By C. Josh Givens
These two announcements are the two largest economic development projects ever committed in Kentucky, and will create 7,000 skilled jobs, presumably paying generous wages.
One would think such huge projects would be celebrated all across the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and certainly they are celebrated in some circles, but don’t tell that to the cheerleaders of fossil fuels for vehicles and energy production.
Shortly after Gov. Andy Beshear and Envision AESC officials made the announcement in Frankfort on April 13, I turned to the Internet to learn more about the particulars. As with most things these days, the first place most of us start are social media pages for news organizations.
Certainly on these pages you expect some commentary from readers, but what I found on one Bowling Green page confounded me. There were several comments deriding the Envision AESC project accompanied by laughter emojis, attacks on the governor, and overall disdain for the electric vehicle industry.
The Bowling Green gigafactory will be powered by renewable energy sources to produce components for a relatively clean mode of transportation, but that elicited comments challenging renewable energy – such as solar – and plenty of comments about liberals, the sun not shining “all the time,” and laments for the coal and oil industries.
I am certainly no social scientist, but I do know how to “creep” on a social media profile, so with curiosity of what type of person would “laugh” at such a major investment in Kentucky, I was not at all surprised to see plenty of “Trump 2020/2024” profile banners, rants about corrupt elections, and just an overall sense of desire for the “good old days.”
As a journalist, I am certainly open to a difference of opinion and hearing from all sides, but I cannot understand the disregard for Kentucky’s fastest growing industry and life-changing transformations these projects potentially bring.
Kentucky ranks 36th in education, according to U.S. News & World Report, while ranking 40th in economy and 48th in fiscal stability. As well, workforce participation and education attainment in the state is abysmal, with little hope of that changing without a major commitment with state treasure and investment, which the General Assembly seems loath to do.
Yes, King Coal once ruled Kentucky, but those days are just about gone. We once produced nearly all of our power with coal-fired generating stations, but in just the past five years or so, I have reported on the shuttering of three coal-fired plants in West Kentucky. And even more will close in the coming years.
Kentucky has a long history of automobile manufacturing with Ford in Louisville, Toyota in Georgetown, and General Motors in Bowling Green. And we aren’t even talking about the ancillary manufacturers making component parts, maintaining industrial equipment, and providing other needed services.
Our aluminum industry supplies metal for body panels, so that has been a big driver in that sector, as well. Coal might have once been king, but the auto industry could very soon eclipse the overall impact of the industry in our history.
Electric vehicles are here, they are selling more quickly than ever before, and the industry will do nothing but expand over the coming decades.
Kentuckians have a choice here: either embrace this burgeoning economic shift in our state or get left on the outside looking in. The plants will be built, workers will be hired, and the economic landscape will be altered.
Kentuckians must accept that all things change, and many times those changes are for the better and transform our lives in exciting ways.
And no amount of laughter, vitriol or putting your head in the sand is going to stop that.
Back in December, as our longtime features editor, Faye Dasen, was cleaning out her desk ahead of her retirement, she came upon a typed speech that former Pilot owner, publisher and editor Sam Ragan had given.
Clues in the speech indicate he may have delivered it on a college campus, since he notes having been “a participant and observer of American journalism for more than 50 years (beginning here on this campus.)”
The speech was titled “The Role of a Newspaper.” Faye, who began her own almost 30-year career at The Pilot as Mr. Ragan’s assistant, held on to it for all those years and, in her final work days, bequeathed it to me. It sat on the corner of my desk for three months, until I picked it up the other day and read through it again.
As I read through the short speech — it’s just three pages, typed with generous margins — the thoughts began resonating with me even more.
Mr. Ragan, who owned The Pilot from 1968 until shortly before his death in 1996, was more than a mere “participant” and “observer” in American journalism, but that was about all his Southern humility would allow. He was an astute man of letters and a generous chronicler of the small-town experience and sensibility. But he also had a hard-nosed news perspective and was an avowed advocate of the truth and delivering the facts as they are, not as others might wish.
“Many good newspapers bear the stamp of their editor and publisher,” Ragan wrote in this speech Faye passed on, “and some of them sum up their philosophies with statements on their editorial pages.
“In the News and Observer, for instance, there are these words from the last will and testament of Josephus Daniels, editor and publisher from 1894 to 1948: ‘I wish always to be ‘the tocsin’ and to devote itself to the policies of equality and justice to the underprivileged.’
“In 1941, when novelist and poet James Boyd bought The Pilot he wrote: ‘We will try to keep this a good paper…Wherever there seems to be an occasion to use our influence for the public good, we will try to do it. And we will treat everybody alike.’
“I like both of those statements and a few years ago when I appeared on the old NBC Today show, I quoted them, and I also said that if you are on the side of humanity and the humane, you won’t go wrong.”
Much has changed in all the intervening years since Mr. Ragan delivered those words, but the sentiments and the power of those thoughts ring true, whether addressing local matters or global.
We remain engaged today in a battle between information and misinformation, competing agendas that contort some facts, embellish others and ignore still others.
As Mr. Ragan put it, “I believe in complete news coverage of a community, and there should be no censorship. Josephus Daniels once said of the News & Observer: ‘If the good Lord lets it happen, I’m not ashamed to print it.’
“Every editor has his own standards, of course, and I believe objectivity is at the heart of those standards.”
We live in an age, increasingly, where some resources that claim to uphold the mantle of journalism practice not objectivity so much as advocacy, a belief that the truth is what they deem it to be. These are people who see the world as black and white, rather than the gradations of gray that it really is.
“We may be wrong in this old-fashioned belief,” Mr. Ragan wrote in his speech, “but the idea of not teaching information startles us. We had become aware that many young graduates of universities were unaware of certain facts we long ago had taken for granted, but we did not know that teaching facts is, in some parts of the academic world, a forbidden subject.
“A true newspaperman is taught and learns by experience that it is his duty to objectively inform people of facts to the best of his ability.
“The whole basis of our democratic society is that an informed people can be depended upon to make the right decisions about their lives. We would like to continue to believe this.
“We also believe, as did Thoreau, that one should ‘never ignore a fact, it may flower into a truth.”
If you are of a conservative mind and see this as an indictment of “wokeness” — or if you are of a progressive leaning and read into these words an indictment of cancel culture — you are both right.
The objective truth does not fall neatly into one camp or another, Mr. Ragan told us all those years ago. If you are following someone who espouses otherwise, I have a copy of a speech I’m happy to share with you anytime.
Hedge funds and other private-equity firms degrade local journalism, but may have kept some newspapers from dying
|Chart by The Economist|
Director and Professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky
The conventional wisdom about hedge funds and other private-equity companies buying newspapers is that they're bad for journalism. But might they also be good for papers, by keeping them afloat?
So argues some research in progress at the California Institute of Technology and New York University, and reported by The Economist, which states flatly, "Private equity is keeping newspapers in business." That's based on the researchers' analysis of papers that have been bought by private-equity firms compared with those that were not. "They found that newspapers that were bought were 75% less likely to shut down. Daily papers were also 60% less likely to become weekly publications."
The paper is still in progress, so it's not published, much less finished with the peer-review process of an academic journal. The researchers and reviewers might want to consider other reasons that papers bought with private equity would be less likely to close, such as a stronger cash flow, which made them more attractive than weaker papers to private equity. As for conversion to weekly, there could be a similar reason, that the papers in smaller markets are less attractive to private equity.
The authors should have considered those factors, said Northwestern University Visiting Professor Penny Abernathy, who has done the most comprehensive studies of newspaper ownership and trends. She told me in an email:
"Like several of scholarly papers I’ve reviewed over the past two years , this one cited misses the mark because of a failure by the authors to adequately consider the underlying factors that you mention, plus it uses a different methodology for assessing the strength of a newspaper than the ones used by most scholars.
"First, simply because a newspaper is still publishing doesn’t mean it is serving its community well. Extensive research at Duke, U. Va, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and other institutions has documented the severe decline in the quantity of local news published in surviving local newspapers over the past 15 years. That, in turn, affects everything from voter participation to corruption and high taxes paid by residents in those communities. I refer to newsrooms that are so depleted that the reporters don’t have the ability to cover those “critical information needs” (as the FCC defines them) as “ghost newspapers.” Phil Napoli documented in 2018 that roughly 1/5 of the mid-sized communities he studied over a period of a week in 2016 did not have a single locally produced story. And there is numerous research from a variety of scholars and journalists over the past two years that document the effect of the loss of newspapers and news coverage on communities – i.e. declining voter participation, etc.
"Second, what is the definition of a newspaper? Is it a standalone newspaper – or has it been merged with another newspaper and become merely a zoned edition of another paper. Both Alden [Global Capital] and Gatehouse have extensively merged smaller newspapers with one another and with a larger paper. As a result, when we do our annual survey, we often find between two, three or even more newspapers published under separate banners, but carrying identical “local” news stories – even though they may be located miles apart or in different counties.
"Third, the communities most likely to lose a newspaper (i.e. the ones that can’t find a buyer) , are those that are in economically struggling areas. The demographics of a community (household income, population growth, poverty rates) is a major factor in determining whether a newspaper owner/publisher can construct a for-profit business model. Most the closures by large PE/Hedge funds occurred in 2010-2015. Today, when they have an under-performing newspapers, they either merge it with another (still keeping the name of the newspaper alive – see item 2) or sell it to another chain.
"Fourth, how are these scholars defining “private equity”? Are they including the large private regional chains (Adams, Paxton, Ogden, Hearst), as well as the large national chains (Gatehouse, Alden, Civitas, CNHI)? The large national chains have a very different focus and management philosophy. As I have pointed out in all my reports, dating back to 2016, the family-owned chains tend to have journalistic roots and mission (balanced with shareholder return), whereas the large national chains are solely focused on shareholder return. The large private regional family-owned chains tend to have tended to have many fewer closures.
