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The musician, 54, on growing up in New Jersey, being happily married and getting bored of singing his own hits
Growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey was never a source of angst for me. My childhood was very blue collar, average and good. I was lucky enough to have both parents around who were really loving, and two younger brothers, and we were a happy, working class family.
It broke my heart when Richie Sambora left the band. We worked together for 30 years. I dont begrudge him now, but he could have done it in a better way. Instead he just chose to stop turning up to work.
I was never a problem child. When I was four Id get up really early in the morning as a kid and knock on the neighbours door and say, My mommys still sleeping, do you have any cereal? Thats about as naughty as I got.
Fame is a bitch. At least it is initially. Its a sort of trauma you go through when you first have success. When it came, I was completely unprepared for it. Suddenly Im signing contracts and my parents are relying on me for money. Me and the band spent a lot of time in rooms with the door closed going: I dont fucking know, Im scared to death.
I get bored of singing my greatest hits. Do I really need to sing Livin on a Prayer one more time? Yes. Forever and ever, yes and the thought of that depresses me. I have to reconcile that.
Im not a blood relative of Frank Sinatra, but Ive always loved that rumour. Who wouldnt want to be related to the man?
The minute Im not performing at the level Ive become accustomed to, Im out. Youre never going to see me on the where are they now? tour. Ill never miss playing smaller venues, and its nothing to do with ego I just enjoy looking out at a sea of people.
The thought of Trump becoming president is distressing. Any horrible reality is possible right now. Did you ever think Brexit would happen?
Ive always been content with a bottle of wine and going to bed. Drugs have never been a huge lure for me. Ive seen a lot of people fall down the drugs rabbit hole over the years.
The gold-mining years of music are dead. The days of selling 30m albums are long gone. I wouldnt want to be a young, upcoming musician now.
If Im going to be the poster boy for married rock stars, Ill accept it although Bono and Bruce Springsteen have been with their wives for just as long. My wife and I dont need to live in each others pockets for us to stay together. Weve got four kids and we both have a role to play: I pack a suitcase and she packs a lunch.
Theres not a chance on earth that Id put on a pair of ripped jeans now. I spent the early years aspiring to make money so I didnt have holes in them any more.
The new Bon Jovi album, This House is Not For Sale, is out on Virgin EMI on 4 November
Ezekiel Elliott drops his appeal, will serve all six games Blogging The Boys (blog) Ezekiel Elliott and the NFLPA will no longer fight the NFL in court over his six-game suspension. Today they announced that they will drop the appeal and Zeke will serve all six-games of his suspension this season. Statement on Zeke's decision from …
In the first of a series of dispatches from the USs poorest communities, we visit Beattyville, Kentucky, blighted by a lack of jobs and addiction to painkillers
Karen Jennings patted her heavily made up face, put on a sardonic smile and said she thought she looked good after all shed been through.
I was an alcoholic first. I got drunk and fell in the creek and broke my back. Then I got hooked on the painkillers, the 59-year-old grandmother said.
Over the years, Jennings back healed but her addiction to powerful opioids remained. After the prescriptions dried up, she was drawn to the underground drug trade that defines eastern Kentucky today as coal, oil and timber once did.
Jennings spoke with startling frankness about her part in a plague gripping the isolated, fading towns dotting this part of Appalachia. Frontier communities steeped in the myth of self-reliance are now blighted by addiction to opioids hillbilly heroin to those who use them. Its a dependency bound up with economic despair and financed in part by the same welfare system that is staving off economic collapse across much of eastern Kentucky. Its a crisis that crosses generations.
One of those communities is Beattyville, recorded by a US census survey as the poorest white town 98% of its 1,700 residents are white in the country. It was also by one measure the Census Bureaus American Community Survey 2008-2012 of communities of more than 1,000 people, the latest statistics available at the time of reporting among the four lowest income towns in the country. It is the first stop for a series of dispatches by the Guardian about the lives of those trying to do more than survive in places that seem the most remote from the aspirations and possibilities of the American Dream.
Beattyville sits at the northern tip of a belt of the most enduring rural poverty in America. The belt runs from eastern Kentucky through the Mississippi delta to the Texas border with Mexico, taking in two of the other towns one overwhelmingly African American and the other exclusively Latino at the bottom of the low income scale. The town at the very bottom of that census list is an outlier far to the west on an Indian reservation in Arizona.
The communities share common struggles in grappling with blighted histories and uncertain futures. People in Beattyville are not alone in wondering if their kind of rural town even has a future. To the young, such places can sometimes feel like traps in an age when social mobility in the US is diminishing and they face greater obstacles to a good education than other Americans.
At the same time, each of the towns is distinguished by problems not common to the rest. In Beattyville it is the drug epidemic, which has not only destroyed lives but has come to redefine a town whose fleeting embrace of prosperity a generation ago is still visible in some of its grander official buildings and homes near the heart of the town. Now they seem to accentuate the decline of a main street littered with ghost shops that havent seen business in years.
Jennings shook off her addiction after 15 years. She struggled to find work but eventually got a job serving in a restaurant that pays the $300 a month rent on her trailer home. She collects a small disability allowance from the government and volunteers at a food bank as a kind of atonement. Helping other people is, she said, her way of getting through: I just want to serve God and do what I can for people here.
It was at the local food bank that Jennings spilled out her story.
There are lots of ways of getting drugs. The elderly sell their prescriptions to make up money to buy food. There are doctors and pharmacies that just want to make money out of it, she said. I was the manager of a fast food place. I used to buy from the customers. People could come in for a hamburger and do a drug transaction with me and no one would ever notice.
Even as Jennings related the toll of drug abuse the part it played in destroying at least some of her five marriages, the overdose that nearly cost her life and the letter she wrote to her doctor begging for the help that finally wrenched her off the pills she spoke as if one step removed from the experience.
You get hooked and youre not yourself. You go on functioning. You do your job. But I really dont see how Im alive today, she said.
It was only when Jennings got to the part about her son, Todd, a bank vice-president, that she faltered. I lost my son three years ago from suicide. My lifestyle contributed to his depression. I take responsibility for my part of it, she said.
The cluster of people waiting their turn to collect a cardboard box containing tins of beef stew, macaroni and cheese instant dinners, bread, eggs and cereal passed no direct comment as Jennings recounted her history.
Some of them carried their own sense of defeat at having come to rely on government assistance and private largesse. But afterwards there was a whiff of suspicion from others who seemed to see the decades-long decline of their communities as a moral failing.
