Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Playing Games In Frankfort

Democracy took it on the chin last week in Frankfort.
The Senate got a bill to change the deadline when candidates file for office, moving it up even more. The rationale for this is the belief that little gets done in the Capitol until the members know if they will face opposition back home. Years ago the deadline used to be in late March  but was moved to late January, so members could, perhaps, take unpopular stands but it would be too late for someone back home to file against them.
It didn’t work, pension and budget bills were delayed excessively this year—for many reasons, but the work of both chambers suffered.
Now the new bill would move the filing deadline to the first Friday (of a full week) in January—almost a month earlier.
Lawmakers argued this “would end the potential for us to play games in Frankfort” and “taxpayers deserve it."
This is pure, unadulterated crap.
And the events of this session prove it.
Two of the issues caused major protests in Frankfort; the pension bill, strongly opposed by school teachers and state workers, and gun control efforts---which only came to the fore after the Parkland, Florida shooting. Yes, pension bill opposition has been there from the start, but only hit its stride after details leaked out, and that was well after the current January filing deadline. So was the Florida shooting, and the nationwide efforts by students for action.
Candidates “back home” could not have filed because they disagreed with their current representatives’ stand on either issue as the law now stands, and they would have even lesser chance to do so if the new bill passes.  Generally important and controversial bills come up for a vote late in the session. The old deadline—in March-- was much more “democratic” because it allowed local voters a chance to look at their representatives' full voting record, before deciding it they wished to run in opposition. The new bill does not allow them that option.
It is, in fact (surprise!) nothing but a disguised “Incumbents protection plan” and needs to be rejected.
(But I’m not holding my breath.)
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Mainstream Media Are Doing A Bad Job

Did you know this is Sunshine Week?
Or also when we are supposed to observe Freedom of Information Day?
Or why?
It was started in 2005 by an Editors group, and joined in by other journalists groups, such as the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ-to which I belong) to point out the critical need, for all citizens of open government and freedom of information at all levels, federal, state and local.
The Associated Press reported that in the first year of the Trump administration more requests for public reports by journalists were censored when delivered, or reported as “couldn’t find” than in the previous decade of Obama and Bush. In Kentucky, our attorney-general, charged by law with handling similar requests—as well as those challenging violations of our excellent “open meetings” law, is constantly reporting that various state and local government units are still violating the law; thus keeping the citizens who elected their members from finding out what they are doing.
Do not think such violations are small potatoes, or have you forgotten, already, Watergate—when 2 courageous reporters kept after the Nixon administration until it fell from its own weight of breaking the law, lying to Congress, and other “high crimes and misdemeanors”; or the earlier Pentagon Papers (subject of last year’s movie “The Post”) where our government lied and lied to everyone about the Vietnam war, where thousands lost their lives, and so on.
Yet the MSM (main stream media) does a bad job of reminding us of how important they are. I saw one mention of Sunshine Week in a national media, zilch in our 2 main papers.
The Founding Fathers knew better. They wrote “freedom of the press” into  the First Amendment  (thanks to James Madison, whose birthday is this week and why we celebrate it.) (Education isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, but freedom of the Press is.)
But that Freedom is NOT exercised for members of the press, but for you.  Badmouth MSM all you want, we have our faults, but trying to exercise our rights, on YOUR behalf, isn’t one of them. I just wish we would do a better job of explaining to you, why.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

3 THOTS: 1 local, 1 state, 1 national

LOCAL:  UK needs to pay more attention to its truly horrible parking situation. It doesn’t need more fancy dorms, it needs more parking (and without taking space from nearby neighborhoods, which it just did—or supported on South Hill.) Case in point:  I went to see “Showboat” last Friday at the Singletary Center for the Arts.  Besides that big draw there was also a UK gymnastics meet across the street in the Coliseum, which drew crowds. Between the two (and no valet parking on Fridays,) parking was not to be found. Once upon a time, UK had more concern  for the public and a parking lot near both was open to us after 5pm; no more. UK built a new building on that lot which took away so much parking, and I’m not even sure UK allows public use anymore ‘cause I couldn’t get near it.
If UK wants the area public to support its various events, it—and the city—MUST plan for more event parking (and at a reasonable cost.)
STATE:  Of all the silly issues in the various gun debates in Frankfort, the one that ought to get bipartisan support is the repeal of a law passed a few years ago that allows weapons confiscated by police units to be sold at public auction, with the money going to the state.  Almost all police units opposed the law, but the dollar hungry state government turned these objections aside. And what happened? Just what the cops said would happen; some of these weapons turned up in the hands of criminals, here and in other states, and new victims of violent crime were created.  Their agonies should be laid directly at the feet of the lawmakers who voted for this.  Many other countries confiscate weapons used in crimes, or in various “turn in” or “buy back” programs, and almost always they are destroyed. But not in Kentucky.  this is stupidity---codified, and should end.  What’s the 2nd amendment issue here???
NATIONAL:  A recent article in that liberal publication USA Today, pointed out the disparities between traditional Republican policies and today’s party members in Congress, especially on the issues of higher deficits and higher spending (more big government) once generally opposed by the Grand Old Party—but no more.  It’s not our oldest party but I’ve always liked that phrase Grand Old Party.  I would like to use Grand New Party, since the article pointed out they are no longer the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt (Teddy of course) or even Reagan, but I can’t. GNP means Gross National Product usually, although economists these days use Gross Domestic Product, so I wish some new phrase might be adopted just as soon as the party knows which way is up.  Trump’s way, or ??? (And BTW, the same applies to the Dems. Are they the party of Warren and Sanders, or Clinton, or Obama, or ???)
What’s a poor blogger to do?
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Some Thoughts On Kentucky Politics