"Fifth, the trend toward weekly (3 times a week or less)
print publication has been going on for a decade – and has accelerated, among
independents, as well as those owned by chains, over the past two years. How a
daily newspaper manages that transition for both readers and advertisers
determines the long-term sustainability of the daily to weekly model for
individual newspapers. Currently, there is simply not enough advertising
in even large cities to support producing and distributing a print edition more
than two to three times a week."
The Economist reports, "The authors caution that they cannot estimate the general causal effect of private-equity buy-outs, but only the effect on the newspapers in their sample. Private-equity firms do not purchase newspapers randomly. They target failing newsrooms with potential for turnaround; papers with low circulation but high advertising rates were more likely to be bought, they found."
What seems more certain is that the researchers have latched onto a very worthwhile topic and are rendering some useful facts, as described by The Economist: "After private-equity buy-outs, papers laid off reporters and editors. Across a sample of 766 American newspapers (accounting for around 45% of total circulation), the researchers found that payrolls were about 7% lower at papers with new private-equity capital than if they had not been bought out. They also found a 16.7% relative decline in the number of articles written within five years of the buy-outs (though, admittedly, that is better than going out of business). And they identified a change in focus from local to national news: the share of articles on local politics dropped by about a tenth."So, private equity appears to be bad for local journalism, which is in trouble not just because newspapers are in trouble but because Americans have become less interested in local news and more interested in national news in the era of social media that make geography less meaningful, and at a time where the intensity of national politics is having deleterious effects at the local level.
"Local reporting is expensive, because it requires journalists on the ground and cannot be syndicated," The Economist notes. "In a study published last year, researchers at Colorado State University, Louisiana State University and Texas A&M University concluded that when readers consume national news their views become more polarized. Poor local coverage is also associated with less competitive mayoral elections, and newsroom staff shortages are linked to lower voter turnout."
CNN in Myanmar: naïve, nothing new, risky to locals, self-congratulatory; local and regional reports are more reliable
|Myanmar (Wikipedia map)|
At the end of March, a CNN television crew flew in to Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, also known as Burma, where hundreds of civilians protesting an army coup have been killed, driven out of their homes and jailed.
The CNN visit, led by chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward, was approved in advance and tightly controlled by Myanmar’s junta, which on Feb. 1 overturned the November 2020 general election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Army chiefs figured a well-regulated media event would dampen growing international criticism, and the junta reportedly hired Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe, to arrange it.
Wherever Ward’s team were allowed to go, they were accompanied by truckloads of armed soldiers and personal minders, who took notes and photographed local people reacting to the foreign journalists. Several Burmese banged pots and pans from their windows, and a few women, holding up the three-fingered salute of protest, came out and talked to Ward. (Ward said that CNN did not seek out activists, and were approached spontaneously.)
As soon as CNN left a neighborhood, security forces detained the women who had talked to Ward, hauling them off to a military interrogation center. Families spent anguished hours fearing the worst, which in Myanmar is never far away. Eleven detainees eventually were released. Their families have declined to give details, anticipating further retaliation. A military spokesman said he regretted the arrests, but security forces had thought the women would start another street protest.
CNN had become the story. CNN anchors repeatedly stated that events on the ground were carefully monitored. Ward did not sugarcoat that, and described the arrest of Burmese she talked to as “a very distressing incident”. Live on air, she also reported that hundreds of civilians, including dozens of children, have been shot dead by soldiers.
With that business out of the way, CNN anchors got to what was important. John Berman and Alisyn Camerota wrapped up an Apr. 5 Q & A with this:
BERMAN: Clarissa Ward, we are lucky to have you there. The world is lucky to have you there so we get a window as to what is happening. Please stay safe, you and your team. Thank you for being there.
You're going to be back live on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 eastern time here in the United States. Appreciate it.
Remarkable, as always.
CAMEROTA: Incredible -- I mean, getting that exclusive. That's the first time that we are seeing that and hearing that because she's there on the ground.
BERMAN: And to have the military around her all the time.
The oleaginous self-praise for “getting that exclusive” (which more accurately would be credited to the junta and its paid lobbyist) is standard preening for CNN, but Camerota dropped a real clanger with “That's the first time that we are seeing that and hearing that because she’s there on the ground.” Camerota may have missed the weeks of graphic video and photos Myanmar journalists have been filing on their own news platforms and to international agencies.
It’s hard to gauge public reaction in Myanmar to the CNN fly-in, but some did tweet that every bit of international coverage helps call attention to the atrocities and makes Myanmar people feel less alone.
Some observers, though, didn’t feel as lucky to have CNN’s star reporter in town.
“It’s 2021, and we’re still parachuting celebrity white journalists into hotspots to report from these ‘far-flung’ places,” Alan Soon, a journalist and analyst in Singapore, posted on Twitter. (His comments were picked up by Vice.com and other outlets.) “CNN, if you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of great journalists in Yangon itself who have a far deeper understanding of what’s going on than someone based in London.”
Soon refreshingly described foreign-correspondent-centered reporting as an “old construct.” He and others, such as multimedia journalist Namgay Zam in Bhutan, continue to plead for an end “parachute journalism.”
Less turbulent situations may remain suitable for the old news model. But not stories where the presence of a foreign news crew endangers the people whose abuse they’ve come to report, and who know the story inside out. Technology has evolved too. Data and high-resolution video are transmitted any number of ways, which evolve as fast as autocrats try to squash them. Local women and men across Myanmar have been reporting the conflict for years to Reuters, The AP, The New York Times, AFP, and agencies from Europe, Japan and elsewhere in Asia. They seldom get public recognition for their work, which is fine with them: getting the story out is all that matters.
Controversy over CNN’s brief visit barely made the news in the U.S. But now a number of factual and ethical points need to be cleared up, mainly the details of CNN’s arrangement with the Myanmar junta and using the lobbyist Ben-Menashe in the first place. (CNN has said they were assured they would be able to move around and report freely. It’s an assurance that no one familiar with Myanmar would have bought.) Alan Soon and Sanne Breimer put the ethical questions together in a petition on Change.org.
In recent weeks, more than 700 civilians have been killed by the Myanmar security forces, and thousands more wounded. Dozens of local reporters and photographers have been beaten up and jailed.
When bigfoot foreign news coverage is sure to endanger people under a regime as brutal as Myanmar’s, and when that coverage, like CNN’s this month, adds nothing new to the story, there’s a better way to do it. International understanding, democracy and human rights will be best served by supporting and publishing the work of local reporters, photographers and hard-pressed agencies, who operate under battlefield conditions at great risk to themselves and their families. That’s conflict journalism at its best.
For coverage of Myanmar and Southeast Asia, here are a few organizations to bookmark: Myanmar Now; Frontier Myanmar; Mizzima; The Irrawaddy; and Radio Free Asia. RFA is not a local news organization. It’s funded by an annual grant from the United States Agency for Global Media, an independent U.S. agency, the RFA web site says. Its contributors are local journalists across Asia.
Philip C. Winslow has reported for more than forty years from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. He worked for the Christian Science Monitor, ABC News radio, CTV News (Canadian), CBC radio, Maclean’s magazine, and the Toronto Star. He’s based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Al Smith was Kentucky's ‘poet laureate of public policy’
By Mark Neikirk
There came a night on KET’s “Comment on Kentucky” when Al Smith, the great and gracious host, decided to embarrass me a little. Or maybe he just wanted to broaden my horizons, which is something he also liked to do. Not just for me. For everyone.
The name of Thomas D. Clark, the revered historian, had come up – as it did often on “Comment.” Al was a journalist with a sense of history. Since his beat was Kentucky, Al had a particular interest in Kentucky history, and Tom Clark, who was at the time 98 or so, had been writing that history since 1937.
“Dr. Clark,” Al told his viewers, “invited Neikirk to go to Estill County with him, and Neikirk hasn’t bothered to call.” I was on “Comment” by virtue of my role as managing editor of The Kentucky Post, the now defunct newspaper serving Northern Kentucky. You could not live in a more urban place and still be in Kentucky. But Al knew my family was from Estill County, because Al took the time to know the family backgrounds of anyone with whom he associated.
Professor Clark, on a visit to Covington, told me of some mountain land he owned in Estill County and invited me to hike it with him. I said I would, but my answer was perfunctory. Dr. Clark was fit for 98 but still 98. Now, on live television, Al had cornered me into a commitment. Dr. Clark was probably watching. Everyone in Kentucky was. In fact, if someone tells you they are a Kentuckian but didn’t watch Al Smith on “Comment” at 8 p.m. on Friday night, check their credentials.
Soon enough, I was walking beside Dr. Clark, an extraordinary teacher who brought the woods to life with the history they held. He pointed toward a bend in Station Camp Creek and told me it was where Boone’s son was killed by an indigenous raiding party that wanted the white hunters’ stash of hides. “Right there?” I asked, stunned to think that an iconic moment of Kentucky history had played out on a creek I’d paddled countless times as a boy. How did I not know this? “Within a gunshot of there,” Dr. Clark answered, using a beautifully quaint and accurate measure of distance.
The gift of getting to know Tom Clark, and hiking in Estill County with him – we went back several times – was a gift to me from Al Smith. It was the sort of gift Al gave to everyone, including scores of us in journalism whom he mentored but also to his loyal viewers. His gift was to teach us to appreciate our family histories but also our state’s history and to see current events through the lens of both. Public policy, at least good public policy, is informed by our understanding of families, our own and each other’s. It is informed by, too, but a firm grasp of history.
