Mitch McConnell’s War on Coal

WFPL’s Erica Peterson has an important look at the “War on Coal” and its history — and as this graph makes clear, if there is a “War on Coal” it began long before President Obama:


The funny thing about that image, if you want to call it funny, is that the “War on Coal” appears to be a bipartisan effort. If Obama is waging such a war, then he’s doing a far worse job of destroying coal jobs than did Ronald Reagan. Whether it’s Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton or Obama — they all seem to have one thing in common. Heck even the very modest gains under Bush 2 came in the latter half of his time in office — and his very slight uptick is the only bright spot in this 30 year history and is perhaps the only time that George W. Bush’s inability to execute a war has done anyone any good.

The other thing these Presidents and their “War on Coal” have in common is Mitch McConnell:

Mitch McConnell's been killing the coal industry for three decades!

Mitch McConnell’s been killing the coal industry for three decades!

Over Mitch McConnell’s five terms in office, Kentucky’s lost over 22,000 coal jobs. That’s Mitch McConnell’s record and now all of a sudden, he wants people to believe that he’s gonna start saving the coal industry.

Yesterday, Alison Grimes and Bill Clinton were in Hazard (note to McConnell DC advisers: That’s an actual place in Eastern Kentucky) for a rally. In attendance were a lot of coal miners, some of them from the United Mine Workers of America. The UMWA over the weekend endorsed Alison Lundergan Grimes.

An endorsement from the people who actually work in the mines seems like a pretty good sign for Ms. Grimes — and should be a good indication as to what they think of McConnell’s three decade long record on protecting coal miners.

So of course, the McConnell campaign decided to attack the coal miners. Seizing on a bit of information in a Phillip Bailey/WFPL report, McConnell’s attack dogs took to Twitter in an attempt to discredit the miners and undermine their endorsement:

Some of the miners were from West Virginia! Ohhhh, we hate West Virginia miners! Those dirty scoundrels from across the border, hordes of them coming into our state to protect their industry. The horror.

Of course, if the McConnell campaign had any actual interest in protecting or even helping coal communities or coal miners, they’d be a little less eager to celebrate the fact that UMWA miners travelled from West Virginia. Because there is, in fact, a good reason they did — and it has everything to do with Mitch McConnell’s War on Coal.

Let’s travel back in time to 2007 for this helpful report from the Center for Rural Journalism, entitled: UMWA has no working miners in Eastern Kentucky, but union’s heritage remains strong.

First of all… the UMWA, like unions do, takes care of its miners after the mines close — unlike many of the mine operators. Non unionized mines just pack up shop when they can’t compete with natural gas or cheaper extraction methods out West, blame Obama and tell the miners, their families and their communities to get wrecked. The UMWA, on the other hand:

Leonard Fleming, 65, of Kona in Letcher County, said his local, made up entirely of retirees, still meets once a month.

The union’s political action committee remains active, endorsing candidates and supporting or opposing legislation. In the past year and a half, the union put its lobbying weight behind new mine health and safety laws and regulations.

“By no means are we out of the picture in Kentucky,” said Smith. “We still play a large role in the political life” of the state.

Several thousand UMWA retirees live in Kentucky, and the union still represents workers at a Western Kentucky mine. Widows of miners also belong to the union.

The union pays out $71 million in pensions and $91 million in healthcare expenditures each year.

“That’s money going into the small, rural, coalfield communities where it’s needed most,” Smith said.

You can almost see the folks at the McConnell campaign shaking their heads in disgust at such behavior. “Those dirty miners!”

So there are a lot of retired UMWA miners in Eastern Kentucky, but why aren’t there more active ones? Well, because thanks to Mitch McConnell’s three decade War on Coal:

The UMWA once represented more than 700,000 members nationwide. “Today the union represents perhaps one-third of coal miners,” according to The Associated Press.

