Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Comment: Foreign And Domestic

I blinked, was there a summit??? 
Well, we had been warned this one was unlike any other advance agreement on a closing statement, little prep time, two leaders who had never met each other, etc. (and $20M of Singapore’s cash for such short security.)  5 handshakes, one long lunch, much time lost in translation, 2 offers for a visit and more info in tweets than in the official document.
PBS’s summary: “lofty goals, with few details on how to reach them.”
That said, and I agree, it still was needed, for it gave the world new hope for peace (always remembering what a short time ago it was that the world was braced for missiles and war.)
Peace was the winner, and that is truly important. Human rights was the loser.  (North Korea’s record is one of the worst) and that is truly tragic.
(BTW, one Lexington TV station, six hours after the summit ended, was running headlines calling attention to the meeting about to be held, at the bottom of the screen during its newscast.)
Turning to domestic items:  American Democracy suffered setbacks.  The Supreme Court, 5-4, said Ohio, which has the strictest voter purging laws in the nation, could throw people off the rolls if they failed to vote for 6 years, and failed to respond to a letter.  “Not our place to set these laws for local races” the court indicated  in leaving this matter up to the states.
(I wonder how much Ohio has spent on purging voters, and bringing the case to the courts..and how much good might have been done trying to find ways to up voter turnout?)
Meanwhile, Indiana, also next door, took the opposite tack. A federal judge there blocked the state from purging voters because they might also be voting in another state!  (This makes no sense to me. Ohio’s might well be too strict, but voting twice is a crime—except of course in some parts of Kentucky and my home state of West Virginia.)
The Ohio decision may make the Indiana ruling "moot," but what we need to be doing, with great urgency, is to find ways to get many more people to vote, legally.
That serious challenge needs to be taken up by the next Kentucky General Assembly.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pastor Paul & Senator Mitch (and other news notes)

Pastor Paul Prather in Sunday’s Herald Leader called the NFL’s ruling against players’ kneeling during the national anthem “unpatriotic.” And so it is. As Prather writes the players have said many times they are not disrespecting the flag or anthem, but rather calling attention to systemic racism in America and especially police violence against black people. (And so that is, too.)
I don’t know what Sen. Mitch McConnell thinks about all this, but have we forgotten when, many years ago, he upheld the burning of the flag as a legit means of dissent? Didn’t like it he said; he would never do was a legal form of protest.
Burning our flag seems a much worse matter, to me, than kneeling for our (largely unsingable) national anthem.
Some people never learn Dept:   “Israel plans 2500 new West Bank settler homes”  (accompanied by more protests, more deaths, more bad feelings between the 2 peoples who MUST end up sharing their land.) This headline could just as easily read “Hamas calls upon its followers to sacrifice themselves needlessly at nearest border.”
Some people never learn Dept. Part 2: The Catholic archdiocese of St (!) Paul in Minneapolis will pay $210 million to settle over 400 cases of sexual abuse by priests. Second largest US verdict in these disgraceful cases.
US involved in a new war, once again no declaration as Constitution requires:
This time it’s Yemen, where US troops have suddenly shown up...and prompting the GOP-controlled House to call for a probe of reports that US servicemen or intelligence officials have tortured Yemeni detainees. (Well that was fast...took many months during the Iraq war.)  Last time the House got exercised was when it finally learned (thru news reports) US service people were in Niger---and 4 of them had been killed while on a “safe” mission.
And to be fair:
President Trump has signed into law a bill allowing terminally ill people to apply for (and maybe even get quicker) experimental drugs that might, might just save their lives. Congress took its good sweet time in finally doing this, it  was long overdue, but at least this bi-partisan, non-partisan idea passed. For signing it, also a good idea, Thank You, Mr. President.
Have a good Memorial Day?
36 people in Chicago didn’t; they were shot over that “holy-day”, 7 dying.
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Your Banker Is Wrong

