Thursday, January 9, 2020

It's A Mess!

Several decades ago I was in a group of American reporters invited to Israel on a press junket. On our first day there we were briefed (in the Cabinet Room!) by a young, hotshot spokesman for the Prime Minister. He said two things that I have always remembered. One was "this meeting is on such deep background (Nothing may be attributed to the government) that you are hallucinating if you think this meeting ever took place." The other was "you know as much today about the Middle East as you will ever learn." I have thought of that last remark many times over the years in contemplating news out of that much confusing, dangerous area of our world--and it came back to me considering the horrible events of recent days,

Killing that general was wrong. I'd never heard of him; had you? But it was more of a policy Americans should never back--political assassination. There's blood on my hands today--and yours--because of what our President did. It just justifies some other country killing him. Have we forgotten the conspiracy theories that because our CIA tried to kill Castro (yes, we did, several times) the Cubans, through a stooge named Oswald, killed JFK??

The "evidence" that the general was plotting to kill Americans hasn't been given us normal citizens, but many in Congress, including GOP members, who have seen it say it is not convincing. The administration owes us much more proof.

And the way this all started; an Iranian-backed group (inside Iraq) killed a "US contractor" (not a GI!) so we killed the general.  BTW, that "contractor" was an Iranian, who later became an American citizen. Ironic in the extreme. And the President's action put our troops in harm's way. Was it worth it?  No. Not In the short term, and certainly not in the "long" term--that is, starting another war.

For now, the US has backed down..after saying we don't think Iran "really meant" to kill GI's on that base north of Baghdad, which is pure malarkey.  It's the old "surgical strike" crap many US administrations have been putting out for years; the one intended to only kill enemy combatants that end up killing civilians instead, and it's still true for Iran, which probably breathed a huge sigh of relief that no GI's were killed in the 16 missiles they launched. Thank heavens.

Meanwhile, what do we do? Tell Barr and McConnell (and Paul who has been smart enough to oppose war actions there) we do NOT want a war in the Middle East, or anywhere else. (War is bad for all growing things, remember) We have given Iran international justification for attacks on us, and that is not only wrong, but just think of what would happen in the White House if Russia, or China, or North Korea would do something (anything) serious.  We would "know" it was Iran, not think twice, and off we go to WW 2.1 .

Killing that guy was wrong, badass he may have been, but this is not the way to settle international disputes, and Mr. Trump's actions have set some very bad precedents for our world. And even worse precedents for our Constitution which clearly and plainly says the President--and the Congress--keep violating that simple section on who and how WAR is declared. And the crap about invoking the War Powers Act (a way to amend the Constitution without amending it, which has never been tested in court) begets the point; America is also a badass, and the entire globe wonders if we will blunder into a war in the Middle East which in no way can be contained to that contentious part of our world.

It's a mess, and largely of our own making. Iran is hardly an innocent, but when you consider that in the last half century the US has: overthrown a democratically elected government in Iran (for oil, folks, oil,) then backed Iran against Iraq, then backed Iraq against Iran, then put the entire world on the brink of war over one man you & I had never heard of, well I wonder if the Trump administration really knows and understands the Middle East any more than I did decades ago on my visit there.
But, unlike me, in their ignorance could lie catastrophe for us all.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, December 30, 2019

Let's Get Our Priorities Straight

I am a lifelong non-smoker,and there are days when I would ban tobacco from ever being sold--due not just to its cancer-causing nature, but to the dozen of toxic chemicals therein (some of which we do not even fully understand.)  But to ban people from buying tobacco until they are 21 is NOT the way to go.
In many states you may vote at 18. Now we have declared that being able to smoke is more important than being able to vote.  You can enlist and be drafted at 18, fight and die for your country, but you can't smoke along the way.  Pure asinine stupidity on the part of a bi-partisan Congress that voted these new limits as part of a huge spending and "clean up the year-end business" massive bill that defied all "germane" rules, as well as voting $1.4Billion of your money and mine to build a border wall that from day-one Trump and the GOP had promised Mexico would pay for. (And by the way it was the Dems that pushed this thru in a spirit of compromise.)

So much for promises.

So much for compromise, which as with everything else in Washington, and life, has its limits.  All of which have now gone up in least until we are all 21.

I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, December 19, 2019

I Was Wrong!

In a recent blog I said something about we needed to thank Gov. Bevin one last time. His ill-fated attempt to challenge his close election cast a light on our really bad election recount laws, and it looked as if the General Assembly might take a long overdue crack at modernizing them.  Then, our departing guv issued a whole series of pardons and commutations, almost all of which have aroused great controversy. Thanks again, sir, for casting light on our antiquated laws here, with the hope we may see improvements.

