on.  Whatever money was paid to settle his case, it did not come from public funds although we have only the assurances of state officials here. Since we do not know from where it came, we are taking this on faith.
 
In Washington, where  at least one previous House speaker, also a Republican, Dennis Hastert, was forced to resign in another sexual case, such settlements may well have been paid from public funds...that is money from you and me, and there is NO public accounting of this. (Which may well violate the Constitution, more later.)
 
Since 1997 Congress has paid out at least $15 million to settle similar cases, the latest being that of Mich. Democrat John Conyers, who at 88 is the longest serving member of the present House. All such settlements against what member and how much are kept secret and are paid by a special fund in the Treasury set up by Congress in 1995; and on the OK of just 2 members, the chair and ranking member (the top GOP and Democratic member) of the committee where the offending member has his chief committee seat.  So 2 people can spend taxpayer funds. (And you thought there had to be a vote by the full Congress!!)
 
Other than the secrecy involved Congress takes care of its own even before the nation, and certainly before us citizens...this probably violates a section of the Constitution which says the Treasury shall pay the Nation’s(??) debts, when approved by Congress (??) and “from time to time” shall make “a public accounting.”
 
Of course “from time to time” could mean 100 years from now; much as Senator McConnell argued the Senate did not have to take up President Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court within any definite time, and indeed waited a year before Trump was elected so a more conservative choice would come before the Senate. (Most Constitutional scholars, as well as myself think Mitch was dead wrong.) One person should not have been able to effectively amend the Constitution, which he did.
If you think this was wrong, here is a burning issue: public money being paid, in secret, to settle the private violations of the law—then mark your calendars to raise it when Kentucky Congressmen, including local Rep. Andy Barr, and his Democratic challenger come before you next year.
 
In the meantime, there is a proposed 28th amendment to the Constitution going around. If passed it would prevent Congress from exempting itself from the same laws that govern the rest of us...and that, too, is an issue to lay before candidates for Congress, as well as state House & Senate members, who can—and should—petition Congress to pass it.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Surely You Have Also Noticed

How many more shootings there are...and in more neighborhoods; and with more shots fired, and with more innocent bystanders killed or wounded?
 
So, are you going to continue to say it won’t happen here, or to me...until the bullet labeled “To Whom It May Concern” arrives? 
 
Doesn’t  that tragic Texas church shooting freeze the blood in you?
 
Please, don’t give up for there are things that we can do. There is even a small, bi-partisan movement in the Senate to make some changes.
 
Without going into a 2nd Amendment debate, isn’t there some minimum steps we can agree on: such as:
 
Close the gun show loopholes, which isn’t fair to local gun store owners.
 
Mentally impaired people should not be allowed to buy such weapons. And the national registry for such people must be made fool proof. It wasn’t in the Texas case. Ditto convicted felons, those on the terrorist watch list, etc.
 
Statistics on shooting incidents must be collected; they aren’t now. So those on all sides of this argument can have facts, not opinions.
 
But, bottom line, get rid of the old argument which isn’t true that "guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It takes both.
 
Then we can come up with practical, non- 2nd amendment views that put BOTH guns and people into our discussions and come up with common sense answers to stop this bloody, senseless, “job-killing” carnage.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Once More Into That Breach

More and more women come forth to charge men in authority or power with behaving like idiots, or bastards towards them. Even former President Bush, at 90, has been charged with “groping” and recently, too!
 
And why don’t men understand why they were so reluctant to make these charges public for years? (which not only works against these women, and fails to warn other women, but may let some truly slimy characters like Roy Moore in Alabama get off.)  If they had just had the courage to go public some years ago how much better it would have been?
 
But, can these women be believed, even now?
 
Some of them, absolutely.
 
A few of them, No Way!
 
Do I believe some of them are using this mass event to get publicity for faded careers, or spark a lawsuit (perhaps for money) or to call attention to themselves?  Yes, I do.
 
The problem is: how do you tell into which category any individual woman falls?
 
Thru the courts or some judicial process, that’s how...not by rushing to call a news conference to join the List.  Don’t get me wrong...little of this would have come out without the news media, which we in Kentucky know better than most in the startling case of ex-House Speaker Hoover.
 
One person may lie, others may repeat it, making the first charge their own against some prominent person.  It’s still a lie.  Truth is not subject to math.
 
The way to get to the bottom of this is to file charges, not just make them, and let the courts do their job. Women may have been unable to get justice 30 years ago, but that time hopefully is long gone. (And yes, some form of the judicial process should be at work in Mr. Hoover’s case so the citizens of Kentucky get the full facts and can make an informed judgment.)
 
Bless you Louie C.K. for your “coming out” and admission of wrongdoing. For the rest, the courts are probably the best, and only answer.
 
Until then, may I repeat:  Presumption of innocence is the absolute foundation of American Justice, and that Justice is ill-served if we jump to conclusions early on. Accusations are not justice. While these sad cases will probably continue for some time, please bear that in mind.
 
I'm just sayin'...