Journalism is, at a minimum, a calling to cover public policy. How’s it made. The pros. The cons. The players. It’s often like covering sports. Winners. Losers. The next game.
Al dedicated his every waking hour to journalism’s higher calling. That is, to guiding a community, a state or a nation toward public policy that serves the common good. He had no hobbies. He went to a gym, but probably so he could discourse with the person on the next treadmill over. Al loved an audience. His idea of a good time was a four-hour breakfast at Panera’s with a couple of people dissecting some issue and how to solve it. The Al you saw on TV was the same Al who settled back with coffee for a long chat on oral health for the poor or preschool funding for all.
Al Smith was Kentucky’s poet laureate of public policy. By his marshaling words, whether in print or broadcast, he guided his adopted state (like Tom Clark, Al Smith arrived here from elsewhere, Tom from Mississippi, Al from Florida by way of Louisiana and Tennessee) toward a better Commonwealth.
Al knew that I would enjoy Tom Clark’s company, but he also knew I would be better at reporting on Kentucky public affairs if I fell under Tom Clark’s spell, if I read what Tom told me to read, if I thought about current events in the context of history.
And by the way, 98-year-old Tom Clark, walking stick in hand, did just fine walking those mountains. So did 99-year-old Tom Clark. He slowed a little after 100 and died a couple of weeks short of his 102nd birthday.
Al made it to 94, dying just before 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 19. Weak and weightless from the ravages of an illness, he went quietly to what he called a month earlier during a last conversation with some of his mentees, his pending “parting.” On his final day, a neighbor came by to say a prayer, and Al – always ready to talk – moved those noble lips to say a few words himself. He could not.
And with that, he left Kentucky, and his example of how to love it, to us.
Make America Great?
Trump's thugs wanted to destroy America, to undermine democracy by interfering with Congress' action to accept the Electoral College votes naming Joe Biden as president.
The rioters claimed to be "patriots," but there was nothing patriotic about what they did or wanted to do, which was to overturn a valid election with violence.
Protesting is one thing — I'm all for protesting — but violently storming the main symbol of American democracy isn't protesting, it's sedition and treason.
The MAGA brigade didn't go to Washington to make America great, they went to destroy it.
Which means that every single person who stormed the Capitol is a traitor.
And nobody — nobody — should have been surprised that it happened.
Over the last four years, Trump has purposefully polarized the nation, demonized his political opponents as "enemies of the people," spewed lies and unfounded conspiracies, praised white-power racists, and cultivated support from the violent fringes of the far-right. He weaponized social media as a bullhorn to inflame the passions and emotions among his followers with propaganda and lies.
Where else did anyone think all that heated rhetoric would end, except with violence?
In defeat, Trump was never going to leave office without laying waste to everything around him. If that means burning it all down, destroying the nation, he doesn't care. He never cared.
America has always had political tensions. But America has never had a president — until now — who purposefully threw gasoline on the embers of hatred then fanned the flames every single day with a spewing of lies and distortions.
Trump created Jan. 6, 2021.
He and his appeasers have repeatedly lied that the election was stolen from him.
He called on people to go to Washington on Jan. 6 to protest his election loss.
He riled up the crowd with a speech just before they marched down the street and stormed the Capitol building.
He didn't have the courage to march with the crowd, but his bloody fingerprints are all over the Capitol. He cheered them on and was gleeful as they broke into the building.
Like all demagogues, Trump only cares about himself, his ego, his ambition.
He was never going to go quietly, with dignity, or with respect for America and its tradition of democratic values.
He's made that clear every day since his defeat on Nov. 3.
It should have been obvious to those protecting the Capitol on Jan. 6. The failure to protect the Capitol from MAGA rioters was the result of willful ignorance.
But Trump isn't the only one to blame for the rioting.
Everyone who turned a blind eye to his lack of character and erratic behavior also shares the blame for Jan. 6.
Every Congressman and Senator who excused Trump's excesses, deflected his narcissism and kissed his ring over the last four years is to blame. That includes our own Rep. Doug Collins, one of Trump's chief defenders in Congress.
Every so-called "evangelical" preacher who stood in a pulpit praising the amoral Trump and demonizing his political opponents is to blame.
Every person who went on social media to spread Trump's lies and conspiracies is to blame.
Every Republican Party leader who embraced Trump as one of their own despite his anti-Republican values is to blame.
Trump burned the house down, but he had a lot of help spreading the gasoline around.
But the burning of a house also throws embers far and wide and the destruction spreads.
For one, the Republican Party is in shambles following Jan. 6 and four years of Trumpism.
Once a proud party of conservative American values, it is now the party of cultism, lies, crazy conspiracies and nihilism. Moderate Republicans are in hiding, embarrassed that their party is now defined by ignorance and violence.
And Republicans are, for now, broken. At the same time Trump's Republicans were smashing windows at the nation's Capitol, Georgia elected its first black Senator and first Jewish U.S. Senator, both Democrats.
That result is due to Trump, who assailed state Republican leaders who refused to throw out legitimate election results and give him the state's electoral college votes by fiat.
Trump's own actions led to the defeat of the state's two Republican candidates in that election. He divided the state GOP and gave life to Democrats, who turned out in droves to give their party control of the Senate.
Trump lost Georgia twice, first on Nov. 3 and again on Jan. 6.
Sherman burned Georgia in 1865; Trump did it again in 2020.
That Civil War analogy isn't too far off, either. America is in another domestic conflict today, one that has a different battlefield and uses different weapons, but a civil war none-the-less.
Today, the battlefield is social media and the weapons are propaganda and conspiracies.
Trump has proven to be a master of propaganda. He tells a lie so big and so often that a lot of people start to believe it. He magnifies the lies via social media, sites that only now, when it's too late, have begun to strip him of access.
It was a lie that motivated the MAGA thugs in Washington D.C. last week, the lie that multiple states had worked to "steal" the election from Trump.
Trump endorsed the lie, promoted the lie, spread the lie and encouraged his cult followers to act on the lie.
But nobody stole the election from Trump. The voting was not rigged. There is zero evidence — zero — to back up his claim.
No matter, in the social media world, any lie is magnified as being greater than the truth. There are few filters. Ignorance runs amuck on social media.
That's especially true after Trump spent the last four years demonizing legitimate news sources as being "enemies of the people." He worked to discredit truth and reality so he could spread fiction and fantasy.
In Trump's world, those of us who care about facts and truth are the "enemy," the lie from Big Brother is your friend.
It may be 2021, but Trump lived the playbook of Orwell's 1984.
If there is any saving grace to come from Jan. 6, it is that Trump's lies and their consequences were laid bare for the world to see.
Some might claim that Trump supporters weren't the problem, but they clearly were. It wasn't Antifa. It wasn't BLM. It wasn't socialists.
Trump did that. His supporters did that. His enablers did that.
There can be no denial, no equivocation, no doubts. We all saw it.
At least now the world sees clearly what Trumpism is really all about. Trumpism can no longer wrap itself in the American flag, or falsely lay claim to be about American values.
Trumpism is anti-democratic, anti-freedom, anti-American. It is populist bunk.
And the violence may not be over.
The FBI warned this week that right-wing groups supporting Trump are attempting to organize protests, perhaps with violence, in every state and again in Washington D.C. leading up to inauguration day on Jan. 20.
This is the world that Trump has created, a nation divided, a nation on edge, a banana republic.
It's small consolation, but Trump's legacy, whatever it might have been, now lies in tatters on the side of the road.
As he slinks out of town, Trump leaves behind a graffiti of lies and hatred painted across our national landscape.
May God give us the light of truth to cleanse the ugliness of what he wrought.
By Chris Perry, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives president and CEO
Washington politics have become so polarized that it can be tough for Democrats and Republicans to come together to tackle big challenges. But that’s exactly what happened recently on Capitol Hill thanks to dedicated Kentucky lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressmen John Yarmuth, Hal Rogers, Brett Guthrie, James Comer and Andy Barr.
These legislators hail from different parts of the commonwealth and represent different political parties and ideologies. But each of them listened to the concerns of electric cooperative stakeholders who spoke up about a critical need for America’s rural communities. The 2020 spending bill signed into law last week included a provision known as the RURAL Act, which solved an existential issue for electric co-ops.
As we explained to Kentucky’s congressional delegation, electric co-ops work to secure government grants to help pay for numerous activities that benefit the communities they serve. These include grants for storm recovery, renewable energy and economic development.
Without the passage of the RURAL Act, if Kentucky co-ops faced another weather disaster like the 2009 ice storm, federal disaster aid could have jeopardized their tax-exempt status. Co-ops are not-for-profit utilities that rely on this business model to be able to serve their rural communities.
In order to maintain their tax-exempt status, co-ops can receive no more than 15 percent of their income from non-member sources. Historically, government grants to co-ops were counted as contributions to capital. But due to a glitch in the 2017 tax law, government grants were reclassified as income, pushing some co-ops beyond the 15 percent threshold and jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.
The tax problem left co-ops with an unfair choice: do they accept the federal aid they need to turn the lights back on for their members as quickly as possible after a disaster? Or do they turn down those grants so they wouldn’t have to spend their members’ money paying taxes rather than improving service?
Thanks to our elected leaders, electric co-ops across Kentucky don’t have to make those tradeoffs. When we raised these concerns, they listened and took the time to understand the consequences of this issue. This is good news for both co-ops and their members because some co-ops would have had to raise their electric rates to pay new taxes.
In standing up for Kentucky’s local communities, these lawmakers proved that Congress still works for the people. Notably, the legislation drew the bipartisan support of more than 300 representatives in the House and more than half of the Senate before it was passed. That’s a rarity in Washington these days.