And yet---allow me to point out, that not all of these were truly bad. In one case he commuted the life sentence of a man convicted of murder in Northern Ky. years ago.  It was a death case, and all the good lawyers of the area refused to take his case (Ky. Bar are you listening?)  He was assigned a young public defender who had never tried a death case, and a second local lawyer who had no office, no phone and who got business passing out his cards in local taverns. Surprise! The guy was convicted. I do not know if he was guilty or not, but I know he did not get a fair trial. This commutation was definitely in order---which is why we have the system.  Let it be noted the attorney's office that got the conviction (for you and me) still insists it was a fair trial!!!

As to pardons, the entire national system needs overhauling, not just because Trump is threatening to make a mockery of it, but because ever since Ford pardoned Nixon (without a trial!)--and lost his re-election, lawyers have complained about the system, and done NOTHING.

Item 2:

The annual list of top US firms who paid NO federal taxes in 2018 is out, and it should make your blood boil. Some in Congress  (and Democratic candidates in the debates) complain about this..but there haven't been changes in years. Among those on this list of great public sinners are:

Gannett (owns the Courier-Journal, awaiting editorial here. Yeah.)
Duke Energy
Prudential Financial
Eli Lilly
General Motors
American Electric Power
McKesson (of oxycontin fame)

Please ask your Congressional candidates  where they  stand on this issue in the election next year.

Item 3:

All I want for Christmas is some radio station in Central Kentucky to play classical music at least part of the day and night.  Are you listening my friends at WUKY-FM???

I'm just sayin'... 


Monday, December 9, 2019

Thank Gov. Bevin One More Time

In his brief  thought about challenging the vote in the legislature, he pointed out a glaring deficiency in our election law. After a recanvass (a check of the vote math) there really isn't any other way to make sure a close race is right; except by asking the legislature to validate the results. Then begins an arcane procedure which has already caused 1 murder and puts Kentucky down in history as the only state whose governor was assassinated while in office. (Google: William Goebel)---brought about by the same election law STILL on our books, and which needs to be changed.

Hopefully the next General Assembly will come up with better, modern ways to resolve a close race--which we seem more and more to be in risk of having.  And while they're at it, some other changes need to be made. 

For example:

1---asking Congress to make federal election days national holidays, especially the November general one.
(2---asking UK NOT to play a basketball game November election night.)
3--adopt Automatic Voter Registration, urged by the League of Women Voters and many similar groups, which may increase voter turnout (which is our real problem!!)
4--re-register ex-felons who have not served time for a violent offense when they have served their time.
5--let people register to vote who come to the polls election day, with sufficient ID
6--and, most important, pass The National Popular Vote resolution  (as 16 other states, including 4 small ones such as Kentucky ) that says our electoral votes will go to the candidate who has the largest national votes cast--once the number of states passing this plan exceeds the required electoral college majority  needed (273).  States with 74 more votes are needed and such a resolution is being urged in more than that number of states,and  Kentucky should be one of them---otherwise the entire idea of "One person, one vote" goes down the drain and democracy is the poorer.

It has happened too many times already..including the Trump-Clinton election, where Mrs. Clinton got almost THREE MILLION More votes than Mr. Trump, but still lost--because of a 2 century old "college" which isn't one and has no sense behind it in 2020.
Thanks, Gov. Bevin for reminding us. 

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

My Turn

Our election is over. Lots of views on why what happened, happened.

Gov.- elect Beshear thinks he won because he kept it local, talked about family issues across the dining table, turned his school teacher base out, avoided nationalizing it. Gov. Bevin had other views, but I'm going to agree with Beshear and add one point: years ago in a similar race in Ohio the Dem incumbent lost, and when asked why, he replied with remarkable (and true) candor, "people voted against me." This was so unusual at the time it made the national press and the network evening newscasts.

So, I think, it was with Bevin, a guy who seemed to go out of his way to insult people, make totally UNnecessary inflammatory statements, toss his own Lt.-Gov. candidate in an historic row which went to the courts--and triggered her base staying home. Bevin lost a N. Ky solidly GOP county for the first time in years. and came out of other more recent Republican strongholds with diminished margins. Fayette & Jefferson counties provided extra margins over 4 years ago for Beshear, and so the deed was done.

Note for Rep. Comer and Sec. Quarles--if you consider a run in 2023, remember for the 2nd straight time a GOP guv got only one term. The situations were very different, but (...)
That said, allow me to point out that for all his gaffes and un-political behavior, we all owe Gov. Bevin a debt of gratitude. He focused as a laser on the overwhelming need for pension reform, and he was right. That will be his legacy, and one hopes the new guv and legislature can carry on and do something practical about the dire situation; which past guvs and legislatures of both parties failed to do.

