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'...

Monday, November 6, 2017

In Praise Of Print

Several of my newspaper colleagues, and some J- school teachers and historians I know, consider newspapers are past their prime, dinosaurs of the past in a digital age, and wonder why they haven’t gone that way, too.
Kentuckians had a good example of why over this past week.
The Speaker of the Kentucky House, after days of swearing “No Way!” resigned suddenly, just four days after the Courier-Journal published a story that he had engaged in sexual harassment of his staff. Long time statehouse reporters were stunned. This is the Kentucky equivalent of the Speaker of Congress (3rd in line for the Presidency) doing the same...which has also happened because the media had published stories neither party wanted published.
Who does hold public officials, and our political parties accountable?  The Press, and—let me say it as a long time broadcast journalist, mainly the print media.  (Is Watergate so far away in our recent memory?)
The same week the C-J did all of us a public service, I was about to write a blog praising Paul Prather and Tom Eblen, columnists for our Herald-Leader.
Mr. Prather’s weekly column on religion should be must reading for any of us who consider ourselves “religious," and not just “Christians.” He has reminded me of lessons from my early Sunday School, and put them in today’s context in a marvelous way, illuminating and down-to-earth. You do NOT have to agree to come away from reading him with a sense of reaffirmation of the good that most of us aspire to, whether we achieve it in our daily lives or not.
Tom’s recent column made more sense, for me, of the “supply side” economics arguments, which is at the heart of many a current issue in Washington that affects our daily lives...and that also includes burning issues here; the pension argument, proposals for overhauling Kentucky’s antiquated tax code  (as well as the nation’s,) and more. Economics may be “the dismal science” but it pervades many issues in DC and Frankfort, and his column was a real service to any of us who want to be good citizens and take part in our civic life.
I hear much talk that to save our newspapers they must come up with a new, modern “business plan.” No, they must find a way to continue their traditional role of “afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.”  This the C-J and H-L have just done, and we are all the better for it.
I'm just sayin'...