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'...

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Something Is Rotten In The State Of....Ukraine

And it isn't just Trump, but also Biden---Joe and Hunter, his son.
The President's handling of this matter is bad enough, but it crosses party lines, IMHO
The President may, or may not, have been coercing the new Ukranian president and withholding military aid to work on corruption there. That's open to debate...BUT..when he asked for help in digging up possible dirt on his possible opponent next year, and then repeated the offer to China days later, that violates an old, important federal law, and Mr. Trump had to know it.

The poor lady who heads the Federal Election Commission has so stated every time he has done so, and these two examples aren't the first ones, just the latest. I would hope no American of any party wants foreign interference in our elections, and for Mr. Trump to seek such help actively really is beyond the pale of our politics as well as illegal on the face.

Whether that is sufficient for impeachment, we will see. But it IS a case of his violating our laws, by commission.  As to former Vice-President Biden, he does not come off looking so well either, by omission.

2 conservative sources have reported his son, Hunter, received a monthly salary of $50K to sit on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas firm, itself the subject of some corruption probes. (Nothing proven yet) That alleged salary has not been verified. The Washington Post, in a wide ranging story could not verify those reports. But, if they are true, that's just incredible. $50K a year, to someone not known to have any expertise in the energy field would be bad enough. What little the son has said so far about why he is a board member and what he does for whatever salary he is paid have been very far from satisfactory. And now President Trump says the son, and maybe dad, has been involved in some type of business dealings in China, maybe worth a billion or so. All this not substantiated either.

BUT, Mr. Biden knows better. He should never have allowed his son to be involved in a country where he was the point man for President Obama in some important policy matter, and the same is true for China, where the possibility of a major conflict of interest for the present Trump administration (or even a possible eventual Biden administration) looms large. He knows that and he should never have permitted it.

But now it has come out, in many murky details. Candidate Biden should clear the air and tell the American people, in full detail, whatever his son has done in the Ukraine and whatever he and son may be doing in China. For a supposedly astute politician, he has handled this as stupidly as can be.

I'm just sayin'...

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Star Horse Manure

One of the greatest loads of horse manure ever to come from a state agency was shoveled onto the public stage this past week when Kentucky gave up on (finally) issuing the new Star drivers' license. This is the higher security license needed by next year to fly domestically. Yup, if you have a last minute funeral to attend, or a major business meeting comes up quickly and you don't have the special Star license, thumb your way there. And what about just flying on a vacation? Oh, BTW, you cant get on a military base to visit your son or daughter without the Star license; commonly referred to as Real ID.

Forget that the state has been on notice since 2005 that such a license was coming, and has had ten years to prepare for it. Several past legislatures balked on doing it, under both parties. The state got extension after extension (meaning our licenses could be used by terrorists who faked them) while legislatures and state agencies dithered. Then, Gov. Bevin finally supported a bill and the legislature passed it, only to have Bevin veto it because the Tea Party said it might violate personal rights. 

New attempts to come up with the so-called Star license continued, along with new federal extensions, later and the motor vehicles people, after delay after delay, rolled out a test system in Franklin county, then extended it to Woodford, announcing plans for a further rollout "this fall."

All that came to a grinding halt this week when Frankfort announced the 2 county rollout had not worked. Clerks there were spending too much time on the new system, which did require much more documentation and paperwork, and were not getting to their other duties as needed.

In its place the state said, we will set up a regional system; possibly as many as 12 regional centers, where specially trained people will handle the new license process. So instead of driving to one or more offices in your home county, drivers in as many as ten counties will have to motor to the new regional center, more time and money spent, and get the Star license there, ASSUMING other problems found during the rollout are overcome. Clerks and other officials praise this current plan as offering the best solution available.

Horse manure.

We, (you and I,) need those new licenses which are long overdue, and will become even more entangled if the feds deny us another extension. They have the right to do so. And with all the emphasis on fighting terrorist who could blame them? But patriotic Kentuckians would suffer--needlessly.

Instead of distant regional centers,why not add specially trained staff to every county clerk's office to handle Star. But that would even cost less than the "regional centers" (new buildings, equipment, same staff, training, etcetc.) We might get our needed licenses on time, and thwart terrorists. 

Meanwhile all the state's efforts so far, and its ridiculous plans for the future of this major Star program, boil down to an immense load of horse manure, piled high and deep on Kentucky citizens.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 9, 2019

Terry Wilson And Politics

It took just a second or so, and everything changed.

