Rand Paul continues lying about his Civil Rights Act criticism, calls those who bring it up liars

rand fingers 3

Predictably, it appears that Rand Paul did not take our advice on being honest with people about his past statements on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Instead of giving an honest explanation for why he no longer has a problem with the article of the Civil Rights Act that outlawed racial discrimination in public accommodations by private businesses, today Rand Paul in an interview with WFPL’s Phillip Bailey continued to deny that he (repeatedly) questioned this, and said that those who correctly point this out are the REAL liars.

It’s an issue Paul still bristles at when confronted four years later, repeating no lawmaker on Capitol Hill is trying push minority rights than he is currently.

“Very few people are running around saying, oh something about the Civil Rights Act,” Paul told WFPL. “I’m a proud supporter of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. I’m actually working with Democrats on trying to restore aspects of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down. So people who want to say that are simply partisans and they don’t care about the truth too much.

Step No. 1 for outreach to persons of color: Stop lying to them.

It might also help him to stop supporting voter ID laws that disproportionately disenfranchise African-Americans. Or not spread blatantly false rumors about hordes of undocumented children from Central America coming to Ft. Knox, even if speaking out against this scaremongering falsehood wins him some street cred with the anti-immigrant portion of the early Republican primary states in 2016 who don’t like his hollow rhetoric about supporting immigration reform.

Then again, dishonesty oftentimes works in American politics, so who knows?


13 things I learned from local media this week

1. Kentucky has the sixth largest number of high school cigarette smokers. We used to have the most. So, yay? [WDRB]

2. The board of trustees at the University of Louisville recommended president James Ramsey receive a bonus of 25 percent of his $624,000 annual salary. [WFPL]

3. Louisville Metro asked Durham Labs to create a mobile air monitor device that would allow them to track air quality on the go. They made it, and high schoolers bicycled around the city collecting data. [BusinessFirst]

4. The U.S. Marshals Service conducted a status check of the 1,154 registered sex offenders living in Louisville in late June and found that 90 percent of them were compliant. [WHAS]

5. 149 of those registered sex offenders live in my zipcode. [Courier-Journal]

6. Nearly 2,500 students have been charged or arrested during the last three years in connection to Jefferson County Public Schools [WDRB]

7. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting is fighting the good fight with U of L [WFPL]

World's sexiest Lyft driver.

World’s sexiest Lyft driver.

8. The debate on the legalities of driving services like Uber and Lyft has arrived in Kentucky. [BusinessFirst]

9. Most of the world’s Post-it Notes are made in Cynthiana, Kentucky. [WDRB]

10. If you had $100 million, you could buy 1.333 million Louisville Slugger bats. [WFPL] 

11. It’s not entirely my fault I can’t stick to my grocery budget. [WDRB]

12. People still use three-way calling, apparently. [WAVE]

13. HIGHLANDS CHIPOTLE IS ALMOST OPEN. All caps because I’m #TeamChipotle and this excites me. [BusinessFirst]

Great. Now I’m hungry and worried about sex offenders. Pardon me while I give myself a 25 percent bonus by stealing somebody’s sandwich out of the LEO break room.


6th Circuit Court of Appeals grants motion to consolidate Kentucky’s same-sex marriage cases, expediting decision

beshear

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the joint motion by the plaintiffs and defendant in the Love v. Beshear case has been granted, which will significantly speed up the process for a final ruling in the case that could finally legalize same-sex marriage in Kentucky.

Here is the statement by Gov. Steve Beshear on the order:

“We have joined with the plaintiffs in the Love case and filed a joint motion to consolidate the Love appeal with the Bourke appeal to expedite the briefing so it can be argued Aug. 6 before the Sixth Circuit along with the cases from Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. This is part of our ongoing effort to ensure the matter is fully before the Sixth Circuit and to bring finality and certainty to this matter for the people of Kentucky in the quickest possible manner.”

These consolidated cases will be argued before the court on Aug. 6 in Cincinnati, along with the same-sex marriage cases of Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio. According to Love and Bourke attorney Joe Dunman, this consolidation significantly speeds up the Love case, which could have drug on for a considerable amount of time. If the court upholds the decision of Judge Shepherd, Dunman says there is a good chance that such a ruling would be in by early October, which would mean it could immediately go to that months’ session of the Supreme Court.