Im not one for helping people who dont help themselves but sometimes you do the best you can and you still need help, said 63-year-old Wilma Barrett who, after a lifetime of hard work farming and digging coal, was unsettled to find herself reliant on welfare payments and the food bank. A lot of its our own fault. The Lord says work and if you dont work and provide for yourself then theres no reason why anyone else should. I know its easy to give up but the Lord tells us not to give up. Too many people here have given up.
Eastern Kentucky falls within that part of Appalachia that has come to epitomise the white underclass in America ever since president Lyndon Johnson sat down on the porch of a wood cabin in the small town of Inez in 1964 and made it the face of his War on Poverty.
The president arrived virtually unannounced at the home of Tom Fletcher, a 38-year-old former coalminer who had not held a full-time job in two years and was struggling to feed eight children. The visit offered the rest of the US a disturbing glimpse into a largely hidden world where houses routinely lacked electricity and indoor plumbing, and children habitually failed to get enough to eat. The 1960 census records that one in five adults in the region could neither read nor write.
Half a century later, while poverty levels have fallen dramatically in some other parts of the country in good part thanks to Johnson, the economic gap between the region and much of the rest of America is as wide. And its deprivation is once again largely invisible to most of the country.
Beattyvilles median household income is just $12,361 (about Â£8,000) a year, placing it as the third lowest income town in the US, according to that Census Bureau 2008-12 survey.
Nationally, the median household income was $53,915 in 2012. In real terms, the income of people in Beattyville is lower than it was in 1980.
The towns poverty rate is 44% above the national average. Half of its families live below the poverty line. That includes three-quarters of those with children, with the attendant consequences. More than one-third of teenagers drop out of high school or leave without graduating. Just 5% of residents have college degrees.
Surrounding communities are little better. Beattyville is the capital of Lee County, named after the commander of the Confederate army of Northern Virginia in the civil war, General Robert E Lee.
Five of the 10 poorest counties in the US run in a line through eastern Kentucky and they include Lee County. Life expectancy in the county is among the worst in the US, which is not unconnected to the fact that more than half the population is obese. Men lived an average of just 68.3 years in 2013, a little more than eight years short of the national average. Women lived 76.4 years on average, about five years short of national life expectancy.
A few months before he visited eastern Kentucky, Johnson said in his State of the Union address: Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.
Over time, the focus of that effort shifted to inner-city poverty and many of the programmes Johnson launched came to be seen as aimed at minorities, even though to this day white people make up the largest number of beneficiaries.
But when the president sat on Fletchers porch in Inez, he had in mind rural poverty of an almost exclusively white region where the coal industry which for a while provided jobs but not the much-promised prosperity was already receding and people struggled for more than a basic income from the land.
Television pictures of Johnsons visit presented Americans with a hardness of living in the midst of some of the greatest beauty the US has to offer. Life in a log cabin buried in the forest from which it was hewed is romantic until you have to collect water by bucket in the dead cold of winter.
The War on Poverty did relieve many of the symptoms. Food stamps and housing grants, healthcare for the poor and older people and improved access to a decent education have kept millions from struggling with the deprivations Johnson encountered in Inez. There are few homes in eastern Kentucky without electricity and indoor toilets these days. But the promised cure for poverty never materialised.
Three decades after Johnsons visit, Fletcher was still unemployed but receiving disability benefits. His first wife had died of cancer. His second had been convicted of murdering their three-year-old daughter and attempting to kill their four-year-old son with a drug overdose to claim the life insurance.
A film of Johnsons visit describes joblessness in the region as primarily attributable to lack of industrialisation and losses in the coalmining industry.
People in eastern Kentucky still call it coal country, even though the decline continued largely unabated and the number of jobs in the industry fell with the passing of each presidency. There were 31,000 under Bill Clinton but fewer than 14,000 by the time George W Bush left power.
The number of people employed in mining in eastern Kentucky has fallen by half since Barack Obama came to power, although the long history of decline has been conveniently set aside in the clamour to blame the current president. The more cautious critics say Obama is anti-coal because of his environment policies. But a no less popular view in the region is that it is part of president Obamas war on white people.
Beattyville and Lee County did well out of oil, too, until the 1980s. A decade later, the largest employers in the town were a factory making uniforms, a data company and a private jail holding prisoners from Vermont. Now, the garment and computer businesses are gone and Vermont has just moved its prisoners to Michigan, where it is cheaper to house them.
The largest employer in the county is now the school system. There are five times as many healthcare workers in eastern Kentucky as miners. Coal country is today little more than a cultural identity.
The office of Ed Couriers Sturgeon Mining Company is on the high street. Its few remaining mines involve people digging coal out of hillsides. Ive been in the coal business since 78 and the last five years Ive been trying to get out of the coal business. Theres no future for it here, he said.
Couriers office is an old store front on Beattyvilles Main street. He nodded towards the window and commented caustically on how many former shops in the once bustling town centre were given over to payday loan companies and charities. One gave away what is popularly known as the Obama Phone, a free mobile available to anyone on food stamps or other assistance that provides 250 minutes of calls per month.
Things were really good when I came here in 72 and I ended up staying. When I came here there were three new car dealerships. There hasnt been a new car dealership here since 89, he said. Theres no future here. I have a sense of sadness. I wish people had a better life.
The War on Poverty lives on through federal grants. Food stamps, employment programmes and disability allowance have cushioned many people from the harshest effects of the retreat of jobs from the region. Some families still struggle to put enough food on the table but their children are fed if not well in the sense of healthily at school.
Federal money also built Vivian Lunsford a new house a spacious wooden bungalow with a balcony on two sides and forest to the back, constructed in a ravine just outside Beattyville. The narrow road from the town winds past simple log cabins buried in the trees.
Theyve probably been there since the early 1900s, she said. I dont know how people live in them. Theyre real basic. Their only running water is the stream. But people just keep staying there. They dont want to leave. Its the pride. The heritage of that land.
Before getting the house Lunsford, 38, was unemployed and homeless. Her mother applied for a grant and a cut-rate mortgage on her daughters behalf without telling her, in order to build a more modern and spacious version of the old wood cabins. Lunsford repays the mortgage at $389 a month, less than it would cost to rent.
Theres so much grant money went toward it that so long as I live there for 10 years I dont have to pay that grant money back, she said.
Lunsford was also able to land a job with the Beattyville housing association that built her home, which she shares these days with her partner and his school-age daughter.
This place is notably poorer. You cant just go out and get a job in McDonalds. A Walmart is an hour away. I can go to my daddys in Florida and the world is like a different place. Here is more stuck in time, she said.