UMWA members say the union disappeared at Eastern Kentucky mines because of the rise of less labor-intensive strip mining, advanced mechanization at underground mines, scaled-back mining operations that employ fewer workers, smaller companies that are strongly anti-union, and labor laws that make it tough to organize new mines as unionized workplaces were mined out and closed.

….As more coal-fired power plants installed “scrubbers” to remove sulfur dioxide from their smokestack emissions, many shuttered mines re-opened as the ‘90s drew to a close, but many mines that were once unionized reopened as nonunion, Smith said.

The UMWA still believes that it is important to organize those mines, he said. “It’s a tough challenge but we’re not giving up on it.”

Smith said coal operators are powerful, and “In today’s political climate they can get away with violating labor laws,” intimidating workers and threatening to close the mines if they were unionized — “all illegal,” Smith said.

You got that, McConnell campaign? There weren’t active UMWA members at the Grimes event… because the coal operators found ways to cut miners out of their extraction equation and deunionize the ones they had left.

Does that mean that all coal miners in Kentucky are secretly for Grimes and not McConnell, they’re just not allowed to say for fear of their jobs? Does that mean they all want to be in the UMWA but can’t because they have kids to feed? Nope. But if you dismiss the realities of what’s happening in coal communities, then are you really supporting them?

The UMWA didn’t endorse Barack Obama in 2012 because of his record on coal, and in 2014 they didn’t endorse Mitch McConnell either.

It appears that hurts Team Mitch’s feelings. But attacking coal miners for giving a damn? That’s a low blow in Mitch McConnell’s War on Coal.

Rand Paul is a Minority: Inspecting Rand’s new favorite catch phrase (VIDEO)

“You can be a minority because of the color of your skin, or by the shade of your ideology.” – Sen. Rand Paul

Last week, Rand Paul addressed the Urban League tried to relate to his largely African American audience by telling them that he‘s just like them — because they’re actual minorities and he’s an ideological one. Or something. It didn’t go well and Rand was roundly and deservedly mocked (see here, here, here).

It turns out, the Urban League wasn’t the only time Rand has made this argument. Over the past year, Rand has repeatedly trotted out some variation of the line. He likes it so much that he even seems to imbue it with different meanings. On the Senate floor minorities are terrorists, at the Urban League they’re innocent victims of a police state, and at CPAC they’re Christians who can’t pray to their God because obviously that happens a lot in America.

At both CPAC and at the Urban League, Rand ridiculously points to his skin to help make his point, as though his audience is too dumb to understand what he’s talking about and at both Howard and the Urban League, he casts the whole thing as some sort of “Republicans are the real friends of Black people” — as if Black people were somehow too stupid to have seen it before Rand showed up to enlighten them.

In any event, while Rand’s minority outreach has some positive attributes this particular talking point of his needs to go away, and hopefully it will. Here’s Rand Paul, Minority Whisperer.

It is a shame Rand Paul is so brazenly and stupidly pandering to an audience that is smart enough to judge him on his actions, not on his awkwardly framed rhetoric. Some of what he’s been saying has been good and constructive, specifically when it comes to sentencing reform. But then you have issues like Voter ID laws which Rand correctly blasted one day only to recant the next, telling FOX News that he wasn’t actually opposed to Voter ID laws after all despite the fact he obviously realizes they’re a racist ploy by the Republican Party to deny Blacks and Hispanics the right to vote.

Rand Paul can’t have it both ways, and obviously he’s not getting it. The most recent fiasco, that bite of burger before fleeing the DREAMer, is yet another piece of evidence. Rand Paul’s not standing up for minorities, Rand Paul is standing up for himself. And as a white man with a high paying job and an advanced degree, the only thing about Rand Paul that’s a minority is his backward worldview which, like the South, ain’t gonna rise again.


A Poor Choice of Words: Hordes of Hispanic Children, Lazy American Workers, and a Whites Only Country Club

A Democratic consultant’s racist tweet is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to racism in Kentucky politics, and the Republican Party of Kentucky should be more careful casting stones — unless, of course, they have an ulterior motive.