In today’s fast-paced society, pausing to give thanks is done with increasing rarity. That’s unfortunate.
Thank you, Senator McConnell, and Representatives Barr, Comer, Guthrie, Rogers and Yarmuth. Thank you for looking out for rural communities across Kentucky and thank you for working with us to solve this problem.
Humility is recipe for peaceful Thanksgiving conversations
Commonwealth Policy Center, Cadiz, Ky.
Our homes will soon be filled with the aroma of roast turkey wafting through the kitchen and dinner tables decked with mounds of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and other holiday favorites that please our Thanksgiving palates. It's my favorite holiday, untainted by the commercialism that has tarnished Christmas, centered around good food, family gatherings, and giving thanks to the Creator—the giver of all good gifts.
Yet, for many it will be uncomfortable as family members of differing political persuasions brace themselves for uncomfortable conversations. The impeachment hearings, climate change, and 2020 presidential candidates are topics in the back of everyone's mind, but few are willing to discuss, (especially when those discussions have ended poorly in the past). Insulating ourselves and our thoughts on important, even controversial subjects, may avoid tough conversations, but hardly garners understanding that brings us closer to our families and loved ones.
Consider what we celebrate. Thanksgiving is a season of contemplation and gratefulness. When this grips our hearts there's not a lot of room for rancor around the dinner table. It may seem counter-intuitive, but in order to avoid strife, why not center the conversation around God, His goodness, and His provision?
Of course, it's much easier to keep God out of it and stay within our figurative political tribe so we can beat the drum of discontent, speculate on the latest conspiracy theories, and plan for political dominance over our enemies. But really? This will only leave you with heartburn and a bottle of Tums in hand.
So how do we rise above our unhealthy tribalism that's reduced us to the sum of our political opinions? Start with recognizing that the crazy Republican or discontented Democrat sitting next to you is first and foremost a person endowed with dignity by the Creator. They're a person made in God's image. Believing this tempers your opinions with great humility, which drives away arrogance in a heartbeat.
Realize that your opinions aren't everything. If you're around long enough you'll find that they change over time. Gasp! You might even be wrong! Cast away unhealthy suspicions and build your conversation upon goodwill and charity toward opponents, even if they're sitting right next to you. Especially if they're sitting right next to you.
Adopt an attitude of gratefulness. It drives away discontent. We may be creatures with different experiences, persuasions, and markedly differing political opinions but we are creatures made to live in community. We need each other and we need to figure out how to dialogue with one another civilly and respectfully.
This means we ought to listen carefully. Not simply thinking about the logical flaws or how to dismantle Uncle Bob's political theories. But try to understand their life experiences and worldview. Doing these things may help us to recapture the lost art of conversation.
I have to imagine the Pilgrims did this four centuries ago. They literally joined with a different tribe of very different beliefs and customs and yet spent time to celebrate and give thanks.
Imagine if the Pilgrims of 1621 blamed God for a harrowing trip across the Atlantic—a trip that landed them off course in a harsher climate that resulted in half their number dying that first winter. They could have blamed their leaders for poor planning and lack of provisions, but they didn't give in to the temptation. Instead of arguing amongst themselves, the Pilgrims gave thanks.
Records show that some 90 Wampanoag Indians and 53 Pilgrims hunted, played games, and enjoyed a three-day feast in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest and life in a new world. They thanked God for his goodness.
In a letter to a friend in England, Edwin Winslow wrote about that Thanksgiving “And God be praised we had a good increase… Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors…And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
The Pilgrims modeled gratitude. Despite the severe hardships in their first year, they found many reasons to thank God. May we find within our hearts to do the same and may it begin with charity toward those of another tribe sitting around our table this Thursday.
Ken Ward Jr., award-winning West Virginia change agent, tells University of Kentucky journalism class his ethics and values
|Ken Ward Jr.|
Gentrification comes to Christoval, Texas, population 500
Christoval, Texas, population 500, sold for $329,500 after four days on the market, she knew it was news. Here's her column from The Canadian Record, a Texas weekly that doesn't put news online, except in a PDF for subscribers:
Dr. Robert McGaughey, who led Murray State University's accredited journalism program for 23 years, dies at 76
By David B. Snow, The Paducah Sun
Dr. Bob McGaughey never met a stranger. He was a man totally without pretense, known simply as "Doc," quick to share both his sense of humor and passion for service to Murray State University. Robert McGaughey III died Friday in Louisville at the age of 76 following a short illness.
McGaughey was the professor emeritus and retired chair of the Murray State University Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, joining the faculty in 1969 and becoming the department chair in 1974. He retired in 1997 but remained as a semi-retired instructor before fully retiring in 2010. During his tenure as department chair, the department expanded majors and received accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.
|Robert McGaughey, Ph.D.|
"He was just so caring," said Sandra Wilson, president of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce, Paducah city commissioner and one McGaughey's former students. "I had changed majors my junior year (from business to journalism), and toward the end of my junior year, I remember standing out in the lobby of his office and him turning to me and saying ... 'If you can just apply yourself, you can do some great things,' and I took it to heart. If I had a question, I called him. We just always had a close relationship, and I know I'm not alone."
McGaughey is often remembered as half of the popular "Dr. Trey and Dr. Vee" comedy team, paired for 40 years with senior instructor of communication Robert Valentine. "I spent a lot of time with him, and I always looked at him as the older brother I never had," Valentine said, "and he acted like an older brother, with advice and support and encouragement and criticism and guidance -- but I think he would share that with a number of people."
The "Dr. Trey and Dr. Vee Show" began in 1978 and was the product of their similar taste in comedy -- namely the works of comedians like George Burns, W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Rowan and Martin, Bob and Ray and others.
"We worked in the same building (in the 1970s), and Doc and I knew each other enough to say 'Hello,'" Valentine said. "We were at a social event during the great blizzard of '77 or '78, and we started telling jokes, and it turns out that we remembered the same jokes and we had the same taste in humor. "We knew those old bits, and we knew them so well that we could start one of those old routines and the other fellow would take another part, and it was almost as though we had rehearsed the lines, although Doc never did want to rehearse anything."
The popularity of their "act" caught on, and performances on stage, in classrooms and almost anywhere the two were seen together soon followed. "We always did try to teach somebody something about communication," Valentine said. "It always came down to that -- human understanding and communication -- as very important things in our society, in business, in education and in life."
Valentine said one story McGaughey liked to tell was when they were entertaining a farmers' cooperative in the late 1970s. "It was kind of a tough time in the economy, and the farmers were used to getting together in early December for their annual meeting, when they heard how the co-op did financially," Valentine said. "The fact of the matter is that was not a very good year." Before the two could provide a laugh, the report was announced saying, not only would the co-op not get a big check, but it had gone a quarter-million dollars in the hole.
"Our objective was to make these people laugh at a time in their lives when they don't want to laugh, but laughter is what they needed," Valentine said. Valentine said there was one tough-looking man in the front row who did not smile throughout the performance, although everyone else was laughing. "We pulled out all the stops and when we got done, we got a very nice round of applause," he said. "We were very satisfied, but that guy never cracked a smile." As they were packing up, McGaughey looked past Valentine and said, "Bob, he's coming." Sure enough, the man who didn't smile approached the two, reached out his hand and said, "Thank you, boys. We needed that. I never laughed so hard in my life."
"Doc loved to tell that story ...," Valentine said. "The image of that guy never smiling but never having laughed so hard in his life was kind of a funny thing. "But I think Doc always liked that because that's what he set out to do. When people needed to laugh..., he wanted to be the source of the laughter."
A part of the MSU Reserve Officers Training Corps, McGaughey spent two years of active duty in the Army, including a tour of Vietnam before returning to the States to take up teaching. He made more than 40 presentations at national conferences of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, the Broadcast Education Association, College Media Advisers of the Associated Collegiate Press Association and Public Relations Society of America.
McGaughey received several recognitions and awards for his work at Murray State. In 1984, he was named Max Carmen Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the Student Government Association and was named Distinguished Professor of the Year by the Murray State Alumni Association in 1990.
Active as an adviser to student organizations and media organizations, he received several recognitions from groups such as the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, including the Pi Kappa Alpha Distinguished Alum in 1977, the Omicron Delta Kappa Advisor of the Year and the Kentucky Press Association Distinguished Service Award in 1989.
McGaughey served for 10 years as executive director of the West Kentucky Press Association and two terms as education representative on the KPA board of directors. In 2012, he was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.
McGaughey was a co-head of MSU's Elizabeth Residential College from 2000 to 2002 and continued to serve on the faculty of Elizabeth College, presenting his last program there last March. "Dr. McGaughey ... was a great man who impacted many both within and outside of Murray State University," said MSU President Bob Jackson. "Murray State is truly a student-centered institution, and Doc's ability to support countless students -- whether that be in the role of a professor, mentor, advisor or friend -- was constant, and was felt by many over the years."
Visitation will be held from 4-8 p.m. Wednesday at J.H. Churchill Funeral Home in Murray. The funeral service will be held at Lovett Auditorium on the MSU campus at 11 a.m. Thursday with burial to follow at 2:30 p.m. at Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville.
(Photo by Georgiana Vines,
By Curtis Seltzer
BLUE GRASS, Va.—Early spring is a waiting time.
Here in Blue Grass we’ve been waiting for wind to stop blowing, rain to stop falling and cold to stop chilling.
We’re also waiting for a little more light and a little less night.
We’ve successfully waited for the grass to start growing and the trees to start leafing.
You can’t hurry many kinds of waiting.
As we get older, most of us realize that problems and situations resolve themselves sooner or later. But the waiting that occurs before then can test our mettle.
Patience is less a virtue than a requirement.
