Monday, October 15, 2018

Our President Has Come And Gone

Leaving behind a pumped up “base” (who came here from many states, which I admit, surprised me.) More especially a pumped up campaign for Congressman Andy Barr; and the usual amount of half-truths and mis-statements along with his campaign rhetoric.
 
He said coal jobs were up. Not exactly. The latest report shows an almost 1% rise in the nation, and an almost 1% drop in Kentucky—an almost 5% drop since he was elected on a pledge to bring such jobs back to Kentucky.
 
Speakers get carried away; political speakers are often the worst offenders. He knows Democrats across the country are not “the party of crime” any more than they are “soft” on Communism, or against Motherhood. And as for letting in the brutes of MS-13, if you know who they are thank the MSM (main stream media) and its “fake” news for telling you.
 
Barr was probably delighted Mr. Trump claimed Barr’s opponent, Amy McGrath, was for “open borders” though she has run too many tv spots denying that. It is NOT the same thing to oppose the stupid “Wall” (and it is, ask the President—of Mexico---or the teenagers who keep climbing over its prototypes—if spending 20 plus Billions is a good idea.)
 
Now was she “chosen by Nancy Pelosi..and the radical Democratic mob?” That mob picked and backed Lexington Mayor Jim Gray who ran against McGrath.
 
But, hey, Presidents and campaign speakers are supposed to play fast and loose with the truth; it’s just that we reporters (and you citizens) keep hoping for something better, keep hoping for party reps who will “talk sense to the American people.” It’s difficult for we voters to make good decisions on the critical issues facing the USA if either party’s reps won’t do that.  (I haven’t yet spotted any such errors in the short tv clips I saw on Joe Biden’s fish fry appearance, or quotes in the papers, but if I do, I’ll pass them along.  No party has a monopoly on truth, nor is it free from errors.
 
Now then, inquiring minds want to know:  who paid for the expense of bringing Air Force One in for this entirely campaign visit?  I hope it was the RNC or RPK or Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, but I don’t know, and I hope my colleagues in the media will find out for all of us. It would be totally unfair (and illegal as well) if we taxpayers shared such costs.
 
Speaking of media here, congrats to WKYT for airing the Trump speech - at considerable cost - but a great example of operating “in the public interest” as they are licensed to do. And special congrats to its reporter Miranda Combs for getting an exclusive interview with the President, and not asking “softball” questions.  (I assume WEKU-FM also aired the speech in full, as they should have, if not I was watching tv, shame on you.)
 
Finally, I hope all those who spent such time and energy and money to come to Richmond to hear the President will turn out and vote on election day.  Applauding wildly at such rallies seems easy, but somehow going to the polls seems much harder these days. I wish I knew why.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Both Deals Suspect - And You And I Might Pay

An important report from the state auditor recently casts great doubt on the wisdom of the “Kentucky Wired” project; a very ambitious plan to provide high speed broadband service to all parts of the state, but especially to E. Ky. It was put forward by Gov. Beshear, a Democrat, and Congressman Hal Rogers, a Republican. It was to cost the state nominally, but somehow (no one really knows exactly how) has greatly increased in cost, and somehow (no one seems to know exactly how) we taxpayers may be on the hook for the increase.
 
At the same time, media reports indicate one of the guv’s fave projects, an aluminum mill near Ashland is also in some financial straits; not all the private financing has come forth. (does this sound like CentrePoint on a state basis?)  Backers of the plan says “don’t worry, the money will be there.  But doubts remain—even if this hadn’t come out about the time of the auditor’s report.
 
What a wonderful chance for a new probe into both projects; not by the Attorney General (son of guv Beshear) but by the auditor, an independent counsel, some legislative group, so we taxpayers can know just what is going on.
 
As the A/G just named a special counsel to probe Sec. of State Grimes' election activities (also needed,) let him excuse himself from these two ventures and name another special counsel.
 
