Kentucky won a football game. Here are my thoughts. Saturday, Aug 30 2014 

College football is back and with that the Kentucky Wildcats took the field for the first time in 2014. Despite Commonwealth Stadium being less than full for the opener, there is excitement about this season. Fans are excited about what Mark Stoops is doing. And Saturday gave us our first opportunity to see a bunch of players that are behind that excitement.

Whether or not Kentucky would beat UT-Martin was never a question. Instead it was more about about how the Wildcats went about getting this win. How Patrick Towles looked in his first career start? How the hyped freshmen and transfers looked? Could this young team use the game against the Skyhawks to build confidence.

Towles looked great. A bunch of freshmen and transfers shined. And yes.

In the 59-14 rout of UT-Martin, Mark Stoops and the Wildcats got exactly what they needed. An easy win and some gained confidence to boot.

Let’s start with the quarterback, because ever since Mike Hartline’s career was ended a game early with a suspension that forced him to miss the BBVA Compass Bowl, Kentucky’s play at quarterback has been worse than the Wendy’s commercials with that annoying ass red head.

Towles was great as he completed 20 of 29 passes for 377 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions, and he added a rushing touchdown. He got rid of the ball quick. For the most part was accurate. I was impressed with the way he went through his progressions. And he showed he ability to hit the deep ball.

The play that stood out to me was when he hit Javess Blue on their first scoring drive for 44 yards down to the three yard line. He hit Blue in stride for a big gain. A perfect ball. Something that this UK team has completely lacked over the last three years.

The number of skill guys that UK threw out there was crazy. Towles hit nine different receivers. Ten receivers overall caught balls as Reece Phillips hit T.V. Williams twice. Four true freshman made a catch (Blake Bone 2-65, Dorian Baker 3-29, Garrett Johnson 3-25, T.V. Williams 2-45). Javess Blue and Demarco Robinson, both seniors, showed the ability to make big plays. And Ryan Timmons once again looked like he could score any time he touched it.

ukutmart640 500x234 Kentucky won a football game. Here are my thoughts.

And then the rushing attack. Braylon Heard, the transfer out of Nebraska, only got two touches, but he made the most of them as he took them both to the house. His first touch as a Wildcat went for a 73 yard touchdown and his second for a 43 touchdown. Two carries for 116 yards. Not bad. Mikel Horton scored twice and JoJo Kemp’s touchdown gave the ‘Cats their first score of the season. And then there was Josh Clemons, who carried the ball twice for just five yards, but it was awesome to see him on the field again.

Overall, there were three things that really stood out to me about this UK offense. Their ability to make big plays, how they were able to stay out of 3rd and long situations, and zero turnovers. These three things killed Kentucky last year. They had over ten plays of 20 or more yards and because they were able to keep it 3rd and shorts converted 8-14 third downs.

I know the defense had a shutout heading into the fourth quarter, but there were things that concerned me even before the Skyhawks decided to move the ball at will for two scores in the fourth quarter. With Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree, you would expect the Kentucky to be able to control the edges against a team with lesser talented. That was never the case. Time and time again Abou Toure and the rest of the UT-Martin tailbacks were able to get to the edge and make positive gains.

There were positives on defense. Most impressive was the five forced turnovers. Fred Tiller and A.J. Stamps both had interceptions, giving their secondary two picks in this one, one more than they had all year last year. Stamps, a junior college transfer, quickly showed why the coaching staff was so high on him with his crazy athletic one-handed interception.

Another negative. The return game. It makes you yearn for the days of Derek Abney and Randall Cobb. They have to get more from the return game.

I know, I know this is a lot of positive thoughts for a game against UT-Martin. But, why not be positive? Why look at this game like, “Oh, it’s just UT-Martin so who cares?”. The Wildcats are 4-20 over their previous two seasons. They haven’t started the season at 1-0 since they beat WKU to start the 2011 season. Name the last time they had a quarterback throw for 350 yards, they gained over 650 yards of total offense, and forced five turnovers. I’d look it up, but I’m not Guy Ramsey of the UK Media Relations Department and I’m really, really lazy. And you have to be really excited about all of the skill guys this team possesses and the fact that they may actually have a quarterback that can make plays.

We’ll talk about this a lot more from 10-noon tomorrow morning on ESPN 680.

How awesome is it that college football is back. Yay!

Before Kentucky Farm Bureau, Mitch McConnell takes credit for brokering fiscal cliff deal with $500 million giveaway to Amgen, other pharmaceutical companies Monday, Aug 25 2014 

Kentucky Farm Bureau recently hosted their Measure the Candidate Forum 2014, and today they published their video of opening statements of Senate candidates Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes. 

