Mitch McConnell has nothing to offer Kentucky. He’ll be re-elected anyway.

Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the union. It vies with West Virginia and Mississippi for bottom place in any well-being list. Its rates of poverty, obesity and general ill-health are among the worst in the country. It has high unemployment. And residents of Kentucky are among the most miserable in the nation, attributable in part to the high incidence of poor health.

In the 30 years he has served it as a United States senator, Republican Mitch McConnell, who is up for re-election this year, has provided little substantive help to the state. Oh sure McConnell steered a good chunk of earmark money to Kentucky over the years; but, as this Huffington Post profile on his career found, the money was directed scattershot fashion primarily in ways that would best cement McConnell’s own power and support in the state rather than as part of any strategy to enhance the state’s welfare. And since 2011 the earmark well has dried up, banned by McConnell’s own party in a largely symbolic show of fiscal rectitude.

Thanks to its Democratic governor’s wholehearted embrace of the Affordable Care Act, however, Kentucky stands to benefit enormously. Already about 360,000 people have signed up for health insurance under the ACA, of whom 75% were previously uninsured. All but 20,000 of the new enrollees are covered under the ACA’s expanded Medicaid, thanks to Kentucky’s low median income level and high poverty rate.

There are few states whose residents need it more. As the 24/7 Wall Street summary of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index 2014 noted:

Kentuckians had some of the most unhealthy behaviors last year. Less than 60% of those surveyed said they ate well all day, the worst among all states, while the smoking rate was the highest in the nation. Unhealthy habits in the state likely contributed to poor physical health. Respondents from Kentucky were among the most likely to complain about lack of energy and sleep, and nearly 30% said health issues prevented them from going about their normal lives. The state’s population was the nation’s most reliant on prescription drugs, with 19.3 prescriptions filled per capita in 2011, tied with West Virginia.

And since approximately 640,000 or 17.5% of residents under 65 lacked insurance prior to the ACA, the law may be a game changer for a state that has traditionally struggled. While there is as yet no clinically proven connection between health insurance and good health, research indicates that having insurance coverage at the very least relieves stress and depression by ameliorating the strain of financial insecurity. Over time it is not unreasonable to hope that the expansion of health coverage in Kentucky will have an enormously significant and positive impact on its population’s well-being.

One would think that this might change the political landscape in this very conservative state. After all a law passed by Democrats in Washington and implemented brilliantly in Kentucky by Democratic Governor Steve Beshear through a remarkably trouble-free website, is already benefitting scores of thousands and has reduced the rate of uninsured by over 40%.

Alas not so. Hatred for Obama and anything associated with him overshadows any actual benefit from the ACA. According to Yahoo News:

Far from being seen as a success story, though, in Kentucky, the health care law and Beshear’s strong embrace of it remain deeply controversial. A recent poll showed that a plurality of Kentuckians continue to favor repealing the law. Other than Beshear, many of the state’s leading Democrats, aware of the lingering tensions around the ACA, avoid speaking about it publicly, wary of being seen as too supportive of “Obamacare.”

Assuming McConnell survives a GOP primary challenge, his Democratic opponent in November will be Allison Lundergan Grimes. In a rational world, Grimes would be trumpeting the success of the ACA in Kentucky and its promise of a better future for so many. Instead:

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat challenging McConnell in a closely watched U.S. Senate race, does not include any mention of the law on her campaign website and has avoided associating herself with Beshear’s embrace of it.

The Economist wonders:

Why are Kentucky Democrats running away from a law that has for the first time brought free or affordable health insurance to hundreds of thousands of their constituents— mainly at the expense of wealthy out-of-staters? This is one of the poorest, unhealthiest, least-insured states in America, the state with the fourth-highest rate of Social Security disability status in the country, a state that is a byword for cancer-ridden smokers and black-lung-plagued coal miners. Why, among these voters especially, is Obamacare such a losing issue?