We need to get to the bottom---and quickly—before you and I assume another billion (yes billion) or so new debt we and the Commonwealth just can not handle.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Lengthened Shadow

Emerson was right. You remember old Ralph Waldo’s famous saying; "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.”
 
The institution is KET, observing the 50th anniversary of going on the air this month.   
 
The “one man” is Len Press, who conceived the idea of KET and after many hardships got it going.  Len would be the first to say he didn’t do it alone, and his book points out the many people all over Kentucky, and in DC who had his dream and reality.  But still, this month as we celebrate KET, we must celebrate Len Press (and his wife Lil, very much also involved in KET’s history).
 
I hope you see the 50th birthday program which KET will be airing a lot, even if you don’t read his book.  KET is so much more than the PBS schedule in prime time many of us confuse with KET. So much more. It—and Len’s—prime mission was to bring education to those who didn’t have it, and who badly needed it.  While other states (and KET, too) have drifted from his primary goal, it is, please remember, Kentucky EDUCATIONAL Television.
 
I hope 50 years from now we will still have KET. If so, it will be on the frontiers of whatever good broadcasting is about. But I am not entirely hopeful. The legislature has squeezed its budget badly. Good, veteran staffers have been laid off, programs have been cancelled or cut back; more than KET will admit, and these days we need it more than ever.
 
But so many people realize its worth, and hopefully will continue to do so, that 50 years from now, there will be another shadow, another Len Press to guide it into another uncertain future, and for that, and for what KET has achieved in its first half-century, we may all be very, very proud.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 17, 2018

This Blog Is Not Anonymous

It’s bad enough when the public gets it wrong, worse when journalists get it wrong, and very, very bad when journalists get it wrong and cause the public to get it wrong.
 
I’m talking about the recent famous “anonymous” Op Ed piece in the New York times where a “senior member” of the Trump administration confessed they were deliberately opposing some acts the President wanted to take “for the good of the country”
 
This Op Ed was NOT “anonymous," as many news stories reported.
 
There are at least 2 types of so-called “anonymous” stories—and I have dealt with both in my career.
 
1—is the truly and totally anonymous story that comes into the newsroom from out of nowhere. It claims certain newsworthy things have or will happen and asks us to cover them. It cites no or little evidence for the claim and gives no indication who has sent in this news tip. That is a truly anonymous story, and gives reporters a hard time.  If the claim is about something significant should we use it; but how do we go about verifying that it is, that the claim is accurate and the “source” is creditable?  In most cases these tips/claims can be tossed out on their face.  Once in a while they are worth investigating to see if there is anything  truthfully there.
 
2---the other type of so called “anonymous” story, and this was true in the Times cases, is where the source IS KNOWN to the reporter, but insists on remaining anonymous, which in a country with a First Amendment is their right. What to do, if you are an ethical journalist, especially if the claim is about an important public issue? You can try to talk them out of their insistence, which is what finally happened in the recent story in the Washington Post about the woman now claiming Judge Kavanaugh sexually abused her. Or you can keep investigating the source’s claim, and if you can’t convince them to “go public” wrestle mightily with whether the claim is so newsworthy and the source so creditable that you go ahead and print it, keeping the source’s name out of it, as ethics require.
 
It’s not an easy decision to make and we reporters have had many an argument over what is the “right” course here.  Some decide one way; the Times decided another.
 
Which also means, since the newsroom and the editorial board room at the Times are two very separate entities, that the newsroom now has the ethical responsibility to try to uncover who the Op Ed writer is..and if they succeed, will that story be pushed?? (That one will go all the way up to the publisher for a decision, and one that will be further complicated by rumors the Wall Street Journal or CBS has unearthed the writer and is about to report same.)  Who said Journalism was easy?
 
We---the collective we of the US 4th Estate—has done a bad job explaining what I see as 2 very different definitions of “anonymous” here.
 
May I suggest, in the future, these be differentiated as “anonymous” in case 1, and “from a source known to us but who insists on not being named” in case 2.  That will help the public decide what faith, if any, to put on the story.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It's The New Fall Season

For political commercials on TV, of course.
 