Based on the recent experience of the Utah same-sex marriage case, the court may stay the ruling until the Supreme Court makes a decision, so it might not be time to start reserving spaces for your October wedding reception. Next year, however… who knows?

Also, let’s all hope that we can look forward to Ruth Bader Ginsburg giving her thoughts on that “birth rate” argument by Beshear’s lawyers. But at least Beshear has sped up the process, which is one of the things he said he was trying to do all along.


Housing Authority delays decision on proposed rent-reform study (aka the “experiment on black women”)

Section 8 residents and housing advocates scored a victory last week as Louisville Metro Housing Authority decided to delay their plans to vote on participating in a controversial rent-reform study being described by some as “an experiment on black women and children.”

LEO wrote about the proposed Housing and Urban Development-sponsored study last month. Here’s a recap:

The study — entitled the Housing Choice Voucher Rent Reform Study — would modify policies and rent calculations for a group of 1,000 randomly selected participants and compare the results to a control group operating under current policies and procedures. Those chosen for the study cannot opt out. Among the major modifications for them: determining the percentage of Section 8 rent you pay based on your gross income rather than an adjusted gross income that factors in things like childcare and medical expenses, and instilling a minimum rent payment.

The mandatory public comment period ended on Sunday, meaning the board could have voted on participating. However, according to the housing authority’s executive director, Tim Barry, a decision was made last week to indefinitely delay a vote in order to address the “unanswered questions and misinformation out there.” Barry says the board wholeheartedly agreed that no decision should be made until further discussions, especially face-to-face ones, can be had.

“I felt obligated to stop the process. There’s no need to rush through anything,” says Barry, adding that the housing authority has been meeting with local advocates to address what he has already acknowledged are “legitimate concerns.” Similarly, they have met with professors from the University of Louisville, who will be sending them suggestions regarding the study.

Since the study was quietly announced earlier this summer, local housing advocates and Section 8 recipients have expressed outrage over the city’s seeming willingness to participate in the study, which they see as an unnecessary experiment on low-income women of color, who make up a disproportionate percentage of the individuals within Section 8.

The ACLU of Kentucky  submitted a formal comment to the housing authority requesting that they refuse to participate in the study. In a press release sharing those comments, executive director Michael Aldridge said,

The cornerstone of our democracy is that individuals will be treated equally. But if the Housing Authority chooses to participate in the rent reform study, it will raise certain individuals’ housing costs purely at random. … The disparate impact this study would have upon people of color, particularly African American women, is also troubling.   Whatever legitimate reasons the Housing Authority may have for examining new rent calculation formulas, we think it inadvisable and a denial of fundamental fairness to randomly (and thus arbitrarily) select people for participation in a social experiment of this type.

In a separate press release, Kathleen Parks, co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, said,

From slavery to Jim Crow, African Americans have been America’s favorite guinea pig because we were labeled as brainless, useless, subhuman and inferior to whites, and they wonder why we don’t trust this structurally imbalanced housing system that has the audacity to impose a culturally biased study on black women against their will…

Leaders from the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice, National Action Network’s Metro Louisville Chapter, Women in Transition and the Fairness Campaign have expressed similar concerns. Miriam Williams, a program coordinator at the University of Louisville Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, wrote an op-ed in the Courier-Journal last week.

Protestors from several organizations attended the housing authority’s board meeting on Tuesday. (WHAS and the C-J have photos and videos of that protest here and here, respectively.)


Human trafficking case won’t proceed

Last month, we wrote about the challenges associated with identifying and prosecuting labor trafficking. Today, there’s a new development in the case that prompted that story.

WLKY reports that Jefferson County District Court Judge Sean Delahanty has said the allegations against Golden Palace Buffet owner Ming Wen Chen don’t constitute human trafficking. Chen and his wife were arrested in May after a yearlong investigation by Louisville Metro Police Department. Detectives say the couple forced their employees to work 12-hour shifts six days a week for almost no pay at the Outer Loop restaurant and restricted their freedom outside of work. The workers did not have passports, and some were unaware of what city they were in.

According to the news report, Delahanty said that this “may be in violation of wage and hour laws, may be in violation of human decency. I do not believe all of that constituted a crime.”

As Sgt. Andre Bottoms and others told LEO last month, labor trafficking is difficult to prove and prosecute, perhaps even more so than the related crime of sex trafficking. The line between what constitutes labor trafficking versus traditional labor violations comes down to coercion.