Resolutions following a wait are not necessarily the happy endings we want. Waiting out a bad prognosis can be harder than dealing with the final outcome.
Americans are waiting for things to shape up.
We’re waiting for the results of an election that pits two broadly disliked and unlikable candidates against each other.
Neither appears to have the centeredness of character to lead anybody anywhere.
Each changes positions as the political weather vane turns. Hillary Clinton can turn on a time. Donald Trump can turn on a spot of spit.
Who are these two people?
Clinton appears to have lost the ability to tell the truth about her actions when it would disadvantage her.
Trump tells his version of the truth regardless of whether any evidence supports it.
Clinton is hiding whatever agenda she has by metastasizing into positions that she once rejected. In the Democratic Party’s game of political hopscotch, she’s now landed in every numbered square at the same time.
Trump is obfuscating his policy plans -- assuming he has some -- by being inarticulate, unresponsive, inconsistent and teasingly hazy. He has raised hide-the-ball politics to a form of abstract art.
I don’t mind politicians changing positions on issues as more knowledge is gained or circumstances change. That’s a reasonable adaptation.
I don’t even mind politicians changing their policies to appeal to more voters to get elected.
I do mind politicians reneging on their personal promises to the people who elect them.
My congressman, Bob Goodlatte, was elected in 1992 on his oft-stated pledge that he would serve no more than six two-year terms. Twelve years after passing his promised deadline, he’s still occupying the office that he promised to leave. I’m waiting for Bob Goodlatte to fulfill his promise.
With both Clinton and Trump, I get the feeling that all promises will be kept -- out of sight and out of mind upon taking office.
Hillary Clinton is among the brightest individuals our country has. But, as Bernie Sanders has noted, she lacks good judgment. On big things, she gets it wrong.
The 1993 health-care reform that Clinton led was supposed to be a plan for universal care. It ended up far short—a proposal that required all employers to provide insurance to their employees. It was so complex that it was easily defeated by its opponents and abandoned by its supporters.
If that’s an example of her pragmatic ability to get things done, then we can expect that none of her proposals will get anywhere with Congress unless Clinton loyalists take control of both houses.
To add to her self-vaunted, pragmatic ability to get things done, when Clinton was asked in an October CNN debate which enemy she was most proud of making, she said that “…in addition to the NRA, the drug companies, the insurance companies, the Iranians, um, probably the Republicans.” Subsequently, she revised this statement to say that she would try to find “common ground” with Republicans. Poor judgment.
The single biggest foreign-policy issue during Clinton’s two Senate terms was authorization for the Iraq War. Clinton ran with the stampede. Poor judgment.
When the financial crisis tanked the American economy in 2008 during her last year in office, Clinton was largely invisible. She missed the Senate vote on the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 that provided tax rebates to low- and middle-income taxpayers, established tax incentives for business investment and expanded the ability of government enterprises to buy mortgages.
She voted in favor of HR 1424, the $700 billion bailout of the American financial system. But she did not propose or support efforts to correct the Wall Street practices that produced the collapse in the first place.
If you want to know what Wall Street campaign contributions and ridiculous speaking fees get in return, it’s protective inaction. Let’s generously call that poor judgment rather than something else.
The simplest way of dealing with Big Money buying influence over politicians is to require that any elected or appointed official who accepts anything of value as a gift, fee or campaign contribution must recuse himself/herself from any vote or decision affecting that donor’s interests.
With that rule, the quid pro quo of giving money to influence a political decision would end. Donors could expect nothing for their generosity, and recipients would absent themselves from conflicts of interest.
A more recent example of poor judgment was Clinton’s decision to reject a U.S. State Department email account in favor of using a personal account in her home for both official and private communications.
We are expected to believe that her decision had nothing to do with keeping her official emails out of the public record and hidden from view.
The “vast right-wing conspiracy” did not set up this email account to incriminate her for security breaches or discredit her commonsense. Hillary did this to herself, because, she said, it was more “convenient.”
She said that it was too hard for her either to carry two devices or have two email accounts -- a personal account and an official State account -- on a single device. Aren’t Presidents supposed to do the heavy lifting?
This is bad judgment by a politician who was planning to run for president and knew that her every word and action would be publicly scrutinized. Since she was blind to the obvious consequences of that decision, what will her judgment fail to see as president?
Donald Trump, in contrast, has exhibited very shrewd judgment when it comes to advancing his private interests.
Since he has no record as an elected official, we have no way of knowing how he would act in that capacity on behalf of the public interest.
In promoting his self-interest, he’s boasted about buying the support of politicians at all levels when needed. He’s walked away from debt through bankruptcy protections. He’s worked with American and Russian organized-crime businesses and personalities when it benefited his construction and casino projects.
Trump’s guiding principle seems to be that whatever he means is justified by whatever he wants. He strikes me as a businessman whose word is always contingent on having things work out his way. He seems to see contracts as ethically situational.
So how would this play out as President? No one knows, including Trump.
Trump seems to be a New Deal Democrat like Bernie Sanders on health care and Social Security. He’s a big spender on bricks and mortar but opposes subsidies for farmers and others. He is, arguably, as hostile to Wall Street as Sanders.
Given the likely choice in November, I would bet that Wall Street votes overwhelmingly for Clinton, because Trump knows them better and differently than she does.
Trump has proposed raising taxes on hedge-fund managers. He has not called for the repeal of Dodd-Frank, which regulates financial practices, but he has said it’s a “terrible law.” He has not endorsed breaking up the big banks, but his populist opinions scare them.
Most borrowers, like builders and developers, hate bankers; my guess is that Trump is no exception. Trump is an America-first, high-tariff-protectionist free trader … if that makes any sense.
He’s a big-government guy in a small-government party. His tax proposals are a combination of Democrat and Republican ideas.
He’s a non-interventionist at the same time that he’s a gung-ho military guy who skipped out of his own service on heel spurs.
He’s most comfortable with older attitudes on race, gender, LGBT issues, religion and ethnicity, but he’s not deaf, blind and dumb about how America’s attitudes have evolved since his formative years in the ’50s and ’60s.
In an odd way, he seems to be more in tune with class issues -- wage rates, security, mortgages, money made from money, tax loopholes, unions, retirement, health insurance and the crapshoot of financial “investments” for the ordinary American -- than either Clinton or Sanders.
How can a billionaire understand the economic pinch of ordinary Americans?
Of the three, Trump is the only candidate who has built a business, hired labor of all kinds, dealt with codes and regulations, met a private payroll and spent his life seeing how the private economy actually works from top to bottom.
Clinton, the get-things-done pragmatist, has never claimed credit for creating a single job on her own dime.
As scuzzy as Trump is, he’s walked the talk of jobs where Clinton has just talked. Her talk is more appealing in many ways, but it’s all theoretical.
I take some comfort in the fact that whether it’s Clinton or Trump who wins, neither is likely to have much success in getting their programs through Congress. I also take some discomfort in the same fact, because it leaves us punting the issues down a field that keeps getting longer.
In Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the two main characters, hungry and without purpose, hang out near a tree on the ephemeral expectation that a person named Godot might appear. He never does. (And if he did, it can be inferred that their down-and-out lives would not improve.)
Waiting on a farm is not like that. Anticipated events happen here, because they’re part of part of Nature’s cycle and not a “program” set up by the likes of us.
Waiting for a President Clinton to get much of anything done will be akin to waiting for Godot. I will, however, be waiting fearfully for her next big bad judgment.
Waiting for a President Trump to be other than who he has always been will also be unrewarded. I will, accordingly, be waiting for him to do something really stupid.
We are facing a choice between two individuals who either don’t know who they will be or refuse to say.
We find ourselves waiting for yuck.
Curtis Seltzer is a land consultant, columnist and author of How To Be a DIRT-SMART Buyer of Country Property, available at www.curtis-seltzer.com where his columns are posted and his other books -can be ordered. He is finishing a novel, The Point of the Pick.
Trump drives Ky. turnout, for and against, as he beats Cruz by 4 points; Rubio, Kasich far back
Patricia Fannin of Georgetown also said she would vote for Cruz because “He’s standing up against Trump.”
Rubio appeared to suffer from his locker-room-style attacks on Trump.
Remembering and honoring Joe Lee, the debtors' bankruptcy judge
Al Smith, co-founder of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, gave this tribute to the late Joe Lee, federal bankruptcy judge, at a memorial service in Lexington, Ky., on Aug. 29.
|Judge Joe Lee|
Story and photographs by Dave Cooper
The Dawkins Line Rail Trail, in Johnson and Magoffin Counties in the Eastern Kentucky mountains, officially opened in June – but many have not heard about it. This 18-mile-long trail is a little gem: It’s Kentucky’s longest rail trail, it’s in a beautiful and remote area, it’s very peaceful and quiet, and it is in pristine condition.
The trail is quite beautiful in spots, and it’s a low-key and enjoyable ride that is suitable for families and even small children.
The trail surface is finely crushed gravel, so most cyclists will probably want to ride their mountain bikes. Any tire over 1.5 inches diameter would probably be OK, but thin road bike tires will sink into the gravel. Bikes with front suspension are also recommended, as this trail has some sections with a mild washboard surface.
The trail is open to hikers, cyclists and horseback riders, but closed to motorized vehicles including four-wheelers, ATVs, motorbikes, etc.
I think this trail would also be fine for a day of low-key hiking or just walking the dog. The first section, travelling westbound from US 23 at Hager Hill, is fairly unremarkable. It’s pleasant but not especially beautiful. The trail passes homes and the outlying areas of Paintsville. Past Swamp Branch (Mile Point 8), there is a gradual uphill grade that is barely noticeable and the trail enters the woods.
