Friday, April 3, 2020

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I'm talking about the way the GOP majorities in Frankfort passed an unusual one year budget  this week.

OK, they were absolutely right to make it only one year, instead of the traditional two. No one knows what the future of state revenue is in the time of Covid-19. I might quibble about their unusual voting plan, but if the Dems or the ACLU think that was illegal, let them sue.  (Not that they did before when the legislature refused to follow the Constitution and pass a budget at all by April 15th only a few years back.)

End of most "Good"

No raises  for state employees, including teachers. (Take that, Andy Beshear!) No funds for libraries, no  funds for school textbooks, and no funds for any new social workers, at a time when everyone knows there will be many more demands on them in the weeks ahead due to the virus, when present workers are already way above the national standards in caseloads. That is truly ugly.

Why is it so easy for Republicans to raise "sin taxes?" But do nothing about real, basic revenue. No taxes on casino gambling, or even expanding casinos here when multimillions flow out of our state each year to every surrounding state that has gambling parlors. Stoopid! (More later) No taxes on medical marijuana.

Let me agree entirely with senate minority leader Morgan McGarvey, truthfully chastising the majority when he said.."Since 2008, when the economy collapsed the last time, the cupboard has been bare and we haven't restocked it." Even a broader tobacco tax the guv proposed went down, tho an increased vaping tax passed. While we wait a year, other states will  reap revenue from Kentuckians traveling to their casinos. Sports betting, in this sports-crazy state, was also rejected. Makes no sense.

Will we know more in a year? Probably. Can the GOP majority be counted on to do better? Probably not.

Now let me add a few words of objection to some acts of our governor, who has been doing extremely well in his late afternoon virus news conferences. (Can anyone really see these conducted as well by Matt Bevin??)

You have overreached yourself guv, in closing so many places. Please reconsider and keep checking on places that might reopen, as well as others that may need closing. OK, this is personal, but I have a pair of glases that need repairs. Optical goods stores are closed. I also need a haircut. Every time I went to get one, social distancing was enforced, even informally. Are we to go back to Dan'l "Beard?"

But what is this crap about closing our borders to people from other states (any other states, not just hot spots apparently) I think that is beyond your powers, good goal tho it may be, and most likely UNConstitutional. Hope someone challenges it. Do we really want turn away all those people who come to buy our cheap bourbon, by quarantining them. And what about Kentuckians who go to Nashville or Illinois casinos, and come back? Are they to be put away for 2 weeks? Makes no sense either.

But, as Mr. Beshear said, this MAY be a small price to pay in the midst of a unique tragedy we are living through, but together, we will make it.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Virus And The Elections

What causes this virus?


If that surprises you, let me plead my case. Both COVID-19, and SARS and the Swine Flu (remember them?) and Ebola (far and away the most lethal and far from being controlled) have originated in areas where poverty rules. Yes, even with the world's 2nd largest economy, China's areas of poverty (rural and immense) have been the location where several of these diseases have started. Remember the millions (if not hundreds of millions) of chickens killed to try to stem one of these outbreaks? That didn't happen in the cities, only when the market brought them, and swine, to the cities, and the infected people from poor health areas along with them.

Poverty has been shown in Kentucky (and everywhere else) to be the cause of kids and adults not having the health they should (in the "richest nation on earth".) We should not be surprised at this. Poverty needs to be recognized as a public health problem, just as much as a political problem, and a moral problem for all of us.

The other thing we ought to "thank" COVID-19 for is putting to rest the idea that climate change is NOT happening. It isn't much of a leap of logic, given the fast spread and global spread, to realize we are, truly, all ONE  world. If China pollutes, the US gets sick; if Greenland melts, Savannah will suffer---and New York and Miami and Los Angeles, not to mention entire nations in the Pacific which will simply go out of existence. And we ARE getting warmer, and melting.

This needs to be addressed by our health and political leaders, just as soon as covid-19 is under control. And we voters need to demand certain promises from our elected leaders as they campaign in the next elections, whenever held.

I am not a fan of either early voting or mail-in voting. It was not just COVID-19 that cost a lot of Americans their choice for president recently. In those early voting states many a vote was cast for people--a whole slew of them--who dropped out before the elections were held, or even put off. And in Washington, the only state now entirely elected by mail-in votes, one week after the election, it still hadn't tabulated returns, including who got that states' presidential delegates. Maybe they had COVID-19 problems, or maybe mail-ins overwhelmed the state, but one way or another, it didn't work.

Now our new Sec. of State in Kentucky is rethinking mail-ins here. Don't. It's still untested, let alone whether it truly encourages Democracy. Same with early voting. I do support expanded reasons for absentee voting, but not "no excuse" absentee voting, unless the deadline is very close to election day.