Our homeless situation is really different to a big city. Its couch surfing. Youve got lower income people, grandparents with their children and spouses living there with the grandchildren. Theyre all crammed into this one house. Theres a lot of them.
Other people on the waiting list for new homes wooden bungalows or trailers are what she calls burn downs, whose homes were destroyed by fire from candles, kerosene heaters or pot belly stoves. Many of those are in homes disconnected from electricity and other utilities to save money.
Utility bills are outrageous in a trailer because they lack insulation. I have a little lady Ive been helping with, Miss Nelly. Shes in her late 70s. Her electric bill in the wintertime here runs about $400 a month. She cant afford that. Trailers dont heat good, she said. Some people choose not to connect to utilities to save money. A lot of people here, their income is like between $500 and $700 a month. Thats all they get. Thats not a lot, especially if youve got kids and the price of gas and car insurance and youve got all these things that have to be paid.
Still, the rehousing programme is not without its issues. Bob Ball built Lunsfords home. He also built one for a man in his early 20s called Duke and his wife, both of whom were unemployed and had been living in a caravan.
Ball has since hired Duke as a worker. Federal money keeps the builders business alive but he still commented with a hint of disapproval at the government funding homes. He got a new house so young. We all paid for that, said Ball.
Through much of the 19th century, this part of the Bluegrass State was romanticised in stories of rugged frontiersmen and courageous hunters as the epitome of American self-reliance. None more so than Daniel Boone, a hunter and surveyor at the forefront of settling Kentucky. A good part of Lee County carves into a national forest named after him.
Cultural heritage here is important, said Dee Davis, whose family was from Lee County, though he grew up in a neighbouring county where he heads the Center for Rural Strategies. The first bestselling novels were about this region. It was at one time the iconic America. This kind of frontier: white, noble. This was the iconography.
By the time Johnson arrived a different image had taken hold that of the anti-modern, moonshine swilling, gun toting, backwards hillbilly. The stereotype was perpetuated on television by a popular 1960s comedy show, The Beverly Hillbillies, in which unsophisticated mountain folk find oil on their land, get rich and move with their guns, bibles and Confederate sympathies to live among Californias millionaires.
Davis beat back CBS but said the planned programme reflected a sense that white people living in poorer communities were blamed for their condition.
Theres this feeling here like people are looking down on you. Feeling like its OK to laugh at you, to pity you. Youre not on the same common ground for comparison as someone whos better off or living in a better place. That doesnt mean its always true, it just means we feel that burden quickly. Were primed to react to people we think are looking down on us. That they judge us for our clothes, judge us for our car, judge us for our income, the way we talk, he said.
This is the poorest congressional district in the United States. I grew up delivering furniture with my dad. No one ever said they were in poverty. Thats a word thats used to judge people. You hear them say, I may be a poor man but we live a pretty good life for poor people. People refer to themselves as poor but they wont refer to themselves as in poverty.
Karen Jennings encountered the prejudice when she first left Beattyville.
When I went to Louisville as a teenager to work in Waffle House I had this country accent. They laughed at me and asked if we even had bathrooms where I come from. People here are judged in the bigger cities and they resent that, she said. The difference is the cities hide their problems. Here its too small to hide them. Theres the drugs, and the poverty. Theres a lot of the old people come in here for food. The welfare isnt enough. Three girls in my granddaughters class are pregnant. This is a hard place to grow up. People dont hide it but they resent being judged for it.
The stereotype has evolved. Deepest Appalachia may still be thought of as backward and dirt poor but its now also widely known as in the grip of a prescription drug epidemic. Without prompting, its the first thing Steve Mays, Lee Countys de facto mayor, talks about.
Mays is the countys judge-executive, an antiquated title that carries political but no judicial authority. His office is in Beattyville, where he was born and was a policeman for 16 years, half of them as chief of police.
When I worked as a police officer and chief there was drugs here and we made a lot of busts, but things are getting worse, he said. We dont have a lot of jobs here. Some people look for a way out. They havent accomplished what they wanted to and theyre just looking for that escape, I guess. They get that high and once it gets a hold of you they have a hard time getting away from it. They dont think the future looks good for them or they dont feel theres any hope so they continue to stay on that drug.
Its people of all ages. You feel sorry for them. Good people. It takes their lives over. They do things you wouldnt normally think theyd do. Stealing, writing bad cheques, younger girls prostitute themselves out for drugs.
Mays feels the sting all the more acutely because his daughter was convicted of illegally obtaining drugs from a local pharmacy where she worked.
In 2013, drug overdoses accounted for 56% of all accidental deaths in Kentucky and an even higher proportion in the east of the state.
Leading the blight is a powerful and highly addictive opioid painkiller, OxyContin, known locally as hillbilly heroin. Typically it is ground down and injected or snorted to give an instant and powerful high.
Its misuse is so routine that the bulk of court cases reported in the local papers are drug related. Just about everyone in Beattyville has a story of the human cost. Some mention the decline of the towns homecoming queen, Michele Moore, into addiction in the 1990s. Moore struggled by as a single mother living in a trailer home before she was stabbed to death by a man while the two were taking drugs.
At about that time, Beattyvilles police chief, Omer Noe , and the Lee County sheriff, Johnny Mann, were jailed for taking bribes to protect drug smugglers. Five years later, the next Lee County sheriff, Douglas Brandenburg, went to prison for a similar crime.
Amid the relentless destruction of life, there is little that shocks. But four years ago residents of Harlan County a couple of hours drive to the south-east were shaken by a series of deaths over six weeks of parents of members of the local boys and girls club. Eleven of the children watched a parent die.
Getting the drugs isnt difficult. Elderly people sell their prescription drugs to supplement some of the lowest incomes in the US. The national average retirement income is about $21,500. In Beattyville it is $6,500.
Last year, a pharmacy owner in nearby Clay County, Terry Tenhet, was jailed for 10 years for illegally distributing hundreds of thousands of pills after police tied the prescriptions to several overdose deaths. In 2011 alone, he supplied more than 360,000 OxyContin pills in a county with only 21,000 residents. Those prescriptions were mostly written by doctors in other states.
Prosecutors alleged that for years a single pain clinic nearly 1,000 miles away in south Florida had provided the prescriptions for a quarter of the OxyContin sold in eastern Kentucky. The bus service to Florida is known to police and addicts alike as the Oxy Express.
In 2012, Dr Paul Volkman was sentenced to four life terms for writing illegal prescriptions for more than 3m pills from a clinic he ran in Portsmouth, Ohio, on the border with eastern Kentucky. Prosecutors said the prescriptions had contributed to dozens of overdose deaths.
