David V. Hawpe: Fancy Farm, Mitch McConnell and Blackdamp

david hawpeAlison Grimes ought to remind the Crowd of Fancy Farm that Mitch McConnell is choking the U.S. Senate with blackdamp.

Given what McConnell knows about coal mining, aides may have to explain to him that blackdamp is a mixture of debilitating gases – as one dictionary puts it, a miasma “incapable of supporting life or flame.”

Fancy Farm is, of course, the political picnic in Graves County on the first Saturday in August that traditionally opens the Kentucky political season. St. Jerome’s Parish bills the event as the “World’s Largest One Day BBQ,” where you can get the “best barbequed pork and mutton you’ll ever enjoy.”

At the 134th renewal there will be plenty of ridicule on the menu. In recent years the jeers and the taunts have made it increasingly difficult to hear what the politicians are saying, but nobody seems to mind.

The only violence you can expect at Fancy Farm is the violence that a candidate occasionally and unintentionally does to his or her own campaign. I have in mind two of my favorite politicians. One ranted in front of the picnic crowd as if prepping a Nuremberg rally for the appearance of the main speaker. The other claimed he was one tough son-of-a-you-know-what, when in fact he’s too fine a fellow to qualify as, say, a latter-day Louie Nunn.

I said nobody minds the Fancy Farm faceoffs and dustups, but in fact the Goo Goos don’t like them. Good Government zealots think jeers and catcalls are a threat to political civility. They condemn all the mocking and heckling as if it endangers the democratic process.

I have to smile. If anything, our politics are too polite.

I’m reading a new book by Frederick Brown, “The Embrace of Unreason.” (No, it’s not about what McConnell has done to the Senate.) It’s about France in the period 1914-1940, where civic life was a bit rougher. Opposing groups once turned up at a Paris showing of an ideologically-charged 1930s film called L’Age d’Or, to find the theater lobby decorated in Surrealist art. As Brown describes it, angry right wingers “trashed the premises, splattering ink over the screen, destroying the projector, hurling stink bombs, attacking spectators with blackjacks, damaging the art, and tearing up copies of “Surrealism in the Service of the Revolution” (that were) on sale.”

In America these days we’re much tamer.

A Democratic congressional candidate in conservative Central Washington recently got into trouble merely for airing an online commercial in which he fired a pump-action shotgun at an elephantpiñata . The politically correct folks at Americans for Responsible Solutions condemned Estakio Beltran’s video as “irresponsible and offensive.” As it ends, Beltran rides off toward Washington on a burro.

This is a country where Fox News calls out the Muppets for being“anti-oil” and “anti-corporate.”

The worst damage politically active Americans suffer is Rush Limbaugh boring them to tears or Chris Matthews hurting their ears.

If you make it to Fancy Farm you might hurt yourself, by gorging on pig, but glut and heatstroke are about the only real dangers you’re likely to face. Nobody is going to grab a barbecued mutton shank and thwack you for wrong thought. The stink bombs at this event are likely to be verbal, and thrown from the stage, not at it.

Somebody ought to thwack the McConnell campaign if the senator uses this occasion to once again claim that coal miners need him in Washington. How many miners has he put back to work?

Jobs have plummeted at mines and prep plants in Eastern Kentucky since he was re-elected in 2008 – from 15,418 to 7,332. When he was first elected way back there in 1984, the number of miners working in Kentucky’s mountain coalfields was almost 30,000.

If Kentucky voters send Alison Grimes to Washington, she won’t fix the problem. But she won’t be silent about it either. I expect her to tell both Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take their anti-coal attitude and shove it – politely, of course.

I’m certain she will join West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin in the Senate’s pro-miner caucus.

Manchin explained his view rather reasonably last year: “It is only common sense to use all our domestic resources, and that includes our coal. Let’s make sure that government works as our partner, not our adversary, to create a secure and affordable energy future, and let’s invest in technology which will have the ability to burn coal with almost zero emissions.” Senator McConnell has been a little more theatrical, charging the President with a “jihad” against coal.

