As if Rand Paul's flippant "No one will miss a hill or two" comment wasn't egregious enough, his latest PR effort on behalf of the coal industry is even worse. In an interview with Details magazine, he makes some of the dumbest and most offensive statements I've heard yet about mountaintop removal.
See, here's what Rand Paul thinks. Seriously.
Paul believes mountaintop removal just needs a little rebranding. "I think they should name it something better," he says. "The top ends up flatter, but we're not talking about Mount Everest. We're talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I've seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass." Most people, he continues, "would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it."
Forgive my skepticism, but the dual images of a sports complex and roaming elk just don't quite mash together well. Either the elk roam or there's a ton of kids, parents and cars up there on that mountain, but I tend to doubt there's both.
Of course, Rand defends his rebranding push with this argument:
Let's let you decide what to do with your land," he says. "Really, it's a private-property issue." This is a gentler, more academic variation on a line he used the evening before, during his speech at the Harlan Center: "If you don't live here, it's none of your business.
I'm getting awfully tired of this line of thinking. It presumes that each and every one of us live in this place called the United States with no responsibility to anyone but ourselves. It minimizes the whole idea of community, and presumes that one's actions have no impact on anyone else.
The picture at the top is what those "hills" look like after the coal industry gets their hooks in it. The picture below is what Harlan, Kentucky looks like before that happens.
But he doesn't stop with mountaintop removal, either. In Rand Paul's selfish myopic little universe, the Big Branch mine incident that killed 26 miners and could have been prevented had Massey Energy actually chosen to obey the law was just an "unfortunate thing."
"Is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?" Paul says at the Harlan Center, in response to a question about the Big Branch disaster. "The bottom line is I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You'd try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don't, I'm thinking that no one will apply for those jobs. I know that doesn't sound..." Here he stumbles, trying to parse his words properly but only presaging his campaign misstep. "I want to be compassionate," he concludes, "and I'm sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?"
No, Rand. It wasn't "just an accident." When it's common practice to disable methane detectors when they get in the way of production goals, and when a rush of methane gas caused that explosion, it's not "just an accident." It's an intentional act that puts profit ahead of people. It isn't just an accident.
As for the "no one will apply for those jobs", I guess Rand has forgotten about the unemployment rate in this country? There will always be someone looking for jobs, willing to put themselves at risk to feed their families, particularly in economically depressed areas. Those areas, coincidentally, seem to be prevalent in coal-mining areas. Gosh, I wonder why...
Fact: Rand Paul is Big Coal's bitch, which squares with their promise to buy Congressional candidates in their states.
Profits mean far more than people. Profits mean more than everything in Rand Paul's world. And Big Coal will welcome their special bought-and-paid-for teabagger Rand, unless we can defeat him.
Jack Conway, Rand Paul's opposition, is endorsed by Blue America. More that almost any other candidate, I am hoping we can join together and send Jack to Washington while leaving Rand in the coal dust.
Please support Jack Conway over on our Blue America '10 page.