A former candidate for State Senate who six years later continues to claim that her 2008 loss was due to voter fraud, conspiracy and scandal is a perhaps odd person to hire as a “Democratic consultant” but that’s Kathy Groob and over the weekend as the Fancy Farm festivities got underway, Groob took to Twitter to attack Mitch McConnell’s wife for being “Asian.”

After sending the obviously racist tweet and receiving an obvious, unanimous and scornful backlash from literally everyone, Groob demonstrated her “consultant” skills and went into crisis management mode in which she consulted herself and then based on the advice of her consultant tweeted out an idiotic non-apology “for a poor choice of words” which is not in any way the same as expressing remorse or sincerity. Then she promptly deleted her twitter account.

Republicans ever since — including the Republican Party of Kentucky and that national GOP – have been latching onto this sad and stupid event to show that all Kentucky Democrats are racist and to wonder wonderingly when Kentucky Dems will condemn what Groob said — which is moronic since Groob was condemned by all sides immediately.

The whole saga is a shame. What Groob said was shameful and the Republican response is shameful — Republicans who push this story as though anyone is backing or defending Groob or that her sentiments are shared by anyone of any standing should be ashamed of themselves for spending what’s apparently valuable time peddling so stupid a story.

To be clear, there are lots of things one could say against Elaine Chao. She was the Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush over an 8 year period that — even before the collapse of the economy — saw middle class wages plunge and middle class savings hit lows they hadn’t seen since right after the Great Depression. Her tenure as Secretary of Labor is like a Rick Astley greatest hits album, each highlight more awful than the last, all of them a simple variation on one really terrible song.

The fact that Elaine Chao is “Asian” is completely irrelevant to whatever positions she may hold on free trade, just as it is with Mitch McConnell. Mitch has been lobbying for and protecting trade and currency policies that are deferential to the Chinese for over two decades, since before he was married to Elaine. Mitch isn’t Asian, he’s from Alabama. Being Asian isn’t a prerequisite for being wrong about a China policy that systematically ships US jobs overseas (hell, over half the world’s population is “Asian” and the vast majority of them live in abject poverty and are being wildly exploited by the very people who push the style of free trade McConnell has spent the past twenty years advocating).

Mitch McConnell’s deeply held convictions on trade with China aren’t a product of his relationship with his second wife, they’re just something the two of them have in common, something they can discuss over candlelit dinners when the glow of two decades of marriage dims just a bit and they want to re-ignite that fire. Mitch McConnell simply believes that the bleeding out of American jobs to China (and other places) is good policy — “it’s not a huge problem,” he told the Kentucky Post.

And the fact that he’s Alabamian has nothing to do with his activist approach to blocking US action on China’s currency manipulation and protecting China’s trade interests at the expense of Kentucky workers. It would obviously be unfair to suggest that all Alabamians think exporting US jobs is good policy.

With that said… the Kentucky Republican Party is delighting in the chance to say Democrats are racist. They’re demanding that people denounce Kathy Groob (which again, has already been done), but where is there outrage for their own kind?

Who among the Kentucky Republican Party is denouncing the members of the Kentucky Republican Party?

Let’s start with Mitch McConnell. At Fancy Farm on Saturday, around the same time Groob was on twitter, Mitch McConnell referred to the small, young, helpless children who have been sent fleeing from their violence-torn small towns in Central America as “hordes.”

Now, you might think that using the term “horde” to describe a group of helpless children is totally fine… but if you do, you’re probably a racist. That is a racist, demeaning, xenophobic and fear-mongering way for Mitch McConnell to refer to helpless children. Does it rile up the Republican base? Yes! Does it play to their fears, their anger, and their racism? Yes it does. Sure, you may say, a horde is just a large group of people and that’s true but its meaning by any reputable dictionary is derogatory.

Who is admonishing Mitch McConnell for his derogatory attack on a group of helpless children? Or was it just a poor choice of words?

