Monday, April 29, 2013


You know, the ones who really bring us the information the IT people then distribute by tweet or app, by TV or radio or print..I'm talking about journalists: reporters, editors, photographers..the people who gather the news to start with--those others are often just distribution.
First, SPJ--the Society of Professional Journalists..issued its annual awards for distinguished reporting. (UK has a student chapter on campus and the Blue Grass also has a professional chapter.) As usual the awards went to networks and major papers, and to small radio stations, and weekly papers..all of whom earned their awards by serving their communities.
Then, The UK Journalism alumni inducted five new members of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame..from a deceased TV manager, who greatly expanded his station's news coverage, to a lady reporter who broke the gender line covering many sports.
As part of those activities, Al Tompkins, a Kentuckian who is now Senior Faculty at the Poynter Institute gave the major address..richly illustrated by recent news event..including a lot of mistakes and errors by the media covering the Boston bombings. (Meanwhile a full page of problems in that coverage graced the Courier-Journal under this headline: "Dear CNN: Just Say We Don't Know.")  Speculation at such free form events has always been one of the media's problems, but the 24 hour news channels have confounded this in spades. Tompkins pointed out newspaper headlines identifying the "Bag Men"--but the 2 men shown had nothing to do with the bombs--nor did several other persons named in print, and many more online, as suspects or culprits. As Tompkins put it.."Speculation is not journalism."
But do not discredit the power of the media, even that old fashioned one the Associated Press..when hackers broke into AP's website with a false story of bombs at the White House, the stock market dropped 130 points in 3 minutes.
Al also reminded us that "seeing is not understanding", and called on his colleagues to "make sense of the news" especially after verifying the facts.
Talks like his, recognition of top Kentuckian journalists, and major annual awards like SPJ's serve to keep us on our toes..for journalism has a great calling in this Information Age. Journalists supply the information, hopefully factual and fair, so the rest of the digital scribners can get it out to you and me.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, April 22, 2013


Last week's other tragedy , when a fertilizer plant blew up, killing at least 14 people, and devastating a small Texas town, has implications far beyond that area, including for Kentucky.

I've reported on such explosions over the years..and how anyone, especially government agencies  who regulate that industry, could possibly accept the firm's bland statement that "there was no risk of fire or blast" is beyond me. I can understand, though it strains belief, how a school, a nursing home, a park, various apartments would build across from the plant over the years---the plant was there first after all, when it was "out in the country." This is Texas, where minimum government is a way of life, and people don't like "zoning" regulations.

Neither do many of Kentucky's  counties, and if you think the tragedy at West couldn't happen here, think again.

With flat land at a premium, many small East Kentucky communities have homes right along the railroad tracks, where trains hauling toxic chemicals and other hazardous substances rumble through weekly, if not daily. Derailments happen. So do coal dust explosions and you don't have to drive far to see coal cleaning and processing plants and piles of dust near homes and school.

And, oh yes, what about I-64 at the West Virginia line, where it bisects a big oil refinery? I'm sure the refinery was there first. Did the road have to be routed through such a potentially dangerous area?

As we pray for the poor people of West, Texas, let's add the hope that government will do a better job of monitoring and keeping such industries safe, even if government's biggest problem is often selling local citizens on the need to have such controls in order to keep them alive. 

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, April 15, 2013



is NOT the "bugging" (which wasn't bugging) of Sen. McConnell's headquarters in Louisville by a couple of inept Kentucky "liberals"..though that is what Mitch has tried to make the main issue..but, instead,  the content of that  meeting.

We learned (1) candidates do "opponents research", not surprising and legal IF done by staffers on their own time and NOT in public facilities--which the senator's office is. This could be a law violation, which is why the Senator doesn't want to talk about it.

(2) Among the "whack-a-mole" items discussed (a laundry list of items so that if a new candidate pops up, you hit them with the "op research.")  Included here was Ashley Judd's well known (because she disclosed it in her own book) bouts with depression. Much laughter from those attending as to how her serious, distressing problem could be used against her.  Mental health advocates and all you citizens whose family members have suffered depression take note: does our senior senator really see this condition as (a) humorous and (b) something to be used to destroy the unfortunate individual who suffered from it?

(3) While Kentucky law permits one party to a conversation to tape it, legally, some news stories indicated Kentucky has a law against eavesdropping!  Shirley you jest! How can such a law be enforced, even if it can be interpreted honestly..and why?