In McConnell's opening statement,  he gave us a reminder of how he spent his New Year's Eve 2012. 

"You may remember where you were New Year's Eve 2012, but I bet you forgot where I was. I was not with Elaine, I was with Joe Biden."
To hear him tell it, McConnell was Kentucky's fiscal savior that night. Not so fast, Senator. 

In a January 19, 2013 story in the New York Times headlined Fiscal Footnote: Big Senate Gift to Drug Maker, investigative journalists Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack exposed a nasty deed done at dark thirty in that New Year's Eve fiscal cliff deal. 

McConnell and his senate buddies had nestled a $500 million giveaway for the largest biotechnology firm in the world, Amgen, to share with a few other pharmaceutical companies over the next two years. 

Forgot where I found this.
The giveaway was in the form of a two-year extension of an exclusion from a price restraint that targeted a class of drugs that included Amgen's profitable Sensibar. This exclusion had already been extended, and raised the cost of healthcare, for two years already. 

The fiscal cliff compromise that was supposed to raise revenue and cut spending, was poisoned with this sick thing that did neither. 

But it's worse

Who lobbied for the Amgen jackpot but Kentucky's own Hunter Bates, McConnell's former chief of staff. In 2004, the Voice Tribune quoted McConnell on Bates' future:
"McConnell said Bates will 'be one of the top leaders of that generation for our party in the future. And I fully expect that we'll hear from him again.'" 
McConnell heard from him again, alright. Amgen's employees and political action committees have distributed shy of $5 million in donations to political campaigns since 2007, with $73,000 of it going to McConnell's campaign. According to Lipton and Sack, McConnell received some of that sum at a fundraiser Amgen helped sponsor in December, just as the fiscal cliff debate was starting to consume us all. 

Amgen's PAC even gave the Republican Party of Kentucky a $5,000 contribution on December 5, 2012. (FEC

Bates is also founder of Commonwealth Alliances, and is, or was at one time, an attorney with Frost, Brown, Todd. 

Much, much worse

Amgen had recently been a bit of legal trouble for marketing an anti-anemia drug, Aranesp, illegally. On December 18, 2012, the corporation pled guilty in that case, agreeing to pay $762 million in fines, broken down as $612 million for a civil settlement, a $14 million criminal forfeiture payment, and a $136 million for an actual criminal fine. (Reuters

Whether they knew for sure they'd be getting a partial rebate of those fines compliments of US tax-payers, we'll never know.

Putting Amgen in context

According to Lipton and Sack, for years Amgen used lobbyists to ensure Medicare payments for the dialysis drug Epogen. That was until researchers discovered Medicare's practices of paying providers separately for drugs and dialysis treatment led to overprescription. 

Incentives to overprescribe medication? What could go wrong?

Well, for one, patients who took Epogen more than needed it, had increased cardiovascular risks. For another, that's raising the costs of healthcare, like by a whole big bunch.

So like on Schoolhouse Rock, people called up their local member of congress who said, "You're right, there ought to be a law." In 2008, Congress passed a law requiring Medicare to pay bundled rates for a dialysis treatment and related drugs. When the law went to effect in 2011, Amgen sold less Epogen. 

But when Amgen's not happy, nobody is happy. So Amgen, and other pharmaceutical companies, were able to use their lobbyists to compel congress to provide a 2-year exclusion on certain oral drugs, including Amgen's Sensipar. But the problem for Amgen was the 2-year exclusion expired in 2014. 

For Amgen, their $762 million legal settlement, no doubt raised the stakes for keeping Sensipar as overprescribed and profitable as possible.

McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer said his boss didn't push for the Amgen subsidy's inclusion. Steurer told the Courier-Journal's James R. Carroll in an email

“Senator McConnell reviewed the legislation before voting on it, but he did not know who would benefit, beyond the Medicare patients who would continue to be able to see their doctors because we prevented a catastrophic cut.”

Is Steurer telling Kentuckians that McConnell knew the provision was in the fiscal cliff bill, but didn't really know that it benefited the corporation for whom his former chief of staff lobbies? Even though they hosted a fundraiser for him a month before? Does he think we're stupid?

The Times published Amgen's rebuttal, who incidentally has zero credibility since they pled guilty to fraud less than two months before. A snippet:

"Amgen’s communication with Capitol Hill on this issue had nothing to do with patents or patent exclusivity, but with encouraging Congress to heed the cautions of the Government Accountability Office to ensure quality health care for a chronically ill patient population."

While McConnell wasn't the only one with his hands dirty in the Amgen scandal, he is the only senator who has the audacity to take credit for brokering the deal. Probably because this deal has his dirty little fingers all over it.

