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Tag: "kentucky"

The Last Days of Appalachian Coal

[ 10 ] May 31, 2012 |

Eric Lipton’s feature on the decline of coal in Kentucky is interesting, though flawed. He tells a heartbreaking story for these coal miners, helping us understand just how deeply people in eastern Kentucky believe in coal. Even if other economic opportunities appeared in the region, a lot of people just don’t want to imagine a world not dominated by coal. Of course, the fact that the coal industry has ruled this area as a feudal domain for a century doesn’t help.

Both Lipton and the Kentucky coal operators are giving environmentalists too much power. The idea that environmentalists can set policy in 2012 is pretty laughable and flies in the face of a huge amount of evidence. Environmentalists can be a useful ally if more powerful players want something to happen. New York and Chicago are moving away from supplying power through coal because Bloomberg and Emanuel want it to happen. Sierra Club lobbying might be making a difference but they are hardly, say, passing national legislation or even state-level legislation on these matters. Environmentalists are an easy target. And by including pollution controls on new coal-fired plants, they have raised the cost of doing business. But environmentalists are an easy target that ignores what’s really going on.

And that’s fracking. The economics of natural gas just make a lot more sense. And for as horrible as fracking can be (and for all the problems we have ignored while just plowing ahead), it is almost certainly better for everyone with a stake in energy than coal, except for the coal miners themselves. Natural gas is tremendously efficient for home heating. It’s less dirty than coal. It doesn’t change the climate as quickly. And it’s just a lot cheaper at the present time. Even if you don’t have the pollution controls on new plants, coal can’t compete with natural gas right now.

And one issue the article elides is the fact that Americans are still mining enormous amounts of coal–but it is increasingly in Wyoming instead of Kentucky and West Virginia. Lipton mentions the overseas market for coal, especially in Asia. But high-quality coal seams are disappearing in Appalachia; after over a century, it is finally drying up. So the ability of Appalachia to transition to an overseas market is limited. The companies know this and they are invested whole hog in western coal.

Ideally, the government would step in here like Bill Clinton did during the spotted owl crisis. Settling the issue more or less in favor of environmentalists, as needed to happen, Clinton also ensured significant federal aid and job retraining programs to people who lost their jobs. But there’s no way that is going to happen in 2012. Loggers in 1993 weren’t any much pro-Democratic president than coal miners are today. But Oregon and Washington also had huge local constituencies who wanted to see old-growth logging on federal lands end and there’s just not that local community in Kentucky and West Virginia lobbying for the end of coal. It’s even more of an insider-outsider paradigm than the ancient forest campaigns proved to be. Even more important is the shrinkage of the welfare state and the overt hostility today to helping even white people, as opposed to the 90s when subsidies for poor white loggers were OK but welfare for black mothers was repealed.

Derby Day!

[ 14 ] May 5, 2012 |

Ladies and gentlemen, start your mint juleps. Here’s Smooth Bobby Farley’s Derby picks:

  1. Union Rags
  2. Alpha
  3. Take Charge Indy

Take it to the bank*.

*Do not take to any reputable bank.  Any resemblance to actual order of finish is purely coincidental.

 

 

How Can I Sleep When Our Couches are Burning?

[ 24 ] April 1, 2012 |

Some preparatory celebration…

Jubilation over the University of Kentucky’s win over the University of Louisville quickly turned into scenes of couch-burning mayhem in key celebratory areas around campus.

State Street, which had become the epicenter of couch burning in recent weeks, was quickly filled with thousands of people, smoke and flying beer bottles. Police in riot gear with fire extinguishers and batons dodged bottles from the growing crowd and tried to stop a raft of couch fires.

Police blocked people from an empty building, but could not stop at least five cars from being flipped over, set on fire or vandalized. Much of the violence was accompanied by people chanting a war cry of “C-A-T-S, Cats, Cats, Cats!”

Fire department officials said at least 39 fires occurred in the campus area, mostly on State Street, and mostly to couches and trash. The Fire Department also made 12 first-aid runs….

On April 1, 1996, crowds took to the streets after UK won the national championship against Syracuse. Cars were crushed; police officers and bystanders were hit with rocks and bottles; and a television news van was overturned and set ablaze.

City and UK officials had also urged fans repeatedly through the week to keep cool after the historic game.

