Monday, April 21, 2014

A FEW NOTES ON THE NEWS:A FEW NOTES ON THE NEWS:

4 French journalists were freed last week, ten months after they went to Syria to cover the civil war there, and were captured..though we still don’t know by whom...or how they got released. Dozens of journalists still remain captives of one group or another.

Syria is the most dangerous country in the world for reporters. 121 died covering the war in 2012, and between 2007 and 2012, 430 journalists died...so you could read a small paragraph in the Lexington paper, or a twenty second voice-over report on the local TV.


The U.S. keeps saying it is trying to limit injuries to civilians in our drone strikes, but in Yemen last week, a drone killed  nine suspected (not confirmed, just suspected) al-Qaeda militants…but also killed and wounded some civilians, including, reportedly, children.


50 years ago, April 24, 1964, LBJ sat on the front porch of a poverty couple in Inez, Ky., as he announced his war on poverty. The couple, as with the War on Poverty, did not fare well. After a brief boom, coal jobs decreased drastically in E. Ky., and the family suffered additional health problems. Both of them have since died…and recent statistics show the growing disparity between high and low income groups in the US..with CEOs being paid more and paid without any relationship to their firm’s stock or achievements..and more families entering poverty.


GM waited years to recall another group of its cars that had serious defects.  This time the Saturn defects were known to a government auto safety agency, which failed to issue a recall.

And a provision of the auto industry bail-out may exempt GM from liability, even for deaths caused by its defective cars. Congress wrote such a provision into the bail-out law...and now those chickens, and amputations, and life long health problems...and deaths...are coming home to roost.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

WHY $314 MILLION ISN’T ENOUGH FOR THE SEC:

Because it claims it’s still losing money.

Surprisingly, during its first year after expansion, and with a new lucrative TV contract, the SEC claims to have lost nearly $3.4 million. That didn’t stop the SEC board from raising the base salary of Commissioner Mike Slive to $1.2 mill—actually a loss when measured against a whopping bonus he got the year before—but still.


These figures come from a recent USA Today Sports report---and what they tell me is..BBN prepare for:  (a) higher ticket prices, everywhere, (b) a premium pay, exclusive SEC sports channel starting this fall, and (c) major legal expenses as the SEC battles college players who want to be paid something for their efforts.

These just may, I say may, be worth real protests on State Street (no burning couches tho!)

It certainly is worth a protest by the UK student government, and the LFUCG council, now renegotiating new cable contract with Time Warner (or Comcast which wishes to buy Time Warner.)

BTW, a Consumer Report survey of 18 major cable systems throughout the US found Time Warner just above LAST Place in consumer service, and Comcast just above TWC.  Some record.  And for this we should pay more?

Well, we’re going too..unless students, Bubba and Mrs Bubba, Dr. Eli, the UK Board of Trustees, Coach Cal, the BBN, and our city council truly have UK fans at heart and object..strenuously object and soon…over plans to raise ticket prices and cable fees…both of which are just around the corner…say as soon as  the next “Play Ball!

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

THE TINY AGONY OF FLIGHT 370



I suspect all our hearts go out to the families of those on this missing plane. They need answers; the world need answers.

But a pair of books this week reminds me of the much larger answers the world needs also…as we still hear occasional calls for war. (Crimea, Ukraine, Iran, Syria, North Korea, etc.)

83,000 American service personnel are still missing over the past century---their families need answers, too.

“Vanished: the 60 year Search for the Missing Men of World War Two” details the attempt to find just 11 of them, the crew of one bomber, of one flight of one day in just one part of the vast Pacific War. And half of those 83,000 vanished during our Pacific campaign.

Efforts continue to find, and return home to families those missing in ‘Nam, occasionally Korea, but this much, much larger group from the 40s gets scant attention. In trying to locate and answer the fate of this one plane, we get a view into so  many things  a nation and its people never contemplate when they go blithely off to war..even justified war as this one was.

But how even more chilling is the thought that there are still families without fathers, sons, brothers from wars that might have been avoided…had governments tried harder. The second book is “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to War in 1914.”  This war could have been avoided.