It’s a shame the EPA can’t do anything about partisan emissions.

In the old days, miners took canaries with them underground. They knew they had to run from black damp if the canary died

The Democratic leadership also bears its share of the responsibility, but in Mitch McConnell’s gassy Senate, it’s functional governance that died.

David Hawpe, a native of Pike County who grew up in Louisville, has written about coal and Appalachia for more than four decades. This article was crossposted, with the permission of the author, from The Mountain Eagle.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Fancy Farm Redux

jyb_musingsNext Saturday, on what we hope is a sunny and inviting Kentucky summer afternoon, our state will be host to an annual political tradition we call Fancy Farm. 

Fancy Farm is Kentucky’s political equivalent of the ancient legal practice of trial by ordeal–where the accused is set on fire or tied up and thrown into a river to determine guilt or innocence. If the accused survives, they would be presumed innocent. In Kentucky’s political version, a politician who survives Fancy Farm, is presumed politically viable and allowed to continue to pursue their political aspirations. But like the survivors of the ancient legal trial, the Fancy Farm politician will never forget the ordeal endured.

Fancy Farm is probably America’s last vestige of pre-modern political theater. To succeed you need two parts talent; three parts ambition; one part courage; and two and a half parts temporary insanity.

Beyond all the tales about Fancy Farm, and beyond the sound and fury that occur during each year’s big political event, Fancy Farm does signify something. But what exactly that is, no one is quite sure.

So we keep coming back in hopes of finding out.

Maybe we will unravel the Fancy Farm mystery this year. Or maybe not. Most likely Fancy Farm 2014 will again be another irresistible spectacle combining good will and good cheer; characters and charisma; courage and calculation; pleasing food and harsh partisanship; high political drama and low brow political tactics all swirling simultaneously within the context of nothing less than a political orgy sponsored by St Jerome’s Catholic church. All located In the deep recesses of Western Kentucky where real politicians picnicking and politicking face to face with real constituents still matters. At least for a short weekend.

Fancy Farm was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s largest picnic.” Fancy Farm is worthy of Guinness status, no doubt about it. For something. But calling Fancy Farm merely an annual picnic is like calling Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls an annual tour through the city of Pamplona. Perhaps the main attraction of both events is getting to see the people who participate –voluntarily– in these curious historic events that attempt to test and celebrate the human spirit.

Fancy Farm is something to see and should be seen at least once in the lifetime of every Kentuckian. And at least once by every American who is a non-Kentuckian but is a political junkie. Because vestiges of former times don’t last for long. And are painfully missed when finally gone.

So…Happy Fancy Farm 2014!!

May 2014′s political picnic live up to its grand and gaudy tradition –.and just a little bit more than usual this year. Because this year, the nation’s most defining political race may well hang in the balance. Making 2014′s Fancy Farm even fancier than usual. And that is saying a lot.

(Note: This link is to a piece I wrote last year about my political trial by ordeal in 1995, listed by the C-J as one of the more memorable Fancy Farm moments. It not really about me as much as my attempt to capture, the best I could, the essence of experiencing Fancy Farm. It is a flawed human attempt, I might add, to describe a near mythic event. But I tried. Which, in the end, is all that any of the participants at Fancy Farm can do.)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Wendell Ford

jyb_musingsA very special evening.I attended the annual Wendell Ford dinner tonight.But someone was missing, the honored guest himself, who is home tonight battling lung cancer courageously and magnanimously. Even cancer, as sinsiter and destructive a force as it is, must be ashamed to find itself hosting someone so beloved and beneficient as Wendell Ford. (And, yes, someone also so ornery and determined.)

Wendell may not have been in attendance but no figure has ever– in my experience– been more present in his absence than Sen Ford was at tonight’s event attended by at least 700 friends and political supporters.

Story after story about the iconic Kentucky politician was told by the various speakers, but none were really about politics. The stories all seemed to hew to the personal instead. They were about Wendell Ford the man, who just happened to be a great political leader at the time these memorable and meaningful personal interactions occurred.