(4) Many of my news media colleagues fell right into the Senator's spin by  (a) focusing on the alleged "bugging", which later turned out to be wrong, instead of the content of the meeting, and (b) allowing the senator to assume it must be "liberals" doing the dastardly deed..(which turned out to be right, after several days investigation, during which time many of us wondered if the culprits just might not be Tea Party members of the GOP who have stated their opposition to McConnell.)  Another jumping to conclusions, prodded vigorously to do so by Mitch, which the media ate it up without enough skeptical questions, so far as I can tell,  in the early days of this "scandal."

Of course this is the modern version of character assassination, which has kept good people from running for years (and we wonder why office holders rate so low in surveys!)
Later it was revealed GOP officials have already secured 5,000 (!) pages of public documents, including Kentucky Colonel requests from the office of Sec. of State Grimes, another possible Mitch opponent.

Where's the Democratic equivalent of a 2013 "hound dog" to tree Mitch with the truth...and a media that just doesn't accept his views without a much more skeptical approach?  Hey, this is about a guy who votes on gun control (and votes contrary to all the latest surveys) and mental health and might get to vote for war against North Korea. These are not small matters.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, April 8, 2013


The Legislative Ethics Commission reports lobbyists spent $77,000 entertaining our lawmakers during the two months of the just concluded legislature. One party alone ran $15,000.

The "good government" crowd is wringing their hands; those who have the gold to make the rules say its "democracy in action." Indeed lobbyists are citizen-voters too and have every right to try to convince legislators to see things their way..including throwing "lavish" parties for them.

Richard Beliles, head of  Common Cause of Kentucky, doesn't see it that way. AP quoted him that "the public is definitely not benefited by all those parties."

How did the public suffer? As is often the case, depends on your point of view. The Kentucky Beverage Association spent a mere $3500 on a party, but the legislature did away with a Prohibition period law against selling booze on election day. Maybe it was time; maybe the state's long bourbon tradition finally kicked it. Not the way I would have voted, but...

And the coal industry groups ( plus the competing oil and gas lobby (!!) jointly did a big event and, surprise, the legislature did nothing about ending mountain top removal.  Not my position either...but given this state's long blinders-on view of coal, hardly surprising.

Maybe what Beliles and others such as Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and  social workers, and the mental health people, and the abolish-the-death-penalty crowd need to do is...throw their own party--by getting together, polling their meager funds and hold one big soiree where they, too, get "face time" with lawmakers.

Right now it is scattered "rallies" at the Capitol, appearances in the rotunda, and a few meetings in the corridors. No one really knows if these parties produce the desired  lobbyists' results..but as long as these events are the "culture" of Frankfort...maybe Common Cause can rally the truly "good government" folks together for one, big "lavish" party of their own.

I'd drink to that.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, April 1, 2013


A new study indicates America's involvement in the Iraq and Afghan wars will cost from 4 to 6 TRILLION dollars. That's from a Harvard study recently, and is much higher than an earlier Brown University study which set the top cost at 4 trillion.
Both are much greater than Bush White House estimates when we entered the wars..the highest figure heard then was a "mere" 200 billion.
That wasn't the only mistake the White House made.
We went to war in Iraq to root out WMDs..weapons of mass destruction. None were ever found. Cold comfort to the families of our KIAs, and wounded there. Ditto Afghanistan where we went to war because the Taliban supported  Bin Laden who was  behind the 9/11 tragedy. Wrong again. No connection between Taliban and 9/11.  Cold comfort to the families of those killed, wounded, and MIA in our longest war. And taxpayers bearing the costs of two unnecessary wars.
And what did we gain? Is Iraq an ally? Far from it; it's closer to Iran than the USA. And all those "oil revenues" that were supposed to offset much of our war expenses? Didn't happen. And new reports on graft, corruption, and waste among government officials and contractors keep rolling in.
Is Afghanistan a stable government and future ally? Don't count on it. It too could end up being more influenced by Iran than the U-S. Corruption is rife, etc.etc.etc.
Yet, despite our ignorance that led us into two ill-fated and highly expensive wars, people in Washington haven't learned. Each time a new flare up occurs, some official, who hasn't learned from recent history (let alone the ancient history of Vietnam) calls for the U-S to get involved "militarily." Among recent calls for such U-S action have included possible wars against: North Korea, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iran..and I'm probably leaving out a few.
All of this stemming from our original ignorance of the true situation regarding WMDs and the Taliban..some very costly errors.
I'm just sayin'...
I wrote last week that Sen. McConnell had once held a seat in the state legislature. Wrong. He filed to run for the seat, but because of residency reasons never got on the ballot.