Because it was conceived and passed by Democrats and pushed by a black Democratic president, that’s why.

McConnell, of course, has nothing to offer Kentucky but his usual manipulations of the feeble-minded on issues like gun-control, and the promise to repeal a law that stands as the most positive development for the welfare of ordinary Kentuckians in a generation or more. Yet Grimes is a distinct underdog and current trends suggest that Democratic office holders will soon be rarer than unicorns in the state.

In his trenchant book, Thomas Frank asked the question: What’s the Matter With Kansas? People in Kentucky should be asking the same question of themselves.

Friday Night Videos Featuring Lydia Loveless, Dum Dum Girls, and Perfect Pussy

It’s Friday and Lydia Loveless, the firecracker country punk from Ohio, is playing at The Tractor Tavern in Ballard. Zippy, Sporty and I will be at the show. After watching this video, give me a good reason why you shouldn’t be there.

Dum Dum Girls will be performing at Neumos on Saturday night. Be there too.

What is Perfect Pussy? Is there Perfect Pussy? Who is Perfect Pussy? Answer: Meredith Graves and her band from Syracuse, New York. After reading this Pitchfork review of the album Say Yes to Love and watching this video, you’ll want some Perfect Pussy too.

Stand up to “Stand Your Ground” – Boycott Florida

Florida, Florida, the redneck riviera
Florida, Florida, there’s no more pathetic place in America
yes a man must make unpopular decisions, surely from time to time
and a man can only stand what a man can stand
it’s a wobbly volatile line
- Vic Chesnutt

Florida is not alone in allowing the concealed conveyance of loaded firearms, unfortunately. Although the United States Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of permitting restrictions, nearly all states allow concealed-carry with few if any impediments.

In addition, however, Florida is one of more than twenty states with a specific stand-your-ground law that imposes no duty on an individual to retreat before resorting to deadly force even in situations away from the home.

The result of this lethal combination has been a number of well publicized use of deadly force cases (the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on the street, the movie theatre shooting death of Chad Oulson and the fatal shooting of Jordan Davis while he sat in a vehicle in a convenience store parking lot) and a 200% spike in so-called justifiable homicides in Florida according to a comprehensive report released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Even as the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis lobby to repeal or at least weaken Florida’s stand-your-ground law, GOP legislators in the state seek to limit media scrutiny of SYG shootings following an unfavorable report on the law’s application and outcomes by the Tampa Bay Times.

The combined effect of an armed and carrying citizenry and an expansive stand-your-ground law is that Florida has become an increasingly unsafe place. Not only do we have to worry about criminals with guns – every state in the union has to worry about them thanks to our overall lax national gun laws – but in Florida we also have to worry about the trigger-happy, law-abiding gun carrier who no longer is legally constrained to act responsibly; instead, he now has a legal get-out-of-jail-free card to shoot anyone who pisses him off while claiming that he felt threatened.

It was lunacy for the people of Florida to elect NRA-lapdog loonies to govern them and pass such laws. So maybe it’s time for the rest of us to bring them to their senses. And the best way to accomplish that is via the pocket-book, by mounting a tourist boycott of Florida.

Not convinced? Well, picture this: You’re a British (or New York) wife and mother holidaying in Florida to see Disneyworld. Your husband or teenage son, who’s gone back to the rented car for his sunglasses, gets into an argument with some jerk in the parking lot. Maybe he’s complaining about the way your car is parked too close to his. The argument escalates. Your son or husband is big enough that they’re not easily intimidated. The jerk gets angry, pulls out his pistol and shoots your son or husband dead. There is no witness close enough to see or hear exactly what happened.

Under Florida law the shooter will claim he shot in self-defense because he felt threatened, and that he was not required to retreat before using deadly force. There are no witnesses to contradict his version of events, the putative threat to his life for example; and the fact that your husband or son was unarmed will carry little if any weight, nor the fact that the shooter instigated the confrontation, assuming he admitted as much. The burden of proof that it was not a justified killing has already shifted to prosecutors and away from the perpetrator of the shooting. The jerk in this scenario will walk, almost certainly without being prosecuted.