But now city and UK officials have yet another night to get through, that of the championship game itself on Monday night.

“If this is a preview for Monday night,” said Samantha Shirley, who was watching the crowds on State Street, “then I feel sorry for the police.”

I’m sure that the UK student body will do its best to ensure that Lexington is visible from the International Space Station on Monday evening. The course of the game will merely determine how the fires are fueled. For our part, we’ll be parking the cars in the garage, booby trapping the couch, and enjoying the game over a snifter of brandy with an appropriately aged crowd.

Kentucky Basketball Tonight

[ 18 ] March 31, 2012 |

In the course of what amounts to an aesthetic argument on behalf of the Louisville Cardinals, Dennis Berman argues:

This should be a moment of elation for Kentucky fans. Their team plays a ruthlessly beautiful brand of basketball. Their starting lineup is better than the New Jersey Nets.

And yet there is something lurking underneath: A sense that winning is, in its own odd way, making UK’s fans miserable. Their expectations of triumph—be it recruiting battles or tournament games—has hardened into a coarse entitlement. It’s gotten to the point where even a championship will feel like anticlimax.

My best friend, a rare species of Louisville-turned-Kentucky turncoat, admits it. “It’s not fun,” he says. “We expect it.”

There’s something to this. While I appreciate that the state of Kentucky basketball since my arrival in the commonwealth has been unusually tumultuous (the graceless exit of Tubby, the trainwreck called Billy Gillespie), I’ve generally found Kentucky fans to be knowledgeable, committed, but curiously joyless about the object of their affection. I count myself as a fan now (I lack the contrarian spirit, except in extreme situations), and it seems that at certain atmospheric dread backdrops every game; the Wildcats will probably win, and will in all likelihood destroy the opponent of the day, but what if they don’t? After the final Gillespie year, when it seemed that the center of power in the SEC might be drifting permanently south, this dread became palpable.

I wonder; do Notre Dame football fans feel this same way? Is it characteristic of dominant programs that may be on the wane? Will this atmosphere of dread and apprehension lift if the ‘Cats win the title, at least for a while? I hope so; cheering for the Cats is altogether more trying that cheering for the Ducks, even if I’m a great deal more enthusiastic about Oregon football than Kentucky basketball. I suppose that the Ducks would have to have a very long run of success before the legacy of the program itself became weighty.

In any case, go ‘Cats! Brutalize the Cardinals! Louisville isn’t really even in Kentucky…

…and as for the LGM NCAA Tourney Bracket:

If Kansas wins and is beaten by Kentucky, tb_slash wins.

If Ohio State wins and is beaten by Kentucky, mwbugg wins.

If Ohio State beats Kentucky, grinchgalleriesofoysterbay wins.

If Kansas beats Kentucky, rapayn01 wins.

Ron and Rand

[ 22 ] January 8, 2012 |

Alyssa notes something that people in Kentucky have been talking about for a while: Rand Paul’s potential Presidential candidacy in 2016.  It’s an interesting problem.  Rand surely has more potential as a charismatic advocate of the Paul family ideology than his father, and he lacks much of the baggage (although he obviously has some).  I think that the Paul faction of the GOP is more committed to Ron Paul the symbol than Ron Paul the candidate, and Rand is uniquely well-suited to occupying that role. I suspect, thus, that Rand’s ceiling is higher than Ron’s, although I don’t know how much higher.

It may be that Rand likes being a Senator, and will be happy to run for re-election in 2016. He’s not a shoo-in by any means; each of the last three Senatorial elections in Kentucky has been hard-fought, and Rand won during a Republican wave that was especially pronounced in Kentucky.  I suspect that the Democrats will target him in ’16, and so he might want to concentrate his efforts on re-election rather than on a Presidential run.  The latter is unlikely to help the former all that much; libertarianism doesn’t tend to be a real big winner in Kentucky, and so drawing contrasts between himself and the rest of the GOP field would probably be counter-productive.

Another interesting question will be how the outcome of this year’s election affects Rand’s prospects.  If Mitt occupies the White House that would make for a very interesting contested primary, between an incumbent President and a sitting Senator.  I’m sure that no matter how popular Mitt is or isn’t in 2016, Paul’s supporters will find sufficient reason to work themselves into a berserker rage at Romney’s heresy.  But of course Rand will fail to defeat Mitt, and the national GOP will suddenly display a tremendous lack of interest in Rand’s Senate re-election prospects, making a dicey campaign even more problematic. To my thinking, he pretty much has to choose between being Senator from Kentucky and failing to unseat an incumbent GOP President; I don’t have a good sense of how he’d behave in that situation.