About 5 miles past Swamp Branch the trail crosses over KY 114, the Mountain Parkway extension between Salyersville and Prestonsburg. The trail passes through Ivyton, then ascends to the 662-foot long Gun Creek Tunnel.
After the tunnel (MP 15), the trail gradually descends to Royalton (MP 18) in Magoffin County. There are plans to extend the trail from Royalton for another 18 miles through the community of Carver and through another impressive tunnel at Tiptop into Breathitt County. The trail would be 36 miles long when completed.
The people who built the Dawkins trail did a good job. It seems to be well-engineered for safety. There are 24 attractive wooden trestles built atop the old iron railroad bridges, and the signage at road crossings has been done well and thoughtfully. However, “wayfinder” road signs are needed on the major regional highways, especially US 23/460, to make more people aware of the trail and to direct them to the trailhead.
Patty and I first explored this part of Magoffin County about five years ago while testing stream water quality in Eastern Kentucky. I noticed then that the old railroad bed was being used by four-wheelers as a public trail. But both times I have ridden the Dawkins Trail I have met a park ranger on patrol. He says there have been very few problems with crime, four-wheelers or trail users trespassing on adjacent land. The trail remains pristine; I saw no litter or vandalism. Local officials seem to be doing a great job keeping the trail safe and family-friendly.
It is advisable to print the trail map (link below) before heading out on the trail. Trail users should be advised that there are no stores, shelters or even bathrooms along the trail, and should plan to bring water and snacks. However, there are two small stores at the west end of the trail in Royalton that sell sandwiches, ice cream, soda and snacks. I expect there will be more services offered as more Kentuckians begin to use the Dawkins trail.
I well remember riding the Little Miami Rail Trail near Loveland, Ohio (north of Cincinnati) when it was first opened to the public in the 1980’s: It was only 13 miles long, from Loveland to Morrow, not many people used it, and it lacked amenities. But over the last 30 years, the state of Ohio has remained committed to the project, and added 60 miles to the trail, plus rest stops and bathrooms and parking areas as trailheads. Local communities and civic groups have built picnic shelters, trailside parks and playgrounds, and ice cream and bike shops have sprung up and thrived. Communities along the trail have embraced the 350,000 people who use the Little Miami Trail annually, and it has greatly added to the quality of life in these trail-side and surrounding communities, as well as promoting physical fitness for the whole family.
Kentucky has spent more than $2.5 million on the Dawkins trail, including $500,000 of coal-severance taxes. I think it was money well spent, with an eye towards building the future economy of Eastern Kentucky. We certainly need more green tourism and healthy recreational opportunities in Kentucky. The Dawkins Line Rail Trail at this time may be lightly used, but I don’t expect it will stay that way for long. As this trail becomes more popular, I hope it will encourage Kentucky to finance more bike trail projects. So go check out the Dawkins Trail, before it gets too crowded!
While you are in the Paintsville area, I recommend visiting the Loretta Lynn homeplace in Butcher Hollow near Van Lear. Just follow the signs from US 23. Loretta Lynn’s younger brother Herman Webb will be glad to give you a tour of the historic Webb family homeplace for a mere $5. This experience is delightful and unforgettable.
Another interesting area attraction is the Mayo Mansion in downtown Paintsville, the colossal 40-room home of coal baron John C.C. Mayo (1864-1914), who developed the “broad-form deed” that severed landowners’ mineral rights from their surface rights. The Mayo Mansion was completed in 1912, but Mayo died only two years later. The mansion is now a school called Our Lady of the Mountains.
Below are directions from Lexington to the easiest Dawkins Trail access point near US 23 in Johnson County. Visitors may wish to consult the Kentucky Gazetteer booklet of topographcial maps; on page 55, find Paintsville in the upper right of the page, then look for the intersection of US 23/460 and KY 825 just a few miles southwest of Paintsville. The old railroad line is marked on the map; it travels south and west into Magoffin County, then south into Breathitt County where it ends just past Evanston.
Directions From Lexington: Take the Mountain Parkway east from Winchester through Salyersville. Continue straight on KY 114 for two to three miles past the Salyersville commercial strip, then turn left on US 460 east, heading towards Paintsville. Travel on US 460 for about 13 miles and then turn right (south) onto US 23. Go 2.5 miles on US 23 south and turn right onto KY 825. There is a sign for the trail crossing, and visitors can park in a small pull-off space and start biking south and east for another 15 miles to Royalton. (Going the other way, the trail goes towards Hagerhill and Paintsville, following US 23, then dead ends in 2 miles). Another option is to continue driving on KY 825 for six miles to the main trail parking area, which is a large gravel lot big enough to hold two dozen horse trailers. From this point it is about 10 miles in a southwesterly direction to the end of the trail in Royalton. To learn more about the history of the trail and the Dawkins Lumber Company, or to download a PDF map of the trail, go to http://parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/dawkins-line/default.aspx.
The public “knows we fought, but they don’t know us,” said Army Col. David W. Sutherland of the Dixon Center for Military and Veterans’ Community Services, decrying what he called “the epidemic of disconnection between the civil and the military. . . . The American people want to help, but they don’t know how.”
Before Christmas, we went to a local AT&T wireless store to replace my wife's cell phone. The clerk suggested we try their wireless receiver system for our home phone. Of course, it was supposed to be fantastic and give a 60 percent savings. It took 10 minutes to switch our land line to the wireless system, but when it proved to be unsuitable for us, it took over two weeks to reactivate our land line, and almost three months to straighten out the bill.
I've spent over a dozen hours on the phone, mostly waiting for a response, talking to people when available who, I am sure, do not live in the United States. I assume I have the bill straightened out; I have not yet received this month's.
Problems encountered: The clerk assigned my cell phone number to my wife's new phone, so in order to reach her, friends had to know my number, which I do not give out freely. So while we were traveling, I had no phone service, since my number was on her phone.
The first wireless gizmo he gave us turned out to be defective, and had been returned. He gave us a new one and said we could keep it, even if we decided to switch back, until the land line was reconnected. When I called to say we wanted to be switched back, he insisted that we bring the box back in immediately. So we were without a land line for two weeks.
As it turned out, our land number had been canceled, so I had to waste more time on my cell phone (which had now been corrected). I'm not sure that the public knows that the AT&T land line department, and their wireless department, are almost completely separate. I'm not even sure they speak to each other. If your land line is your primary account, you are billed at one time of month, while if your account is wireless, it's a totally different billing system. Again, they don't communicate well with each other.
With the wireless box, even though we can see the cell tower from our porch, every call was full of static. It also limited us to two phone plugs, and a maximum of three phones, unless we purchased an additional wireless base system. TIVO did not work with it, although someone said we could upgrade to a system that would work.
In short, we totally oppose giving AT&T the right to drop land lines. While we understand that it would mean great savings for AT&T, it would mean a loss of U.S. jobs, since line repairmen cannot be outsourced, but wireless tech support can. I spent three hours one night talking 'at' several different IT agents who gave me an American name, but spoke with an almost non-understandable Asian accent.
I remember when both AT&T and Kentucky Power had offices in almost every Kentucky county seat. Now AEP is headquartered in Ohio, and the two phone agents who were the most helpful told me they were in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. If you need serious repairs, teams have to come from out of state. With the mines laying off, there is an immediate source of jobs worth emphasizing.
Mr. Caudill wrote to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues in response to a televised discussion of legislation that would allow telephone companies to replace land lines with wireless service.
Senate Farm Bill's redefinition of 'rural' could cut development funds for neediest areas
By Aleta Botts
What does a rural area look like?
The Senate Farm Bill proposes to streamline definitions of “rural area” in recognition of the varying definitions used by different programs and the criticisms attracted by such differences.
Unfortunately, the result of “one definition” for rural area could be less funding for the very areas that most meet what many Americans would consider the targeted recipients for these programs. And that problem could worsen under the definitions adopted by the Senate, which has increased the population limits for the areas considered “rural” for many programs.
Currently, the definition of “rural area” varies by Rural Development program. Rural water programs are allowed to go only to cities, towns, or unincorporated areas of fewer than 10,000 people. The limit for community facility programs (which pay for libraries, health centers, and many other community brick-and-mortar investments) is 20,000, while the limit for business programs is 50,000. If you live in an urbanized area surrounding a town of more than 50,000, you are not eligible.
The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill gets rid of all the lower population limits, setting a uniform population of 50,000 for determining what constitutes a rural place.
The differing levels attract a lot of criticism since many people reasonably believe that we should have a consistent definition of “rural.” However, just as it would be hard to argue that a rural area located in the oil fields of North Dakota has the same exact needs as a rural area located just outside an urbanized area in Massachusetts, it is hard to argue that all of these rural programs constructed to meet different rural needs should be bound by the same population limit.
A rural water program arguably is constructed around the notion that small rural areas do not have enough of a critical mass of people to provide the tax base and the user fees necessary to upgrade their water systems to meet public-health standards. With governmental support through loans and grants, those areas can continue to meet those standards.
By contrast, a rural business program arguably is constructed around the notion that if you provide governmental support for slightly larger areas, those areas will also help provide employment opportunities for smaller rural areas around them.
Additionally, looking only at the population limits, without looking at the demand for these programs, ignores a key factor in their workings.
The rural water program (limit 10,000) routinely receives more applications for its funding than Congress is able to provide. According to testimony by the National Rural Water Association in April, at the end of fiscal year 2011, more than 400 communities had applications in the pipeline without funding to support them. Those communities will fall in line for the next year’s funding, but the point is that this is an oversubscribed program and has been for years. If it is oversubscribed now with its limit at 10,000 people, what will result when the population limit is raised to 50,000?
