Republican District Hurt By Budget Cuts

Last night’s Gubernatorial election in Virginia went about as expected, although the Republican challenger was a bit closer than projected. Looking at the voting acrss the State, the more populaous and prosperous areas voted overwhelmingly Democrat, while rural counties and the southwestern mountain are voted heavily Republican.

There are a lot of similarities between those areas and the area in this article in Kentucky. Poor white folks voting for their own misery… wonder when these folks are going to finally wake up and realize their Tea Party representatives don’t give a damn about their welfare.

Austerity deals harsh blow to already stricken land

Republican Congressman Hal Rogers brought so many federal dollars home to eastern Kentucky’s coal country, he was crowned “Prince of Pork.”

Now that spigot has been turned off, just when his district might actually need it the most.

Competition from natural gas, cheaper coal, and environmental regulations have hastened the demise of the mining industry here, already in decline. More than 6,200 eastern Kentucky miners have been laid off since July 2011. There are now fewer coal jobs here than in 1920, when the great-grandfathers of today’s miners wielded shovels and pick-axes.

But sequestration—a series of across-the-board spending cuts that many Tea Party Republicans have come to embrace—and other austerity measures have accelerated the economic free fall. Unemployment benefits to laid-off miners are shrinking; fewer meals are getting delivered to homebound seniors; and there’s less money to help workers retool for new jobs. Beginning Friday, food stamps will be cut by an average of $36 per month for a family of four.

It’s yet another blow to struggling Appalachian mining towns like Harlan, where the mayor estimates that 15% of the town’s residents have moved out in the past year, searching for work elsewhere.

Unsold guns are piling up in pawnshops. Even the local mortician is feeling the pinch: grieving relatives are downgrading from hardwood coffins to two-gauge steel, and ordering five baskets of flowers instead of twenty or thirty. “If I don’t sell to the coal people, I don’t sell,” one Harlan businessman explained.

Rogers has been one of the few Republicans to slam sequestration as devastating, unworkable, and unrealistic. Unless Congress decides otherwise, $109 billion in cuts will continue every year until 2021—a budget that Rogers must implement as chair of the House Appropriations Committee. But many of his Republicans colleagues have embraced the $85 billion in cuts this year as guaranteed spending cuts. It’s unlikely that budget negotiations that started this week in Congress will reverse all of them.

The incremental nature of sequestration —slow rolling, local, and scattered unevenly nationwide—has made the belt-tightening hard to measure and easy to dismiss since the cuts took effect in March. “The people that I’ve talked to seem to be doing well,” Missouri Rep. Billy Long said in April. “In fact, when I got out in restaurants here in town, people come up to me. They want to see more sequestration, not less.”

Even some Democrats believe the White House overhyped the cuts when it made dire predictions about their impact, some of which didn’t pan out. “I think they probably went over the top in terms of saying that the consequences were going to be horrible. The lines in the airports aren’t long, the world hasn’t changed overnight,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

But Harlan sees long lines. They are in the unemployment office, filled with out-of-work miners chasing any rumor of jobs left to be had. A TV in the waiting area explains how federal cuts have chipped away at the safety net most had hoped they would never need.

“Sequestration…What does that mean for you? Your Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits that begin on or after March 31, 2013 must be reduced 10.7% for each week of unemployment through September 2013.”

“Sequestration is a terrible way to do business. I’ve said it since day one. It slices the good with the bad, and removes the duty of Congress to ensure vital programs, like Head Start and various grant programs receive adequate support,” Rogers told MSNBC. “Couple those deep cuts with the rapid loss of coal mining jobs in eastern Kentucky and we’re now facing an economic superstorm.”

For Donnie Reeves, 40, each passing week of unemployment means less security. He lost his mining job in March, just weeks before his wife Tiffanie lost her job as a teaching assistant. “After December, it’s no more unemployment, no more nothing,” he said in August.

“I would have to work a minimum of three jobs, each 40 hours a week at minimum wage. That’s to keep the lights on. No groceries, no gas,” said Donnie, who made $70,000 in his best year.

Donnie spent the summer retraining for a factory job through an emergency federal program spared—this time—from sequestration’s axe. Tiffanie found a job helping unemployed Kentuckians like her husband find work.

But with two teenage kids and their hometown’s economy in tatters, the Reeves know that their future may lie outside Harlan, leaving behind a family rooted here for more than 120 years.