And then there are  the Fort Hoods that seem to inevitably happen after all wars…and the bombs and mines that still turn up after a century or more to kill and maim those who didn’t know they were there, if they even knew there had been a war.

As frustrating as diplomatic maneuvers can be, as tempting as it is to punch Putin in the nose, or Abbas (this week, maybe Netanyahu next week), and as slowly as they grind…better diplomacy. War solves many fewer problems and leaves many more agonies to fester over much longer time.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, March 24, 2014

THE PRESS AND SENATOR McCONNELL

There was a small dust-up in Louisville last week.

Senator McConnell gave a talk, and afterwards planned a news conference. There, he  tried to bar the editor of a weekly publication in Louisville, LEO, from the conference and threatened him with arrest if he persisted in trying to attend.

(LEO stands for the Louisville Eclectic Observer, a sort of Chevy Chaser on steroids.)

All the reasons given were spurious according to a Sunday column by Joe Gerth, the able political writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal. (The editor, one Joe Sonka, who I do not know, has been critical of the senator in the past---as Sonka also has been of the Democratic candidate Alison Grimes.)

Now, any campaign that gets into a hassle with the media is, almost assuredly, not going to win. We of the media  tend to close ranks, justified or not..and we generally believe “it’s not a good idea to get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”  So Mitch’s campaign has received some black marks for its high handed tactics in trying to keep a possible critical reporter from the conference.

However, Joe Gerth in his column wrote "McConnell had every right to bar Sonka from the press conference, not a government event.”

I 99% disagree.

The senator may have called the conference in his capacity as a candidate, and he may have called it in his capacity as a public official, for his subject was: veterans affairs and a new hospital he is trying to get in Louisville.

But, the US Senate, by its own rules, is a continuing body, unlike the House. One can infer a Senator is always a Senator, that is, a federal official, and for a federal official to bar a reporter is, to me, an obvious violation of the First Amendment.

Also, a public official MAY be able to have a reporter arrested (another First Amendment violation), but I doubt that a candidate can—at least that poses other problems and questions.

In short, it’s not only unwise to take on the media by trying to bar one of us, it is, I think, illegal, unconstitutional, and fattening. In my political reporting I have faced being barred from an office holder’s (and candidate’s) news conference because I was a broadcaster (though I got my start at a weekly newspaper), through “separate but equal” news  conference just for print and just for broadcasters...another concept I rejected and fought…so it’s more than a little disconcerting to read from a colleague I respect that’s it’s still OK to bar some reporters, but not others.

It taint!

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

THOU SHALT NOT…..RUN OUT OF DRUGS!!!



Oh my gosh..Kentucky is running out of drugs. No, not meth or oxy or Darvon—that often kill people unintentionally, but the “legal” drugs used to kill people intentionally.



Kentucky is one of 32 state that still use the death penalty, and as most states do, executes by an injection of drugs. But the courts have held, correctly,  that while you can kill someone for violating your laws, you must do so in a manner that is not “cruel and unusual.” For a prisoner to die, very painfully and take several hours to do so, which has happened, is against the law, courts have held.

Makers of drugs that do the job quickly have stopped making them, due to opposition to capital punishment, and possible lawsuits. Since a number of drugs might work, a black market and underground industry has grown up among “justice” agencies to find and use court approved drugs.  It’s becoming harder and harder.

Which is but another reason for Kentucky to get out of the death penalty business---all together. Studies have shown death penalty cases are about 60% correct. So 40% who are killed are innocent---and an unknown number who are guilty go free. Not good odds when you are taking someone’s life..in my name and yours. I can get better odds at Keeneland.

What’s worse is that in many death cases our system of “justice” has failed..first year lawyers with public advocacy arguing cases, badly, where a life is at stake..or, even worse, cases where police and DAs  know the person is innocent, yet allow it to go to trial, and a death penalty without regard for either truth or justice. It has happened.

Kentucky could save money, stop this ridiculous search for black market lethal drugs that work, and avoid 40% or more of mistakes in these crucial cases. We need to join the growing list of states with a more humane approach to the “justice” we say we aspire to, and end the death penalty totally.