(Portions of this entry were written for and submitted to Insider Louisville for publication in 2013, but were not published.)

8/26/14 1:21 AM UPDATE
More KFB videos from the forum:

That time Elaine Chao, James S.C. Chao appeared together on a game show Saturday, Aug 16 2014 

Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and her father Captain James S.C. Chao, were guests on a Chinese game show in November of 2013. What is amazing about the appearance, is that Sec. Chao spoke freely about her political career, as well as her marriage to Senator McConnell. For example, did you know Mitch McConnell did his own laundry? You do now. Enjoy:

Right after the 8 minute mark, Chao explains how she went to work for President Ronald Reagan  to represent Citigroup in the White House. No seriously. In her own words:
"And then when I was in the middle of working for Citigroup after four years, I had the opportunity, uh, to work at the White House, because Citigroup has a special program. They selected outstanding performers within the bank and gave them an opportunity to support them for a stint in the government."
I took the liberty of transcribing most of Chao's 13 minute talk, from when she first talks about her husband to when she introduces her father. We really get to know her. Warning.While is it apparent throughout her talk that Chao is in denial of her own privilege, she kind of really grows on you. Not unlike Claire Underwood. I mean, you'll see what I mean. Consider yourself warned:
"He's a very good husband. He does his own laundry. He cooks. He helps me with the house, too. He's very encouraging of women. And I think it's really important to find someone who is going to be your life partner, because they will help you adapt to your life. And they will help you adapt to your career as well. And so in 1996, I wanted to have a break, so I joined a think tank where I took some time to study and learn more about the American political system. How to get ideas across. Because America is a very confrontational society. You know, people are arguing all the time. So some people are saying this, some people are saying that. And its okay.So there's a lot of fighting back and forth.
 And then in 2000, (George) W. Bush was getting rid for his presidential bid, and I had known him before because I had campaigned with his, with him, for his father. And I've known him because he's also from Harvard Business School. Um, President George Bush is class of 1971, I was class of 1979.* So we know each other from that as well.
And you'll be interested to know  I actually was supposed to get, I thought, the Department of Transportation. But...Norm Mineta got the Department of Transportation. And so, I was very disappointed. And I think it tells you a lesson in that if your faced with disappointment, number one, you must always think of the long term. So even if it can be a disappointment, don't be discouraged. If you handle the disappointment well, there will be lots of other opportunities. And so indeed I was originally um not offered but indicated that Secretary of Trans...Labor was the position they wanted for me and I wasn't really very familiar um with labor as much as I was familiar with transportation. So I was hoping to be appointed to transportation. But when that did not happen, I was very calm. I thanked the president and his team for considering me. I wished them well in their new administration, thinking I was not going to be a part of it.
And then two weeks afterwards, the president's nominee for the Secretary of Labor position (Linda Chavez)** encountered difficulties in her confirmation hearing. In the United States, the president proposes a Secretary, and then the Congress, the Senate, approves. So the original choice for the Secretary of Labor encountered difficulties in her confirmation process and she had to drop out. So they the White House and the President needed to find a new Secretary of Labor., Someone they trusted. Someone who they know can clear and gain the approval of the Senate, who had no blemish on their record so they can go through the confirmation process very easily, and so they approached me again and asked if I'd be interested in applying, in accepting the position of Secretary of Labor. So that was how I became the Secretary of Labor. So I wasn't the first choice."
"But I think life is so interesting. It's hard to plan every little step. You must plan, but you can't plan every little step. And it's very very hard to um know all the opportunities. So I think the ability to have a good attitude, the ability to always be confident, to be optimistic, and to look ahead, is very important. So when I talk about my career. You know each of the steps, it's very interesting. But I never planned for it. It just happened. Because I was hard-working. I was always trying to do more than what was asked of me, and people noticed. So when the opportunities came, my name always came to the surface, always came to the top. So I think the most important thing is it's important to plan, but you can't plan every step. The most important thing is you have to have inner confidence, that you really like what you're doing. You're interested. So when I first entered Washington, I was interested. I was motivated. I wanted to find out what makes America run. I'm an immigrant to America. I didn't understand the government so that is why I wanted to enter the government. I wanted to see how does the American government work?
And I got in. And then once I got in, one door opened. I went in. And another door opened. I went in there. And another door opened. None of these doors I could have known about from the very beginning because my world at that time was so small. And there were so few Asian-Americans in the government at that time. That there was no guide. No one to tell me what to expect. But what I did find helpful, and this again is what my parents taught me. Is you have to have courage, and interest, and curiosity. I think if there's one thing that my parents taught me a great deal of, it's curiosity. You have to have interest. You have to have curiosity. And if you're curious, you will go on and seek more doors and more open. And these doors will open if you have persistence, if you plan ahead, and if you have the will to proceed. The world is changing so rapidly, so you'll have the same kind of opportunities as well. There's so many opportunities for you. I can't tell you what these opportunities are, but if you have the interest, and you have the will, and you have the confidence, you will have a lot of opportunities.
 I really want you to meet my father, because he's really interesting."
* President George W. Bush actually graduated from Harvard Business School's Class of 1975.
** Linda Chavez withdrew from consideration for the post of Secretary of Labor after it was revealed she had given  Marta Mercado a couple hundred dollars to do household chores for her several years before. At the time of the allegation, Mercado had became a U.S. citizen. The allegation was a leaked by Margaret "Peggy" Zwisler. (Washington Times)