“Tiff,” he told her last spring, when they were first considering the idea, “we’re giving up.”…

Of Melungeons and Other Historical Mysteries

Arch Goins and family, Melungeons from Graysville, Tennessee, c. 1920s

Arch Goins and family, Melungeons from Graysville, Tennessee, c. 1920s

When Dr. Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone first explored what they would name the Cumberland Gap, the pass which allowed western expansion by the colonists in the Mid-Atlantic region in 1750 – they found a group of folks living in the area who were not Native Americans. They spoke English, and by appearances were neither white, black, or Native American. They became known as Melungeons, partially based on an early statement by one of the group that they were “Portugee”.

Theories have abounded as to how thee folks got there, and from where they came from. The most romantic of which claimed that they were descendants of survivors of the “Lost Colony” and Virginia Dare on Roanoke Island near the border of Virginia and North Carolina who mysteriously disappeared in 1586/7. Others have it they were the descendants of Portugese sailors and Turkish slaves who had been shipwrecked along the Barrier Islands protecting the Carolina and Virginia coasts during the 15th or 16th Century. Still another had them as descendents of slaves originating from the first Spanish Colony located on the Virginia/North Carolina Coast founded by Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón in 1526, which was destroyed by a slave revolt.

None of these historical theories was true.

Another long standing mystery is what happened to the initial African slaves brought to Virginia in 1619. Because there were no slave laws in Virgina at that time – they were purchased as Indentured Servants. Serving of a period of years to pay back the cost of their voyage – or “purchase” cost…

After which they became free, along with the hundreds of thousands of white Europeans who had been brought to the Colonies as Indentured Servants typically to pay off their debts. Permanent black slavery wasnt legally institutionalized in Virginia until about 1670, when a number of “Slave Codes” were ratified in response to several slave revolts, and complaints of slave owners about the economic cost of having to free their slaves.  So what happened in the intervening period to these black folks who were brought to America – served as Indentured labor and paid off their debt to be free? The commonly accepted story is that they intermarried with Native Americas – which is only partially true.

Laws against miscegenation between black and white were codified about 1660 in Virginia. The issue was in large part that by treaty (with Native Americans) and law – the status of a couple’s children, slave or free – was based on the status of the Mother. Thus if an African male slave married and had children with a white female Indentured Servant – any resulting children were freedmen. This posed an economic conundrum for Virginia slave holders, and a loss of valuable property in the form of new slaves. Thus we start to see laws being put into place to prevent this.

Unions between black and white was far more common than many historians would have you believe – and not just the result of the slave Master raping their slave women. By some calculations, supported by DNA tests – about 30% of what is now considered the white population of the US, whose families lived in slave states before the Civil War have black Sub-Saharan ancestry. The result of these marriages was the establishment of large bi- and tri- racial communities in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Louisiana. The groundbreaking work of Professor Paul Heinegg, of the University of Virginia “Free  African American Families of Virginia and North Carolina” and which has been expanded to now include Maryland, Delaware, and other states  – found that the genesis of most Free African American families before the Civil War in Virginia and North Carolina was the result of these unions between black males and white women. If you will recall, Thomas Jefferson kept his offspring from Sally Hemmings in slavery.

Unions between black slaves and white indentured servants were not rare – a situation creating the need (at least from the slave owners viewpoint) for laws prohibiting such unions. Which leaves the question – where did these families, established before the permanent slave laws,  go after finishing their indenture?

Part of my own family were what is called”Atlantic Creoles” (descendants of a white Sea Captain and an “Indian” woman who moved to Montgomery County  from what is now the Norfolk/Newport News area in 1719) whose children migrated from Montgomery County, Virginia on the lower Rappahannock River to an area near the Cumberland Gap on what is now the Virginia – West Virginia border to escape re-enslavement. They would fight a nearly 50 year legal battle in the Courts to retain their freedom. There was already a thriving black (or tri-racial) community there. What they did was to follow the path after the American Revolution of many European-American settlers and move west to the “frontier”, forming stable communities along the Virginia -West Virginia border.

Indeed there is evidence through letters that Confederate troops stayed out of certain counties in Virginia and North Carolina because the majority of the residents were freedmen who took a dim view of Confederates and would shoot any Confederate who wandered into the wrong territory. I have more then anecdotal evidence that being a slave catcher wandering onto some of those counties was a terminal profession. You can track some of that looking at General Sheridan’s campaign in the Shenandoah – looking at where they DIDN’T fight the Rebs.