There are, of course, a million possible scenarios for someone to claim a justifiable homicide, but it will nearly always be with a firearm and rarely when the victim is also armed. And not only does Florida’s SYG law almost always favor the shooter, it has the effect, whether intended or not, of encouraging the gun carrier to kill rather than wound; after all, we don’t want police to hear an alternative version of events, do we?

It’s true that being black almost certainly increases your risk of being shot by both the criminal and law abiding gun carrier alike. But let’s not kid ourselves that the rest of us aren’t at risk. Just ask Chad Oulson.

Florida is no longer a fit place to visit. We should send a clear message to Floridians and their deeply misguided politicians by giving it a miss from our vacation plans.

Emerald City Comic Con Panties

Nerdy panties found their way into my sphere of consciousness today. I’ll lay out the details here in a much more boring way than what’s really going on inside my head. It will mostly involve pictures.

First, the “featured image” of this post was gratuitously stolen from http://www.80stees.com/categories/batman.

So, there’s Etsy with its plethora of nerdy women:

Nerds With Vaginas

I was caught up in the ECCC traffic this afternoon (on the bus), and noticed how all these really hot girls in super nerdy outfits were being followed by throngs of less sexy nerds. It occurred to me that these women have really carved out their niche.

And I’m probably late to the party. It seems there’s a whole niche industry built up around selling nerd panties.

Women’s super hero jammies, panties, and lingerie is a thing!

http://www.superherostuff.com/women/superhero-pajamas-underwear.html

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 9.20.46 PM

They can turn your favorite, most masculine superheroes into sexy panties for your dream girl…

I wonder how frustrated these guys are by this.

There’s this take on a common trope:

http://www.gurl.com/2013/11/20/nerd-gamer-underwear-for-women/#1

Robin panties

And finally the women who get off on just being loved by nerds…

http://www.foxers.com/i-love-my-nerd-boyshort.html

I love my nerd panties

 ECCC is annoying

But at least it’s not as annoying as EVERY OTHER DAY where there aren’t sexy underwear wearing, powerful women walking around the streets of Seattle, blocking traffic, having followings, reminding me that today isn’t simply another day.

Thus, the inevitable.

So a marriage proposal happened last night at #ECCCLiveArt...... on Twitpic

She can’t even see why you’re hugging her so hard, dude. I think she thinks you just really love being her friend. Just like I love it that your butt crack was cropped out of this image.

Let him think he's doing a good job and then just fake an orgasm (NSFW)If you want that marriage to last, you’ll need a crash course on cunnilingus for nerds. And sometimes you just need a push in the right direction. Boy or girl, you may never have learned to appreciate the pussy (NSFW). Some influential people have written a guide for the less fortunate among us. http://www.learn2lick.com

Conservatives want to raise the Minimum Wage – Just Like Liberals!

We’re accustomed to hearing progressives and Democrats argue for raising the minimum wage. So it’s refreshing to hear a similar case being made from the other side of the ideological divide.

Ron Unz is a conservative activist and former publisher of The American Conservative magazine who until recently was leading a fight for an initiative to raise the minimum wage in California to $12.00 an hour. Unfortunately, lack of funds has derailed the effort as he explained in this interview with The Nation but what is striking from both this conversation and one he had on NPR earlier this year is that his key arguments for increasing the minimum wage resonate as much with liberals as they should do with conservatives.

For example, Unz makes the point in this New York Times Op-Ed piece that a low minimum wage amounts to a government subsidy for private businesses because the taxpayers pick up the tab for poorly paid workers to receive income support, food aid and other governmental support:

Ordinary taxpayers would be the other great beneficiaries, saving many tens of billions of dollars each year in payments for Food Stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, housing subsidies, and other social welfare programs. Businesses should pay their own employees rather than quietly shifting the burden to government programs and the American taxpayer. Conservatives and free-market supporters should endorse this simple idea.