The WLKY report notes that the commonwealth attorney’s office can still indict Chen in circuit court and that a spokeswoman said they are aware of the case and might review it further.


Sen. Brandon Smith (famous climate science “academic”) is still living on Mars

Sen. Brandon Smith’s truly bizarre statements from a July 3 committee hearing in Frankfort — saying climate scientists are full of it because Mars is the exact same temperature as Earth and Mars doesn’t have any coal mines and factories — has gone viral nationally, with the YouTube clip we made being viewed nearly 34,000 times.

You would think that a person who says something so laughably false would simply acknowledge his error and move on, but that’s apparently not how Brandon rolls. Shortly after the committee hearing, Smith tweeted out the following statement, implying that he actually said something completely different and he was taken out of context:

Not only was Smith not taken out of context — these were the only comments he made about Mars — but his brand new theory is also laughable. In deep and dark corners of the internet tubes, climate change deniers enjoy sharing this conspiracy theory that all planets are warming, so there must be increased output by the sun to explain climate change on Earth, not the burning of fossil fuels. For instance, if you Google this, the first link that pops up is this website claiming Martian warming is real and debunks climate change scientists. Elsewhere on the site you can read many posts on how the Jews did 9/11, too (seriously).

The only problem with this theory is that it is laughable because relies on a speck of information, largely photographs of ice melting in one region on Mars over a three years period. And we can actually measure increased output from the sun… which is not happening. If you want more information on why Smith’s new theory is junk, feel free to read these words from actual scientists, or check out this video:

But Smith seems to be really convinced by these photos of one spot melting on Mars. Here’s the response from Grist:

On Earth, we have poles melting, surface temperature rising, tropospheric temperatures rising, permafrost melting, glaciers worldwide melting, CO2 concentrations increasing, borehole analysis showing warming, sea ice receding, proxy reconstructions showing warming, sea level rising, sea surface temperatures rising, energy imbalance, ice sheets melting, and stratospheric cooling, all of which leads us to believe the earth is undergoing global warming driven by an enhanced greenhouse effect.

One Mars we have one spot melting, which leads us to believe that … one spot is melting.

But Smith wasn’t done! The Monday following the hearing, Smith sent the following email back to a Kentucky resident who emailed him to point out how wrong he was on Mars:

Subject: Re: Climate Change

It amazes me that you have no idea what I actually said, weren’t at this meeting yet bought into this bogus quote posted about me so entirely that you took time to actually send me an email. Really? I have some lake front property you might be interested in! Please do not kick yourself for being duped by this, 56 other people in the world did as well.

As you can see, Smith is still denying that he said it, and still lying about being misquoted or taken out of context. It’s all bogus! The person replied by sending Smith a link of the YouTube video I posted… in full, undeniable context. Smith did not reply until this weekend, when he sent the following email, proving that Smith’s head is still on another planet:

“I made the point that it is my opinion that something bigger than one industry, coal, is affecting our planet. I went on to use the example that both Earth and Mars have experienced temperature changes. The clip you saw only shows enough of the overall debate to make the viewer believe I’m saying something different. I am not asking you to believe me; that is entirely up to you. However, as always, there is more to this story that deserves to be told.

The meeting in question was held so the Secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet could explain to committee members the impact of the newly proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. To say this was a heavily attended gathering by the media is an understatement. In fact, every major state outlet was present. Curiously, they never reported this story. Why? Because all of the informed parties understood the context of the conversation as I have been making this point for over five years. In fact, I was in Louisville on May 14th at a Forum Panel where we had a healthy discussion on this exact topic, and there was no story following that. You might be wondering how then did you get the story? This story came from an individual in the audience who can be heard on the tape shouting the claim that New York City is underwater due to climate change (I assure you, the whole story really is that bizarre). They began to tweet and blog and when the tape became available, took the snippet of me you saw.

Either all of the legitimate reporters in this meeting missed my comments or this whole ordeal is a diversionary, anti-coal measure to keep people from asking what the Secretary had to say. The answer to that question, the really important question of the day, is that he said nothing. He did not show up. I am not certain if these facts make a difference now but at least it provides a more complete image of what really happened and background on the source. If you still have doubts, take notice that this story, as you see it, was not reported in this publication or any other in Kentucky.