And what do we have so far?
 
Disappointing attack ads from our 6th district Congressman Andy Barr. He could have started on a much higher note, but chose instead to “go negative” not as much as those semi-anonymous groups supporting him, but nevertheless...
 
We haven’t had polls for a while, thank heavens, after their grossly inaccurate performance in ‘16. But along comes the New York Times with a type of polling few people had heard about here, and no one trusts---not with a MOE (Margin of Error) of 9%. 4% is considered acceptable by those who know, I am told.
 
As usual even on my big TV set, you can’t read the tiny print at the bottom as to what group is sponsoring these ads; (wonder if Congress which makes the rules planned it this way?)  Along with making it difficult to find out much information as to who these groups are, and whether they are in touch with the candidate they back, a No No against federal law. But then, who polices these ads?  Who tries to find out if there is illegal collusion?  I think it’s the Federal Election Commission; an agency starved by Congress for funds and staff and are you beginning to see a plan here which works for both parties, of course, but against the people?
 
So, locally it’s been left up to the news media to probe these ads;a re they correct or misleading?  But local TV stations—which rake in plenty of money from such ads-- haven’t done this for years, and newspapers are starved for staff these days and usually don’t any more; an abdication of responsibility, but...
 
I was unhappy with some of my Congressman’s ads until I realized most of the really bad ones were coming from supporting groups, not Mr. Barr himself. But one ad, currently running by him, is wrong in saying Mrs. McGrath supports a single payer health care system (which she does) it calls such a system “Socialism.”  It isn’t.  Many countries around the world have such a system or its variations, and these nations run the gamut from left to right.
 
In fact the US is one of, if not the last, major Western nation not to have such a system, and it is worth being debated in the 6th district campaign; but on the basis of facts, not red flag (“Socialism!!!) errors.
 
I do hope Mr. Barr will give in—as he hasn’t in past races—and hold more than one debate. The citizens of his district are worth more than just one.
 
As for Mrs. McG, it’s about time she stopped running fuzzy, warm ads of bare bottomed kids, and cooking grandmas; most of us now know who she is and her military background, but where does she stand on more issues for our district than just health care, important as that is???
 
I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

There's Blood On My Hands; And Yours Too

Twice in the last two weeks a Saudi Arabian air strike in Yemen has hit a school bus full of kids (killing over 30) and a school (killing a half dozen more.)
 
The US is supplying the Saudis with intelligence, supplies, bombs, refueling, money, training...all the things necessary to fight a war; and get it wrong.  When the first bombing happened, the Saudis claimed their target was a military one. After a world outcry, and a UN call for an “independent” investigation, the Saudis said they would conduct their own.  (see fox guarding hen house) They have been silent since the 2nd bombing a week later. 
 
The US also has military personnel on the ground in Yemen, to aid the Saudis, which means sooner or later, there will be American casualties in this conflict where we have taken sides. In my book, that’s war, and we are involved.  Not that the Trump administration or the Pentagon told the American people we were involved in another war. That leaked out because reporters ferreted it out, which is our job.
 
Not that Congress approved our being involved in another war, which is their job under the Constitution. As it was in Niger, where the American people (and most of Congress) found out about our war there only when 4 US troops died in an ambush and the Pentagon couldn’t cover it up.
 
As an American citizen whose elected representatives keep ignoring the Constitution’s war clause, and secretly involving us in wars (and proxy wars) all over the world, these senseless air strikes that kill innocent bystanders make me feel as it I have blood on my hands.  I hope you feel the same.
 
What can we do?
 
Well for one, there’s a 6th district Congressional race going on now. Rep. Barr and challenger McGrath should both be asked about the ignoring of the war powers clause of the Constitution, and what they will do when one of them next takes the oath to uphold, support, and defend the Constitution...
 
So help me God.
 