He also is unsympathetic to the usual Republican braying that raising the minimum wage will force businesses, especially small ones, to lay off workers. He notes that the recent CBO report on the likely effects of raising the minimum wage clearly shows that the benefit for many millions of low wage Americans, who will gain a significantly higher income, far outweighs the possible loss of some jobs. Second, as a believer in the free market he expresses the view that if a business is unable to survive without paying a ridiculously low hourly wage, then maybe it doesn’t deserve to.

That these and other Unz arguments for raising the minimum wage sound much like our own is no accident. The logic of it transcends ideological and philosophical differences. So why do most congressional Republicans still oppose it?

Well, one strong reason is that Obama is for it and that’s enough for many to be against it on principle. But the GOP’s opposition is guided primarily by their reflexive support for small business owners most of whom object vociferously to increasing the minimum wage. And ideological consistency takes a hike since ordinary taxpayers provide what amounts to a $250 billion subsidy to the GOP’s business pals so that our working poor can have a somewhat decent living.

The strength of conservative objections has rendered a federal increase unlikely any time soon. The fight, however, has already shifted to the states. Here in Washington, for example, both the state and the city of Seattle are separately considering minimum wage increases.

Requiring American businesses to provide a decent minimum wage to their workers is not a Democratic or Republican issue, or a liberal or conservative one. It’s simply the right thing to do. Ask Ron Unz.

Fred Phelps is Dead! Is he in Heaven or Hell?

Phelps the Hater

Fred Phelps died today!

Before participating in the poll below, read this excerpt from the CNN report:

Fred Phelps — the founding pastor of a Kansas church known for its virulently anti-gay protests at public events, including military funerals — has died, the church said Thursday.

The 84-year-old died of natural causes at 11:15 p.m. Wednesday, according to church spokesman Steve Drain.

According to Westboro, the church has picketed more than 53,000 events, ranging from Lady Gaga concerts to funerals for slain U.S. soldiers. Typically, a dozen or so church members — including small children — will brandish signs that say “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”

Phelps was often called “the most hated man in America,” a label he seemed to relish.

“If I had nobody mad at me,” he told the Wichita Eagle in 2006, “what right would I have to claim that I was preaching the Gospel?”

Under Phelps’ leadership, Westboro members have preached that every calamity, from natural disasters to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, is God’s punishment for the country’s acceptance of homosexuality. Phelps had advocated for gays and lesbians to be put to death.

Poll Question:

Immediately following Pastor Phelp's demise,

View Results

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Best Character Dancing Scenes – Featuring Band of Outsiders, Pulp Fiction, and Simple Men

I usually post video sets on Fridays but, since football season has ended and my Sundays have become quite boring, I’ve been watching movies, and the one I watched today inspired me to post some videos. My inspiration was really great film by French New Wave director, Jean-Luc Godard. His 1964 film, Bande à part (Band of Outsiders), features what must be the most influential character-dancing scene in a non-musical drama. Here’s what the actors; Anna Karina, Claude Brasseur, and Sami Frey, called “the Madison Dance”. French composer Michel Legrand wrote the mostly jazz-based soundtrack, but the music for this scene is more R&B than jazz and it sounds a lot like Booker T. and The MG’s.

 

Quentin Tarantino loved the scene so much he had Uma Thurman and John Travolta watch it as a form of inspiration for their dance to the Chuck Berry song “You Never Can Tell” in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction.

 

Hal Hartley was a fan too. His 1992 film, Simple Men, features an homage to Godard starring Robert John Burke, Bill Sage, and Elina Löwensohn dancing to the music of Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing“.

European Union has the Upper Hand on Animal Welfare Rules

The New York Times reports that progress in negotiations on an historic trade agreement between the United States and European Union has slowed to a snail’s pace thanks, in part, to the EU balking at accepting our hormone-treated, antibiotic-injected and inhumanely raised beef, pork and chicken. More power to them and let’s hope it’s the US that buckles and not the EU.