Another doctor, David Procter, is serving 16 years in prison for running a pill mill at which at least four other doctors were involved in the illegal supply of drugs to eastern Kentucky.
There is little sympathy for doctors or pharmacists acting as dealers, but there is a view in Beattyville and surrounding towns that people have been exploited by something bigger than a few medics, largely because they are regarded as backward.
Davis said the drug companies aggressively pushed OxyContin and similar drugs in a region where, because of a mixture of the mining, the rigours of the outdoors and the weather, there was a higher demand for painkillers.
You couldnt go to a doctor without seeing a merchant there. Heres this synthetic opium product thats supposed to be good for palliative care cancer patients and they start selling it as regular pain medicine. They knew how highly addictive it was and they sold it anyway, he said. I live in a town of 1,500 people with seven pharmacies as well as pain clinics and methadone clinics and the full backup industry. Everybody gets paid, doctors and pharmacists and lawyers.
Recently released research shows that abuse of powerful opioid painkillers is in part responsible for a sharp rise in the death rate among white middle-aged Americans over the past two decades, particularly less-educated 45- to 54-year-olds. The report by academics at Princeton university also blamed misuse of alcohol and a rise in cheaper high quality heroin along with suicides. The researchers said they suspected that financial stress played a part in people taking their lives.
OxyContins manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, was penalised $634m by a federal court in 2007 for misrepresenting the drugs addictive effects to doctors and patients. Purdue is now being sued by the Kentucky government. The states attorney general, Jack Conway, accuses the company of concealing information about the dangers of the drug in order to increase profits, and its salespeople of claiming OxyContin is less addictive and safer than it is.
I want to hold them accountable in eastern Kentucky for what they did, Conway told the Lexington Herald-Leader. We have lost an entire generation.
Purdue has denied the claim.
Late last year the Beattyville Enterprise reported that pharmacists in the town were appealing to drug companies for greater control over another prescription medicine, Neurontin, which is increasingly in demand and has been found at the scene of overdose deaths. Heroin use is also on the rise.
Ask where people get the money for drugs and just about everyone blames it on welfare in general and the trade in what is known locally as pop soft drinks in particular.
Close to 57% of Beattyville residents claim food stamps. They are paid by electronic transfer on the first of the month. That same day, cases of Pepsi and Coca-Cola are marked down sharply in supermarkets and disappear off the shelves, often paid for with food stamps.
They are then sold on to smaller stores at a lower price than they would pay a distributor, in effect turning several hundred dollars of food stamps into cash at about 50 cents on the dollar.
The pop scam has become shorthand in Beattyville among those who regard welfare as almost as big a blight as the drugs themselves.
We have a lot of dope and the like around here, said Wilma Barrett at the food bank. Food stamps go to pay for it. You can see it happening and its sickening. Its become a kind of trap for us out here.
Courier, the mining company owner, took a similar line, saying welfare had dragged Beattyville down. Its made things worse. Its disincentivised people from even trying. You cant create a handout and expect people to pull themselves up. You have to give them the incentive to improve. I feel sadness that theyre being trapped, he said.
Living on welfare
April Newman scoffed at the idea that she was trapped by welfare. She said it had kept her and her children, aged one to four years old, from near destitution after she escaped a bad six-year relationship.
You definitely do feel resented because I resented myself. People look down on you for it, she said.
In order to get free housing and financial assistance, Newman was obliged to sign on to a Kentucky programme providing financial assistance to low-income families with children in combination with training or volunteering. She receives a living allowance not formally a pay cheque of about $800 a month after signing up with AmeriCorps, a federally run national service organisation. She also receives $600 in food stamps. The state covers healthcare costs for the children.
Its hard to get by on that but I have learned. Being on my own and being a single mother, you have to learn to budget. So if I know that school clothes are coming up, or if Christmas is coming up, three to four months in advance, I start to slowly save. That way if things come up, I have the money for it. Ive just learned to save really well, she said.
Newmans federal housing is in a stark block on the edge of town where she doesnt feel particularly safe. I wont be living here long though. Im actually going to try to do better and move out. You cant raise children in places like that, she said.
But to move out, shell need to pay the rent and the prospects for a full-time job are bleak.
Wilma Barrett does not have much sympathy for people in Newmans position, even though she too has come to rely on government assistance.
We owned a farm and we dig our own coal out of the hill. I had a heart attack and had to quit work four years ago. Thats when I started coming over [to the food bank], she said. I have a milk cow, chickens for eggs. We didnt need a hog this year as we had some meat left in the freezer from last year.
Barrett and her husband pull in about $1,100 a month in welfare payments and food stamps. But she has little time for younger people she regards as unwilling to work. If youre not picky about what you do, theres always something. A job that pays $6 an hour is better than zero. I was raised on a farm with a couple of mules. I have three children and all of them know how to work.
In the late 19th century, Beattyville was trumpeted by the investment company developing the town as the gateway to the development of all the great mineral, lumber and agricultural resources of eastern Kentucky.
If a block of wood be thrown into the waters west of the mountains dividing Kentucky from Virginia it will wind its way between towering mountains and rich valleys until it floats over the dam at Beattyville. Eastern Kentucky cannot be developed without Beattyville becoming a large and important city, it said.
It was not to be. Within a few years, railways had replaced rivers as the principal means of moving goods and the trains came nowhere near Beattyville. Neither did the highway system that spread across America over the 20th century.
In the end, what eastern Kentucky got was not development but plunder.
From the beginning, the coal and timber companies insisted on keeping all, or nearly all, the wealth they produced, wrote Caudill. They were unwilling to plough more than a tiny part of the money they earned back into schools, libraries, health facilities and other institutions essential to a balanced, pleasant, productive and civilised society. The knowledge and guile of their managers enabled them to corrupt and cozen all too many of the regions elected public officials and to thwart the legitimate aspirations of the people.
Even during the War on Poverty, as billions of dollars were poured into the region, programmes were hijacked to serve politicians and money was diverted by members of Congress to prop up support in constituencies far from those for which it was intended.
Yet ask who is responsible for Beattyvilles woes today and fingers in the town frequently point at one man.
Since Obama its got bad, said Courier. Theres the economy but also a lot of EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] regulations. Theres been a lot of changes in the law over the past two or three years with hollow mining. As for large-scale mining here, its finished. I employed 50 people at the peak. Now its six.
The numbers dont back up Couriers claims. The industry has been in decline for decades. Coal production in eastern Kentucky has fallen by 63% since 2000. Mechanisation ate into the number of jobs long before that.