8/16/14 10:54 pm EST Update

At the 28 minute mark, there's another exchange between the game show host and Sec. Chao regarding McConnell. First, about his smile, and then I think she talks about his leadership and integrity. Oh I missed it. Here's something I liked at the 34 minute mark:
"I think the most important thing is (not to) miss an opportunity to forgive yourself, and not be regretful. And look forward. Do not look backward."

8/17/14 2 AM EST Update

If you're still awake, Elaine Chao did a PSA for children. This talk seems less spontaneous than the one above, but it's probably great for the target audience. It's a good thing for kids to see faces like theirs in positions of power.

Chao ends this video with the following advice:

“You know everybody talks about being happy these days. And I guess my secret to you is that happiness comes from you. It doesn’t come from outside, and it doesn’t come from other people. So you have the power to decide within yourself whether you want to be happy or sad. Even when bad things are happening, you have the choice to either handle it well with courage, fortitude or you can just completely give up. So you have that power to either be happy or to be sad. And I would suggest that you always choose to be happy. Be brave when bad things happen. And be able to handle any situation that comes along with great courage and great fortitude. That will make you happy.”

McConnell in-law’s ship leaves Shanghai port, still flying Liberian flag Friday, Aug 15 2014 

Liberian-flagged Hsin May, currently in China South Sea.
Over the last week, I've written about how Senator Mitch McConnell's in-law and donor of $5 million gift, James Chao, flies the flag of Liberia on his fleet of ships to evade U.S. taxes.

Sunday, International Business Times noted this conflict of interest questioning whether McConnell's sympathy for his in-laws could have anything to do with his opposition to tax reform aimed at  forcing U.S. citizens to pay their fair share of U.S. taxes?

Despite McConnell spending most of the week in Kentucky, to my knowledge no reporter tracking him has asked whether his in-laws plan to continue flying Liberian flags on their ships?
Or why he thinks it is okay for U.S. citizens to evade taxes abroad generally?

In the meantime, Chao's ships continue to fly Liberian flags. I continue to watch them.

How many ships are in Mitch McConnell father-in-law’s fleet and guess which flags they fly? Sunday, Aug 10 2014 

McConnell, his wife, and father-in-law Chao.
Senator Mitch McConnell's father-in-law, Captain James S.C. Chao, has fifteen ships in his fleet today, but that's going to change. That's because Chao has eight more ships ordered which are expected to be added to his fleet by 2016. That would bring his total to twenty-three. That's all according to a July 24, 2014 article appearing in Tradewinds.

Chao's fleet, incorporated as Foremost Maritime Group, has a contracts to purchase six ships from Qingdao Beihai Shipbuilding Heavy Industry, a subsidiary of state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Co (CSIC). Another two ships are being built by Nantong Cosco KHI Engineering Co (Nacks). Two of the ships under construction with CSIC are contracted at $55 million each, and two with Nacks are contracted for $58 million each. 

If $50 million is the average price tag, that means Chao is shelling out $400 million for his new capesize bulkers. Ships so large they cannot pass through the Suez Canal or Panama Canal, but must pass beneath the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn to travel between oceans are called capesize bulkers.

Chao's status as one of, if not the, biggest customer for the Asian shipbuilding industry is not a new thing. When China's former Premier Wen Jiabo welcomed Chao to the Great Hall of the People of Beijing in 2006, Chao was acknowledged for "becoming the biggest American customer for the Chinese shipbuilding industry." 

American customer, well kind of. Chao's a U.S. citizen, but his ships fly Liberian flags.The Republic of Liberia is in west Africa. Foremost Maritime Group is not. By flying Liberian flags, Chao avoids paying U.S. taxes. Here's a video of Hsin May, one of Foremost vessels proudly flying the Liberian flag:

(As of Saturday, the Hsin May was off the western coast of Australia. You can track her here.) 