Best case scenario for Rand is that Obama beats Mitt, letting the GOP get even more enraged over the next four years.  A Mitt defeat will be blamed on the “moderate,” “establishment,” elements of the GOP, likely increasing the appeal of a radical outsider.  It will depend on the other candidates, but I wouldn’t say he’s guaranteed to lose the nomination in the same sense as his father. I think that he’d be an extremely weak general election candidate, but of course the result of the election will turn mainly on factors that will develop closer to 2016.

I do think that Rand’s position within the GOP makes it less likely that Ron will run as an independent this year.  If Ron is perceived as Mitt’s spoiler, leading to an Obama victory, then the Paul name will be mud in the GOP, and Rand’s ceiling will consequently be reduced.  Then again, I could imagine things playing out differently, and at the least a Ron run would make a Mitt victory (Rand’s worst case scenario) less likely.

 

In Defense of Henry Clay?

[ 24 ] December 26, 2011 |

Quiggin:

Now that I’ve got started, what is it with the adulation of Clay, Calhoun and Webster? Sure, they were the leading figures in the US in the decades leading up to the Civil War, but isn’t that like saying that Clemenceau, Hindenburg and Chamberlain played comparable roles between 1919 and 1939?

Some thoughts, acknowledging at the start that I can see Henry Clay’s house from my front porch:

  • As Quiggin notes, there’s a big difference between Calhoun and the other two. Calhoun was a resolute, committed, principled defender of slavery. Clay was a slaveholder, but never displayed much of a political interest in defending the institution, and was never particularly identified with “slave power”. Lincoln, of course, held Clay in very high esteem.
  • I think that (outside of the state of Kentucky) Clay’s legacy has always been mixed. Failed ambition rarely seems to be held in high regard in US politics, and Clay was certainly ambitious, having effectively run for President for two and a half decades. Clay is almost universally viewed as a skilled legislator, although it’s interesting that this also seems to be a relatively rare path to canonization in American political life.
  • Clay’s most important legacy is probably the American system, which involved the Federal government in the active development of the US economy, especially in the West. Obviously this itself represents a deeply complicated legacy, both in terms of environmental impact and relations with Native Americans, but on the basic concept of government intervention in the economy Clay was certainly more correct than his opponents.
  • While I’m happy to accept Ta-Nehisi Coates argument that we ought not think of the Civil War as a tragedy, I’m not sure it follows to say that attempting to prevent the war was an ignoble endeavour. Clay understood that any war would be extremely destructive, and that the Union might not survive the conflict. Although this certainly wasn’t his intention, delaying the war surely improved the prospects for Northern victory, and for the abolition of slavery. Again, Lincoln’s esteem for Clay should carry some weight on this question.

Working through all of that, I find myself wondering how Clay managed to achieve secular sainthood in the first place. It’s not that there’s any particular stain on his record, but rather that every part of his career was mixed, and every achievement bound up in a set of debates that were complex even at the time. Canonization often requires the dismissal of complexity in favor of a simple narrative, but in the context of Clay this is impossible. Would be interested to hear from the historians on how esteem for Clay came to be.

Those Hindus and Their False Idols…

[ 51 ] November 3, 2011 |

Next Tuesday, Kentucky State Senate President David Williams is going to lose to incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear by about thirty points. Rather than accept this outcome with honor and dignity, Williams decided to “fight”:

The director of Flex Films (USA) said comments made Tuesday by GOP gubernatorial candidate David Williams were offensive and hurtful and called for the state Senate president to be “ostracized” from his own party.

Anantshree Chaturvedi and Elizabethtown officials voiced outrage following Williams’ comments criticizing Gov. Steve Beshear’s participation in the Bhoomi Poojan, a traditional Indian ground blessing ceremony performed Friday to usher in construction of the company’s manufacturing plant in the T.J. Patterson Industrial Park on Black Branch Road.

The company has estimated it will invest $180 million in the Elizabethtown plant and create 250 or more jobs in Elizabethtown after choosing Kentucky over several competing states because of the hospitality received from state officials.