Now we can keep a weather eye on the new split-responsibility in Frankfort and hope the need for pension reform, and a lot of other issues, gets statesmanlike consideration, not just partisan posturing for 2020 and beyond.

Will the Kentucky media, my colleagues, be up to their job of keeping tabs on the new administration in Frankfort. With the Loss of some major reporters, Tom Loftus of course, I wonder. We can hope the broadcast media do a better job, and wonder whether the new player in town, WLEX under new ownership, will seize the opportunity of opening a bureau in the Capital, which WKYT has allowed to languish.

Hopefully, though staff and budget have been reduced, we may still count on KET to cover the legislature as ably as it has done in the past. Now, more than ever, we need this gem of Kentucky. (And speaking of "gems", I hope you all saw the 25th anniversary show of KET's Kentucky Life. What a joy and what great reasons to be proud of being a Kentuckian. If you didn't, it is on again Thursday the 5th at 9:30 p.m.with more repeats later, and a DVD available for purchase. Please take a look, and wonder why our Lexington stations don't emulate this type of commonwealth feature reporting. 

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, November 25, 2019

The UNReal-ID

Dear Attorney-General Beshear: Please save us from this "illegal" scheme. They're at it again, only this time they have finally confessed--their plan is against the law.  I'm talking about the so-called "ReaI-ID" special, extra expensive drivers license for Kentuckians. It's designed to be extra secure, so those who pay extra may fly domestically, and enter federal institutions (should you want to visit your family member in service.)

It was to be issued years ago but has run into nothing but trouble. The latest came when county clerks said it was too much trouble for their current staff to handle, because the US requires a lot of extra documents (and the usual red tape) before issuing--and many county clerks, especially in the smaller, rural areas simply couldn't do it. So the state vehicle people tried again, and came up with a plan for a dozen "regional" centers designed just to issue those Real ID licenses. That didn't work out, so that unworkable plan has just been expanded. Now the state is talking maybe 20-30 centers, and in current state buildings to keep down costs.

But, in releasing the new plan (and some locations) the state admits IT'S ILLEGAL.  Yup, after all this time and study and tryouts in Frankfort and Lawrenceburg, someone realized our law says ONLY county clerks may issue auto licenses. So now the plan is to ask the legislature in January to rush through a law permitting the Real IDs to be issued by people other than county clerks. Already almost 10 years late under the law originally passed by Congress (and waiver after waiver for KY) the US says "No more waivers." It MUST be done by October, 2020 or you and I can't fly on vacations or funerals, or visit the kids at Fort Knox, etc. Asking the legislature to work that fast is putting a lot of eggs in one basket, a "basket" that seldom works quickly. And when legislators hear from "back home" about the extra travel involved...well there just may be a delay.

Because in releasing the updated plan and list of locations where Real ID might be issued, the state admits some people in Eastern Kentucky. must drive an hour to get there...not just to their local courthouse.

There IS a better way. There is a hefty charge for the new license. use those funds to ADD people in our present 120 clerk's offices, however many that are needed. Those offices already exist, so not much extra expenses this way.  People must be trained to issue the new licenses; best they work in an office already set up and experienced in the license-issuing process just in case any problems arise. (Wanna bet they will?)

So, please Attorney General Beshear (or even Gov-Elect Beshear) call off the dawgs, end this illegal, extra expensive plan that just causes more problems for many of our people, find the seed money to get the program started in our present clerks' offices instead of 20-30 new state offices, some far, far away from the voter needing the new-type license. It's just good sense...and good politics.

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Remember Those Purple Fingers?

It was a sign of hope, of a belief in democracy, and in the people. A rallying cry to end corruption, and tyranny, and dictatorship.  For many people purple dye on their finger often meant the first time they had voted in their lives--and it cost some their lives.

In many places, especially Africa and the Middle East, the people arose, threw out dictatorial governments and voted. Extremists groups, such as ISIS and Al Qaida, and local militias opposed the vote. Polling places were attacked, party headquarters burned, people lining up to vote machine gunned. And if they did vote, some had their fingers chopped off, were killed, raped, brutalized; all to stop them from voting again.

Now we in Kentucky have a chance to vote freely, without being intimidated or killed or exiled.

Will we?

The Purple Fingers point at us. Take advantage of your freedom and liberty they say, you can do it so easily, and in safety. Don't lose your democracy by being a No Show.

In many of those Purple Finger countries the turnout was 75%, even above 90%, even in the face of threats and death.

No such threats in Kentucky, and yet the estimate is that only 31% of us will exercise one of  our nation's greatest freedoms.

Vote Kentucky.

Don't let the Purple Fingers---who still look to America as the world's greatest democracy, don't let the Purple Fingers down.

I'm just sayin'...