And then there’s this — does this quote seem an overly broad generalization of a group of people based on their nationality:

“American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene. They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something.”

American workers are poorly dressed, unshowered and really angry. And they don’t follow directions. Got it.

Will the Kentucky Republican Party disavow those sentiments? Or were they just a poor choice of words?

Or… hey, what about Hal Rogers.

Congressman Rogers gave a speech at a dinner in 2011 which made news because of Hal’s racist joke about Chinese people:

The Appropriations Committee chairman went on to describe a dinner with “the Chinese ambassador, who spoke broken English but was trying to impress his staff with his knowledge of the U.S.” (Rogers didn’t specify which ambassador; China has sent three different envoys to D.C. over the past decade.)

The diplomat told his staff that they needed to know how to pronouce the name of the city where the Kentucky Derby is held, said Rogers:“‘It’s not Roo-ee-ville, it’s Roo-uh-ville.’”

Get it? It’s funny because Chinese people are stupid and don’t speak our language! Very funny, Hal Rogers. Very funny.

Rogers’ spokesman called it “an unfortunate attempt at humor” which is a nice way of saying “That was really racist, Hal regrets his poor choice of words.”

Or… you know what, what about Garland H. Barr IV? Yes, dear old Congressman Andy Barr and his family are members of the Idle Hour Country Club which until 2010 — TWO THOUSAND AND TEN!!!! — was a WHITES ONLY establishment. Black people, Asians and Hispanics… all excluded.

What did Andy Barr say about belonging to entirely segregated country club 145 years after the end of the Civil War?

“My family has been a member for a long time,” Barr said. “It’s not an issue. It should not be an issue. I’m a member of a lot of organizations in Central Kentucky. I was born and raised in Central Kentucky. And I love my community.”

It’s not an issue? Yeah, right. Maybe not to you, Garland. And since when is “loving your community” an acceptable cover for belonging to a racist organization?

When will the Kentucky Republican Party admonish Andy? When will they disavow him? When Andy said that his membership in a racist organization “should not be an issue” was that just a poor choice of words?

The list could go on. For G-d’s sake, Rand Paul opposes the Civil Rights Act and employed a guy nicknamed the “Southern Avenger” who paraded around in a confederate flag mask!

So it’s more than a little ridiculous for the Republican Party of Kentucky to harp on this Kathy Groob incident. The more they do, the more they are asking for any of the above issues to be raised, and they probably don’t want to fight those fights. (Perhaps it’s too late.)

And in fact, that’s possibly what this is all about. The Kentucky Republican Party is rich with racism (see above; would rather not continue) so Groob’s idiotic, racist and reprehensible tweet was a great event for the RPK. It allows them a rare opportunity to be on the other end of “cultural sensitivity.” It has less to do with any particular opposition to racism (again, see above), and more to do with a chance to feel better about their own entrenched racism… because, see, the other side is racist, too!

And it’s true. There’s a lot of racism out there, there’s a lot of stupidity. The Kentucky Republican Party highlighting the propensity for racism within Kentucky politics does neither the state nor their Party any favors, but perhaps it does do a public service in reminded us all how far we still have to go.

Cabanas, Conspiracies and Horse Torture in Kentucky’s Republican Party

Kentucky’s 1st District Republican Congressman, Ed Whitfield, is having a tough go of it lately — so he’s trying to raise his own spirits with a glitzy Hollywood party!

Whitfield is under a House Ethics Investigation for his relationship with a lobbyist — and has another big ethics problem swirling around a real estate deal. Let’s start with the land deal!

An excellent report from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting last month revealed a tangled web between Rep. Whitfield, his wife and a second woman, Juanita Duggan, a national known lobbyist. The threesome bought plot of land in the exclusive Greenbrier complex in West Virgina but didn’t disclose the deal. Among Duggan’s many clients are those who have business before the House Energy Committee, on which Ed Whitfield sits. The whole sordid affair is intriguing and includes Congressman Ed’s wife yelling at reporters on the phone and disgraced lobbyist (is there another kind?) Jack Abramoff calling the whole thing a bit beyond the pale  – if you haven’t, read it in full.