Although the majority of emails and calls to my office and home on this topic have unfortunately been vicious and accusatory in nature, one may be surprised to know that I appreciate the input. This is a discussion worth having, and even though we don’t all have to agree, we need to have tolerance of the many different views if we hope to come together to address this vital issue. Jumping to conclusions and battering the “opposing side” only perpetuates the entrenched environment we currently live in, which hasn’t gotten us anywhere. As chairman of Natural Resource committee, I had an open door policy. We brought the most diverse group of individuals and ideas to our meetings in hopes of finding answers. It takes no effort to call someone an idiot; the true challenge is finding the opportunities to work together beyond differences.

Brandon D. Smith”

Let’s just go through this mess point by point:

“The clip you saw only shows enough of the overall debate to make the viewer believe I’m saying something different.”

No, the clip shows exactly what you said about Mars, not the junk science you later claimed you were talking about, but weren’t.

“In fact, every major state outlet was present. Curiously, they never reported this story. Why? Because all of the informed parties understood the context of the conversation as I have been making this point for over five years. … Either all of the legitimate reporters in this meeting missed my comments or this whole ordeal is a diversionary, anti-coal measure to keep people from asking what the Secretary had to say. … If you still have doubts, take notice that this story, as you see it, was not reported in this publication or any other in Kentucky.”

Yes, no one else reported on your Mars statements in Kentucky except LEO … and the Courier-Journal (one, two, three times), Herald Leader (two times) and public radio. Unbelievable.

“You might be wondering how then did you get the story? This story came from an individual in the audience who can be heard on the tape shouting the claim that New York City is underwater due to climate change (I assure you, the whole story really is that bizarre). They began to tweet and blog and when the tape became available, took the snippet of me you saw. … I am not certain if these facts make a difference now but at least it provides a more complete image of what really happened and background on the source.”

Since he’s clearly referring to me, yes, you can clearly hear me in the video screaming about New York being underwater. This is despite the fact that you can hear no one shouting over him in the clip, and I was actually in Louisville watching the hearing over KET’s livestream. I guess I’m just gifted with a naturally booming voice.

“Jumping to conclusions and battering the “opposing side” only perpetuates the entrenched environment we currently live in, which hasn’t gotten us anywhere.”

Yes, God forbid people jump to conclusions without any facts in order to batter the opposing side. That won’t get you anywhere (except national fame for acting like an absolute fool).

Please keep replying and digging your hole, Sen. Smith. This is fun.


Mitch McConnell tells a pants-on-fire lie about Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion

McConnell's fire pants

McConnell’s fire pants

As we mentioned earlier today, Sen. Mitch McConnell made some truly bizarre statements this week in Oldham County about how gender discrimination is practically over because there are female CEOs in America and the way out of student debt is to go into the debt-accelerating factories of the for-profit college industry. While these statements might show that McConnell is out of touch with women, students, recent graduates and people who aren’t worth $20 million like himself, he also made one statement concerning Kentucky’s expansion of Medicaid that is simply out of touch with reality.

Explaining to the audience why tuition is so high, McConnell tried to pin the blame on Medicaid costs, assisted by a huge deception on Kentucky’s expansion of Medicaid (another h/t to the Oldham Era):

“Let me just give you an idea of why college tuition continues to go up as fast as it does in Kentucky. The two biggest expenses in every state budget: education and Medicaid. As the Medicaid costs for state government rise, education expenses get cut. Under Obamacare the governor made a unilateral decision to dramatically expand Medicaid. The federal government is going to pick up the costs for the first three years, and after that, you’re on your own. So these guys are confronted with a Hobson’s choice: cut Medicaid or cut education. What ends up happening is they don’t fund education as much as they otherwise would, because Medicaid expenses are rising. Those are passed on to the public universities and they raise tuition. This spiraling cost of health care is even having an impact on the cost of education. And we’ve only exacerbated that problem with Obamacare.”

So the federal government picks up the cost of Medicaid for three years, and then Kentucky is “on our own?” In fact, that is not even remotely close to being true. After those three years McConnell refers to, the federal government continues to pick up nearly the entire tab until 2020, when the federal government pays 90 percent and Kentucky pays 10 percent. “On our own” implies either 100 percent or at least the typical 30 percent under Medicaid, not 10 percent or less.