The stories could easily have been about great legislative heroics or profiles in political leadership. But each and every one centered instead around little acts of kindness observed and experienced from Wendell Ford when nobody else was watching. Because, it seems, that is what stands out about Wendell Ford’s legacy most profoundly.

I chose this picture of Wendell to post –an action picture of Wendell with sleeves rolled up engaging with others while smiling broadly and contagiously rather than a blow dryed head shot behind his senate desk. The latter would be a picture Wendell just posed for. And Wendell was never a poser himself–or had patience with those who were.

wendell fordHe was, as a friend of the family would say, “The Real McCoy” and “the genuine article.” He is obviously still with us tonight and hopefully for a good while longer. And that is important to note because we may not see another quite like him again. Politics has changed…yet didn’t change Wendell.

Wendell Ford, it is true, is a Kentuckian who has walked with kings. But he is perhaps best described by the elevator man at our nation’s Capitol who proudly boasts that Wendell Ford is “the kindest human being to ever walk these Capitol floors.”

And that is an awfully fine legacy for 700 friends and supporters to celebrate tonight.

 

Julie Rath: Look Taller With These 11 Tips

Do you ever wish you looked a little taller? Many of my clients, even if they are above average height, list this as an image goal. At 5′ 1″ myself, I appreciate the sentiment. Luckily for us vertically-challenged folks, we can use clothing as smoke and mirrors to achieve (or at least get closer to) the look we want. Below are 11 tips on how to dress so you look taller:

Patterns and Color
1) Wear the same color (or at least similar tones of color) on top as you do on bottom. That way, you avoid the horizontal line of a color break across your middle, which would cut you in half otherwise.
2) Similarly, you should avoid wearing a belt that contrasts strongly with the rest of your outfit, as it will abbreviate you.
3) Wear socks in the same color as your pants. It makes your legs look longer.

Men's Style Tips: Repp Stripe Tie4) Everyone knows to wear vertical stripes, but did you also know that diagonal lines create illusion of length? In addition to vertically striped pants, suits, jackets, and socks, try a repp (diagonal stripe) tie.

Lines of Clothes

Men's Style Tips: Layering with a hoodie5) Dressing in layers allows you to add lots of elongating verticals. Think a hoodie or sweater with a zip or a cardigan left open (try under a sport jacket or a casual jacket).
6) Wear a pocket square. It draws the eye up to your chest favorably.

Sportcoats or Suit Jacket Details 
7) Opt for peak lapels, as the detail and upward-pointing angles guide the viewer’s eye in an upward direction, making you look taller.
8) As in #1, the diagonal lines of a suit jacket or sportcoat’s lapels will extend your height. Choose one with a “low button stance,” which means it buttons lower on your body, extending those diagonal lines.
9) The gorge on your jacket is where the collar meets the lapel. If you’re buying custom, tell them you want a “high gorge,” which will have the same upward-orienting effect as in #7.

Men's Style Tips: Jacket Length10) Buy your jacket on the short side (or have it tailored that way) so that it just covers the curve of your seat. This makes your legs look longer.
11) When you have your jacket sleeves tailored, ask for at least 1/4″ of shirt cuff to show. If not enough or no cuff shows, it can make your arms (and the rest of you by proxy) look short.

Is there anything about your appearance you’d like to balance or camouflauge? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll tackle it in an upcoming post.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Losin’ It (Not a Diet Post)

jyb_musingsLosing it! 

After receiving 3 calls in less than 5 minutes from a telemarketing company—and all 3 interrupting an important business call– I decided to retaliate. 

I called back the number and got an answer from a robotic telemarketing sales rep and I said, “Hello. How are you doing today? I’m interrupting your day to try to sell you some s**t you don’t need. Do you have a few minutes to talknow?”

And then I gave the real reason I was calling and asked that my number be removed from their call list.

But he hung up on me.

Cold call sales is just hard like that.