The other problem, which is now being investigated by the House Ethics Committee, involves Ed and his wife — his wife being a lobbyist in her own right. And on this, Ed Whitfield says, there is a conspiracy. Ed claims that supporters of the horse torturing practice known as soring have pushed this ethics complaint in a desperate ploy to disrupt Whitfield’s bill that would ban the horse torturing practice of soring. Here’s Ed’s take:

Whitfield denied that his wife had lobbied him on the issue, saying his interest in curtailing soring predated her involvement with the Humane Society of the United States, one of the most prominent interest groups backing the PAST Act. Connie Whitfield is a “policy adviser” with the group.

In a statement, Whitfield listed numerous individuals associated with the Performance Show Horse Association that he said brought the complaint to poison the atmosphere for the act, which had been rapidly gaining political momentum. The bill is co-sponsored by 305 members of the House and 57 in the Senate.

Whitfield’s attempts to rein in horse torture via his PAST Act are commendable. In a Congress in which absolutely nothing gets done and certainly not with any sort of broad bipartisan support, Whitfield has cobbled together 305 co-sponsors for his anti-horse torture bill.

And yet… the pro-horse torture Representatives and Senators have gone a long way to block the bill from any official vote. In the House of Representatives, Whitfield’s bill is being blocked by the  pro-horse torture caucus which is led by Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and includes Kentucky Republicans Hal Rogers and Andy Barr. In the Senate, the pro-horse torture caucus is lead by Mitch McConnell, who has pledged to defend the torturous act of soring and keep the bill from ever receiving a vote. (see below)

This puts Whitfield in an odd spot. The friends and supporters of his fellow Kentucky Republican delegation are conspiring to destroy him. On the one hand, you have Ed Whitfield. On the other… horse torturers and their powerful supporters — which included Mitch McConnell and Andy Barr.

When you’re having a tough time, sometimes you just want to hole up and wallow. But not Ed Whitfield. No, instead, the ethics-troubled Congressman is throwing a party. And you are invited:

Weekend in Beverly Hills


Congressman Ed Whitfiled Weekend in Beverly Hills, August 8-10 in Beverly Hills, CA

Suggested contribution to Thoroughbred PAC: $3,000 per PAC / $1,500 per individual

Activities include:

  • Private Friday evening welcome reception at the polo lounge at the Beverily Hills Hotel
  • Optional Friday evening post-dinner drinks on site
  • Saturday reserved cabana by the pool
  • Saturday night dinner.


A cabana? Optional post-dinner drinks? You don’t even have to stay and listen to Ed and his lobbyist friends get drunk and blab about stuff — that’s optional? This sounds like an awesome, awesome party.

Here’s the pool and the cabanas, which feature complimentary soft serve ice cream and mojito pops! More at the Beverly Hills Hotel website:

Swimming Pool_4

Thoroughbred PAC is Ed Whitfield’s leadership fundraising committee. Beyond organizing to raise money for Ed, Whitfield himself uses funds to dole out to other Republicans to help lobby them toward his opinions. Among its contributors are Koch Industries and curiously among its recipients… $4,500 to 6th District Rep. Andy Barr, who is working actively, hand in hand with the anti-Ed conspirators, to block Whitfield’s horse torture bill. [here, here]

The Kentucky Republican Party is one crowded barn full of some crazy horses — some of whom apparently like to torture each other.





After Doing Nothing, Andy Barr Goes on Vacation

It’s August 2014. Andy Barr’s been in office since January 2013 — 19 months. That’s one month for every single vote he’s already cast to repeal, revoke and remove the health insurance coverage that over 400,000 Kentuckians are now able to afford.

Andy Barr: 19 months, 19 votes to repeal the absolute tyranny of this map:


That’s Andy Barr. That’s his campaign — Taking Kentucky backwards and ripping health insurance cards right out of the hands of struggling families and young professionals.