Davis said there had been a political campaign by the mining industry to blame the government for the decline led by an industry-funded group, The Friends of Coal.
In the coinciding of the decline of coal jobs and the corresponding decline in the economy, the Friends of Coal campaign went from car shows and football games to music events it was very cultural and began to deflect pressure on the industry to blaming government policy. They put up posters: Stop the war on coal, he said.
Were in a place right now where a tonne of coal costs about $68 to mine in eastern Kentucky and about $12 to mine in Wyoming. Theyre importing more Wyoming coal here than theyre using east Kentucky coal. But if you ask people why this is, its Obama. They wont blame the market, they blame the policy. Its been very convenient to shift it to the black guy.
Hostility to the USs first black president runs deep. In an editorial, Beattyvilles largest circulation newspaper, Three Forks Tradition, described Obama as trying to destroy the United States as we know it. It accused him of waging war on Anglo-Saxon males, who work for a living, believe in God and the right to keep and bear arms and called the president and his then attorney general, Eric Holder, race baiters with blood on their hands.
He has driven racial wedges between the people that will take generations to heal, the editorial said without irony.
Vivian Lunsford pushed a page torn from a small notepad across her desk at the housing association. The writing on it was in pencil in capital letters. It was a tribute to Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky senator who is the Republican leader in the US Senate. Mitch will keep us good, it said, adding he would protect Kentucky from people who were against coal.
My stepdaughter wrote that, said Lunsford. Shes too young to think it for herself. God knows who put that into her head. It wasnt me. But thats how they think around here. Shes hears it at school. She hears it from her friends and their parents. You hear it a lot.
Another Beattyville resident offered a forthright assessment of Republican support in the town.
Its crazy, it really is. Its not just this county, its the surrounding counties. Theres so many people on welfare and yet they vote Republican and its crazy. Im embarrassed, I really am. I understand a lot of its because theyre afraid what colour is our president, and thats what they go on, the person said.
A few hours later the resident asked not to be named because although every word I said is true it would upset people around here.
Steve Mays, Lee Countys de facto mayor, is a Republican. He has a picture of McConnell on the shelf behind his desk. I like Mitch. Hes very supportive of me when I need grants or something. He always tries to come through for me, said Mays.
But just a few months earlier, McConnell had claimed massive numbers of people were receiving food stamps who probably shouldnt and described the programme as making it excessively easy to be non-productive.
This put Mays in a bind. His party routinely demonises people who receive welfare but many of his voters rely on it. Mays said he regarded welfare as a trap, but acknowledged that without it the town would die.
Its catch 22. I dont know what you do. I see people who really need the help. I see them in this office every day. They struggle and couldnt make it without it. But I see some people taking advantage of it too, he said. Im not completely against welfare. I dont think just anybody should get it, I dont agree with that. Theres people that need it but its taken advantage of by people that could work. But Im not one of those who says there shouldnt be welfare.
Still, he acknowledged the seeming contradiction of people voting for a party that was so scornful of the government assistance their town survived on.
Youre right, Republicans are against that. But thats not why people around here are registered Republican. Its because of local candidates or family history. My dad was Republican. Im raised a Republican and voting Republican. Thats just the way it is, he said.
This is routinely, and sometimes sneeringly, characterised by Democrats in other parts of America as poor white people voting against their own interests. Its a view that exasperates Davis.
They say, why arent these people voting their self-interest? People always vote their self-interest if they can see it. If they believe the government doesnt work, if they believe that the Democrats dont really give a shit about people like them, dont want to be in the same room with them, they want their vote but dont want to hang out with them, then as they see it theyre voting their self-interest, he said.
So whats the future?
Its bad. I dont think rural America has a future, said Courier. The advantage rural areas had in the past of cheap labour is gone. We used to have a lot of little factories in this area but theyve gone to Mexico or China. In rural areas housing is cheap but everything else costs more. Utility rates are higher. Food and transport are higher. Management doesnt want to live in rural areas. Education is horrible here. This is a third-world county. My kids grew up here until they were eight or nine, then they went to school in Louisville [a 145-mile drive away]. I wouldnt send them to school here.
Mays worried that Beattyville and Lee County were losing their best educated while the most dependent remained. These kids come out of high school and graduate with honours, and go on to graduate college. Weve got a lot of them. Theres a lot of smart people here but theres not a lot of opportunity for them here once they graduate college. Normally they wont stay here. We need to find a way to encourage them to stay, he said.
Just as the railways and highways bypassed Beattyville in the last century, so high-speed internet has failed to penetrate through to the town in more recent times. Most people rely on slow and expensive connections through satellite providers. Its a further discouragement to businesses.
Mays said the county was rooting its hopes for the future in more rustic pastimes. Weve got rock climbing and four counties here just got together and invested in a recreation park for off-road vehicles. Were trying to get canoes on the river. Weve got a lot of cabins here and a lot of people coming here from all over this country. Were trying to work on that aspect of it because thats what weve got going for us. We just need a break, said Mays.
I feel positive about the future. I wouldnt want to live anywhere else but Lee County. Weve got our problems but weve got good people Ive seen people with a lot of money that wouldnt give $10 to help somebody out but in this area even people who dont have a lot, when somebody gets down and sick, or if theyve got cancer, they band together and they raise as much money as they can for that person to help them.
I feel like the drug problem is our biggest issue. Not only does it destroy lives but the economic situation. If a companys not going to come in because they dont have a lot of workforce to choose from, or dont feel like they do, theres your jobs gone. And then people that move out of here. A lot of people move out of here to bigger places to find jobs. So your population starts going down even more. I dont know how to change that. Im not smart enough to say how to do it. But if somehow it could be reined in, I think we could grow.
So, is the American Dream dead in Beattyville?
If you dont experience the American Dream, if youve never been taken out of the box, I dont think you believe in it, said Vivian Lunsford: People have to be able to see or feel it or touch it to believe.
Ed Courier said it lived on, but only for those who escaped Beattyville. Theres opportunities if you go to college. But not for those who stay here. This place is being left behind, he said.
April Newman agreed with that sentiment. She saw her dream being fulfilled far from Beattyville. I really want to be a teacher and I have to get out of this town to do that, she said. Theres no options here. I dont want to stay here. I dont want my children to stay here. Theres so much that goes on. Its just really sad.
Dee Davis said the American Dream lived on even for those who could not escape Beattyville, but in a different way. Its not the dream of the immigrants so much as the dream of being OK, of surviving, he said.
This article was amended on 13 November 2015 to remove an image that was inconsistent with the Guardians editorial guidelines.