My Dad, who was a Historian always claimed that the Melungeons of the region were actually the descendants of the first Africans brought to America who had intermarried with white Indentured Servants and had served out their indenture and moved to the remote area to escape persecution.

Turns out he was right. He referred to these folks as “cousins” – although I never figured out why, or have proven any direct family relationship with any of the 40 or so Melungeon families. He was also good friends with one of the Goins family descendants.

Melungeon history researchers at various times have claimed that several famous people were descendants of Melungeons, including Elvis Presley, Ava Gardner, and Abraham Lincoln. That is in all likleyhood wishful thinking – as I have never heard on any evidence to back such claims. The truth of which would be explosive.

Melungeon DNA Study Reveals Ancestry, Upsets ‘A Whole Lot Of People’

For years, varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies.

Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin. Continue reading

Bad Night for the Reich Wing – Good Night for America

In what are considered bellweather elections prior to the 2012 contests, Republicans went down on a lot of fronts…

Miss. defeats life-at-fertilization ballot prop

Mississippi voters Tuesday defeated a ballot initiative that would’ve declared life begins at fertilization, a proposal that supporters sought in the Bible Belt state as a way to prompt a legal challenge to abortion rights nationwide.

The so-called “personhood” initiative was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted. If it had passed, it was virtually assured of drawing legal challenges because it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion. Supporters of the initiative wanted to provoke a lawsuit to challenge the landmark ruling.

Ohio voters reject Republican-backed union limits

The state’s new collective bargaining law was defeated Tuesday after an expensive union-backed campaign that pitted firefighters, police officers and teachers against the Republican establishment.

In a political blow to GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters handily rejected the law, which would have limited the bargaining abilities of 350,000 unionized public workers. With more than a quarter of the votes counted late Tuesday, 63 percent of votes were to reject the law.

Democrats, unions cheered by election results

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, a folksy moderate Democrat, cruised to victory as expected with about 56 percent of the vote over a Republican and an Independent candidate.

The only bad news? Johnny Dupree lost in his run for Mississippi Governor. Republican Phil Bryant had 59 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Democrat Johnny DuPree, with 43 percent of the votes counted. If DuPree had won, the mayor of Hattiesburg would have been the first African-American to win statewide office in Mississippi in modern times.

 

Highlights From The Nastiest Debate of 2010

This one is reminiscent of the infamous Hatfield and McCoys feud that roiled the Kentucky-West Virginia border years ago. Not sure why Jack Conway went there, to hammer Rand Paul on what was in all likelihood a stupid drunken college prank – but the “Aqua Buddha Man” Rand Paul certainly hasn’t done himself any favors in disposing of this one. Paul is a particularly nasty piece of work, who is a fake doctor, and a racist who tries and cover his tracks with Libertarian “principles”. One hopes the good folks of Kentucky have better morals than to send a piece of shit like this to the Senate.

Rand Paul — The Aqua Buddha Man!

An anonymous woman claims that Rand Paul was getting his freak on, with the Aqua Buddha!

Exclusive: Rand Paul’s accuser clarifies “kidnapping”

The woman who sparked a national firestorm by recounting Rand Paul’s youthful indiscretions to GQ magazine is now clarifying her account: She says she was not kidnapped nor forced to do drugs by Paul.

But she reiterated other odd aspects of her earlier story, including her claim that Paul and another college friend blindfolded her, tied her up, and told her to smoke pot and worship the “Aqua Buddha,” even if they didn’t physically force her to do these things.

The woman — who was made available to me for an interview by GQ reporter Jason Zengerle in response to the Paul campaign’s denunciations of his article — said she didn’t mean to imply that she was kidnapped “in a legal sense.”

“The whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” she told me. “They didn’t force me, they didn’t make me. They were creating this drama: `We’re messing with you.'” Continue reading

The Forgotten in Kentucky

Steal away
Steal away
Steal away to Jesus
Steal away
Steal away home
I ain’t got long to stay here

Free Kentucky’s Forgotten 44

Most people in Kentucky are unaware that “seducing or enticing slaves to leave their lawful owners” was once such a grievous crime that scores of abolitionists suffered long years behind bars for their common-sense daring. One of them was forgotten in his cell until five years beyond the end of slavery and the Civil War. Others emerged to tell of bleeding under the warder’s lash in a “jaws of hell” torment delivered by the state as the appropriate penalty for urging blacks to find freedom.