During a campaign stop in Bullitt County, Williams chastised Beshear for participating in the ceremony, which called for guests to take off their shoes and sit cross-legged on white cushions. For more than an hour, participants observed the traditional Indian blessing through a haze created by burning incense and a ceremonial fire as a priest chanted Hindu prayers. At the end of the ground blessing, participants shoveled the newly blessed earth into a hole in the center of the pit.

Williams questioned Beshear’s judgment in joining the ceremony, saying it is contradictory to the values held by most Kentuckians and unbecoming of a governor who touts his upbringing as the son of a Christian minister.

Williams also equated it to idolatry, or the worship of false idols, and said he hopes those who practice Hinduism find Jesus Christ as their savior.

You may or may not know that Georgetown, Kentucky is home to TMMK, the largest Toyota factory outside of Japan. It is rumored that the Japanese may, on occasion, engage in religious practices not particularly conducive the finding of Jesus Christ as their savior. Similarly, you may or may not know that the horse industry is big in Kentucky, that a considerable amount of investment in the horse industry comes from abroad, and that some (very large) percentage of that investment comes from people who do not hold Christ in their hearts.

To be sure, I do think that a comparison with Jack Conway’s clumsy Aqua Buddha attack ad is fair to a point. In this case, however, Governor Beshear is being attacked for participating in a ceremony at the behest of foreigners who want to invest in Kentucky; the implication seems to be that a Governor Williams would put his concern for Jesus’ feelings ahead of his duty to support foreign investment and job creation.

Observation over the past six years has indicated to me that the good people of Kentucky are far, far more interested in the money and jobs brought by foreign investment than by the need to convince Jesus that he’s still number one. Toyota is enormously popular in the state, and the Arab investment in the horse industry appreciated. Both the Conway and now the Williams attack have been more embarrassing than effective.

More at Barefoot and Progressive…

Most Prominent Politicians (XV): Kentucky

[ 45 ] September 22, 2011 |

Kentucky has a very impressive set of politicians for its size. Like most southern states, it’s probably overperformed over the years, particularly as compared to many northern states.

1. Henry Clay. One of the towering politicians of pre-Civil War America. Secretary of State. Leading Whig. Believer in the power of government to improve people’s lives. 3 time presidential candidate. Unfortunately undermined by the accepting John Quincy Adams’ offer to be Secretary of State in 1825, leading to suggestions he had thrown his votes to Adams as part of a “corrupt bargain.” Architect of the Missouri Compromise and Compromise of 1850. I could go on.

2. John C. Breckinridge. One of the most loathsome figures in American history. In many ways, the opposite of Clay. Where Clay sought to keep the nation together, Breckinridge embraced its collapse after doing no small part to cause it as the Southern Democratic candidate in 1860, after the southern hardliners decided Stephen Douglas wasn’t committed enough to slavery.

3. Alben Barkley. Senate Majority Leader, 1937-47, Vice-President, 1949-53.

4. John Marshall Harlan. Supreme Court justice, 1877-1911. I can’t speak much about Harlan’s jurisprudence. But I can say that Harlan was the only Gilded Age Supreme Court justice who didn’t seek to codify racial prejudice in American law. Harlan was the only dissenter in the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy v. Ferguson, despite being a slaveholder in his younger days. He was a strong anti-imperialist and argued for the rights of colonized peoples.

5. Mitch McConnell. Senator Minority Leader, 2007-present. Very strong chance to become Senate Majority Leader in 2013. Has played a major role in polarizing the nation and stopping President Obama from getting even the most basic pieces of legislation passed.

6. Fred Vinson. Congressman, Secretary of the Treasury, Chief Justice. Helped create the International Monetary Fund. After William Douglas stayed the execution of the Rosenbergs, Vinson stepped in to make sure this was reversed.

7. John J. Crittenden. Major figure of the antebellum years. Whig powerhouse. Congressman, Senator, Governor, 2 time Attorney General (under Harrison and Fillmore). Author of the Crittenden Compromise, trying desperately to keep the nation from dissolving after Lincoln’s election.

8. Richard M. Johnson–Vice-President under Van Buren. Senator, 1819-29. An interesting figure. His open relationship with his slave, who he considered his common-law wife, led to him becoming a major political liability. Van Buren ran for re-election in 1840 with no VP candidate. Johnson tried to get back into politics, but was political poison, though he did briefly return to Congress in 1850, just before his death. During the Panic of 1837, Johnson also took a 9 month leave of absence, moving back to Kentucky to run a tavern.