Let’s face it: Most of mankind’s plans, regardless of what they’re actually for, never go any father than shitting your pants and begging for mercy. And that’s why we praise movie characters when they actually come up with a solid, convoluted plan that doesn’t end with sobbing and an impromptu diaper. That said, sometimes they come up with way, way too elaborate plans that make things way longer and more difficult than they ever logically should be. For example …
The Best Way To Hide The Existence Of The Village Is To Not Send Your Oblivious Kid Out Of It
The elders in The Village, the film that revealed the first cracks in M. Night Shyamalan’s plot-twist-filled armor, so had it with ’70s disco music and mustachioed porn stars that they decided to up and leave civilization behind. They eschew all present-day technology and pretend their new settlement exists in the 1800s. And to ensure that their children are never seduced by the outside world and its Harry Potter books, meth-fueled orgies, and meth-fueled Harry Potter-themed orgies, they pretend the woods are full of monsters that’ll attack anybody who tries to leave. Basically, it’s Mike Pence’s living room.
Eventually, one of the kids stabs another kid out of boner-fueled jealousy, and the only way the wounded teenager will survive is with modern medicine. But anybody who goes out into the modern world to get some will inevitably see a Waffle House and refuse to return to their life of chewy venison and grass pies in favor of countless delicious All-Star Specials. The elders decide to solve this problem by sending a blind girl, Ivy. She eventually hops over the border between the woods and the real world and gets the medicine. She’s never in danger of seeing any horseless carriages whizzing by or any trailers for Thor: Ragnarok, so she doesn’t learn the truth. Everybody wins!
Hold It …
Why didn’t one of the elders just go themselves?
Even though Ivy successfully snags some medication from a friendly park ranger, the whole trip runs into an array of problems. To start, the people tasked with accompanying Ivy immediately abandon her, believing the monsters would kill them. Once her guards leave, Ivy is forced to avoid the aforementioned boner-jealousy guy, who has dressed as a monster. This is sort of tough, especially because, oh yeah, she can’t see shit. So now we’ve got this blind woman wandering through the woods alone trying to avoid getting stabbed or falling into a hole somewhere. All so you can protect your kids from learning about Xbox Live.
Any of the elders could have grabbed a walking stick and gotten the medicine themselves real quick. There’d be zero problems. Sure, they’re each about as old as Benjamin Franklin’s farts, but they also know the layout of the forest and aren’t — and this is surprisingly crucial — suuuper blind. Also, they are remarkably set in their ways. You know who has the worst chance of becoming swayed by the evil sex and sins of 2004? Someone who hasn’t had an erection since the Nixon administration. They can go out, grab the medicine, and never have to worry about blossoming minds succumbing to the allure of a Black Eyed Peas album.
Qui-Gon Jinn Has To Have Faster/Safer Ways To Make Money
When the hyperdrive on Queen Amidala’s spaceship gives out in The Phantom Menace, it’s up to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn to figure out a solution. After realizing that kicking Jar-Jar out into the cold vacuum of space to reduce weight won’t be enough, Qui-Gon decides to land the ship on Tatooine and purchase parts for repairs. Problem: Tatooine is the sandy asshole of the Galaxy, so this may be tough to do legally.
The only guy who appears to have the right stuff is flying bug / awful Jewish stereotype Watto, who refuses Republic credits as payment. And Qui-Gon’s furious Force hand-waving doesn’t work, since Watto’s mind is too strong — or too distracted by Natalie Portman — to have any effect. However, as Watto’s slave, Anakin, seems gifted in the Force, Qui-Gon wagers his ship against the repairs, and the boy’s freedom, provided that Anakin can win the next podrace. Watto eagerly accepts the deal, because Anakin crashes pretty much all the time. Fortunately, Anakin somehow wins, and he’s freed to go murder a bunch of younglings and plunge the galaxy into horrific, genocidal warfare. Hell of a maneuver, Qui-Gon.
Hold It …
Why not go mind-trick somebody else or … do anything else?
Before you say something about Qui-Gon adhering to the Jedi Code or whatever, remember that he literally tried to brainwash the first person they encountered on the planet before giving up and pinning the fate of Naboo on the racing skills of a whiny ten-year-old. Why not mind-trick some other vendor? And if that doesn’t work, simply play a couple hands of space poker or do some underground street fighting. It’s hard to walk two feet in Tatooine without bumping into someone who wants to rip your face off; it can’t be that difficult to palm-shake your way into some high-stakes bare-knuckle boxing.
If all that feels like too much effort, why not trade the Queen’s ship for a functional ship that could safely transport them through space (and hide their identity better than the Queen’s personal ship, which all but screams “Abduct me!”)? Why not buy passage on an intergalactic bus, or freaking hire a smuggler guy like Han Solo to transport them, like in A New Hope? All of those options would take all of a few hours to sort out. And at no point would anyone ever have to hear Anakin scream “NOW THIS IS PODRACING!” And that, my friends, is the greatest treasure of all.
The Fast & Furious Drug Lord Is Incredibly Inefficient
The emotional turning point of Fast & Furious — the last movie before they decided to add the Rock and make the series watchable — is the brutal “murder” (later retconned away) of Vin Diesel’s main girl, Letty. Diesel’s character leaves her to protect her from … crime, we guess? But to the surprise of exactly nobody, Letty decides against getting a barista job at Starbucks and immediately turns to the life of crime she’d never left to support herself without Diesel and his improbably thick neck.
And apparently, when Letty decides to do some crime, she goes all-in. Letty skips over growing her own pot or smuggling fidget spinners and dives straight into the heroin trade. Naturally, her boss’ recruitment plan is to essentially hold street races and then offer spots on his heroin-running team to the winners. Letty wins the tryout race, of course, but what she doesn’t know is that the drug lord, Braga, only has his drivers run heroin a couple of times before capping them in the head, ensuring the location of his secret tunnel route never leaks.
Hold It …
How has Braga not run out of drivers yet?
This plan requires him to host a massive street race every couple of weeks, with enough attention to attract all of the area’s best drivers. Again, the drivers competing in these races can’t be random scrubs — otherwise they’d never pull off the precise driving required to navigate Braga’s route. How being good at straight-ahead street racing successfully translates to speeding through underground caverns at night isn’t covered.
But doesn’t anybody notice that the winners of these races disappear a few weeks after their win? Surely, word would get around. These are some of the best and most notorious drivers in the world, and at this point, Letty has already been involved in several major heists that warranted FBI attention. Also, how many insanely talented muscle car drivers are there? The series makes very clear that Dom’s gang are almost supernaturally gifted vroom-vroomers, so how long is it before Braga exhausts his supply of competent drivers? After a few runs, he’s going to be trying to recruit from the delivery team at his local Jimmy John’s.