At least the Ky. Bankers Association had the good sense to wait until after the primary to endorse all the GOP members of our delegation in Washington. They made it clear in newspaper ads thanking all those who voted for Senate Bill 2155. (Democrat Yarmuth didn’t; he remembers a few things such as the S&L scandal, the Countrywide Mortgage scandal, the 2007-8 recession brought on by Wall Street.)
Now the ads proclaim "Ky’s community banks can finally get back to serving their local businesses and consumers with financial products tailored to local needs, especially as they relate to HOME MORTGAGES.”
Meadow Muffins!
Nothing in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street (& big bank) reform act of 2010—brought on by greed & fraud & criminal behavior by parts of the mortgage industry—prevented Ky. banks from making local, home mortgages. Zip. IF they wanted to.
But our banks wanted more. So they lobbied Congress to exempt “small” banks (with ONLY Fifty million in capitalization, etc.) from that bill, and also rolled back many of the minimal regulations it imposed.
So, sometime down the road we will have another financial industry scandal. Wells Fargo may just be a preview.
You will probably hear more on this during the 6th District campaign for Congress this fall. Listen and make up your own mind who is right here, because the lines are sharply drawn on this issue between Andy Barr and Amy McGrath.
Now then on another matter:
A Kentucky development this past week proved that "you can not be too conservative in our politics these days.”
Rep. Hal Rogers, a conservative 19 term Republican serving Eastern Ky. (and doing that well IMHO) drew the ire of the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers for voting for the $1.3 trillion budget bill. So they are going to run ads against him.  (Great idea as it just may make that part of Ky. “green” as Rogers wins his 20th term.)
But the moral is clear:  you just can’t be conservative enough..someone out there, beyond Ky. most likely, with zillions of money will mount a campaign against you these days.
I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Primary Shocker

I’ve covered Kentucky elections for over 40 years and I can’t think of one that was a greater shocker than this week’s primary; on all levels and for all parties.
Let me take them one by one:
CONGRESS: Oh how I wish Jim Gray had run again for mayor, as I said before he announced he wouldn’t. Oh how I wish Amy McGrath had run for congress against another incumbent from her old home town.
Did the Emmons family of political consultants stub their toes badly with their last minute TV ad questioning Mrs. McGrath’s lack of residence??? That will be debated for years, or at least until the next race (I think Yes)
Did I hear Andy Barr say he was “eager for debates?”  That will be a change. I felt his lack of debating in two races was enough to cost him his job—as it did Ben Chandler once upon a time. We will see if he finally follows through.
STATE HOUSE:  The Jonathan Shell loss to a first time candidate is the shocker-in-chief. His opponent, a teacher, is NOT a KEA member, and may even be more conservative than Shell. No matter. As House majority leader, and rising GOP star, this is a real blow to GOP control of each chamber, no matter what happens in November. And while it does show the current political muscle of teachers, the real question is: how long can they flex that muscle? Stay tuned.
MAYOR:  The real winner here was the Lexington Herald-Leader, which endorsed the 2 winning candidates out of a much larger field. Seeing that the losers included a former mayor and a veteran councilman (who had the best and earliest TV ads) that’s a bit surprising (and probably puzzling to political scientists and reporters such as myself.  Kevin Stinnett's ads were the ONLY ones that really spelled out a platform; these are the issues, here is what I would do.) The others were: I’m experienced, trust me. While Linda Gorton and Ronnie Bastin have experience, both have been out of the public eye for some time.  I was surprised, but it will be a good race in the fall; and civil, and in the end voters will win.
(To my friends at the Herald-Leader, just remember all the past times when your recommendations weren’t followed by the voters.)
THE PARTIES: When are you going to either allow Kentucky to have open primaries (that is, allowing we who would prefer to register independent to vote in either party’s primary) or REQUIRE that candidates MUST show their party ID in their ads?? When Shell ran his TV ads without listing himself as a Republican he was in good company (most candidates of any party didn’t) and this is a FRAUD upon voters. How can these 2 major parties maintain that fiction if they won’t require party ID?
THE PRIMARY: I believe most years this is the more important race of the two. I also believe we should be allowed to vote in either party’s race regardless of how we are registered. I believe party ID should be required in campaign ads. I believe we should vote for as many people in the primary as go forward to November – if 2 go to the fall, we should be allowed to vote for 2 if the field be larger.   
A FINAL WORD: The Grand OLD Party should re-evaluate its positions on a number of issues; remembering that once upon a time, not so long ago, Kentucky had 70 years of one party rule (MUCH too long)—so consider some changes, or...   
And to the Democrats, temper your enthusiasm. It was a lousy turnout—23%. You & the GOP need to consider bi-partisan measures to get more voters to the polls. Finally, your party failed to put up candidates for CONGRESS in 3 of our 6 districts, that’s half, and may not in a fourth. Some statewide party, that.
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