I'm just sayin'...
 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Few News Media Notes

Many of us reacted with horror at last week’s grand jury report on Catholic priests' sexual abuse cases in Pennsylvania. Not so the state’s largest paper. The Courier-Journal had ZIP about this in its edition next day. Lexington TV stations seem to ignore the fact  that one of the bishops involved, the Harrisburg one, had moved there from Lexington. It took days to get local church reaction, and when they did, 27 & Fox carried reports listing his name as Richard Gainer, not Ronald.
 
More horror from the murders of a young pregnant wife and her two daughters in Colorado. The husband became a suspect but before he was charged, during his “perp walk” a reporter shouted “why did you kill your wife?” America seems to forget one of our cardinal principles is the presumption of innocence, and this is why. When I was a local TV news director had this happened, my staff would have had what one reporter called “a come to Jesus” session with me. “Did you kill your wife?” is OK; the other is not. What a difference one word makes, but that’s what journalism is all about. I was amazed that CBS used the offending report on its evening newscast---hardly "original reporting.”
 
My compliments to all area stations who won regional Emmy awards, but especially to Miranda Combs for her investigative report on a sleazy local auto dealer who was defrauding its customers. The state took action against him only after her reports aired.
 
For years newspapers have sought a “business plan” that would stave off their shrinking readership. I have one: put the main news on the front page. My fave Lexington morning rag put the conviction of Manafort, and Cohen’s guilty pleas on page 6!
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 13, 2018

Immigration Policy & The Wall

These two topics, to my surprise, have been raised as the first policy issues in the 6th District Congressional campaign, so let’s take a look.
 
A little history first:
 
In the modern political period our immigration policy started going wrong when LBJ’s conservative Texas Democrats, (soon to become Republicans) insisted on cheap farm labor, and when enough Americans couldn’t be found, turned their eyes from the law and insisted on opening the gates to illegal Mexican workers. Ronald Reagan’s GOP businessmen in California soon followed suit to get farm workers there, and not to be outdone, Democrats soon embraced LaRaza & Caesar Chavez; all seeking foreign workers for jobs Americans didn’t want or wouldn’t take, and the rush for more and more immigrants swelled.
 
Those “illegals” that were apprehended at our borders, by an understaffed Border Patrol soon jammed the immigration courts, also understaffed, and the insidious (and illegal) policy of “Catch & Release” began. Those arrested were told to go away, anywhere, don’t bother us, but come back when we seek you for a court hearing at a very unspecified date; oh, and don’t bother to check with us as to where you live.
 
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants, from many countries, but mainly Latin America, poured into the US, found jobs, sent for and raised families, became productive citizens, and even applied for legal citizenship. But many others did not.
 
Presidents of both parties turned a blind eye to these law violations; so did Congress.
 
In good economic times, no bother. In bad times, a lot of bother. Along comes the Recession of 2007-8-9-etc and suddenly there was a lot of bother. Rule of law advocates objected; far right nationalists objected; any candidate of any party out of office in that district objected, and then along came The Donald.
 
His first speech, announcing his candidacy, denounced illegal Mexicans as “rapists..thugs..criminals..and I’m sure some good people”..and it went down into the Swamp from there. Elected, in part on a pledge to clean up the Swamp, our President has, properly, denounced the Catch & Release approach and, as a cornerstone of his platform, insisted on building a Border Wall (“and, folks, Mexico is gonna pay for it.”)  Mexico, as any sovereign nation would, strenuously objected to paying for any project being built in another country over which it had no control.
 
Congressman Andy Barr supports the ($20 Billion) Wall for security reasons. Democrat challenger Amy McGrath has called it “stupid." So far as the Wall is concerned, it is stupid, especially when we see 3 teenagers, stand on each others’ shoulders, scale the wall—even at its new height, or where it juts 50’ out into the Pacific, swim around it. Or tunnel under it, or find new ways to get through. (Or instead of paying smugglers thousands to get them into the US, pay several hundred for a plane ticket to Canada and walk across “the world’s longest, undefended border” which ICE says is becoming more and more the route of choice.)
 