Braga puts a massive amount of effort into to constantly recruiting these one-of-a-kind drivers, only to blow them away a short time later. That’s like if the band Dragonforce kept holding guitar battles to find a new replacement guitarist, only to shove them offstage to their deaths every three shows. Eventually, they’re going to run out of musicians capable of playing their highly technical speed metal songs without bleeding all over the place. And no, nailing “Through The Fire And Flames” on Guitar Hero won’t qualify you.
The Magician In The Prestige Completely Misses The Point Of Cloning
The Prestige follows the epic, bitter rivalry between two grown-up, this-is-literally-their-only-job magicians, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden. After a few years of screwing with each other’s acts, Borden comes out with a trick called “The Transported Man,” wherein he seemingly transports from one end of the room to the other instantaneously. Angier cannot figure out how Borden pulls this off, but he makes it his mission to one day come up with a better version. According to The Prestige, a magician’s life is one-third tricks, two-thirds overwhelming obsession and vengeance.
Thankfully, Angier goes to meet Cracked.com’s Nikola Tesla, who happens to have built a big goddamn cloning machine. In the 1890s. Totally ignoring all the wonderful masturbatory possibilities the machine offers, Angier decides to use it in his act, because he’s responsible. Countering Borden, Angier uses this thing at every gig, duplicating himself and killing the most recent “original Angier” via trap door, drowning him(self) in a tank full of water. Angier then lugs his drowned clones to a big warehouse for … safekeeping? Or to kinda look at ’em, we guess.
Thankfully, each new clone has all of Angier’s memories — along with his winning Hugh Jackman-y smile and penchant for card tricks — so it’s almost like he never horribly drowned to death at all!
Hold It …
Why would you ever need more than one clone?
At what point does Angier realize that he doesn’t need to keep duplicating himself, but rather that he could use the same damn duplicate over and over? It’s got his memories and stuff, so it wouldn’t take too much convincing to get his clone to participate in the best plan in the world. After all, Angier consistently chooses to love magic over everything else in his life. It’ll take two seconds before his clone would say, “Oh, not just lots of money, but lots and lots of money? Consider me in, me.”
This option doesn’t even appear to cross Angier’s mind, since at the end of the movie, when he learns that Borden’s version of the trick utilizes his twin brother, it blows Angier’s magical mind. Why has Angier never considered that? Hell, he could make three or four clones and do an even crazier transportation trick, with them showing up under people’s seats and beside them at the urinal. Of course, Angier would never consider this, as he’s the kind of magician who would surgically graft a coin to the back of your skull just so you could pull it from behind your ear.
There’s also the possibility that the cloning machine is the most brilliant magic trick of all time, but even then, dude, get a job.
The Bad Guy In X2 Involves The President In His Scheme For No Reason
In X2: X-Men United, William Stryker attempts to use a brainwashed Professor X and a duplicate of the mega mutant Tinder, Cerebro, to psychically blow up the brains of every mutant on the planet. The plan is to infiltrate Xavier’s school, gut the existing machine, and restore it at their elaborate underground dam base. But before they can start creeping around a school, Stryker first needs the president’s permission. To endear the president to his desires, Stryker brainwashes Nightcrawler into an attempted assassination. Then, because he’s still miffed about the whole attempt-on-his-life-by-a-mutant thing, the president readily gives Stryker his approval to do whatever he wants with that school.
Hold It …
Why does Stryker need POTUS’ permission for this, exactly?
Stryker seemingly doesn’t need anybody to sign off on all the other bad shit he’s been doing. A few things that the president didn’t need to OK: performing experiments on mutants, kidnapping Xavier, building a sprawling secret base filled with soldiers, starting the plotline that would lead to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. When the president is shown all the things Stryker’s been up to at the end of the film, he has no idea what anybody’s talking about.
At this point, nobody knows about Xavier’s school. Why is Stryker so confident that he could build a big dam base without the president knowing, but he isn’t sure how to cover up that he’s going to attack a random school that essentially doesn’t exist? That’s like successfully turning your bedroom into a brothel without anybody finding out, and then asking your parents if it’s cool to go bang a prostitute at Jeff’s house. They didn’t know Jeff had a prostitute until you told them, moron. Except if this was Stryker, he’d also hire some hooker to attack your parents so they’ll be okay with you revenge-fucking a prostitute. To put it bluntly, William Stryker probably would’ve gotten away with it, if he hadn’t gotten mixed up with one too many hookers.
Jordan Breeding also writes officially for Paste Magazine, unofficially on the Twitter and his blog, and occasionally with a open heart and mind in the comments section.
Business Women & Money Issues HuffPost I've been a food stylist, chef and author for 30 years in Hollywood. My company, Denise Vivaldo Group, Inc., continues to thrive through good times and bad. I'm good at making money and I like money. I like being paid what I'm worth and, by being …
Kit, the Expa-backed platform for product recommendation, has today announced the close of a $2.5 million from Social Capital, Precursor Ventures, April Underwood, Ellen Pao, Authentic Ventures, Black Angel Tech Fund, and Expa.
Kit lets users choose and review products theyve used and owned to build kits. These kits normally focus on a certain theme or category like My Desk Setup or My Photography Bag. But heres the real kicker: Kit lets users make money off of Kit using their own Amazon Affiliate ID for each product in their Kit.
Whats more, the company isnt taking any revenue off of the affiliate model and has instead given that fully to their users.
Kit is the brainchild of Expa partner and Foursquare cofounder Naveen Selvadurai and Kit CEO Camille Hearst.
Hearst said on the phone that Kits user acquisition strategy has focused primarily on experts and influencers (those who already have a social media following who will join them on Kit).
Categories that have already taken off include gear (photography, videography, gaming and desk equipment) and holistic, natural products (healthcare, skin care, beauty products).
Kit has yet to turn on monetization and is instead focused on growing the user base and focusing on experience of those discovering products.
Part of this funding will help us experiment and test business models, said Hearst, mentioning sponsorships and SaaS models around creator tools. Weve been focused a lot on the influencer and creator experience, and now were focused on what that is for end-users who are discovering and finding products.
Kit is one of a few recent projects out of Expa, the startup studio that has raised more than $150 million to help grow new startups.
The hottest trade in the U.S. gasoline market is starting to cool.