In Re: Common Sense NJ & KY

Only took 9 years, speedy by US Supreme Court standards, but by a 6-3 vote the court has held that states, not the federal government, are entitled to make rules regarding sports betting.  The case was filed by New Jersey.
Savor that BBN.
Savor that you state government officials eager for new revenues.
Savor that you anti-gambling people because you have every right to insist that some of these new monies be used to treat those afflicted with gambling; if states are smart enough and not too greedy.
Yes, there are arguments against, including the one just cited, and others that it will ruin those “amateur” sports. (Here in BBN we laugh. Remember those years we had the “best team money could buy.” Or the $$$ that fell out of the FedEx package, or the point shaving scandal, or the shoe scandal we haven’t heard the end of yet, or the “Breaking Cardinal Rules” book...or...Or...OR!)
When the recent legislature passed new taxes on services, there were the usual, considered arguments against, especially in areas that border other states. Would the new 6% tax on small animal vet care, for example,  cause people to go across state lines to get help for Fido and avoid paying a higher price?
These are legit concerns, but each time raised I wonder why we keep swallowing that gnat, while avoiding the camel? The money Kentucky loses to almost all the states around us, currently going to their casinos, betting parlors (and soon their sports betting emporiums) makes the 6% services tax a dwarf problem; and it will happen.
Gov. Bevin was one of 3 governors who signed the legal brief in this case. Bully for him! And bully for Kentucky IF we seize this opportunity, PLAN for its introduction properly, making sure those who shouldn’t gamble are taken care of (and their kids!) we can start meeting some of the social needs (and pension reforms) we have needed to do for some time.
Let the debate---and planning begin---ask your candidate for the legislature where they stand NOW.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, May 7, 2018

One Step Forward, But Two Steps Back

Bless His Heart, our guv vetoes some things he  needed too, and didn’t others..for which Thanks. Because the GOP controlled legislature couldn’t get its act together (as many Dem controlled legislatures before them) the guv was able to veto some things that can not be overridden.  He could have been a “dog in the manger” and vetoed the necessary “clean up language” for the important budget and pension bills..where his early vetoes were overridden, but he did not. (This is another lesson for both parties..don’t wait til the last minute to put hundred page bills before each chamber when no one can read them and catch mistakes.)

Our governor did veto the “incumbent protection bill” which would have moved the filing date from late January to early January. But don’t hold your breath. Now the legislature will just past this lousy idea early enough next year to allow for an overide..unless you voters complain to all the candidates during this year’s elections.

The Courier-Journal also reported recently on the latest on the guv’ new home near Anchorage. He claimed it was worth $1.6M when he apparently bought it from a friend who does business with the state..and made that price stick. That was last year; this year the PVA has valued the house&grounds at $2.9M, up a “mere” $1.6M.  Stay tuned, you haven’t heard the last of this cozy deal yet.

(Since Lexington media have not covered this new wrinkle well..check out the CJ story “Bevin’s home worth $2.9M” on 4/28.)

Another major story not covered well by local media, if at all, was the Peabody award (broadcasting’s highest) to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Louisville Public Media for their 5-part series on church leader (?) and state lawmaker Dan Johnson---who had lived a life of fraud and deceit—and who committed suicide shortly after the series started.  That was a sad ending, but the two groups stressed the necessity of holding elected officials accountable with the facts.

(You can also check the CJ’s story “Peabody Award honors local public media series” on May 1)

Investigatory journalism is one of the prices the media pays for protections of the First Amendment. All too few of our present day media seem willing to pay this price. WKYT (NB-my old station) is the only tv here doing it; The Herald-Leader does so occasionally, but not as much as in the past..and the Kentucky Kernel as well. But here student newspapers are facing serious odds to continue, often because of financial pressures brought on by public budgetary problems. I don’t believe the UK administration, or most state legislators would lose any sleep if the Kernel, and other student papers, just disappeared...and that would be a real pity. They are the training grounds for future mainstream they were for Kuralt, Murrow, and so many others.

You may also have notice, despite lousy local coverage, ISIS bombs in Afghanistan killed 9 journalists recently. It is not a field for the faint of heart.