As Tradewinds notes, "Shanghai-born Chao and is said to have close links with both the US and Chinese governments."  That would certainly explain the appearance of his name on the White House guest list the night in 2011 that President Barack Obama was entertaining the then-General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Hu Jintao.
How convenient.
Liberian flag.

But if you're thinking Chao received a father-in-law discount for those close links, think again. Since 1990, over $300,000 in political contributions from Foremost Group employees have flowed to candidates campaigns for federal office, like McConnell for Senate, and campaign committees like the Kentucky Republican Party. And those are just the contributions we know about.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Former Senator John Breaux (D-Louisiana) floated legislation requiring cargo vessels owned by U.S. corporations to fly U.S. flags. It went nowhere. Today, the push is to end inversions, where companies relocate their incorporation abroad to evade U.S. taxes. The two efforts share the same aim, holding wealthy Americans accountable for paying their share of U.S. taxes. 

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) introduced a bill to stop inversions in July, but McConnell has already suggested that bill, like Senator' Breaux's over a decade ago, should go nowhere:
"It's a bill that's designed for campaign rhetoric and failure, not to create jobs here in the U.S.,...But that's not stopping our friends on the other side from bringing it up again — just as they did right before the last big election too."
The latest CBS poll showed McConnell with support from 50% of likely voters, and opponent Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes with only 46%, a tie within the 4% margin of error.Voters who believe wealthy Americans should pay their fair share of U.S. taxes may pause to consider whether McConnell would be willing to strip his father-in-law's ships of those Liberian flags?

8/10/14 6:03pm This article was updated to reflect McConnell's lack of support in July for a bill aimed at limiting tax breaks for U.S. companies that move operations overseas. 

8/11/14 7:11am
Here's a clip of McConnell's wife and former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao at the October 12, 2011 signing ceremony for the Liberian flagged
Lan May, and she had some words to say:

James Chao himself was present for the ceremonies for the Liberian flagged Guo May and Dan May:

The Ji May is another Liberian-flagged Foremost ship.

Update 8/17/2014 1:56 AM EST
And Elaine Chao spoke also at the signing ceremony for the Grain May in 2013:

We came back from not podcasting all summer to do one more… Tuesday, Aug 5 2014 

We came back from not podcasting all summer to do one more episode before Linda moves to Cambridge. We missed you! 

In our 47th and final episode (for now), we talk about all the craziness at LEO and hope the drama inspires Louisville News Doge to return to Twitter (this was recorded before this “Breaking the Silence” update on the LEO’s Facebook page). 

We catch up on what we’ve been up to in our two-month absence and look forward to vacation, the state fair (Kenny Rogers and Joan Jett!), and Keb’ Mo and G. Love and Special Sauce. Linda would be looking forward to seeing Shovels and Rope at Waterfront Wednesday on August 27th, but she will be in Cambridge. So she’s just sad that she’ll be missing all these things. 

What’s melting our butter? For Melissa, it’s Kentucky Shakespeare. Linda saw and loved Guardians of the Galaxy and also recommends Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (but not if you have anything you need to do). 

We sign off with a very heartfelt send-off from Melissa to her co-host, who, despite sounding like a heartless mongrel, will miss Melissa, the podcast, and Louisville very, very much.

Thank you for listening. For future adventures, you can follow us as @loueyville and @ljgolden on Twitter. 

‘Woman in Black’ reaches destination in Virginia; police ask for privacy Thursday, Jul 31 2014 

The mysterious "woman in black", who recently became a social media sensation after being spotted in several states, has reached her destination.

Roy Orbison In A Woman s Body? Friday, Jul 11 2014 

The July 15 show at Zanzabar is a no-brainer pick, especially if you are a fan of Orbison-esque vocals, and even if you aren’t, it is. The performer is Nicole Atkins, who last was in Louisville on 2011 playing a WFPK Waterfront Wednesday show with Abigail Washburn and Scars On 45s. She has a new [...]

Eric Paslay Heads To 4th Street Live! Monday, Jul 7 2014 

Eric Paslay, who performed at the KFC Yum! Center with Thomas Rhett and Brantley Gilbert back on April 18, comes back to town for a show at 4th Street Live! on July 11. A transplanted Texan, Pasley had a bit of a hit single  last year with “Friday Night,” which peaked at No. 2 on [...]

Will Kimbrough At The New Vintage Sunday, Jul 6 2014 

The first time I recall hearing Will Kimbrough was on some sort of compilation CD, long since disappeared in the stack of CDs in the basement. Kimbrough has really built his career out of producing other artist as well as collaborating with others; his collaborations with and appearances on the recordings of said others is [...]

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