And, BTW, the estimate of $20 Billion is the major part of the cost of our still UNdeclared war in Afghanistan—(see Notes on Due Process in last week’s blog)--money that could be used to take care of the veterans of that war, and those of Iraq, Korea, the Gulf War, etc., or maybe to improve Americans’ health or roads instead. Mexico is NOT going to pay for any American wall, and as an American taxpayer I don’t wish to either.
 
As to Catch & Release, the Trump administration has used this very policy itself. When federal courts insisted on an accounting of the ill-advised policy of separating families at the border, among the very early statistics Homeland Security reported to the court were a group of parents brought before immigration courts and then released into the USA without any restrictions on them and without any forwarding address given to the courts!!!    
 
Catch & Release Lives.  This, and the stupidity (not security) of the Border Wall is what we need to be debating, in hopes we might finally arrive at better, legal, and even humane immigration laws.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 6, 2018

A FEW WORDS ON BEHALF OF:

Due Process   noun  “ fair treatment thru the normal judicial system”
 
 
At a time when almost all state agencies are crying for funds, when schools are desperately needing more money, when thousands have been denied dental and medical care for lack of funds, the Bevin administration has extended a contract with an Indiana law firm to keep investigating the former administration of Democratic Governor Steve Beshear.
 
Previously Bevin allocated $500,000 for this probe;  now, a year later and with NO report so far from the firm, an extension for another $500,000 has been granted---that’s a million dollars that could have been spent on much more needy projects elsewhere.
 
We are indebted to the Herald-Leader’s Jack Brammer for breaking this story. It also points out Bevin’s reason for spending this was an extension of a no-bid contract on the last day of the Beshear term to a N.C. firm which has the husband of Beshear’s executive cabinet secretary as a consultant. I don’t think that act passes the smell test; but it apparently did follow state contract procedures—or due process.
 
Brammer’s story points out the original contract did also (though its wisdom is surely subject to argument.) The recent extension apparently passed muster of a state group by being disguised as something else.  Former Gov. Carroll, a member of that group missed objecting because the new title seems to have been cooked up to hide what it was; if so, that’s not due process.
 
I would argue the state needed that money elsewhere; and the Feds maintain an Office of Public Integrity, which would have investigated the Beshear extension IF Bevin had enough evidence to warrant it. Maybe he doesn’t; maybe the only way he could get this probe started was to spend vital money here. But whatinhell is that law firm doing to spend a half million in one year investigating one contract---and no report???  Miranda Combs at Channel 27 or Tom Loftus at the CJ would have had a report in jig time at far less cost if they were on the case, and I suspect even the Feds could have, too.
 
Meanwhile in Tennessee, it took 3 and one half years, due process was followed and 2 former UT footballer players have been ACQUITTED of aggravated rape charges stemming from an off campus party. UT suspended the 2 when the accusations were made, and it took all this time for the judicial system to find them innocent. They never played for Tennessee again. They may have their reputations made whole but the slow grinding justice system probably robbed them of any chance for a pro career.
 
Now then, just suppose...suppose---in 3.5 years, Harvey Weinstein is found innocent?  Or Charlie Rose, or Garrison Keillor?
 
Just suppose.
 
And that is why, slow or not, due process is an important American tradition.   Too bad non-judicial groups (yes, #MeToo and UT) don’t believe in it.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Punishment Does Not Fit The Crime - Unless You Want To Burn Papa John At The Stake

So, enough already!

He confessed to using the “N” word, pressured into it he says, and what has happened to him?
 
Lost his positions with the firm he founded (in a broom closet) and built into 4500 stores globally (and all the jobs that went with them); had his name taken off the stadium at the school he loves—UofL, resigned from their board, --- all this in his home town of Louisville, and had been the object of universal disgust (his fair name and reputation) everywhere.
 
Worse, he has seen UK pile on, taking his name off a major building there, ending its financial relation with him and his foundation.
 