This blog was stimulated by a recent story in USA Today, under the headline “Ultra-wealthy dominate funding for Super PACS”(political action commitees) And while the #1 donor ($19.5M is a Republican, the #2 is a Dem at $15.7M.) Together the top 10 donors to both parties gave them 20% of their budgets. So heavy cash to influence elections is a bi-partisan affair.
And don’t think this cash doesn’t count. One wealthy GOP donor’s money may well have swung the US from a long held policy and changed our view towards the capital of Israel; (the long held view is that this should be decided by the 2 parties involved, a bargaining chip if you will, now given away by the Master of the Deal, and contrary to almost every view of Middle East experts here and abroad.)
But don’t also think this is limited to national issues and only federal elections. Tain’t so.
This cash is now going more and more to influence the election of state office holders---which gives Kentucky a chance to get involved. Why shouldn’t we have a law that whoever gives a political contribution over a certain amount MUST also provide info on who it was, where the $$ comes from, and if an organization, info on the group. Voters need this “transparency” to judge the candidates and their stands on issues.
The importance of money on the local level was best illustrated by a famous quote, from the Master of the California legislature for many years, Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh: “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”
While on the state level, I am appalled by the recent political change of heart by the current governor of my home state, West Virginia. Jim Justice was elected as a Democrat, but shortly after taking office switched to the GOP. I think when this happens, that office should be vacated, and a special election held, with the previous winner allowed to run again, but under his new party designation. We should not allow voters to be hornswoggled by such deceptions. This won’t solve the problem, but it will make the election process fairer.
And speaking of fair elections - our legislature needs to set up NOW a non-partisan commission to prepare for redrawing all election district lines following the 2020 census. It is not too soon. 16 other states have such a group. In almost every case on this topic taken to the courts, very, very partisan lines drawn (usually by new GOP majorities in state legislatures---are you listening Ky GOP?) have been tossed out.
Do it right. Get geographers, population experts, college professors and others involved. (The Herald-Leader has demonstrated many times this can be done, coming up with districts far more even and equal than any proposed by politically inclined legislators, which once had a Louisville candidate representing a district many miles away in rural Southern Kentucky - or have we forgotten?)
And always remember the Golden Rule of Politics: “He who has the Gold makes the Rules.”
I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

It Must Be Great Comfort

To the grieving families of Parkland, Florida to know the murderer who killed their kids had bought his assault weapon LEGALLY!
Or that the FBI twice failed to follow up on tips as to who he was some months before this tragedy,
Or the state agency responsible for children checked the confessed killer several times and decided he was not a “risk.”
Or that the county sheriff’s office had checked his new home 20 times without informing any other agency of his possible risk.
Or that once again, a “mental health case” (as in Virginia, Sandy Hook, Aurora,Col., Benton, Ky., Riverside, Cal—and most likely several other cases) was involved—with their records never reaching the correct agency that might have stopped him.
Gun Rights advocates will tell us; "See, if the laws on the books were properly enforced we would have nailed this guy sooner.”
I beg to differ.
The government agencies involved—whether federal or state—have had these laws on the books for years, and still this happens, and happens etc.  Some plead “it slipped thru the cracks”—as in the Air Force’s failure to list that Texas church shooter was ineligible to buy such weapons;  many states plead insufficient funds to staff their agencies responsible (also heard on the federal level)—and we in Kentucky know about that retort; some just don’t agree, especially in the mental health field where privacy and the right treatment might be set back by registering these unfortunate people.
Enough already!!!
The last I heard even the NRA agreed that some “mental health cases” should not be allowed to buy guns.  But, have you seen the NRA lobbying on the state or federal level for more funds, more staff for these agencies?
Look, I support the 2nd Amendment, although my reading of it is not the same as the Supreme Court. I believe in rifle clubs, (I joined one in college—at a Quaker school!), shooting competitions, hunting, home protection, etc...but when did sportsmen need an AK47 to take down squirrels, deer, even bears???
There are things that can, and should be done, which will NOT risk bringing up arguments over the 2nd Amendment and polls show a majority (even within the NRA membership) support these general approaches:
Universal background checks for buying certain guns, and that includes ending the gun show loophole (totally illogical and I believe favors large chain sales firms over local gun stores.)
A uniform federal reporting form to report mental health cases and others unsuited to buy weapons, and stiffer requirements for states to make these reports, with fines for inaction.
Those on the “No fly” list should not be allowed to buy weapons, BUT an appeals process MUST be instituted here. (Remember Sen. Ted Kennedy was once on such a list!)
More and better classes on gun safety in schools or thru other local agencies. Here the NRA can contribute much.
I would like to add ending the sales of “bump stops,” a device that makes a machine gun out of merely a fast firing rifle; lower magazine capacities (30 rounds to get a deer?) and other restrictions of assault rifle sales  (these actually were in place once, after White house press secretary Jim Brady got shot but were allowed to expire, ) but these raise 2nd Amendment rights arguments in some minds; not mine.
So let us concentrate on things I suspect most of us agree on, and which the NRA might be forced to grudgingly support. (as it continues to give out MILLION$ to some senators: $6 and $7 millions to two senators who lead the list. Think they will be concerned about the needless deaths in Parkland??)
Til that day when the “better angels” of our nature are truly ready to grapple with this issue, let these common sense approaches prevail; knowing that even with these small steps another Las Vegas or Columbine WILL happen and there will be more grieving families as there are today in Parkland.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Those We Disagree With Have Rights: Ours!

