Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Pardon Me, But...

While I wait for a lot more of the Mueller report to be released (and by the way I do realize that  grand jury testimony cannot be released by law,) let me jump ahead, and back a bit.
A big part of our government is based on 3 equal branches of it: executive, legislative, and judicial. Each has its role to play; has checks (in most cases) on the other-and these checks and balances have made our Democracy what it is.
The President’s “pardon power” in a dictatorial aberration and should be eliminated or greatly modified.
Example A:  as of now the judicial system can spend years and millions investigating a suspected criminal, getting an indictment, preparing for trial, and then in the blink of an eye, the president issues a pardon and all is forgiven, legally and for the record. That not only is not fair, it is an outright and total break of our system of 3 equal branches and checks and balances.
This can (and I suspect—has) happened.
Many presidents have been criticized for the way they used the pardon process. Clinton’s pardons, in some cases, didn’t pass the smell test. Prominent people (and party donors) got off.  Bush & Obama were also criticized for some of their pardons.  Many presidents have.
It’s long past time for a change, and all those lawyers in Congress know it. The president probably ought to have some power to pardon, but NOT until AFTER the judicial system has done its job; not til after someone has been convicted (and probably not til after the appeals process has concluded.) To let a president pardon sooner makes a mockery of our system of justice.
It isn’t what Trump might do, or what Clinton did. It’s the practice of democracy at stake, and to coin a phrase:
It’s time for a change.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, March 18, 2019

Abolish The FAA

This is not a new thought; I have stated my belief that this is the worst of all federal agencies (and that’s saying a lot) but the preliminary indications are that, once again, the FAA has failed in its mission to protect the flying public.
400 graves in Ethophia and Indonesia attest to that.
If those 2 Max 8 planes had been US carriers, and the deaths were that of Americans what do you think the public reaction would have been?
The FAA has consistently sided with plane makers over the public; often even siding with the Boeings and Uniteds against the National Transportation Safety Board, even when the agency had shown a clear failure of plane or pilot—and people died. NTSB findings go to the FAA, which—under the law—does not have to follow them or even study them. (That should have changed a long, long time ago; but hasn’t - a signal of the political and administrative power of carriers and manufacturers within the agency, instead of its mission to protect the public.)
It’s not news that the FAA turned over to Boeing the decision that its new automated safety system was, in fact, safe. It is the prime suspect in the 2 crashes. The FAA, as usual, pleads lack of staff or labs to investigate all these things  (true, and Congress shares much blame here,) but if they don’t, why approve such crucial items as new planes come on line?
As they say, the “culture” of this agency is bad, wrong, and I suspect beyond redemption. It should go; let some new agency take over, and give more power to the NTSB in this field.
A political thought, or two.
Ever heard of “FDR’s Court packing plan?” Google it.  Isn’t Trump's “packing” the court with litmus test conservatives about the same? Yet FDR’s plan failed; looks like the President’s may succeed, and all without comment (or even stories of explanation) from the “liberal” media.
There are too many Democratic candidates running for president (many of whom are, IMHO, unqualified.) There are too few Republican candidates running for President.  A spirited party primary is good for Democracy.
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Thoughts On Recent News Items

Another Kentucky soldier, killed in war has come home to be honored—and placed at rest. This time, he died at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7th, 1941.
Modern science finally identified him---68 years later. Wars have a way of doing that. Bet I could ask a lot of people on the streets of Lexington when the bombing of Pearl Harbor took place and few would know. We hurry into war, often on bad or even spurious reasons. Seldom do we later repent, except briefly when a good Kentucky boy finally comes home.
(Will we lose more in Niger, Yemen, Syria, Somalia—and places Congress still has not declared us at war—and have their bodies finally come back years from now? Only time will tell.)
And speaking of time. It’s now Daylight Saving TIme. It comes too soon and lasts too long. The European Union just decided to end moving clocks forward and back each year. They haven’t decided which time will be “it” year ‘round, but a timely change is on the way. Maybe we should reconsider it also.
We lost two outstanding Kentuckians recently.       
I knew them both, slightly and more professionally than personally.  Ewell Balltrip was what every small town editor should be—devoted to his community, both small (Harlan) and large (the mountains.) He stuck up for both, but when he felt coal miners were wrong, he said so, and  made it stick. The New York Times recognized his talent and put him to work in their organization for many years, but he came home to the hills, ending his life with even more service to Eastern Kentucky. Later this month he will be inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. Too bad it took so long for him to be so honored.
James Archambeault has left his mark in many a Commonwealth home and school and office. His pictures, colorful and outstanding of many places in our state grace them, as he graced us with his talent. A fixture at the annual Kentucky Book Fair, I always went to his table to see what new book or calendar he had out. His work has brightened our lives and we will miss him. (Is there a professional Photographers’ Hall of Fame?)
Did you catch WKYT’s recent hour program on the Wildcats? Excellent; congrats to all involved, and please don’t think this is just carping, but why is it we often get such good programs on sports events and people, but not on the issues facing our state? Yes, they are costly and undoubtedly easier for stations to sell to sponsors, but there are public spirited sponsors out there (Toyota, Alltech to mention a few.) So why haven’t we had similar documentaries on: our pension debacle (PBS Frontline thought enough of this to spent most of an hour here, and the Herald Leader’s John Cheeves was one of their “experts.” Can’t he also be the same thing for 27 or 18 or 36 or KET?) Or on serious problems facing rural hospitals (Ditto: Frontline and PBS have explored this issue in Kentucky, but no doc from local stations. Or what REALLY happened at the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire? A provocative book has been out for a half dozen years but no TV expose---yet.  Or: what really happened to kill Kentucky Central?   
Meanwhile our legislature rolls on; probably racking up one of the most dismal session records in modern times. More on that soon.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Voting Legislation Needed NOW!

If you are tired of seeing the bigger states rule our national elections (and I am); if you are even more tired of the Electoral  College, which allows the winner of the popular vote to lose  (and I definetly am—and you should be too, regardless of your party) then please join me in urging our legislature to adopt NOW the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Right now your vote, as a Kentuckian, isn’t the same as votes in surrounding states. Rather than being their equal, your vote could be more (but much likely less) than each voter there; and that’s not fair, not just, and not our democracy. It should be one person = one vote; no more, no less.
The proposed Compact allows for that, and gets around the “College.” The Constitution allows states to control how they divide their electoral votes. Most are winner take all. Some divide proportionately to how their citizens vote. The compact says each state's vote would go to whoever wins the national popular vote---if states with 270 electoral votes (a majority join). Right now 13 states with 181 electoral votes have joined. Kentucky should too, and reaffirm our belief in one person = one vote. Please urge your state representatives and senators to adopt the compact.
And while we’re on voting, which many complain is too cumbersome a process, registration, voting, etc., Kentucky should consider adopting AVR or Automatic Voter Registration. Simply put, if a citizen goes to any state office/agency for any matter, and isnt registered, there are forms and a person in that office who can register them there and then. Can’t force them to vote, but at least they are now ready to exercise the most important rite, or right - both most certainly apply, of American citizenship.
And, once again, Kentucky should be working NOW on redrawing voting lines after the 2020 census. Over a dozen states use a non-partisan commission of experts to draw these lines, and either that’s it, or the legislature can overrule them by an extraordinary vote, for example two-thirds.  No more gerrymandering, no more long drawn out, expensive, time consuming cases in the courts; do it right, do it scientifically with population and geographic experts and be done with it.
The problems in our Secretary of State’s office are minor compared to what important changes adopting these 3 approaches would make.
I'm just sayin'...