And if McConnell is concerned about Kentucky being able to pay that 10 percent by 2020, the two independent analyses by Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville actually show that Kentucky’s budget saves more money by choosing to expand Medicaid, with a revenue increase of $802 million by 2021, instead of a projected loss if Kentucky chose not to expand, largely due to savings on uncompensated care and growth in the health care industry. If McConnell has a study to show that these numbers are wrong, he hasn’t shared it with anyone.

And if you remember McConnell’s “unKynected” fiasco from May, his campaign manager said that Kentucky could continue the Medicaid expansion even if the ACA was repealed. And how could Kentucky do that? By passing legislation in which Kentucky pays for this expansion at a rate that would more accurately be described as “on our own,” which would total anywhere from $450 to $584 million next year alone — money that we would not have to pay, otherwise.

I’d say that McConnell is simply confused and misinformed if I didn’t know any better, but he is clearly in political survival mode, and he’s apparently willing to say anything that will save his skin, facts be damned.

Gov. Steve Beshear sent along this statement to LEO on McConnell’s statement in Buckner this week:

“Either Sen. McConnell doesn’t know how both Kentucky’s budget and federal Medicaid funding works … or this is campaign season, and he’s worried about his political future. Either way, his “either-or” explanation is disingenuous and inaccurate. Obviously both education and health care are critical to building a stronger workforce in Kentucky, and we’re making progress in both areas while holding down growing costs, thanks in part to the ACA. As Sen. McConnell well knows, while Kentucky will start paying a small match for expanded Medicaid in 2017, even at full implementation in 2020, the federal government will still be paying 90 percent of the program costs.”


Mitch McConnell: Sexism pretty much over, poor kids should lower their standards when choosing a college

Sen. Mitch McConnell has been twisting in the wind over the past few days regarding his support for the Paul Ryan budget in 2011, pretending that he didn’t support voucherizing Medicare even though he repeatedly touted his vote and support for that exact plan to “empower Grandma in the private market.” While this back and forth between the campaigns of Grimes and McConnell — which included Team Mitch trying to tell the old man in Grimes’ ad that the town he lives in doesn’t exist — is grabbing all of the headlines, this story on McConnell’s visit to a business in the tiny Kentucky town of Buckner reported in the Oldham Era slipped under the radar. While taking questions from some of the locals, McConnell said some pretty amazing things.

Others brought up questions concerning McConnell’s upcoming election, such as his views on women’s issues in Kentucky. The senator said even though Alison Grimes has the female position on the ballot, it doesn’t mean she will win the gender vote.

I could be wrong, but most of the barriers have been lowered,” said McConnell. “Women voters will look at the same issues as men are.”

McConnell also replied to a question about student debt, saying he didn’t think the federal government should forgive excess student loans. He explained the cost of higher education is “too high,” but an answer to the problem might be to provide competitive shopping around local alternatives. He suggested parents to be more cost conscious and send their kids to colleges closer to home.

“I went to a regular-old Kentucky college and some people say I did OK,” McConnell said.

I wanted to make sure that McConnell wasn’t quoted out of context here — where he seems to suggest that gender discrimination is a thing of the past and poor families should lower their standards when sending their kids to college — so I reached out to the Oldham Era reporter, who generously shared the audio so I could see his full statements.

Yes, McConnell did suggest that, and then some. Here’s what he had to say about the vanishing barriers for women:

“We’ve come a long way… in pay equity and uh… there are a ton of women CEO’s now running major companies…

I could be wrong, but I think most of the barriers have been lowered. And I’m a little skeptical about arguments that – particularly people like my party who are hostile to women – what kind of nonsense is that? I think my opponent is going to make that argument to all of you this fall, that somehow I’m promoting policies that are harmful to women. I don’t think that kind of agenda exploitation for political purposes makes any sense. The last time I ran I got 50 percent of the women votes in the state. So I don’t grant the assumption that we need to sort of give preferential treatment to the majority of our population, which is in my view, leading and performing all across the… you know, maybe I’m missing something here. But I’ve, um, I think the efforts on the part of my opponent, in particular, to try to convince people that women should vote for her because she’s a woman are likely to fail, because I think women voters are going to be looking at the same kind of issues that men are.