Modern Kentucky is blessed that some citizens — including an archivist and a public defender — are roiled enough to be campaigning for a just postscript to that horrendous era: an official pardon for 44 abolitionists long dead and gone. The campaign is a welcome contrast to thoughtless proclamations that embarrass Old South statehouses with salutes to a Confederate history often omitting the towering facts of slavery.

“To be totally forgotten — where nobody today even remembers their names — it seems an incredible injustice,” James Prichard, a retired state archivist, told The Lexington Herald-Leader about his research on the 44, 24 of them whites. Mr. Prichard’s work inspired Rodney Barnes, the public defender in Frankfort, and Jared Schultze, a Kentucky-born college intern determined to set his state’s history right.

Distracted though he is by current criminality, Mr. Barnes presses for the pardons as time-defying challenges for the halls of justice. “These people are heroes — they did the right thing,” said Mr. Barnes, laboring for this chance for Kentucky to stand tall. The office of Gov. Steve Beshear admits to being “intrigued” and is reviewing the pardon request.

Cold cases from slavery days truly come alive in the details Mr. Prichard has gathered. Tales of Tom Johnson, “a free man of color” who fell in love with Amanda, the property of F. B. Merriman of Marion County. The freed slave was imprisoned for wooing Amanda into elopement. And the black matriarch Julett Miles, who doubled back from freedom in Ohio when she heard her enslaved family was up for resale in Kentucky. She did three years for the crime of “stealing” some of her own children. She was buried with her history, until now.

2000 Federal Worker Furloughed, Construction Stoppage Costing Millions – Thanks to Rethugly Senator Bunning

University of Kentucky’s NCAA Basketball Team is ranked as #3 in the country. March Madness is less than 2 weeks away, where UK has a serious chance of winning it all.

You want to pass the Bill, Mr Reid – add a contingent that only allows broadcast of the NCAA Tournament in Kentucky based on passage of the Bill.

UK Fans will be conduct a “Recall Election” on Bunning’s regnant Rethugly ass…

By lynch mob!

Thousands Of Federal Workers Are Furloughed Without Pay Today Because Of Sen. Bunning’s Partisanship

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) Over the weekend, approximately 400,000 laid-off workers may have lost their unemployment benefits, COBRA subsidies to help defray health care costs expired, and loans for small businesses ran out of time — all because of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY).

Last week, the House passed an extension of these benefits. Bunning, however, blocked the Senate from moving forward over “a dispute over how [the bill] should be funded,” and complained that the Democrats’ insistence on trying to ensure that unemployment benefits not expire had caused him to miss a college basketball game.

Several Republicans have defended Bunning’s destructive tactics, although Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) called on him to move aside. Inhofe pointed out that since the bill also contained transportation funding, an expiration could lead to furloughs of employees of the Federal Highway Administration. Indeed, today, 2,000 federal transportation workers have been furloughed without pay. From a Department of Transportation press release, which lays the blame directly on Bunning:

The action comes as a result of Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning’s decision to block key legislation that would have extended several critical priorities for middle class families. [...]

Because of the shutdown, federal inspectors will be removed from critical construction projects, forcing work to come to a halt on federal lands. Projects span the country, including the $36 million replacement of the Humpback Bridge on the George Washington Parkway in Virginia, $15 million in bridge construction and stream rehabilitation in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, and the $8 million resurfacing of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. [...]

At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the furloughs will disrupt safety programs that operate in partnership with the states and advocacy groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). [...]

Assistance to consumers whose goods are held hostage by rogue moving companies will be unavailable during this period. And work addressing texting while driving for commercial truck and bus drivers, electronic on-board recorders and hours of service will also be suspended.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also pointed out that 1.5 million people may also “be unable to watch local TV stations” beginning today — also because of Bunning’s block on the bill, which includes a “satellite television extension” allowing rural residents to watch local TV stations via satellite. According to MultiChannel news, without the extension, “satellite operators will not be allowed to import distant affiliate TV station signals to viewers who cannot receive a viewable version of their local affiliate.”

Yesterday, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said that the Senate will most likely pass a temporary extension of the unemployment benefits this week, although a year-long extension may be a tougher sell.

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