A real fear of increasing population limits for these programs is that larger rural communities often have greater institutional capacity to apply for governmental support than smaller communities. By increasing population limits for already oversubscribed programs, Congress runs the risk of squeezing out areas that are more in need of support. And, as the federal government decreases its footprint in rural areas through closing Rural Development offices and reducing staffing there, rural areas will have less technical support to navigate these complex programs.
In apparent response to this concern, the Senate bill contains a “set-aside” of 50 percent of one rural water program’s to communities with fewer than 3,000 people or a “priority” for areas with fewer than 5,500. But more than 80 percent of the funding already goes to areas of 5,000 or fewer, according to the National Rural Water Association testimony, so this language may actually mean little in practice.
Defining rural is tough policy terrain. However, efforts made to “streamline” these programs should not have the effect of making it harder for the communities most in need to qualify and compete.
Aleta Botts is agricultural policy outreach director for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and grant coordinator for the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development. Her opinions are her own, not those of the center or the university. She wrote at the request of the Daily Yonder and The Rural Blog.
By DR. NELL AHL
Reprinted from the Jan. 20, 2012, Hickman County Times.
During a lecture in Equine Rotations in veterinary college I heard the Professor talk about equine slaughter houses. I was appalled, raised my hand and immediately asked him to repeat the last topic briefly.
“Those of us who live in South Central Michigan are fortunate. We rarely see horses that are starved, neglected or abused. The reason is that there is an equine slaughter house located in northeast Indiana so that horses that no longer have a function still have economic value. Otherwise, an unwanted horse is a considerable economic drain. Why it is expensive to euthanize a horse on a property even with a properly placed bullet because a large hole must be dug to inter the body and that requires expensive equipment.”
Yes, I had heard correctly, but was still in shock: People actually slaughtered horses in this country. Having known them all my life as pets or occasionally as working animals, I assumed that . . ., well, in truth, I had never thought about what happens when a horse gets old, is unable to work or is just not wanted anymore.
My hand was back in the air: What good are slaughtered horses that make them an economic advantage?
“Oh, they’re sold to France for horse meat. It’s sold as chevre there. Steak, stews, just as with beef in this country.”
Confused, angry, unable to compose rational questions in my roiling brain, I went home to just think about what had been said. When I had calmed down, I went to the Professor’s office to ask more in-depth questions about horse slaughter. What I learned both chilled me and gave me some peace.
“Horses are expensive animals to properly care for and feed: from hoof care, to tooth care, to attention to nutrition, parasites and other medical issues, horses are expensive animals to keep. Because there are lots of horses in this country, the market for sale of ordinary animals in usual times is not lucrative. When there is a slaughter house within 100 or so miles, there are rarely reports of abandoned, abused or neglected horses. Just check the statistics.” Then he handed me a sheaf of papers with charts and graphs to back up his statements.
Figuring I was pretty naive (which I was), he continued on to point out that a quick bullet to the head was, in his mind, far preferable to starving to death over a long period. Imagine the horse’s expectation: food when needed, water on demand, a kind word here or there suddenly withheld.
As hunger catches hold, the horse begins frantic chewing on fence posts, tree bark, shrubs, any trashy vegetation including thorny plants to keep the pain of hunger from overwhelming body and soul. Death comes slowly and painfully. Perhaps a cut on the leg, ordinarily a minor wound, becomes a major source of pain because there are no nutrients for repair.
Just remember, a truck ride of 100 miles or less, a quick bullet to the head, and all this pain is averted. The Professor’s arguments made sense.
In 2006, the U.S. government placed a ban on slaughtering horses by simply refusing to allow USDA meat inspectors to work in equine slaughter plants. This effectively shut them down.
Did the closing of equine slaughter in the U.S. solve the problem of horses for slaughter? Indeed it did not. First off, horse meat is eaten by people in much of the rest of the world. Second, our neighbors in Canada and Mexico did not close down their equine slaughter houses.
What happened is that aggregators would go to livestock markets and purchase horses, load them double high in huge trucks and ship them to Canada or Mexico. For animals from most of the U.S., this meant thousands of miles in uncomfortable transit, often times without proper food, water or exercise. Mashed together in the trucks, without a foot to move in any direction, horses are often unable to walk when the trucks unload.
So the USDA wrote additional regulations last October to require a reasonable number of stops for feeding, watering, and movement; it also prevented the transport of horses on double-decker trucks.
Just a few weeks ago, there was a single-decker truck wreck on I-40 West as the driver of the truck apparently fell asleep. As a result, several horses were killed and others injured. They were on their way from an equine farm near Lebanon to Mexico, to a slaughter house. The trucking firm had a very poor record of safety, according to media news, pointing out another hazard to horses enduring transport.
In the January 2012 appropriations bill for USDA, the language barring federal meat inspectors from U.S. slaughter facilities was omitted. Congress approved the new language in the bill that was signed by President Obama. The omission of this language is believed to open up the possibility of the return of horse slaughter plants in the U.S. Some expect to see U.S. horse slaughter plants opening up in the next few months.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Are you as horrified as I was as a student when I first learned of equine slaughter?
River Edge Farm (Equine Rescue and Adoption) here in Hickman County and the Hickman Humane Society have rescued more than 40 horses from disgusting situations in the past year. I am still conflicted about the issue, but one thing for sure: If it can help the suffering of neglected and abandoned horses in Hickman County, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.
Dr. Ahl is a retired biologist and veterinarian who lives in Hickman County. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.
By BRAD PARKE
GRUNDY, Va., Jan. 7, 2012 -- Like other communities in the Central Appalachian coalfield, the small town of Grundy, Va., has suffered decades of dwindling employment opportunities, due in large measure to the area’s reliance on the coal industry.
Grundy, population 1,100 and the seat of Buchanan County, sits at the confluence of Slate Creek and the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, and the steep topography and narrow valleys have contributed to several detrimental floods that devastated its downtown.
Leaders knew they had to tame these waters for the downtown to remain viable and realize its potential, but realized they ultimately had to take a new approach: higher education.
Private graduate schools
In 1997, the Appalachian School of Law admitted its first class in a newly renovated building that had once been Grundy’s high school. The idea of ASL began in 1993 when Joe Wolfe, a lawyer in nearby Norton, envisioned bringing a law school to the region. A steering committee of lawyers and business leaders was formed, and leaders in Grundy, approached the committee and offered facilities for the school. Today, the school is fully accredited and has about 350 students and 70 full-time faculty and administrative staff.
Leaders also envisioned that the school would produce economic spin-off activity for local businesses. While the school has not transformed the local economy, residents have noticed a substantial effect.
“There is no doubt the law school has had a positive impact economically on Buchanan County,” said Tom Scott, a lawyer and ASL adjunct professor, has practiced law in Grundy for more than 30 years.
“The most profound impact has been on the real estate and food service industries.”
In addition to the influx of students, the local tax and retail base benefit because full-time faculty and staff are required to live in Buchanan County, and that resulted in construction of housing that boosted the economy.
The increase in local government revenue has enabled Grundy to invest in more police and fire protection, water and sewer services and school improvements.
The law school’s success was a springboard for the Appalachian College of Pharmacy. It was a response to a national shortage of pharmacists and the need to improve the health status of Central Appalachia.
The school admitted its first class in spring 2005 and was fully accredited in 2007. It employs approximately 30 faculty and staff and currently has about 200 students.
Recently, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority secured a $5.6 million loan to speed the development of the Appalachian College of Optometry, planned to be located at the Buchanan Information Park in Grundy.
This third private graduate school is expected to create 66 new jobs with an annual payroll of $7.8 million by its seventh year of operation. It will be one of only 21 optometry schools in the nation. The first class is expected to begin in August of 2013.
Public infrastructure improvements
Graduate schools are not the only thing changing Grundy. The town is undergoing a substantial flood control project that has virtually re-shaped its downtown. The work is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Grundy Industrial Development Authority, and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The project includes a floodwall topped by a four-lane highway bypass replacing a winding, two-lane road, creating more potential for business and commerce in the town.
Walmart is adjacent to Grundy’s main street and the Appalachian School of Law. While most such “big box” stores are located on the outskirts and suburban areas of towns, this one is essentially in the middle of downtown, within walking distance to students and citizens working in town. The additional retail shops of the Grundy Town Center include a Subway, clothing store, sports store and a game shop, among others.
Forecasting Grundy’s future
Although the graduate schools, the Grundy Town Center and the flood control project have not cured the ills of poverty in the community overnight, it is a start.
“We must continue to improve our roads and look to attract another major industry to supplement the coal industry and private graduate schools,” Scott said, “but this is a start.”
While it is still too early to adequately measure whether Grundy’s investments have paid off, initial indications are that they are making an impact. In looking forward, it is crucial that Grundy and Buchanan County work to capitalize on the influx of the social and economic capital created by the educational institutions.
Similar rural communities should take note of this town’s innovative approach to development. If ultimately successful, Grundy may become not only a model for strategic economic diversification in Appalachia, but rural America.
Fans at Farm Aid's 25th anniversary concert say they are growing hope for America
By Alexandria Sardam
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
MILWAUKEE -- Cowboy boots, sneakers, flip-flops, and moccasins danced across the covered baseball field of Miller Park in Milwaukee Saturday in celebration of Farm Aid 25. Some came for the music, some for the local beer and organic brats. Regardless of their motivation, all 35,000 seemed to leave with a sense of pride in their country and an overflowing love and for the traditional family farmer.
In the mid 1980’s many of America’s farmers found themselves struggling to keep their land because of skyrocketing production costs, interest rates and plummeting crop prices. Factory farms posed another threat; they needed large amounts of cheap grain to feed their livestock, further depressing prices. Many non-farmers object to factory farms’ use of hormones and antibiotics and their opposition animal rights.