And as for the contretemps between our governor, who is doing an excellent job marshaling all of us in these times, and the legislature over the session, I'm with the House and Senate, and their second attempt to get a constitutional amendment passed that allows them to set their own agenda when they call themselves back into session. I would give the governor similar special session powers, but not his alone. That is one-person rule, not democracy.
Stay safe!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Democrats Play Legislative Chicken!


Last week a worthwhile constitutional amendment failed in the House when previous Democrat sponsors suddenly withdrew their support. Later a spokeswoman said it was to remind the GOP  majority that the minority "counted" and needed to be taken into account.

Meanwhile the amendment failed, though there is a good chance it may be revived.
The proposal is needed. it would allow, but not require, local governments to find new sources of revenue--yes, new taxes. it is needed because of the current major financial squeeze on local government units--primarily brought about by the legislature's own mishandling, for years, of our pension system.

For the Republican majority to even think of allowing new taxes to be passed is a major step forward. For the Democrats to quash this progressive step is inconceivable. Let's hope the minority comes to its senses and get this important idea on the ballot.

And meanwhile, let me proposal my annual fave amendment: "So much of this Constitution as pertains to dueling is hereby rescinded." And, as the Supreme Court has required, amendments must not be so "dense" as to confuse their meanings; as the Marsy's Law one did. If passed, Kentucky will no longer be the laughing stock of the nation every four years when our new governor swears he has not taken part in, or facilitated a "duel,"  Ye Gods!

I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Pardons Me!

But, I've heard this all before, especially the objections/criticisms about Presidential pardons.

Thanks to Gov. Bevin, we now have some of the same concerns at our state capital.
Both presidents and governors have come in for their share of criticisms over how this executive power was handled; and it's their own fault, but (wait a moment.)  In my time the worst presidential pardon was the one that Pres. Ford gave newly resigned Richard Nixon. Ford had a good goal: "to heal the nation," but it wasn't received that way. Many of us thought Nixon WAS a crook and we wanted a trial in order to find out. Ford ended that, and his pardon ended Ford. He always claimed it cost him re-election, and he was right, it should have.

Clinton had a few pardons that didn't pass the smell test; so did Obama. (I'd be surprised if other presidents didn't also, but I can't be sure..memory is getting old.)  Now Bevin has really stirred up the pot..including among members of his own party (pardons shouldn't be a partisan thing, but they often are.) He did so many, so last minute, so suspect in many cases, that our legislature is looking into changes. Good.  Meanwhile Pres. Trump keeps reminding us that he IS above the law. When, as Ford did, he can pardon someone BEFORE he is tried, the President is not only above the law, he IS the law.

What causes me to want to heave every time I hear legislative objections to chief executives behaving this way is this: Congress and our General Assembly are composed mainly of lawyers. It's the #1 occupation there. Many have been prosecutors or judges as well. They know these pardons are bad, undemocratic, immoral and fattening. But they do NOTHING about it. Not since Ford; and Bevin wasn't the only governor criticized here, he just made the situation worse by his extraordinary list.

Maybe now, in Frankfort, we will get some changes. I have my doubts about Washington, where Mitch has his own views of the Constitution and Trump's behavior.  Nevertheless, I offer this fundamental suggestion to Washington, and to Frankfort:  NO pardons until AFTER the judicial system has run its course - trial, conviction, appeals exhausted. Let's start with that. I'm sure there are other good restrictions that need to be enacted, but let's start there.

If we don't then the "rule of law" becomes "what the chief executive says it is," not what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

If I Were A Senator

How would I vote?

Let's take count 2 first; obstruction of congress. Very weak. I agree with liberal, Democratic lawyer Jonathan Turley, (amazingly) called by Republicans to analyze (and refute) the House Dems charges. He pointed out the President had every right to go to court and attempt to block what the committee majority was attempting, he might win; he might lose, but he had those rights (as you and I do). The Dems chose not to go, because it might take too long. That is their judgment call, but it cost them Bolton, Mulvaney, and some others whose public utterances so far could have buttressed their case.
It's a weak unsubstantiated  charge. I would vote No.

Count 1 is a very different matter. By his own utterances, to the media and others, and in the transcript of his famous call to the Ukrainian president, he violated an important federal law. He asked a foreign government for help in his/our domestic politics.  (It is not a favor when the head of the world's most powerful nation asks a new head of a country under siege, and which needs our arms in a domestic civil war to assist in his campaign, and it is, and has been for years, against the law. The transcript is enough, but it is supported by much testimony, including 2 ambassadors, that Lt. Col., and even what Rudy G. has said on TV.) The president also sought Russian aid in 2016 as the Mueller report has strongly documented.  Mr. Trump also said in one of his White House driveway news conferences that he saw nothing wrong with asking the Chinese for similar help. That's three.

On Count 1 , as an impartial juror, based on the evidence presented, I would have to vote Yes.

I'm just sayin'...

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'...