Now Papa John is well off—financially; several times a millionaire, many homes, private chopper, etcetec—all of which he earned by his hard work (and better ingredients) now lost in the blink of an eye.  Money yes, but what of one’s reputation...now lost forever?
 
This is more than “let he without sin cast the first stone,"  but it is that, and jealousy, and much much more..including entirely too many columns of calumny in the C-J and elsewhere....but...let’s move on folks (and my colleagues in journalism)...there are more important news items, and things to be learned here.
 
For one, how to get a commercial name off a public stadium.  I have made no secrecy of my distaste  for Kroger Field. Before the UofL board realizes it now could rename Cardinal Stadium Commonwealth Stadium, is there any sexual or racial dirt we can get on a top Kroger executive and retain that time honored name here?
 
And two, the really important racial news of the past week is that the feds have reopened Emmett Till’s murder case—at last. If you don’t know the details here, please Google. The feds have pretty well known for years who killed this young black boy (as they did in the church bombing in Birmingham that killed the 4 young black girls,) but proving it was another matter. The Justice Department says “new information” caused the reopening. Let’s hope this does lead to justice in this most unfortunate case, and one far more important than one where the “N” word slipped out in a semi-private  conversation.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 9, 2018

If I Were A Betting Man (I'm Not, But...)

1. A/G Beshear has ruled that blocking protesters entrance to our Capitol was illegal. This opinion does not have the force of law (as his opinions do in other areas) but they are guidance to state officials and agencies. KSP & the Governor’s office may have the final say here. Now that Beshear is officially running for governor (surprise!), I would hope Gov. Bevin would accept the A/G’s opinion, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
 
2. Even more so I wouldn’t bet the guv would accept the court’s opinion in another case. Franklin Circuit Judge Shepherd (the one he called a “hack”) has ruled the state must pay the Courier-Journal $33K in legal fees because it illegally withheld public records as to stockholders in a joint state-private firm, Braidy Industries. The court upheld A/G Beshear’s opinion that the state could not do this—because public money was involved. Now the guv has a right to appeal this decision. I hope he won’t—you & I have a right to know how OUR money is being invested—but I wouldn’t bet on it.
 
3. Because Kentucky (and many other states) allow nursing homes to report on their staffing problems voluntarily (that means UNverified by a public agency) we haven’t known if the homes followed state law requiring minimum levels of staffing. That’s important for the well-being and health of our loved ones. But  now we know. The NY Times citing data gathered under the Affordable Care act (Obamacare) shows many homes violated staffing laws, thus providing inadequate care.  I would hope state legislators would follow up next year and require such data to be made public here. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Instead, watch for the nursing home industry to lobby Congress to remove that provision of Obamacare so we won’t know of their less-than-adequate care of our family members.
 
4. Largely overlooked by the media when the Supreme Court upheld the latest version of the Trump discriminatory travel ban (thank you Judge Gorsuch and Mitch) was a footnote saying the 1944 decision UPHOLDING the wartime internment of US citizens of Japanese ancestry of that same Supreme Court was probably wrong. News reports conflict but PBS’s able court reporter said the court couldn’t bring itself to go all the way.  Downright shame. This modern Dred Scott decision has been law for much too long. I want to bet this one will eventually be overturned, but with the upcoming conservative court planned by Pres. Trump, that may not happen...either.
 
Elections have consequences.
 
Whatever your views, your failure to vote has even more.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 2, 2018

Purple Fingers And The Fourth of July

But First:

Item One:

Gov. Bevin isn’t doing too well in the courts. He has lost 3 major decisions so far, and this past week a big one in federal court, which held that he/Ky. could not require medicaid recipients to work in order to continue their benefits.
 
The guv has apparently learned, tho. He didn’t refer to that federal judge as a “hack” or “stupid” as he has certain state judges. Federal judges can be a little testy when called such names, and have been known to throw the authors into the pokey.
 