It must be unusual and more than a little uncomfortable for US negotiators to be in the position of a relatively backward nation negotiating with a party whose environmental and overall regulatory regimen, at least when it comes to agriculture, is stricter and more progressive than our own. The EU has strict laws on labelling genetically modified foods, stricter rules on the humane treatment of farm animals and, unlike the US, prohibits the sale of hormone-treated beef.

Unfortunately, thanks to Big Ag and its stooges in Congress, the US is far less enlightened. California is a leader in the humane treatment of farm stock but there is no will to improve their lot at the national level. And while the GMO labelling fight is not over, voters in relatively progressive states such as California and Washington have opted for wilful ignorance over transparency.

Even the environmental damage caused by industrial farming – as this piece on the poisoning of Iowa’s water by factory hog farms highlights – has failed to prompt a serious rethinking of the way we raise animals for food. Do we have to wait until Iowa has its very first mountain range composed of pig shit before we take notice of the harm we’re doing?

We demand cheap meat no matter what the price paid by the animals we raise and refuse to confront Big Ag about its nefarious practices. Heck we don’t even want to know about it, hence the term “Ag-gag” which denotes laws passed in several states to effectively prevent revelations about abusive and cruel treatment of farm animals.

There are no easy answers to the question of how we can healthily and humanely raise our farm animals while still providing affordable beef, pork and chicken, as even a staunch animal welfare and sustainable food advocate such as Nicholas Kristof acknowledges.

Which doesn’t mean we can’t try, and kudos to the EU countries for leading the way while showing us up to be the backward and ignorant yahoos we’ve become on this issue. And who knows? Maybe one day their example will shame us into rejecting our present industrial model of food production for a better and more moral one.

Concealed Carry Permits + Stand Your Ground Laws = Insanity

The family and friends of Jordan Davis, a black teenager, will have to wait several more months to find out if Michael Dunn, the white man who shot him dead outside a convenience store in Florida in 2012, will be punished for it in his retrial.

Davis and three friends were parked and playing their music loudly when approached by Dunn who asked them to turn it down. An argument ensued and an angry Dunn opened fire killing Davis and nearly hitting two of the other teens. Dunn continued firing even as the vehicle carrying Davis and his friends pulled out to escape the gunfire. No shots were fired back at Dunn who claimed, in his stand-your-ground defense, that he saw Davis with a shotgun. No firearms were found in the Dodge Durango carrying Davis and the others.

The Florida jury in this case appears to have done the best job they could in the circumstances. While they couldn’t agree on whether to find Dunn guilty of the first degree murder of Davis, they did convict him for the attempted murder of the other three who were trying to flee. Even his SYG defense didn’t save him on those counts and Dunn will spend most of the rest of his life in prison, thank goodness.

The fact remains that the prosecution, even with an apparently thoughtful and conscientious jury, could not surmount the challenges of the SYG law on the shooting of Davis despite the facts as recounted by The New York Times:

In the courtroom, Mr. Dunn told the jury he shot Jordan Davis, 17, after the teenager pointed a shotgun at him from the window of a sport utility vehicle, threatened him and then got out of the truck. The two cars were parked side by side in front of a gas station convenience store.

But the prosecution said there was no shotgun: No witness saw one, the three teenagers who were in the vehicle with Mr. Davis said they did not have a shotgun, and the police never found one. While Mr. Dunn fired 10 rounds at the teenagers on Nov. 23, 2012, no one ever shot back.

In these circumstances, it seems reasonable to ask how the jury could fail to reach a consensus on Davis’ murder, even if it was on one of the lesser charges of second degree murder or manslaughter. But as the NYT piece explains:

Under Florida self-defense laws, people can use lethal force and do not have to retreat if they “reasonably believe” it is “necessary” to save their lives or avoid great harm. The jury must, in essence, decide what a “reasonable person” would have done under similar circumstances. “The law takes the position that you have to step into the shoes of the defendant,” said Michael Band, a Miami criminal defense lawyer who was a longtime prosecutor in the city.

