Wandering Eye: Baltimore's battle with smog, Mark Kozelek's 'wounded-bro sexism,' and more

The New York Times has a cautionary tale about universal health care: In Vermont, at least, technical glitches have sidelined the dream. "We've gone from this vision of being the first state to achieve universal health care, to limping along and struggling to comply with the Affordable Care Act," State Rep. Chris Pearson, a member of Vermont's Progressive Party, tells the Times. The problem started with the implementation of the Obamacare-mandated online insurance marketplace. Like other states (including Maryland) Vermont's program was glitchy and frustrating to use. Vermont had already paved the way to near-universal care on its own, the Times says: "To many Vermonters, the new federal law complicated a state system that had already provided good coverage and muddied the route to an even better model." The complications arise, of course, from the provision of private health insurance and their endless plan iterations, each tailored to a particular customer's (i.e. employer's) needs. A single-payer system would be simpler and cheaper, but it would have to be paid for by taxes—an additional 11.5 percent payroll tax and a top income tax above 9 percent. That won't fly, and even if it did, doing it in a single, small state would likely make rich, healthy people move out while poor, sick people flooded in. The story doesn't go there, of course, focusing instead on the failures of the tech vendor that mucked up the online marketplace. Says Lawrence Miller, the state's health care reform chief: "I talk to my colleagues elsewhere and, good God, this just wasn't set up for success." (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Mark Kozelek, formerly of Red House Painters and now recording as Sun Kil Moon, is a critically acclaimed sad bastard singer-songwriter who just put out his latest album, "Universal Themes." He's also a huge dick, and not even in the vaguely interesting evasive tradition of other gruff white-man confessionalists like Dylan, Cohen, or Cave, but in a way that can be only be defined as trollish and hostile. Last year, he called fans in Raleigh "hillbillies" and later called Allison Hussey of Raleigh's Independent Weekly, who dared to write about Kozelek insulting his audience, "some spoiled bitch rich kid blogger brat" (full disclosure: I've written for the Independent Weekly) on a song titled 'War On Drugs: Suck My Cock,' which, oh by the way, he penned following a festival show in which he insulted the band War On Drugs because their sound bled over to his set and that made him very mad. The guy's a fucking asshole. I also think his kind of pained sincerity is pretentious bullshit, but hey. More recently, at a concert in London on June 1, Kozelek insulted music writer Laura Snapes from the stage because she was writing an article about him and had reached out to Kozelek's friends for comment. He told the crowd, "Laura Snapes totally wants to fuck me/ get in line, bitch . . . Laura Snapes totally wants to have my babies." So yesterday, Snapes wrote a piece for the Guardian, "I interviewed Mark Kozelek. He called me a 'bitch' on stage." It's a fearless, vicious, yet fair piece that engages Kozelek's music thoughtfully all the while dissecting his hateful, cowardly wounded-bro sexism. "He can use sexually violent language to reduce female critics to the status of groupies, knowing that while male musicians’ misogynist acts are examined for nuance and defended as traits of 'difficult' artists," Snapes writes, "[while] women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don’t understand art." (Brandon Soderberg)

 

When people think smog, they tend to picture the muggy expanse of Los Angeles. But Baltimore, according to this Sun story by Timothy B. Wheeler, was once the second-worst city for smog in the United States. Good news, folks: Baltimore now meets Environmental Protection Agency limits for smog! Unfortunately, some say the current standard set by the EPA is too lax. Dr. Gregory B. Diette, a pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital and associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the city's paper of record: "The ozone standard is not sufficiently protective. People get sick and die at levels that are compatible with the current regulation." Oh. There's a proposal in place to lower the limit, which naturally is drawing ire from pollution-causing manufacturers. "A study done for the National Association of Manufacturers projects that a lower ozone limit could cost the economy $140 billion a year and put more than a million jobs at risk," Wheeler writes. (Brandon Weigel)

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