(In sports and in politics)

One bad tackle and the prime QB for UK is gone for the season. It has happened so many times, maybe we just put it in the back of our minds and hope it doesn't happen here. But it did.  While wishing Terry Wilson a speedy recovery, and Sawyer Smith a great season, let me continue my analogy to politics.
Dan Rather said years ago "In politics overnight is a long time, and next week is an eternity." He was right. Unfortunately a lot of otherwise good political reporters forget this.  Trump is a shoo-in for renomination. Well, of course he is, unless there's one bad tackle; and far from "next week" it is months and months until the GOP convention and the November 2020 election. I thought of that this week when South Carolina cancelled its GOP primary convention, It has every legal right to do so. State parties control such events, and it is costly to hold them. Of course, democracy suffers when they don't, and the faithful don't get to meet and greet and get riled up, as well as meet future party candidates. 3-4 other GOP states are poised to do the same thing.
Democrats have done the same thing. in 2012, 10 states cancelled their conventions or caucuses. American democracy was the loser.

I do not wish Mr. Trump ill, though I disagree with many of His policies. He is our President (elected by an obsolete electoral college system, not by a majority of Americans, please remember, but he IS the president.) Now, should Mr. Pence somehow become president, how fast do you think opposing GOP candidates would come out of the woodwork??? And S.C. might just vote suddenly to hold that state convention.
On the other side we hear "Biden's a shoo-in." (or some other name, insert your own choice) Well, he isn't, and as a matter of fact he isn't even the "front runner" except in the minds of some reporters, and some pollsters (do I have to comment further on polls this far from election day here??)

We also hear "it will all come down to four states." (except that depending on which "expert" you believe those four states aren't always the same four.)  People who believe such crap often stay away from voting, and again, democracy is the loser.

So, while the Democrats sort out an ungainly field of dreamers and old pros, while the GOP faces a coronation not a nomination (also bad for democracy,) keep an open mind. Tomorrow isn't here, let alone the presidential election year of 2020. Between tomorrow and 2020, a lot can, and probably will, happen, or didn't you see what happened to Terry Wilson last Saturday?

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Golden Rule Is Vague ...In Kentucky

Those of us who cover politics, on any level, know the importance of  the golden rule: he who has the Gold, writes the Rules.  That's why we favor laws that tell the voter who has to spend how much trying to get Joe SixPak elected. You need to know that before voting. While there are rules REQUIRING such campaign contributions to be reported, many of these laws are weak. That's where "dark money" comes in. It doesn't have to be reported under some strange federal rules (and lack of appropriate laws and proper enforcement.) Such money spent each election cycle is in the Zillions, we just don't know how many Zillions.
Then there's the Citizens United decision, proclaiming that corporations, BEING CITIZENS, don't have to make such reports; totally devastating what weak laws do exist. There's a national movement on, properly, to get this Supreme Court decision overturned.
BTW, forget Russian (or Chinese, or Iranian, or...) hacking into our elections, bad as that is. With weak election finance and reporting laws, they could spend their way into electing the favored candidates and no American would be the wiser.

So this week, when we learned that a Kentucky law on election spending was so weak as to be 110% useless, one has to wonder why?  Now, all of this reporting is based on a story in the Courier-Journal. (More later) Which is what the media is for. They noticed a group called Kentucky Tomorrow was placing Facebook ads, but hadn't reported its spending to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, as the law requires. To the group's credit, a day after the CJ asked why, the group made the required report, saying they had been "inadvertently overlooked." Then the paper asked the Registry for its response, since the law REQUIRES a fine of$100 a day for such late reports.
The Registry's head guy said no fine would be imposed, because our law is so vague. It does NOT say how much time a group has to file after spending! It could be weeks, or months, or years--the law does not say. Yes, a group a lawyers in our legislature wrote a law requiring such reports, and fines if they weren't made, without indicating how long they would have before violating the law.

Do you smell  a dead rodent here? Such an obvious part of the law is missing. Was it planned that way, deliberately? (It aids all parties.) Lacking this, the Registry gives all groups "a reasonable time" to file..a "reasonable time" may be anybody's guess, especially if a group contests a fine in court. With elections an almost yearly event in Kentucky, this law needs changing, but this time, please let's not let the lawyers write it.

BTW, Kentucky Tomorrow is a Delaware corporation, so the CJ found out, under US (not Kentucky) reporting laws, one contributor to it also is an investor in the proposed Braidy Industries aluminum plant in Eastern Kentucky, the same one that has a proposed heavy investment by a Russian aluminum firm.

Not that you and I would have known any of this without a vigilant, free press to tell us.
And that brings me to a sad note: The reporter who broke all this, and who has diligently covered the state's budget for years, and political shenanigans such as this weak Registry law, is retiring. Tom Loftus told me "it's time," after so many years of able reporting on the statehouse beat. I will miss him, greatly--and so will you.  Fortunately, the CJ seems to have a new crop of young capable reporters on the politics beat. It may take them some time to be as good as Tom has consistently been over the years, but all of us need to wish them well.  "Nothing less," as Jason Robards AKA Ben Bradley of the Watergate -breaking Washington Post said in All The President's Men, "than the future of the Republic depends upon it."