More examples of political correctness run amok; and fundamental American liberties being lost in the process:
1---KEN HAM  is the driving force behind the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky. Among other things he believes dinosaurs and man lived at the same time. I do not. His evidence included a fossil section showing dino tracks and human footprints together. He believes these were done at the same time; I think they were eons apart, and there could be more than one explanation.  Since neither of us were there, we continue to have our separate beliefs.
But Ken Ham was denied a chance to speak about his beliefs at The University of Central Oklahoma, after an LGBT (and sometimes Q) group objected because Ham also believes marriage is between a man and a woman only. This is madness. LGBT (and sometimes Q) has used, correctly, the free speach rights of the First Amendment to advance its cause for years, and we journalists have covered their protests, public events, legislative approaches for years. Without using their First Amendment rights it is dubious the “gay marriage” program would have succeeded. For them to turn around and seek to deny those rights to others is absurd, and UN-American.
2---Donald Trump, and more specifically his former top aide, Rob Porter, are being criticized because it is alleged Porter abused his 2 ex-wives. Apparently their divorces were “sealed” (kept secret from the rest of us who paid for the court system, by the court—something the elite get away with, but that’s a topic for another time.) Porter has resigned, amid considerable praise from the President, and that unleashed a fire storm of criticism, especially after he asked “What ever happened to Due Process?” What indeed? Those inclined to always take one side in the matter cited a picture of a black eye one of the women released to the media. Obviously, the ONLY cause of the black eye was Porter’s abusive behavior.  (see dino tracks comments above)  Divorce is a touchy subject, cops get killed trying to handle domestic cases and “the truth” is seldom just on one side. There could be many causes for the black eye.
IF  he was an abuser, let charges be made, take the case to court where it belongs—not to be tried and adjudicated in and by the media---NOT our function.
(What bothers me even more is that Porter was handling highly secret information for the President, WITHOUT security clearance after a year on the job!  And that there are 20-30 similar White House staffers. including Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, doing the same thing, also without such clearance—which is against the law.)
The President is dead right (no pun intended) to ask why we seem to have given up our traditional reliance on Due Process, and the courts as the proper arbiter of such issues, but all that pales in comparison to our failure to grant to others the rights we claim for ourselves.
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Making the US a Banana Republic!

Once again BOTH parties have made the US look stupid in the eyes of the world. There is NO excuse for ever shutting down the government. Not only do too many of us, and our “lives” depend on its services; which we have paid for, but it is the total abdication of what our elected representatives have pledged to do.
Much of this can be attributed to the arcane rules of Congress, and how it works. A “CR”-- continuing resolution—is never the way to adopt a budget (some of which traditionally—if not legally--- have not been adopted for years.)
The rest can be attributed to, surprise(!) politics.
Each party hopes to sell the people that it was NOT responsible for the shutdown. But BOTH are, and I suggest “the people” are saying “A pox on both of you.”  I am. And to “sell” the people the other party was responsible means many, many dollars in PR funds, tv ads, debates, etc—all UNnecessary.
I told various representatives of the party I am registered with (and must be under state law to have a vote in the more important of the elections, the primary) to knock it off. Yes, I support its general approach on the particular legislative item causing the bottleneck, but NOT at the expense of a shutdown.
In a shutdown, many people get hurt, needlessly. Yes, Congress wised up after the first shutdown and exempted certain “essential” services, but would we all agree what are ALL of those “essential services?”  (aid to a struggling rural hospital in East Jesus, Ky. for example, or having a National Park open for a foreign family which has spent a lot of money on its annual vacation, or, well you know.)
This has got to stop, or we will, once again, be the laughing stock of the world.
Tom Jefferson, George and Abe, must be spinning in their graves.
I'm just sayin'...