But, properly, the guv has asked a state judge to reconsider his ruling tossing out the legislature’s pension overhaul. This was needed because the judge, as courts often do, ruled on very narrow grounds...and the state needs clarity on provisions not covered in the ruling, especially whether the new law violates the state’s “inviolable contract” with state workers. Good call, guv, needed...please just don’t keep calling judges names when they rule against you.    
 
Item Two:
 
 You’ve probably been seeing a lot of public service announcement about not texting and driving, not using cell phones and driving, and so on...but now, “progress” folks; "streaming” (video, not just audio) is becoming more and more installed in cars. BUT, only 2 states ban video use while driving. One would think all those state PSAs on mere texting would have led them to (finally) get ahead of the tech curve, and have bans in place when video also came. But no. And for you Detroit, did we really need this???
 
Item Three:
 
America’s Independence Day comes this week.  As I reflect on our freedoms, and revere the First Amendment (“Je suis Capital Gazette”), there is one area where I depart. You can’t force (or shouldn’t) people to talk—free speech; or go to church; or force them to come to a meeting; and so on...but...you can force them to vote (or pay a helluva penalty)..and this is where I diverge from the usual view of freedom. I think voting is so essential in a democracy it must be required of all citizens. Or face a major fine; or jail time with repeated offenses. Yup, I know...you’re outta your mind Ken, that’s not freedom  Maybe so. Is a 10% turnout in an election in a democracy freedom? In many other countries, including some with poverty, little education, civil wars, people have waited days (yes days) to vote...not hours; they have slogged thru war zones to vote, and faced incredible hardships to exercise this most fundamental right, when so many of us ignore it. They got purple dye on their fingers to show they had voted in many of these countries—and in many of these countries, armed partisans of one side or the other lopped off those purple fingers in retaliation.
 
But these cruel acts are not limited to the Third World.  Mexico voted Sunday on a new president. Not that any of our local media has called your attention to it.  Or that 130 candidates or potential candidates for offices in Mexico  in that election were murdered; yes, killed because they ran for office, mainly local offices. Crime gangs killed many, thus deciding the outcome of that election by bullets not ballots.
 
We MUST do something to increase voter turnout here...our democracy is at stake. I think it should be required. You come up with a better idea...one that works....please let us all know!

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

His Marbles; Their Rules Of Law, And My Little Red Hen

Well, if you don’t get your own way in politics, pick up your marbles and go home. Forget how important the issue is, and how many people it affects!
 
That was the easy read of Senate majority leader Damon Thayer’s C-J interview, after a court struck down the pension overhaul bill. He has NO interest in passing any new reforms and doubts other lawmakers do either. But without some reforms, even Thayer admitted those pensions systems will “collapse.”
 
Overlooked was the bill passed with several major violations of his senate’s rules—which was why the court overturned it. (The court didn’t cite some other glaring violations of Senate rules, which to my mind were even more important—and which Senate members deliberately overlooked to vote passage.)
 
I hope Sen. Thayer reconsiders, picks up his marbles and returns to the arena (as his fellow Republican Teddy Roosevelt would have done.) He, and members of both parties are needed to get us out of this mess, should the ruling be upheld on appeal. After all it has been 20 years of neglect by both governors and legislatures that has caused this crisis—and neither has been given enough credit for that!!!—so the responsibility is theirs to get us out of this morass.
 
Meanwhile, the Rule of Law is under attack by both our guv and our President.  Gov. Bevin, a businessman, simply doesn’t understand the Rule of Law. If you submit your case to the courts, which he did, you must abide by the outcome. What he has done so far is to criticize the judge for his ruling—twice. Guv, that will get you nowhere, and doesn’t move the civic debate along. We need solutions not epithets.
 