Farm Aid began when Willie Nelson was moved by the words of Bob Dylan at a Live Aid concert and wanted to do something to help protect what he considered America’s heart and soul, its farmers.
Farm Aid has been held since 1985, making 2010 the 25th anniversary and the 26th benefit concert. This year the Farm Aid stage welcomed Kenny Chesney, Band of Horses and Norah Jones along with other artists, activists and families from across the country.
Sarah Riesgraf, a kindergarten teacher and proud supporter of Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers, spoke of her responsibility in the classroom and in her community in Iowa.
“My father-in-law is a small-farm dairy farmer,” said Riesgraf. She said she also supports the family farmer through what she teaches her students.
“We do whole units on recycling, protecting the environment so that it’s here for the future, “said Riesgraf. She spoke of the importance of teaching youth about the world we live in, saying the choices we make today will dictate our future.
“Clean your environment, it’s the only one we have,” she said. “Take care of it now and teach your children to do the same.”
Activists and artists alike spoke of the importance of understanding our world at a smaller level.
”I think that it’s so important that we reach an understanding as a society that if we want a healthy future and healthy planet and healthy children then we have to think globally but act locally,” said Dave Matthews, who has been a Farm Aid board member and performer since 2001.
Matthews, a family man, owns Maple Hill Farm, an organic farm that is a contributor to the Best of What’s Around Community Supported Agriculture Program located near Charlottesville, Va.
Cindy Kennedy came to Farm Aid for a different type of celebration: a bachelorette party and some jams.
“I came for the good lineup and variety of artists,” said Kennedy, adding that Farm Aid has taught her how to protect the environment.
“I bring reusable shopping bags when I go shopping, ” she said.
The spirits of rock and roll and charity were evident throughout the day. “Have a Grateful Day” was stitched on the back of one man’s shirt over a Grateful Dead dancing bear. The man was giving away handmade wooden necklaces and accepted donations that he said would directly go to Farm Aid.
The spirit blossomed as the night of music continued and the artists took the stage. Eager eyes and ears anticipated the artists’ songs and thoughts about the evening. Chants from the crowds began as kids in overalls danced to the beat of drums.
Neil Young, an early supporter of Farm Aid, shouted to the crowd, “Look at the label. Don’t buy from other countries. Buy American.”
The night ended when Nelson took the stage with bandmates to perform and thank the audience for a memorable 25 years. Explosions of applause and cheers erupted from every nook and cranny of Miller Park.
As the house lights came up and the hum of the audience applause died down the spirit of the concert was still buzzing though the air of the stadium. The college kids walked out linking arms still singing tunes they had heard that night. The farmers and activists seemed to walk a little taller. The families held hands and bundled up against the fall Wisconsin air.
Farm Aid 25 was more than just a benefit concert. It was a bonding experience between people from all vastly different backgrounds, who left more aware of the neighboring farms and proud to be supporting the fight for the family farmer.
By Betty Dotson-Lewis
In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Lexington on Dec. 17, it took a jury of Sandra Crouch’s peers – five women and three men – less than two hours to return a $150,000 verdict in her favor against Rifle Coal Co. of West Liberty, which she had sued alleging sexual harassment.
Not only is it unusual for a woman to win a unanimous jury verdict of this size, there is something else remarkable about this case: It’s even more unusual for a female chairman of a county school board to win a sexual harassment case while pursuing her day job in a nontraditional field, road construction.
Sandy Crouch has spent the last 22 years as a member of the Bath County Board of Education. In January she was re-elected chairman. It is part of her official duties to make sure no student (regular, special needs or gifted), teacher, cook, custodian, maintenance worker or anyone else under the Board of Education’s jurisdiction is harassed, sexually or in any other manner, and that no one is made to work or study in a hostile environment. That is the law. State laws are handed down to school board members, and county policies are added to those laws to ensure students and workers are protected from such incidents. Each student and employee is promised a safe environment in which to study or work.
Sandy and other board members have been trained how to deal with cases of sexual harassment and hostile work environments. Never in a million years did Sandy imagine she would be the one on the receiving end of those actions -- subjected to sexual harassment while attempting to perform her duties on the job in a hostile environment.
Sandy’s story is one told over and over, even in 2010. Although laws are in place to protect and prevent, there is always another time, another place, and another person stripped of their dignity and rights before family, friends, fellow church members, and community members. This is Sandy Crouch’s story.
Salt Lick, Kentucky, Sandy’s hometown, is in the foothills of the mountains. It has a population of around 350. Estimated median household income was $34,189 in 2008 and $26,042 in 2000. Lexington, a hub of business establishments and educational institutions, is an hour west. (MapQuest image)
Sandy’s ancestors came to Salt Lick in the early 1800s and never left. Sandy, in her 50s, has lived in Salt Lick all her life. She went to school there and goes to church there. She is married and has two grown daughters and a son who live within sight of each other. Her parents live but a stone’s throw away. They talk to each other every day. The community is closely knit, just as Sandra’s family is. Nearly everyone knows everyone and most are related in this quaint little Appalachian town.
Sandy worked as a secretary and at various other jobs before employment with Rifle Coal Co. began in January 2005, when she was employed as a flagger on a road construction project in adjoining Fleming County.
Sandy was not afraid of hard, outside work. Her family had owned a construction company, and she worked with them. She looked forward to a good hourly wage, especially since her husband had serious back problems and was unable to work. At the time she was hired at Rifle, she was virtually the sole support of her family.
The flagger job was more than a half-hour drive over a two-lane, curvy road each morning before a 12-hour shift. I asked Sandy Crouch by phone about the working conditions at the job site.
She told me at first it was fine, but in the middle of the summer of 2005 she was assigned to a new supervisor. “Another guy started telling me what to do and how to do it, and the sexual harassment began from this new supervisor toward me and the other two women employees” on the job, one a flagger and the other a heavy equipment operator. She attempted to ward off the unwanted advances and brutal comments by telling the supervisor she was a married woman and not interested in any type of sexual relationship with him.
“I asked him if he knew what the word ‘no’ meant.” She asked him to stay away from her. None of her attempts to get him to stay away worked. “His son and I had worked together and I tried to divert his constant sexual talk by asking him about his son.” But he would not be diverted from constant talk about sex and requests for favors, she said: On one hot summer day when she was wearing a light-colored T-shirt, he grabbed her breast, leaving a dirty handprint on her shirt. When lunch time came, co-workers asked about it. She burst into tears; one of her female co-workers tried to comfort her. The harassment continued over several months and the supervisor became more aggressive towards her.
She said one aspect of the sexual harassment meant her supervisor repeatedly called her “Elk Ass” and did so over the CB radio. “When someone in management was approached with the problem we were put off and told something to the effect, ‘You know [the supervisor]. That’s just the way he is.”
Sandy continued: “I felt as if I was treated disrespectfully by some of the men on the job. For example, during some 12-hour shifts the women got no breaks at all – bathroom or lunch. A trucker might drive by, slow down, and say something like, ‘We’re going home a half-hour early today, so no lunch break.’ That would be the first we knew of that work schedule. We were never told or consulted.”
She explained that the job of flagging traffic, for obvious safety reasons, does not allow for time away from your duty unless there is a replacement to keep traffic flowing. It’s a dangerous job; the lives and limbs of your co-workers, you and the public are at stake.
The women discussed the harassment among themselves at first and did not file a formal complaint. Sandy did not tell her family about what was going on at work; she kept it to herself.
The women complained to Rifle alleging discriminatory treatment, which is prohibited by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and spoke to a state investigator regarding their working conditions. Soon afterward, they were laid off and have not been called back. The heavy equipment operator had worked at various jobs for Rifle for more than 15 years.
Sandy Crouch was laid off on May 8, 2006. As the recession hit, trying to survive with no job and a disabled husband resulted in serious problems for the family. They lost their home. Finally her husband went back to work against his doctor’s orders. As Sandy explained, “We just had to do something.”
In June 2009 Sandy and others sued Rifle Coal alleging sexual harassment. The company is operated and part owned by Barrett Frederick of West Liberty, Ky.
Sandy needed support and advice during this difficult time in her life when this close-knit family in a close-knit community was torn apart. She turned to her cousin, Betty Jean Hall, a Berea College graduate and an attorney, who founded the Coal Employment Project in Jacksboro, Tenn., for women miners in 1977. For over ten years, Betty Jean almost exclusively represented women, much of her work being focused on sexual harassment in the coal mines.
Under federal law, a jury verdict for sexual harassment can be reduced, depending on how many employees the company has. A hearing to determine the number of Frederick's employees was to be held Friday, Dec. 12, but the day before, his lawyer, Sandy and her lawyer, Tony Oppegard agreed that Rifle would pay her $99,000. Sandy said she settled the case because she could have ended up with a lesser amount and more legal expenses if the verdict had been appealed. Frederick’s lawyer, Jeff Walther, declined to comment Saturday, saying he would have to consult with Frederick.
Four days after the verdict in Sandy’s case, a similar suit filed by Debbie Perry, the 15-year heavy equipment operator, alleging wrongful discharge, was settled for an undisclosed sum after a jury was selected and opening statements had been made, and just before the first witness was to be called. Perry is also represented by Oppegard.
I asked Sandy what she hoped to gain by telling her story.
“I want to tell my story so that other women who may be single mothers or working because of an illness in the family or women who simply want to work in nontraditional jobs will not have to go through the pain and sorrow I have for four long years to go to trial and win and then have to prove points even after a jury of my peers have made a decision in my favor.”
Betty Dotson-Lewis is a writer based in western North Carolina. She is a native of West Virginia and author of Sunny Side of Appalachia: Bluegrass from the Grassroots and other books about the region. Her Web site is Appalachiacoal.com.