(Note: Forgive me. I try never, ever to lose my cool and mostly succeed. But this wasn’t one of those times. But I’m all better now. And even feel a little guilty. But only a very little.)

===

Disconnect? 

Is it possible to receive a monthly phone bill from your phone carrier so detailed with information that it takes 8 full pages to report it all, but nowhere on this detailed bill is there a single reference to a phone number for your carrier if you have any questions? 

Yes, it is.

Josh Bowen: Is it Really About Fitness? 5 Reasons Why its Not

joshThe title of the blog may seem confusing and even appalling to most. It may lead you to question my sanity after 11 years as a personal trainer. “How does he not know what his job is?” Just hold on for a minute. For years I have had this approach when it came to clients, focus on more than fitness and nutrition.

See I believe fitness is a vehicle that we use to improve people. People HATE exercise, for the most part. For one reason or another most people disdain the process of trying to get into shape. They have goals but most of the time those goals are deeper than fitness. They impact every aspect of their lives. So, if it deeper than fitness why do we not concentrate on more than fitness? This approach may actually help you jump start your fitness and go on a quest to better yourself.

In my mind exercise/fitness and good nutrition affect every aspect of my life. Therefore, not only do I affect the physical part of me and they way I look but I also affect several other aspects of my life; relationships, better sleep, energy, confidence etc. So if you knew that working out would help boost your confidence and help you have the courage to ask a pretty girl on a date or make a great speech in front of the CEO of you company, would you be more aped to do it? Of course you would. Here are 5 of the most impacted areas of our lives that fitness increases more than anything else.

1.  Confidence

jbtransform

The picture on the left is from my high school graduation in 2000 and the picture on the right is from last year. On the left I weigh an astounding 140lbs on the right 200lbs. Forget the numbers and the obvious physical difference, the number one benefit that fitness has provided me is confidence. Without it, I would not have been able to speak in front of hundreds of people, write a book, go on a bootcamp tour for 14 days across the US or be a personal trainer. Physically I am different but the most effect has been in my confidence.

So many of my clients will list confidence as their number one benefit from working with a trainer and starting an exercise program. The proof is in the pudding.

2. Relationships

As a continuation from confidence, I find that increased relationships with others is a direct reflection from being fit. Often times clients will meet new people and friendships are born or their existing relationships improve because of heightened self confidence.

3. Diligence

A direct reflection of being fit is increasing one’s diligence and determination. Get tasks completed because they have more energy or confidence is common place.

4. Clarity

The hormonal effect of exercise is documented but what you often forget is the increased ability to think clearer. This aspect comes in handy in todays fast moving world. I always have told people I never make decisions until I have worked out that day. Working out will give me the extra time and mental clearness to think about making a decision.

5. Self Esteem

Confidence and self esteem are different. Self esteem is how you view yourself and how you feel about it. Fitness supplies the increased self esteem that one feels like they can conquer anything. Feeling better about the way you look is the best feeling in the world.

All in all, I do not concentrate on fitness. I concentrate on the effects of fitness and how it effects and impacts our lives. Anyone who has started an exercise program an continued with it can tell you that there are more than just five aspects that help better their lives. Focus on the effects working will give you, instead of thinking about whether you can do it or not.

 

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Instant Personality Test

10303467_10154373371790515_6291638683637281803_nMy new instant personality test. 

You are driving along in no particular hurry to get anyplace and notice your gas tank has just over a quarter tank of gas left as you are about to drive by a service station. 

What do you do? 

1) If you pull over and fill up, you are typical and are probably a responsible person who doesn’t leave things to chance but carries an extra jacket (or even blanket) in the car during the winter. They will likely be suited for middle management level positions. Or own a gas station. And likely coach little league and teach Sunday school. They sometimes teach courses in “How to” do things. And have fond memories of being a Boy Scout and even remember the hand sign that shows you are a scout.