In the meantime, the H-L had a MOST interesting story that relates to the pension debacle. Seems some of the hedge funds we have invested millions in, want to be dropped from our retirement system pension plans. Why??  Oh boy, listen to this. Because the legislature passed a law calling for more scrutiny of them. And one of its provisions is that such funds must operate under professional codes of ethics. One code key provision is that such funds must put clients/customers (such as the Ky. pension system) first. These codes were largely written by investment professionals—not Ky. lawmakers. But hedge funds have always been on the edge of the investment industry’s dubious morality (and should be IMHO outlawed for years of scandals) and they are fighting any move that might threaten its excessive profits and commissions or hold them to a simply code of conduct.
 
(IMHO-2, the entire Ky. pension program should be investigated. I strongly suspect wrongdoing, influence peddling, fraud and curvature of the spine. Where is the A/G, KSP/LRC/any special legislative commission here?  Maybe journalists will have to do it, and these days with limited staff and budget that will be a problem.)
 
Pres. Trump takes the Guv. Bevin approach. He has been so burned on the totally wrong, and UNnecessary separation of families at the border, he wants them deported without trial or following our laws. (See Rule of Law comments above.) His administration was and is totally unprepared to handle the situation. Parents were held by one agency, kids in another and there not only is no Master List, but the computers of the 2 agencies can’t “talk” to each other. As the military said it had space to house the kids—hopefully not in cages—hundreds of them were bussed to NYC for confinement. This makes no sense.
 
Neither does the little Red Hen reaction. That’s the name of a very small Virginia restaurant where the owner refused to serve the White House press secretary and her friends recently. The owner said she acted at the request of her staff because of the cruel way the Trump administration was handling the family situation on our Southern border.
 
Such a refusal of service is wrong; and would never be upheld in court.
 
If a restaurant can refuse customers based on their politics, why not on their religion?  Or race?  Or sexual orientation? The owner said she consulted with her staff, many of whom are gay, and they all supported the refusal. If I were a LBGT(and sometimes Q) organization I would rally outside that restaurant to protest the denial, or have such groups forgotten what a short time ago it was that they were subject to the same discrimination.
 
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Signs And Portents???

I am a sign follower. I believe in signs and I think most of us should follow what they say, especially when issued by some public authority.  (Even when fire trucks say “stay back 500 feet”) in letters that can’t be read beyond 15 feet, I follow that.)
 
But, when official signs aren’t correct, and no one in authority tries  to correct them, I demur...and I think this is especially bad because it leads other people to not follow them, and that breeds ignoring signs, which in turn could get us in trouble.
 
Case in point: construction signs (of which there are a great many these days around Lexington and Kentucky. It’s that season.) My kids drove me to Lou-ah-vul Saturday for Father’s Day. For 15 plus miles along I-64 near Shelbyville there were signs forcing drivers into one lane, there were two signs that said “Working when lights are flashing.” They were flashing. There was NO work for the entire stretch. A needless slowing down and unsafe funneling of heavy traffic into one lane.
 
Later that day when we came back, someone had realized the error, and had taken the simple act of turning off the flashing light signs and turning the rest over on their face.
 
This example happens all too often...needlessly. It’s so simple to turn signs over when the workday is done.
 
A major corruption trial was held in Lexington the last few days.  But neither the city’s leading tv station (WKYT) nor the city’s leading morning newspaper (!) covered it. The AP thought enough of it to send its state capital reporter to do so and when the verdict was in, the paper published the AP report; don’t know what 27 did.  Both were busy covering another major case, the murder of a local Marine. Can’t they cover 2 major trials at a time?  If the answer is “No”, readers and viewers are in for a bad time.
 
27 also didn’t cover the Poor People’s protest at the state Capitol the first time they were barred from entry; but has made up for this lapse in good coverage ever since. This story has legs (a journalism term meaning  a story of some substance and needs to be followed up.) The Guv apparently has realized this and held out an olive branch, but the group is, at last report, still being allowed in, just like the animals in the old nursery rhyme "two by two."  KSP says several of the group have messed up in the past and they were worried the entire group might do so. This is guilt by association, and has no place in our Commonwealth.
 
I'm just sayin'...

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 summit...no 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 it...BUT..it 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 media..as 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 selected...at 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.
 
Pity.
 
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'...