First of all, I’m sure female voters will be glad to know that all of those barriers of sexism and discrimination are pretty much gone now, so they don’t need any “preferential treatment.” Even though a pay gap still exists between men and women and legal barriers exist towards combating wage discrimination, and McConnell voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act which address this. And those female voters can rest assured that they can no longer be charged more than men by insurance companies and denied coverage for terrible pre-existing conditions like pregnancy – even though McConnell wants to repeal the ACA so that such discrimination can return. And thankfully we have laws like the Family Medical Leave Act, even though McConnell voted against that, along with the Violence Against Women Act. And while coverage for contraception was ensured by the ACA, the Hobby Lobby decision now puts that in jeopardy — a decision that McConnell proudly celebrated. And at least women’s reproductive choices remain, even though much of McConnell’s party — who are in no way “hostile to women,” as McConnell says — wants to ban all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, and ban forms of birth control altogether.

But yeah, besides that, thank goodness those barriers to women are gone. “Hostile to women?” The GOP is more like a “gift from God,” to quote the guy in Indiana that McConnell campaigned for in 2012.

mitch and mourdock

Or maybe I’m missing something here… I could be wrong.

As for McConnell’s comments that seemed to suggest that low or moderate income families send their A-student to a community college instead of Harvard, in a fuller context it’s even worse. Here’s his response to a question about what he would do for graduates in Kentucky with a giant student loan debt:

“I don’t think that the federal government ought to be forgiving debt. I think it’s outrageous that it costs as much as it does, but I don’t think the federal government ought to be in the business of forgiving, in effect, obligations owed. That kind of mentality is how we ended up with a $16 trillion debt… So I rule out forgiving obligations that have been voluntarily incurred.”

“A lot of college debt, a significant amount, is related to graduate school. There are a lot of low cost options that I hope more and more kids will take advantage of. Public schools are cheaper than private schools. There is proprietary education, which works for some people. The cost of higher education is way too high. What I think it would benefit from is a lot of competition, which is one of the reasons that I’m a fan of proprietary education, because it’s providing private competition for traditional colleges and universities, most of which I attended and you probably attended. I think more competition and shopping around for college alternatives is a pretty good idea. This comes from a guy who’s financed three daughters at out-of-state schools. Could have been a lot better here and a lot cheaper here…

So I think the best short term solution is for parents to be very cost conscious in shopping around for higher education alternatives. Not everybody needs to go to Yale.”

First of all, it’s interesting that McConnell is characterizing Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan — allowing college graduates to refinance their loans by closing tax loopholes for billionaires — as some kind of amnesty. No, their high rates are an obligation that must be preserved, said the man who called the TARP bailout as the Senate at its finest hour.

And speaking of sub-prime bubbles bursting, here’s what the student loan crisis looks like across the country and in Kentucky:

The student loan bubble, which has been compared to the sub-prime mortgage bubble, has had economists and financial reporters predicting a bust as Standard & Poor’s continues to issue warnings and banks like JP Morgan withdraw from the market.

Rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduate degrees saw an 0.8 percent bump this month, bringing them up from the 3.86 percent fixed rate to 4.66 percent. Unsubsidized Stafford loan rates rose from 5.41 percent to 6.21 percent (most students opt for a combination of both to pay their tuition). Students seeking a master’s degree saw rates jump from a 6.21 percent fixed interest rate to 7.21 percent.

Meanwhile, student loans are currently netting the government about $51 billion in profit, according to a 2013 report from the Congressional Budget Office.

Warren’s plan, known as the Bank on Students Act, would have temporarily reduced interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans to 0.75 percent from the then-3.86 percent rate. People still carrying older student loan debt would have also been allowed to refinance their loans at the new, lower rate.

In Kentucky, the pressure is building: The White House has issued a report saying 588,000 Kentuckians have student loans worth more than $13.4 billion, while the Project on Student Debt says 62 percent of Kentucky graduates carry debt out of college, to the tune of about $22,000 each.

Yes, that looks bad, but McConnell has his solution: If you’re not a millionaire like him, who can send multiple kids to Ivy League schools without breaking a sweat, you simply send your honor student to your local community college, or… a “proprietary school.” What’s a proprietary school? That would be a for-profit college, the institutions that are actually at the heart of the student loan crisis, of course.

Here are the figures from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau:

96% of students at for-profit colleges take out loans. 13% of community college students, 48% of public college students, and 57% of nonprofit private college students do.

For-profit colleges enroll 13% of higher-education students but receive 25% of federal student aid.

The 15 publicly traded for-profit colleges receive more than 85% of their revenue from federal student loans and aid.

42% of students attending for-profit two-year colleges take out private student loans. 5% of students at community colleges and 18% at private not-for-profit two-year colleges do.