But what else has Andy Barr “done”? Apparently, not so much. Barr and the rest of the “Do Nothing Congress” wrapped up their “work” on Friday and are now on recess for the next five weeks. While Barr has pursued (with no great effect) busied himself doing the bidding of his special interest donors, pushing to repeal consumer protections and other boutique issues, Barr and the rest of Congress have failed to take any meaningful action on wages, fair pay, job creation, or even our ongoing long-term unemployment problem.

Yesterday, Barr’s opponent Elisabeth Jensen hit Andy on this front. In a statement, Jensen said:

“Hard working Kentucky families are struggling with too few jobs, stagnant wages, rising college costs and a sense that no one in Washington is serious about solving our problems – and now Congressman Barr is taking a month long break,” said Elisabeth Jensen. “All Congressman Barr is doing in Washington is looking out for himself – from abusing his taxpayer funded perks, to wasting our tax dollars on his campaign style mailers. As Congressman Barr returns to Kentucky with no progress made on the issues that matter to us, Kentucky residents have one message: we’re fed up with the dysfunctional politics that Congressman Barr is practicing in Washington, and we’re ready for a new representative who will get results for working families.”

Harsh words, but not entirely accurate! Because, in fact, Andy Barr did do something meaningful in Congress recently — he voted to waste taxpayer dollars suing the President of the United States for doing what President’s have always done (and will always continue to do).

The lawsuit against Obama is an egregious waste of time and money, being conducted solely for political purposes with no actionable or functional end goal — and Andy Barr voted for it. The Courier Journal’s editorial board slammed Barr for this vote over the weekend:

The worst do-nothing Congress in memory prepared last week for a nice, long five-week summer break, having accomplished very little.

But the House managed one dubious accomplishment — Republicans, largely on a party-line vote, decided to sue President Barack Obama on the grounds he isn’t implementing Obamacare fast enough.

This is the same outfit that fought the Affordable Care Act tooth and nail, voted repeatedly and ineffectually to repeal it and continues to demonize the plan helping millions of Americans get health insurance. The GOP must have dug down really, really deep to to come up with that as the sole bit of supposed evidence that the president is exceeding his authority.

….Sadly, four of Kentucky’s six congressmen are on the wrong side, having voted to authorize the lawsuit. They are Republican Reps. Andy Barr, 6th District; Brett Guthrie, 2nd District; Hal Rogers, 5th District; and Ed Whitfield, 1st District.

Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat who represents Louisville’s 3rd District, voted against it. Interestingly, he was joined by Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, 4th District, who voted no, saying it’s not worth the cost or effort, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Perhaps Andy Barr is upset that Kynect and the ACA haven’t been implemented fast enough because had it been, there’d be even more insured people for Andy Barr to kick to the curb. Perhaps Andy Barr takes a sick pleasure in hurting Kentucky families and taking health insurance away from Kentucky families.

In the 6th District, only Andy Barr will put a stop to this tyranny:


Andy Barr tells Kentucky to take their insurance and shove it:

In #KY6, Jensen picks up another big endorsement while Barr keeps his on the hush-and-hush

In the 6th District Congressional race, a couple big endorsements!

Elisabeth Jensen, who already has the endorsement of the Teamsters, the UFCW, and the AFGE unions, picked up another key endorsement, this time from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who are giving Jensen their “enthusiastic support.” From the Jensen camp:

Elisabeth and all of Team Jensen are proud to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers working to build a stronger Kentucky.

Andy Barr on the other hand picked up the endorsement of the National Association of Predatory Pay Day Lenders. Rather than put it in a press release, these Predators put their endorsement in cold hard cash. The pay day lending industry’s contributions to the Andy Barr campaign make clear that while Jensen is the candidate for workers, Barr is the candidate for guys who make a living ripping off single moms, struggling families, and all too often, America’s veterans. We’ll have more on Andy’s predatory cash-flow soon.