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 19, 2019

May I Point Out

In every community where mass shootings have taken place, certain things are common. One is the belief "that such a thing would never happen here. We're just not that type of place."  Reporters hear it over and over, even as the lists mount up of all those places "where such a thing could never happen."

Perhaps the final proof came recently at that Garlic festival in Gilroy, California. Here the mass shooter drove 600 miles from his home to that little festival town to work his evil. No strong bonds or reason why he drove there have surfaced, so we are left with the inescapable conclusion these evil doers don't care what place they pick, so long as they think they will be able to kill, kill, kill.

Let that sink in. No place is immune. Not even Lexington.  So, before the next place where the mayor or police chief will tell a reporter, "we never thought it could happen here," let's get the President and the NRA on board, and get some practical gun controls enacted. The NRA says its doesn't want guns in the hands of people with mental problems, but it also opposes expanded background checks, and some "red flag" laws. This does not compute. To keep guns from people with mental problems, some type of background checks are needed. Let's hope the President, and those polls showing 80% of all Americans supported expanded gun controls, may finally convince Congress to do its duty. And soon.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is under pressure to call the Senate back sooner than the planned schedule for home town electioneering, but has said he won't. If the guns of Gilroy, and Dayton, and El Paso aren't enough, how about: US-Iran relations, with the potential  for war, or those new N. Korean missiles, or serious troubles in Hong Kong which could bring in Chinese troops, or worse, the deteriorating relations over Kashmir by India and Pakistan, BOTH nations with nuclear weapons, far more serious than either Iran and North Korea. Or, more directly here at home, Wall Street laying an egg.

But members want to seek votes, and that seems more important than say, war. Shows you where their priorities are. Perhaps, as I have long supported, if House members had 4 years terms, half elected every two years, we might be able to keep Congress in session longer, instead of taking SEVEN weeks off when all those serious problems listed above are festering.

Perhaps, if members of Congress had up close and personal experience  with a mass shooter in their home, they would be more understanding of why the rest of us want something done.   But, of course, they have---they've just forgotten.  65 years ago this year, four "nationalists" entered the House visitors gallery and after a few minutes, brought hidden semi-automatic weapons from under their clothes and fired all their bullets into the House chamber below. 5 Congressmen were injured, only one seriously. All recovered. All the nationalists were grabbed since they were out of bullets, tried, convicted, and given long prison terms. What saved Congress was those semi-automatic weapons were pistols with limited magazines. Can you imagine what would have happened had they used high capacity magazines, as was done in ElPaso, Dayton, Las Vegas etcetcetc? (BTW, those "nationalists" were Puerto Rican "nationalists" seeking total independence of that island from the US. Their movement still exists but has few followers there.)
Congress reacted, by essentially tightening security in its chambers, hiring more cops, but doing little about the gun problems.  It's time for a change, before history tragically is relived even in a "place where nothing like this could happen."

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 5, 2019

Emerson Was Right

"An institution is but the lengthened shadow of one man."

The American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote that almost 200 years ago, and he was right then, and now, when we apply it to O. Leonard Press or as most people knew him - Len Press, founder of KET, who died last week at 97.

It was his vision, his energy, and his wife Lil, that together created, championed, and stamped the role that KET plays in the lives of many Kentuckians. This state would be so much poorer without KET, not just for its basic work providing educational classes for schools at all levels, but for its rebroadcast of PBS programming, as well as its own news and public affairs efforts headed by its legislative coverage, programs such as Comment on Kentucky, Kentucky Tonight, and special events such as the past weekend's live coverage of Fancy Farm.

Len wrote a book about how KET came to be, and as usual, paid tribute to many others who helped him in major ways along that journey; all true, (none more so than his wife, Lil, whose own vision sparked the Governors' Scholarship program,) but it was Len whose ideas and dogged determination made it all come together and work.

He told about this in his book "The KET Story." Read it if you want to know more, and know that the KET story is an unfinished one. As education evolves, as TV programming changes, as American society goes through many changes, KET is the institution that lets the rest of us keep up with change, and make decisions on what's best for our futures.

Len Press gave us that institution--and that chance to make wise decisions. He didn't agree with all the changes that KET has made since he left as the head man; to him the "E" in KET was the important dimension, but his legacy is we have great help in our own education, and our own ---and Kentucky's future.

What a "shadow" he has left behind.  Hopefully we will be smart enough to support it and keep it going for many tomorrows.

I'm just sayin'...