1 in 25 borrowers who graduate from college defaults on his or her student loans. But among graduates of two-year for-profit colleges, the rate is 1 in 5.

Students who attended for-profit schools account for 47% of all student loan defaults.

But by all means, we’ll solve this student debt crisis by keeping rates high and shipping kids off to for-profit colleges. Unless you’re as wealthy as Mitch McConnell or a female CEO that proves gender discrimination is a thing of the past, in which case you can still pay for your kid to go to Yale. That’s leadership, right there.


Judge Shepherd expresses concern about botched executions in Kentucky death penalty case

This morning in Franklin Circuit Court, Judge Phillip Shepherd said that he is “concerned” about the botched executions this year in Ohio and Oklahoma, and he thinks the court might need to “revisit” Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol.

Shepherd’s statements were during a hearing on motions filed in the case of six death row inmates against the state of Kentucky, who are arguing that Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol violates the Constitution. As LEO wrote about last month, public defender David Barron believes that the recent botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma are relevant to the case and should be included. In Ohio, an inmate put to death with the same drugs as Kentucky’s protocol choked, gasped and struggled for nearly 10 minutes before dying. In Oklahoma, an execution was badly botched and called off before the inmate died of a heart attack, all due to the inability of corrections officials to properly insert his IV over a period of 51 minutes — a process that is closed to public viewing, as it is in Kentucky.

After the state’s attorney argued that the drug issues are settled, Shepherd expressed the court’s concern about the experiences in other states and did not rule out that Kentucky’s drug protocol would be revisited.

“That is another issue that the court needs to take a close look at,” said Shepherd. “Because I’ll say that the court is concerned about the issues that are emerging as we see the experience from other states and the potential for changed circumstances here as to how that may affect the implementation of the protocols in Kentucky. And I know the court has indicated previously, ruled that the drug issues in the ’04 case are no longer… had basically been resolved in the ’04 case. And I think I need to revisit that and to look at the briefing on this now to decide whether there are changed circumstances that would justify looking at that issue.”

The case is still in the discovery phase, and will likely proceed through the end of the year. Shepherd hasn’t given a final ruling on whether the plaintiffs’ case can be amended with the additional evidence from Oklahoma and Ohio, but his statements today hint that he may allow this to happen.


Sen. Brandon Smith has important things to say about climate change, Mars

Kentucky’s Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment met today to discuss the new EPA rules to fight climate change by limiting greenhouse gases from power plants. The committee is chaired by Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, a proud climate change denier who has suggested in the past that Kentucky secede from the union in order to avoid federal environmental regulations. Yes, he chairs the committee, because Kentucky.

I don’t even know where to start on sharing some of the wisdom that was expressed by our state legislators during this hearing. No, actually I do. I give you the honorable Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard:

“As you (Energy & Environment Cabinet official) sit there in your chair with your data, we sit up here in ours with our data and our constituents and stuff behind us. I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change, but I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.”

First of all, I did not make up that quote, it’s quite real.

Secondly, while the average temperature on Earth is roughly 58 degrees Fahrenheit, the average temperature on Mars is approximately -80 degrees Fahrenheit. In Sen. Smith’s defense, he’s only off by about 138 degrees or so, which happens sometimes. Let’s go ahead and round up (up up up up up up up, etc…).

Thirdly, note that when Smith refers to those in academia, he uses the word “we.” Because he’s obviously one of those academic types. He has “his” data, and the 98 percent of climate scientists who believe in climate change have “theirs.” Nobody will dispute that.

Fourthly, while Mars doesn’t burn any coal — smashing claims that climate change on Earth is due to this, since we have the same temperature* — Smith can’t be sure that they don’t have any factories giving off greenhouse gases. We’ll have to check with the data of the Martian scientists before we can confirm this claim.

Lastly, Smith is an actual elected official in Kentucky’s state Senate, who has been elected to this position twice by real Kentucky voters, and served four terms in the House before that.

There were plenty of other amazing and “insightful” quotes in this hearing from members of both parties that I’ll share later — where the people who say Mars is the same temperature as Earth allege that climate scientists don’t know what they’re talking about — but right now I think I need to lay in the fetal position for a couple of hours.

* Actually, this temperature claim is false and mind-numbingly idiotic, so nevermind.

***** UPDATE *****

And here’s the video proof!