We certainly make our share of mistakes. The annual White House Correspondents Dinner was one of them. I was glad to see the first woman of color named to be the head “roaster” altho I had not heard of Michelle Wolf before. Now I don’t care if I hear of her again. Even with the President a no show, it’s just not necessary to trot out frequent use of the “F” word. Your points and your humor don’t need that. I would not urge the WHCD to even consider censoring its guest roaster, but maybe a little more research would be appropriate in future years.

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Even If It's Legal, It's Not Right

I’m referring to the Governor’s strong arm tactics to push a qualified educator out of his job in order to get his own man in.
Gov. Bevin was within his rights to name an all new state education commission board—which he did.        
The new board was within its right (its only duty apparently) to push out (fired is a better word) the present commissioner (who had received a glowing report for his work from the old board just last fall) and install an “interim” commissioner while seeking a full-time head.
There are real problems with this entirely “legal” action, which is why it is not “right”.
1—it is a return to the brute force power politics of an age many of us hoped was past.
2---were I a betting man I would now bet , 99 & 44/100%, the new commissioner will be a Kentuckian. Why? NO smart, qualified out-of-stater would accept the job...knowing no matter how well he/she did, they could be fired on a political whim of one man. And also the guv wants his own man/woman in the job. The odds are the best person will NOT be a time when Kentucky had been receiving national praise for some of our KERA-reforms, and at a time when we are dealing with new problems, and need the best possible person at the helm—whether a Kentuckian or not.
This year’s stupid action will set Kentucky back for years.
3—In an excellent editorial last Sunday, the Herald-Leader pointed out several  laws were broken in selecting the new interim head. While too late to save Dr. Pruitt, these actions should be challenged in court.
4---This was one more example of the guv poking teachers in the eye, needlessly.
5—News reports indicate this was all planned, for some time, as a means to get Charter Schools implemented here, whether the tax-paying public wanted them or not.   
6—Neither 4 nor 5 are good politics for any party here.
It’s a good idea, on multi-member commissions, to have overlapping terms. (This has been true for years on major groups such as the UK board of trustees.) The legislature should quickly move to give this commission a better arrangement for such terms, perhaps by setting up a 3 or 4 year period for such terms, instead of 2 groups,  so no one governor can pull what Bevin legally did; or at least making sure the governor has popular support over  two  elections.
All of this should be remembered in November by all voters, not just the teachers and their friends.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lest We Forget

Presidential Oath of Office: “ I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend  the Constitution of the United States.”
 Congressional Oath of Office: “ I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same...”
Constitution, Article 1, Section 8... "Congress shall have the power to...declare war,”
LAST TIME CONGRESS DECLARED WAR:  Dec 8, 1941, as urged by FDR against Japan (and Axis powers)
I am well aware that almost all Presidents since FDR have not done this; whether Democrat or Republican. Truman had a “police action” in Korea, Bush went after non-existant WMD in Iraq, and Trump has now twice violated his oath and the Constitution in Syria. This last time he had plenty of time to get Congress to pass a war declaration---plenty of time—but he choose to go ahead without one.
That is grounds for Impeachment and it should be done.
No excuses folks!  Either we believe in our Constitution, all of it, or we don’t. Some will say there are other grounds that should be used, but this is the clearest and most unassailable.  I don’t know that Vice President Pence would be much better, but that is beside the point. My conscience is clear.  I have argued against so called “War Powers Resolutions" that Congress occasionally passes ever since Truman, as violating the Constitution. There is NO logic in saying Congress can pass a law or resolution to amend the Constitution, there is a clearly prescribed process for amendments. War Resolutions aren’t it.
Pity, just as Nixon’s greatest achievement was the “opening to China," which no Democrat could have done, I had hopes Mr. Trump could somehow negotiate a deal to defuse the potentially tragic situation with North Korea; but that too must wait.
If you believe in the American Revolution (and I do); if you believe in what the founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence (and I do) and the Constitution (and I do); and the Bill of Rights (and I do)---then there is no course left but to actively urge our Congressmen and Senators to introduce and support impeachment, and ask them about it at every possible opportunity.
Otherwise we can never call ourselves truly Americans.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Is Governor Bevin Just Donald Trump Lite?