In court, it is the prosecutor’s burden to prove that a shooting was not self-defense. Also, whether there was a shotgun is not nearly as important under the law as whether Mr. Dunn believed he saw one and then reacted out of reasonable fear for his life. “If he really believed there was a gun, then he acted appropriately,” Mr. Band said.

So just to be clear, Dunn didn’t have to see Davis with a shotgun to feel his life was threatened but merely imagine he had seen one – or simply say he saw it whether he did or not – in order to mount a credible and likely successful SYG defense.

By any reasonable definition, therefore, it is clear that the Florida legislature has provided a legal get-out-of-jail free card for shooting someone and claiming self-defense. The law’s turbid language renders it difficult bordering on impossible for juries to convict an SYG claimant, particularly if there are no witnesses to contradict the shooter’s version of events. Dunn’s undoing was that there were three others in the Durango and he continued shooting at them as they tried to escape. Had Davis been alone, Dunn would likely not have even been prosecuted.

Many have pointed to race as the key issue in this and other cases such as that of Trayvon Martin and I won’t dispute that it plays a role. However I would argue that the mental state of the shooter has far more relevance. After all, if the teenagers who angered Dunn had been white, how sure can we be that he would have acted differently?

The effects of firearm possession on our behavior and judgment will always be the subject of debate; certainly this blog has expressed the view that the deleterious effects far outweigh any benefits.

Concealed carry laws are a bad idea because they allow a particularly fearful segment of the population to take their arsenals into public places and jeopardize the safety of the rest of us. Thus armed with their gun and the faux courage it provides, many are willing to suspend common sense and sound judgment by initiating unnecessary confrontations which end with them shooting someone. Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman are prime examples of the breed.

And stand-your-ground laws such as the one in Florida now furnish gun carriers with the legal means to escape or at least minimize punishment for their actions. America is a much less safe place as a result.

America has the best healthcare system in the world! (Except a few people do slip through the cracks…)

Watch this Aasif Mandvi video from last Thursday’s Daily Show featuring an interview with Fox Business Commentator Todd Wilemon. At the 3:35 mark Aasif Mandvi sets up Wilemon with a report of an unhealthy population in a place with very limited access to quality healthcare. Wilemon thinks he is describing a situation in a third-world country. At the 4:12 mark watch Wilemon grapple with a severe case of cognitive dissonance when  he learns the community Mandvi is describing is Knoxville, Tennessee.

 

What happens to Wilemon is what happens to all Republicans when facts about pretty much anything don’t match up with their unsubstantiated beliefs in American exceptionalism.

Wilemon froze as the contrary evidence penetrated his skull and ricocheted around his cranium. After some moments of uncomfortable contemplation, he responds with, “you know people do fall through the cracks”. To say otherwise would be to admit that America doesn’t have “The Best Healthcare System in the World“, and to admit that would cause his head to explode so, in an act of self preservation, he grabs hold of that inconvenient thought in his head and shoves up his ass where he thinks it belongs.

Wilemon recovers a bit and then argues that the healthcare-deprived people in Knoxville are unhealthy because they chose not to buy healthcare. At the 5:30 mark Mandvi delivers another bullet to the cranium with,”because they can’t afford it”, and “So if you’re poor, just stop being poor”. It is of course and absurd statement, unless you’re a Republican. Then it’s “a good idea”.

Republicans and their mouthpieces on Fox News cannot accept that America doesn’t have the best healthcare system in the world. They don’t believe the Number 37 ranking. They can’t believe it because they lack empathy for anyone not like themselves. Live in poverty? Your fault! Got sick? Your fault! Don’t have access to a healthcare network? Get a job! And stop being poor because you are ruining my fantasy.