As America’s U.S. Gulf Coast refining complex seeks more attractive destinations for its rising production of motor fuels, marketers have found that shipping gasoline to the Atlantic Coast on the Colonial Pipeline might not be the most profitable anymore. The operator of the largest U.S. gasoline pipeline told shippers Thursday that demand fell below its 1.3 million-barrel-a-day Line 1 capacity, indicating a sea change in physical gasoline market dynamics.
“The surprise isn’t that it has happened but rather that it took this long,” said Robert Campbell, head of oil-products research at Energy Aspects Ltd., by email from London. “The East Coast in general is long and U.S. Gulf Coast refiners have alternative markets that offer better returns.”
One such replacement includes using the growing fleet of U.S.-flagged vessels. The nearly 100-year-old Jones Act mandates that only ships built domestically can transport goods between two U.S. ports. Companies like the pipeline and terminal operator Kinder Morgan Inc. are growing their fleets of the ships to move supplies from Gulf Coast refineries to driving markets in Florida and other parts of the Southeast.
The 60-year-old pipeline showed its age and vulnerability last year after two explosions, one of them fatal, shut Line 1 and cut off a quarter of the gasoline supplies used by East Coast motorists. When the pipeline first shut in September 2016, a Jones Act tanker helped relieve dwindling supplies in storage tanks in Georgia and South Carolina. Colonial suffered another leak in January on a branching pipe from its mainline that supplies gasoline to Nashville, Tennessee.
Selling Line Space
Just four years ago, gasoline traders realized that they could capitalize on contracts to ship fuels on Colonial’s line, and a spot market was born. Just a year later in December 2014, buyers were clamoring to purchase space for as much as 29 cents a gallon, according to Argus Media Ltd. pricing data analyzed by Bloomberg. The traders who possessed shipper history could basically make money doing nothing.
Colonial tried to change the practice by altering its tariff with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in November 2015. Its customers weren’t having it. Companies from Costco Wholesale Corp. to American Airlines Group Inc. protested the alteration, and FERC rejected the proposal.
“History is being traded as a commodity. So now we have shippers that are looking to ship only to capture the commodity value,” Buster Brown, Colonial’s director of scheduling said in a March 2016 FERC conference, calling the line space trade practice “unfair” to new shippers.
Not long after that conference, the trade began to sour and values went negative. Traders started paying their counterparts to use their space.
“Line space values have been negative for a long time but no one has been willing to give up their shipper history until now,” Campbell said.
Colonial continues to monitor its shippers’ behaviors “very closely,” said Malesia Dunn, a spokeswoman for Colonial.
Stronger prices at the origin point have helped close the arbitrage to ship gasoline from Houston to the Northeast. Conventional 87-octane gasoline in the U.S. Gulf region is trading above the strongest seasonal level in 10 years versus futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
It’s easy to see why Gulf Coast prices are on the rise. U.S. refiners are picking up the slack in supplies left by their Latin American counterparts, so even with oil processing volumes reaching a record-high 17.7 million barrels a day last month, demand from abroad is propping up the domestic marketplace.
But the Atlantic Coast’s primary trading hub in New York Harbor is not running low on supplies, even with Latin American buyers absorbing the Gulf Coast’s production. Imports to the region have been so strong that at least 11 tankers have been diverted from the region since May.
“Although East Coast gasoline stocks have finally dipped below the five-year seasonal high, demand increases have not been enough to offset high production levels,” said Patricia Hemsworth, senior vice president at Paragon Global Markets. “All factors have led to the lack of movement from the Gulf Coast to New York.”
The following is a condensed and edited interview with Tripp Keber, CEO, Dixie Brands.
Why did you get into the cannabis industry? I got into the marijuana business, ironically, to make money. Boy, was I wrong in the early days. I realized in a very quick time period that there was far more to this industry than making money. The power of cannabis is just superior to some of the other wellness platforms, so its exciting to see us six years later and how the company has grown.
Why edibles? It is called weed for a reason, because it grows like one. But to grow good quality cannabis, its incredibly challenging. Its as much of a science as it is an art. Im not one exactly to get my hands dirty in the garden, so I eliminated that as an opportunity.
We started with the concept that we could take cannabis and add water and ultimately create an elixir. With that, Dixie Elixir was created in early 2010. And its excitingfrom that one product, weve grown 15, 16 delivery systemsa total of 170-plus products.
Who is your target consumer? At the height of the medical marijuana registry in Coloradothats our home statewe had just 120,000-plus registered patients. In January of 2014, the first month that adult-use cannabis was offered, over 10 percent of Colorado residents, 500,000-plus people, embraced legal adult-use marijuana for the first time. So the demographics just exploded. Youll have construction workers all the way up to women in business suits grabbing products like Dixies on their lunch break.
Do you focus on different parts of that large swath of users? We have products that will provide a cerebral or euphoric experience focusing primarily on THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient. We have products that are specifically designed to assist with women and premenstrual syndrome. We have products that are designed to be enjoyed at a golf coursean elixir. Its providing 10 milligrams, the equivalent of maybe one and a half glasses of wine. Our single most popular product in the country is a THC-CBD synergy balm. This provides zero euphoria. It is a topical that you apply to your skin. It provides a level of wellness or a level of relief from pain
What are the toughest challenges? Twice in two years we lost our banking. When I moved to Colorado, Id been with Wells Fargo for years, and on one given day we were notified that we had less than 30 days to shut down our accounts and come get our money. This is an industry that presents so many challenges. Medical marijuana and/or adult-use marijuana are still illegal at the federal level, although that is becoming less and less of a risk.
The good news is companies like Dixie do have strong banking relationships, but there are smaller companies that end up having to pay me as a wholesaler in cash. And when youre selling millions of dollars of products on an annual basis, that is really a real big challenge.
What are the other challenges? Right now were facing a ballot initiative, Proposition 139 here in the state of Colorado, that would limit the amount of potency to 16 percent, which would be a death blow to the industry. It would basically gut the industry and take what was a billion-dollar industry last year and probably turn it into something 60, 70 percent of that.
Where will Dixie be in 10 years? Were a privately held company, so we dont discuss revenues, but I can tell you that the company is dealing with hyper, hyper growth. I stated publicly that our company was valued in 2014 after an $8 million investment as a $40 million company. It is safe to believe that we will see significant increase in that valuation as early as the third quarter or fourth quarter of 2016. We will probably see the company valued as we go out for our next round for maybe as little as $160 million, but potentially as great as $180 million.
If you dont believe that there will be billion-dollar cannabis brands created, I dont think youre looking at the tea leaves properly.