Well, No, but Trump got the memo, Bevin didn’t.
By “Memo” I mean all the horrible things Speaker Paul Ryan told Trump would happen if he vetoed the US budget. Trump, wisely, backed down.  Bevin didn’t.
Now what?
Well, I am not sure.  I can’t remember Kentucky ever being in this situation. If the returning legislature fails to overturn the vetoes (on one or both) we are in big trouble. Our state constitution requires a balanced budget (which without the tax bill he vetoed we don’t have) and a budget before the new fiscal year. There isn’t time left in the regular session, so that means a special session, at quite an UNnecessary expense to we taxpayers.
Only the guv can call a special session, a loophole in the legislature’s power which needs changing by amendment. But once the legislature does come to Frankfort, it can immediately adjourn; which it just might do to spite Bevin. More problems. Even if it succeeds in passing acceptable (to the guv) bills later, Democrats are sure to jump on those unnecessary expenses involved. and rightly so.
But much more likely is the failure of the Grand Old Party to overturn the veto. This could be done by giving the legislators time to read the 2 bills which almost no one has done, and that could alter the votes in both parties and both chambers. More problems.
Also those shouting protestors, teachers and tax advocates and lobbyists of all persuasions have a new chance to get into the act. Who knows what sewer bill might be found in the waning moments of the session to do more damage?
Or, that independent tax study which points out the tax bill favors the very rich in our state (sur-prise!!!) could change the votes. Who knows?
For those of us who hoped a needed change in Frankfort, would came about with Republican control of both chambers, we are now much more unhappy. Both parties have shown a great ability to be UNfair to the other party when they are in control, and the people’s  business is strangled.  No one seems to have learned this is NOT the way voters want things done in our capital.
Right now the GOP is the one taking it on the chin. No matter what happens when lawmakers return this weekend, RPK is the loser—and it’s their own fault, or at least the fault of the titular head of that party.
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Our Present Legislature, Past And Future

I’ve covered legislatures in 5 states, and I am appalled at the recent actions of our Kentucky General Assembly ---not that other states haven’t been up to those same shenanigans, or even that past Kentucky legislatures haven’t done the same, but there is still no justification for their actions.
To take major pieces of legislation; the budget and the pension overhaul, kept them secret, fail to hold public hearings on the final versions, keep lawmakers of BOTH parties in the dark til the last minute, failing to give time to read the bills---and break its own rules during the process—that simply is much too much.       
The GOP camapigned on “transparency," a word I dislike but it means to bring  things out in the open so all citizens can understand what’s going on, and make their views known to their representatives in Frankfort –that pledge is now in shambles, and I hope voters will remember that come May and November.
But I also must point out that the Democrats have acted this way in the past, too; though perhaps not quite as much or on as serious as these matters. The Dems also ran roughshod over opponents in committee, cut time on the floor for amendments and debate, etc.  Republicans promised not to behave this way if they got into office, and we now see how little that pledge meant. (I wish I were confident that should the Dems take over either house they would behave differently, but I doubt it. Too much past history to the contrary.) 
As to the future, were I a betting man, I would wager that the courts will ultimately strike down the pension plan. Mainly because the GOP-controlled chambers violated their own rules by not providing an acturarial report, which the law requires. To me, that makes the actions indefensible and worthy of being tossed out. Similar rules MAY apply to the budget, but the courts have been more lenient on things like this in the past.
Should the pension plan be tossed out, stand by for a special session, UNnecessary & expensive.
Should the governor veto either one, in whole or by line item veto we may be in a new world of hurt.
I am happy the legislature restored many of the governor’s cuts, but why did they not understand the importance of the University Press of Kentucky? (operated by UK on behalf of many of our state colleges and universities.)  Without it, who will publish important research on our issues or our past history and culture?
What a lovely mess. 
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Stormy, Summer and the Playmate