Thank you, Jesus.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

REMEMBER, I AM AN EXPERT ON UK BASKETBALL

Now that the regular season has reached its inglorious end, I will venture some opinions I have kept to myself all season long.

1. Cat fans (and their sports reporters)  need to take memory courses. How many remember early season stories of a “40-0” season?

2. If the choice is Cal’s “one and done” or Dick Vitale’s “senior leadership” I vote for Florida which just set an SEC record of an 18-0 conference season with a starting line-up of 4 seniors. Nuff said!

3.While, with all good Cats’ fans, I hope the tourneys upcoming will be better  (let’s have no  repeat  of Robert Morris---remember?) take a good look at the SEC brackets. The tourney is played over five nights and FOUR different broadcast entities take turns airing the games. Ridiculous!  But that’s the way the popular UK has been carved up by people where money doesn’t talk, it screams…and who have no regard for the fans.

4. That includes the SEC, on the verge of its own network. If you think our conference has any real interest in UK fans, just wait til you see what prices are put on getting this network on cable. I have already written my Lexington councilman, involved in the renewal of the Time Warner cable franchise, to make sure the SEC network is NOT carried on the premium tier.  Before it’s too late, the UK student government needs to get involved here. And don’t expect any help from the UK Athletics Department.

5. Some of our traditions need changing. I have never liked the idea of the eRUPPtion zone going wild trying to rattle the opposing player at the foul line. That is bad sportsmanship in the extreme.  (It doesn’t have to be this way. Saturday night, those equally supportive Cameron Crazies were silent—yes silent—when archrival  NC was shooting fouls, and the Tar Heel fans the same when Duke was shooting. We should emulate this, too.)

That’s my blueprint for a much better UK team in the future.

Remember, I am a UK  basketball expert.

But, aren’t we all???

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

DON’T WE REMEMBER???

The continuing hassle in Arizona is discouraging. The legislature passed a law saying that store owners and service providers could discriminate (refuse service, etc.) against gays when it violated the religious beliefs of the store owner.

The governor vetoed the law. It remains to be seen what happens next but the courts will never uphold the law.

First, the law is not aimed at gays alone; that’s a cover. It’s aimed at blacks as well, and other minorities. Have we forgotten the sermons preached throughout the South on how the Bible ordained the white race as superior, and how the “best” things for blacks was to submit to being “civilized” by their white masters?

Check Dutch Reformed Church’s theology during the Boer War for additional affirmation..despite all of Christ’s teachings, and those of other prophets. If a man wants to discriminate he will find reasons, even in theology---but that doesn’t make it right, or Christian.

Even after the Civil War, many churches remain divided, with North and South wings---though they call them something else…divided for years over  race relations.  (In Lexington there is the  Presbyterian Church, US (South) and Presbyterian Church, USA (North) with still differing views here. “South”, for example, does not permit women to hold certain church positions. (And you thought that war was over!)

It’s not, and you are invited to show your solidarity with those who support equality by taking part in the anniversary of a great civil rights march on Frankfort outside the Capitol Wednesday morning at 10.

And now to a similar situation abroad.



In a reverse argument here, Mr. Putin sent the world to the brink (this is written Sunday before it was clear just how  the Crimea mess he has created would play out.)  In arguing that he sent troops into that area to “protect the rights” of Russians living there he cited the exact argument Hitler cited when he helped precipitate World War Two..when he occupied the “Sudetenland" section of Czechoslovakia claiming German settlers there were being abused and had asked Mother Germany to come to their aid.

The parallels with Crimea are exact..and frightening. For Putin to forget..more likely ignore..what started the “Great Patriotic War” (and let’s remember Russia suffered more horribly than any other nation, certainly more than the US, Britain, France, etc.) is to belie recent Russian history…and, hopefully, may spark some resistance from Russians still alive, or smart enough, to remember their history and the lessons it taught.

Doesn’t Putin remember?

Do we?

I'm just sayin'...