9. Happy Chandler. Governor, Senator, Baseball Commissioner. It’s not that the last really should count in a political list, except that it was Chandler’s political power that made him attractive. He oversaw the integration of the game, a not insignificant achievement and was kicked out by the owners for being too pro-player, ensuring that they received a pension for instance.

10. Wendell Ford. Senator, 1974-99. Majority Whip, 1991-95. Generally not that prominent on the national front. Was more concerned with protecting Kentucky’s interest and bringing home the pork. Perhaps most notable was his diehard support for the tobacco industry.

Mitch!

[ 5 ] September 19, 2011 |

Rodger Payne highlights a contradiction between Mitch McConnell’s roles as GOP leader and US Senator from Kentucky:

Dick Cheney’s memoir apparently verifies an interesting political point from George W. Bush’s memoir. Last November, I noted that the former President claimed that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had approached him in 2006 prior to the congressional elections in order to urge withdrawal of some US troops from Iraq. This might save the Republican majority, argued the Majority Leader, even though McConnell was publicly taking the position that the US should remain in Iraq for vital security reasons. After the election, of course, Bush famously increased the US deployment in Iraq (“the surge”).

A local columnist in Louisville has identified a key passage in Cheney’s memoir that apparently confirms Bush’s account, based on the former Veep’s recollection of a July 2007 dinner he hosted (p. 462):

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walked over to me. Mitch had been one of the most concerned of the Republicans. He was up for reelection and had suggested to the president that he needed to begin a withdrawal in order to avoid massive defection of Republican senators.

I dunno; this is something I have trouble getting irritated about.  Mitch appears to have taken a different position in his capacity as high ranking member of the Republican Party than he did as Senator from Kentucky. This obviously stemmed from an a desire to defend his own status, but probably also from the conviction that continued GOP control of Congress was the best thing for his constituents (however he may have defined them).  It’s interesting, because while of course we have to highlight this sort of thing when it comes to light, the phenomenon of politicians lying to protect the health of their parties surprises exactly no one.  If Mitch had felt differently about the effect of Iraq on the 2006 election he would have been a moron instead of a liar, which is hardly more reassuring.  I suppose the ideal is that Mitch would have forthrightly and publicly broken with the President over Iraq (HAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!), but it’s not even clear that Mitch supported a drawdown on the merits of the policy, rather than on an evaluation of partisan advantage.

Parental Rant of the Day

[ 31 ] September 9, 2011 |

Chances that I would pay the faculty discount rate of $38 to watch the Kentucky Wildcats host the Central Michigan Chippewas at Commonwealth Stadium? Decent enough, until I read the following:

Q: Does my infant/toddler need a ticket for a football game?

A: Yes. All individuals, regardless of age, must have a ticket to enter Commonwealth Stadium.

Compare this to the Cincinnati Reds child policy:

Great American Ball Park offers complimentary admission to children 3 years of age and under. However, we do request that these children sit on their parents’ or guardians’ laps and not occupy additional seats. Promotional giveaway items are only available for ticketed guests. Tickets for children four years and older are priced the same as adult tickets.

Prospects for the Central Michigan game to sellout? Not so much. Damn those high player salaries for driving up ticket prices!

John C. Breckinridge

[ 20 ] August 22, 2011 |

This Disunion piece on John C. Breckinridge was somewhat more charitable than I would have been for a man who more than almost anyone embraced committing treason to defend slavery. I thought there was nothing, nothing at all that could redeem the man in my eyes. But then I saw this late life picture of the man, sporting one of the single greatest mustaches in history, a feat impressive even for the Gilded Age.

I mean, holy hell, that thing extends to his shoulders!

Looks Like a Game of Concentration…

[ 12 ] August 12, 2011 |

So, the College of Arts and Sciences at my beloved institution has decided that students require visual aids in order to find their departmental website.  On the one hand, it’s kind of cool; the department name lights up when the mouse scrolls over, etc.  On the other hand, I gotta wonder how they came up with some of the pics.  Dark Side of the Moon for Physics? Globes for both History and Environmental Science? And I’m flummoxed as to what the difference between Social Theory and Sociology is supposed to be…

 

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