Three women have gone to court, pressing their claims to have been sexually connected in some way to The Donald.
I have no idea who’s telling the truth, but this is where the issue belongs---in court, not on front pages or broadcast news programs.  This is how such important matters should be settled, and in this case SOON, for all our benefit.
I wish the same approach had been taken in the numerous charges against prominent men in the “me too” and “time’s up” movements. There certainly is “fire” here and not just “smoke” for the “casting couch” has long been a staple of Hollywood lore.  But allegations are not proof, and proof comes in court.  Nor are the large numbers of women making such charges “proof." Truth is not dependent on numbers. One is sufficient.  But due process was NOT followed here, and lives have been changed forever by that fact.
Trial by the news media is not the American way of justice, and this needs to change. It is true anymore than people are “guilty until proven innocent” and that’s neither right nor fair.
While I am  criticizing my colleagues, let me go one step further.  Major papers and tv casts tell us about “Russian meddling” in our elections, not “alleged” Russian meddling. That this is political can hardly be doubted, viz the competing Dem and GOP versions and reports from the House Intelligence committee. But hold on; all of this stems from the consensus of 16 intel agencies who agreed  in a joint report. I will say again truth is not just found in numbers. While I think there is strong evidence for this claim, I still remember these same agencies told us of WMDs in Iraq and helped cause a war. No part of the most recent report has been made public, and needs to be for us to make a rational decision. 
The claims that Russia is behind the poisoning of one of their ex-spies (and double agent) is even flimsier. Given two major cases in recent years, where much proof was provided, there is certainly plenty of reason to suspect Putin’s long hand—but all the nations jumping in (we have not been told the UK shared what information it has with Latvia and others to make them come on board.) seems more to get brownie points with the UK than a reasoned explanation of why Britain suspects Russia. That may come, but there isn’t an international court where this is likely to be tried. Til then, with a Cold War#2 threatened, the better path is suspending judgment until the facts come out, and hopefully they will.
GOOD news from Frankfort—(1) the budget negotiators have turned down new money for private prisons (which cost much more per inmate that state operated ones, and 2—someone is finally challenging the Kentucky Wired project, already behind schedule and way over budget. The idea is good—get better broadband thru out the state, but the way this was gone about should have been challenged from the start. It is beginning to look like a bottomless money pit with little to show for our taxpayer dollars.
That said, NOTHING is final in Frankfort til the legislature adjourns. Nothing.
I'm just sayin'...

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'...

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Musings On Our Legislature

Things are not going well in Frankfort.

Despite promises to get to a pension bill in the “early weeks” of the session, zip has happened.
The dominant party is bogged down in charges and countercharges over possible sexual shenanigans in the ex-Speaker’s office and similar places; and whether taxpayers (that’s us) money was spent to bail out whatever happened. Shades of Washington (and past Democratic indiscretions.)

What have we got so far?  One proposed amendment to the Constitution, which would add more rights for crime victims—a worthy issue, but many advocates for them say it isn’t needed, that all those protections are currently granted them by state law.  It’s a matter of seeing that our state justice systems follows thru. (Which has a better chance to do so because Governor Bevin, to his credit, has upped dollars for judges, Kentucky State Police, and public defenders, etc.)

And we may get a proposed amendment to change our election cycle (again and just a few years after voters changed the election cycle) which could be just a party football and not an honest attempt to get more people to the polls.

What we don’t have here is an amendment to strike the crusty “anti-dueling oath” which each guv must take ever four years and which makes Kentucky the laughing stock of the world. Dueling? In the 21st century? Shirley you jest!

Or proposals to allow an independent commission to draw up state political districts as 16 or more other states do; or going back to the important and necessary reforms from the days of the BOPTROT scandals, which succeeding legislatures have all but overturned (do we ever learn?)  (This in the face of a report from the Illinois Institution on Public Corruption listing Kentucky as “the most corrupt state” in the US. ("Hey. we’re Number One!")

Or having the legislature admit that the true pension crisis was in a major way brought about by its refusal to put enough money into each budget until we are dangerously out of balance. (probably the worst in the US—"hey, we’re number one!")

Or doing an honest job on tax reform, which 20 state special commissions have urged. As the Herald-Leader points out, Kentucky exempts more in tax loopholes than it collects in tax revenues. That way lies madness.

Or answering the tragedy in Marshall County by offering bills to put more guns into our schools.
But wait...the session still has a few weeks to go. With luck we may get even more!

