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. 
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 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 peace.
I'm just sayin'...