2) If you keep driving and figure you’ll get it filled up next chance, you are probably a procrastinator and don’t know why. Oh, you say you know why and can list a dozen different reasons to others why you procrastinate but none really ring true. You are often late and some people think you are reckless at times. But those same people find you charming and fun at other times. Still other people find you irresponsible and unreliable and when you try to be charming and funny around them they may smile but will make the gagging expression by pretending to put their finger down their throat as soon as you leave. There is a certain adrenaline rush these individuals get from procrastinating and taking unnecessary risks. These individuals are often well suited for being an entrepreneur or CEO or entry-level assh***s who hop from job to job and borrow money from people who get gas earlier than they do.

jyb_musings3) If you drive past the station and then get nervous and do a U-turn and drive back to fill-up, you are a very tentative and indecisive person who can never remember where he was driving in the first place or why and is probably still out driving right now but still has at least a quarter tank of gas wherever you are. But not much else.

4) If you drive past the station but make a note to fill-up soon and later that day stop by a service station to fill-up, you show strong leadership capability and the ability to asses situations on “the fly,” and make bold decisions. These people aren’t as much fun as #2 and often feel like an older male family member who acts like he or she knows it all but can get on your nerves easily. They are almost never the smartest person in the room except occasionally when they are in a room by themselves. These individuals seem to be good at fewer things than they imagine but they compensate for it by an assured smugness that propels them into much higher paying jobs than their skill set could justify. You feel bad for them so just play along and let them think decisions they make (like not getting gas now when it is easy and right there but delegating it to later in the day) are really wise and make them destined for leadership roles.

5) If you read this and are horrified that you would ever be driving with a gas tank this low, you are a great supporting cast member and loyal employee. These people have great skill for being the number two person who does most of the important work. But when these people have dinner parties they, naturally, play it safe and serve ordinary hors d’oeuvres that don’t look very good or taste very good either and tell stories about how they “averted disasters” recently–but others find these stories a little tedious and overly-dramatic. Especially the story about the time they were driving with less than a quarter tank of gas but somehow made it home anyway. But friends eat their hors d’oeuvres anyway–and compliment them– because they appreciate all these people do for them.

6) If you don’t understand the question because you have never had more than a quarter tank of gas, you probably have the most job options off any personality type but they are all minimum wage level jobs and have little future in them. You go to the gas station almost daily but only put in one or two gallons at a time because you fear if you fill up the entire tank, you will feel like a poser and fraud and like you betrayed your peers who like the idea of surviving day-to-day even though it’s much easier than they want to believe and doesn’t take nearly as many stops to gas stations. But it’s a pride thing.

7) If you don’t own a car and just use ride sharing services and ride a bicycle most places, you don’t count for this personality test. But you are probably pretty cool. And aren’t missing out on very much.

Lauren Mayer: our Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses – 2014 version

People have often used ‘the melting pot’ as a metaphor for immigrants from all over the world, coming together to make America a great and diverse country.  (Although when I was growing up, I had a creative teacher come up with ‘fruit salad’ as a better metaphor, implying that immigrants retained some elements of their native culture and blended together in a tasty mixture – unfortunately, California also became known as the ‘granola state’, full of flakes & nuts, but I digress . . . ) However, immigration has become so politicized lately, it’s hard to find any common ground.  The Senate was able to put together a bipartisan reform bill, but apparently the House won’t take it up because they’re too busy repealing the ACA or deciding whether or not to sue the President.  Still, one would think that all sides could at least come together over the plight of thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America who have crossed our border recently.  (Oh, I know, I’m just an eternal optimist . . . stop laughing at me!)

The nasty, xenophobic reaction by so many politicians and pundits has been appalling, but also ripe for ridicule (starting with the “Go Home Illeagels” signs and protesters swarming a bus from the local YMCA).  So in that spirit, we might as well update the iconic poem inscribed at the base of Lady Liberty . . .

The RP on Rebuilding West Liberty

At the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative America Meeting, Jonathan Miller announced a new CGI Commitment to Action by Rebuilding West Liberty, Kentucky:

Jay Steinmetz:

Jay SteinmetzAmerica is at a crossroads.  We sit here on the edge of a fiscal cliff fighting to determine if tax hikes or entitlement reform is going to lead the day.  As we fight to raise our debt ceiling critical questions are not being answered and seem to be ignored time and time again.  How did we get here?  Why did we get here?  And how do we avoid getting here again?