I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

NOT A Good Idea

The state corrections head recently decided to RE-open a closed prison in Eastern Kentucky.
His reasons: the state’s prison population continues to grow and the state was running out of places to jail them, plus putting them in local county jails was becoming harder to do and was costing more money, and the state had no $$$ to build a new prison.
So he plans to re-open a prison closed in 2015, and hire the same private firm which didn’t run it right then, to run it again.
Without going into an argument over whether Kentucky jails too many people for too many offenses (including various minor ones - and we do, ) this is a baddd idea. For many reasons:   
First, hiring the same firm which the state fired in 2015 for not doing its job is just stupid. OK, the old firm, Corrections Corp. of America, has changed its name. It is now CoreCivic, but the same problems and controversies it had before still exist,
Its record in Kentucky includes two major riots at its facilities, charges that it skimped on food for inmates (which may have led to one of the riots,) lawsuits over sexual harassment and worse, including by a prison “chaplain," at one facility, various other charges, including violation of lobbying laws to keep its contract, etc.etc.etc.
In other states, similar and more such charges were made against this firm. Why give them a chance to repeat or enlarge their bad operations again?
Security of our citizens is a major state commitment. Why turn this over to private firms? In making billions in profits annually, which the state doesn’t need to make, surely  government can operate prisons more effectively than for-profit firms. If not, governments can be held accountable more than private firms, and changes made.  Try that with Wells Fargo or Tanaka.
There are, in my mind, also serious legal questions. I have been told, several times, by journalists and CCA reps, that its employees are private citizens, NOT state employees, not “sworn peace officers” or lawmen.
How then, can such people hold inmates jailed without running afoul of the “involuntary servitude” clause of the US Constitution? I would love to see an ACLU challenge to this use of privately operated prisons.
Til then, and til Kentucky revisits all the minor reasons it jails so many people (America jails more people per capital than almost any nation) this decision to reopen an old prison and hire a discredited firm to run it, makes very little sense.
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Some News Notes And A Correction

Correction first:
In my last blog, objecting to Ashley Judd’s barring broadcasters from her latest talk at UK (and the school’s going along) I said the silence from local broadcasters objecting was “deafening.” I also said the local chapter of the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) had not objected.  The president of the local group, Tom Eblen of the Herald-Leader corrects me, saying he had sent an objection to UK officials not allowing all members of the media to cover on behalf of the SPJ.  Good, but so far no changes that I know of in a bad UK policy.
News notes:
1--- When I was growing up the “Solid South” meant all those states voted Democratic. But ever since Southerner LBJ passed the Civil Rights Act of ‘64, the South has been growing more and more Republican (which says an awful lot!) Today the South is pretty much solidly GOP. So the recent victory in the Alabama US Senate race of Doug Jones over arch-conservative Roy Moore was global news. (Moore, BTW, is much worse than the recent sexual accusations would indicate. Google him for his actions as Chief Justice of Alabama for one example.)  But while the media put the major reason for his loss on those allegations, let me add another factor which may also have been a major contributor to his defeat...the charge by Pres. Trump in his next door speech in Florida that Jones “was soft on crime,”a major charge by the GOP on Democrats. Most people alive in Alabama knew that Jones, then a federal prosecutor, had been the driving force behind successful attempts to bring old Klansmen to justice in their horrendous bombing of a black Birmingham church that killed 4 young Sunday School girls years ago. State officials had done little to solve the case, and when Jones took it on in the '90s such actions could end your political career—or worse, get you killed.
Mr. Trump is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts, which many members of the media have spent the last year pointing out.
Which is the media’s job; speaking Truth to Power, trying to be the public’s advocate.
2---That has gotten a lot of reporters, editors, and photographers killed in 2017:  a  minimum of 81 in fact, according to the annual report of the International Federation of Journalists. (250 more were still in prison at year’s end.) The largest number were killed covering the drug wars in Mexico, while many more died covering wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan—and our disgraceful US policies in those 3 nations.
3---As the Kentucky legislature meets, issue Number Uno is: $$$.
Whether it be more $$$ for pension reform (which both legislatures and governors over the last decade or so are responsible for,) the need for tax reform (which exempts more $$$ than it brings in) or more $$$ for police agency needs, or more $$$ for adequate staffing of child protection agencies—or roads—or higher ed...or you name it, it’s still $$$.
Let us pray this year’s lawmakers will have the guts to tackle the $$$ issue head on, even in an election year, and raise taxes if need be to meet this state’s honest needs---but to do so without making marijuana legal, as more and more states are doing to raise more money. I support medical marijuana, and the industrial hemp industry, but recreational use, No Way. Even California won’t permit smoking weed in cars, even by passengers. We are setting ourselves up for another version of the lies and subterfuge and political corruption of Big Tobacco all over again; even if, as I suspect, smoking the darn stuff will have serious health effects too.
That’s not the way to raise $$$, as we have learned through the health and other costs of smoking.  One evil does not justify another.
I'm just sayin'...