When we rescued two of the three American car companies we did so by removing huge debt and the liabilities of their underfunded pension liabilities.  Did we address why they were all failing to begin with?  Were VW, BMW, and Mercedes in Germany rescued?  Did Japan step in to support Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Subaru or Mitsubishi.   There are concrete reasons why two thirds of the American auto industry was failing.  The truth is that America’s other smaller industries are just as affected but don’t have the glitter and prestige of the auto industry.  Many have already disappeared.

Unfortunately, the hidden statistic that never reaches the lips of leaders in Washington is that the United States of America has had 38 years of consecutive trade deficits.  Our current account deficit is 10 times worse than the worst country in Europe.  The EU as a whole carries a $32 billion trade gap with the world which sounds large until you realize that the United States of America has a trade deficit of $600 billion annually.  So the question needs to be asked, how is it that a continent stocked full of high cost socialist governments, scarce natural resources, expensive energy prices, speaking 23 languages, and with a 200 year history of intra-continental war, can out-produce and out-ship the United States of America.   Aren’t we the most innovative entrepreneurial land on earth?  Are we not the land of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Under Armour?

If you ask many of today’s leaders they will tell you that the new order of the day is an economy based on services, or they may tell you that manufacturing has left and will never come back.  Some will say the cost of manufacturing in this country is just simply too high.  Has anyone told LEGO’s, made in Portugal, or Playmobile, made in Germany that costs are too high?  With 300 million people in this country why was it considered impossible to find a few hundred willing to work for reasonable wages so we could outfit our Olympic athletes in clothes made in the USA?

It is time for a reset.  As a country we need to reflect upon the structure of how we operate and then begin to make the necessary structural changes – regardless of the blow-back from those seeking to benefit from the status quo.  There are many things that need changing as America’s issues are not the result of just one or two burdening policies, but many small issues that together can seem overwhelming. The Chinese call this death by 1000 cuts and we can’t allow this paralysis to threaten the future of our country.

Complicated tax rebates, loans, grants, and special incentive programs while well intentioned, are actually a burden to business, especially small businesses that don’t have the resources to handle them.  A business that is losing money cannot use a tax deduction when it is already losing money.  What business in America needs are not specialized manufacturing technology centers and special start-up technology programs, what a thriving economy needs is simplification.

An entrepreneur to be successful must focus.  They cannot be distracted with complicated tax codes, layers upon layers of insurance protections, human resource processes, burdensome licensing and environmental regulations, and complicated legal contracts. When an organization reduces operational processes it increases efficiencies which in turn creates the necessary focus on providing a better product or service.

Starting a business with core knowledge is not as difficult as some may think.  However, growing a business to any substantial size is exponentially harder.  Once a business grows to $40 million or 100 people it becomes subject to a bevy of interstate and intrastate rules and regulations that don’t affect smaller businesses.  Most companies are completely unprepared both financially and operationally to handle the overwhelming onslaught of regulatory obligations that come when a company achieves these new milestones.  It is my opinion that this is one reason you rarely see new small manufacturers opening production plants in the US.  The labor regulations, the environment regulations, and necessary permits are just the beginning.

If none of these regulations stunt the growth of a new manufacturer, the product and worker liability burden will surely take a huge bite out of any potential profits.  For in America, where companies are not reimbursed for successfully defending themselves in court, the cost of unwarranted litigation is a serious threat.  With over 1.2 million licensed legal professionals in America, frivolous litigation is rampant.

We need to be able to stop pandering to the entrenched interests and start creating visibility to the obstacles of business then remove them one at a time.  This is not as difficult as it sounds.  What is difficult is finding those with the courage to get this done.

Jay Steinmetz, CEO of Barcoding Inc. is a Member of the Maryland Small Business Commission

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