There’s no shortage of ammo this year. The stories in Louneyville, more or less, just wrote themselves. Don’t get us wrong, we obviously think this is a great city, one with growth on its mind and pride in its heart, but there’s also a special sort of fringe crazy, our own brand of lunacy — as there is almost everywhere else. With this week’s cover story, we want to give our absurd, almost-cartoonish few a special shoutout for doing things like using a pro-cockfighting event as a senatorial campaign stop, shooting a gun in the statehouse, buying into a “purge” that was made up by teens on social media and having tigers in the backyard. So, without further ado, we slide down the rabbit hole.
Kentucky not last to the altar and Beshear’s appalling appealing
There was always the sense that something looney was going to happen when the right to same-sex marriage came to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. But did anyone guess it was going to be this looney?
John. G. Heyburn, a federal judge for over 20 years, was nominated by George H. W. Bush at the recommendation of Senator Mitch McConnell. Now, Heyburn is a national hero of progressives after ruling in February that Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage violated the U.S. Constitution — the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law. He went so far as to say that the ban was, at worst, hurtful to the gay community, and at best, based on religious beliefs that would be unconstitutional.
It would have been looney enough for a judge with such strong connections with the Republican party to be the one to bring gay marriage to Kentucky, which some prognosticators picked to be the 50th and last state. Instead, Kentucky Democrats had to battle it out over appealing Heyburn’s decision.
Attorney General Jack Conway — who was tasked in defending the ban initially, a case that he lost — determined that he fulfilled his responsibilities and was not obligated to appeal the decision, saying, “If I did so, I would be defending discrimination.”
So if the Attorney General won’t defend discrimination, how about the Governor? Steve Beshear, national darling of the Democrats for his successful implementation and defense of Obamacare, hired private attorneys to make the case for Kentucky. Their argument: It would impair birthrates, and procreation is vital to economic performance, hence is of critical interest to the state.
First, that assumes that we want more Kentuckians procreating, which is looney in its own right. But seriously, you know what other state claims an interest in procreation? China. This is truly looney, although I guess Kentucky is in direct competition with China since we’ll trade filthy coal and our environment for cheap power… maybe we’re not so different.
But how looney can one ‘ville get? A Republican legalizes same sex marriage only to see Democrats squabble over the state’s interest when it comes to people procreating? I mean seriously.
Penance: Beshear must prove why the world needs more Kentuckians.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Louisville International Airport
Disclaimer: Conspiracy theorists may need to wrap their heads in aluminum foil after reading this.
Let’s bypass the lunacy of hemp — one of the most useful plants ever known to humankind — being illegal (for just a moment) and how cuckoo crazy it is that the Bluegrass state has to import its hemp seeds from Italy (for just a moment more) to thank W for his greatest legacy: the Department of Homeland Security, the gift that just keeps on giving. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that ol’ 43 himself handpicked the federal customs officials who, in May of this year, refused release of 250 pounds of hemp seeds to Agriculture Commissioner James Comer even after the seeds had officially been cleared by U.S. Customs in Chi-town.
A miracle crop that grows in almost any soil (like, even soil reclaimed from mining), hemp is a virtually disease-resistant, renewable, inexpensive source for everything from textiles to fuel. In 1850, Kentucky produced 40,000 tons of hemp. By the 1930s, it was the first American cash crop to demonstrate billion dollar potential and was soon thereafter outlawed.
How could that possibly be? (You can get out your aluminum foil now). Mix a little fear mongering with good old fashioned cronyism, sprinkle in the then-obscure Spanish word “marihuana” and presto-chango, hemp and marijuana we’re split like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde and the baby was thrown out with the bathwater.
Keep in mind that until this time no one distinguished between hemp with THC and hemp without THC, but hemp was totally cockblocking Mr. Dupont’s chemicals. It had to go. Enter a cadre of Dupont cronies who brought the 1937 Prohibitive Marihuana Tax Law before the House Ways and Means Committee and ensured its passage.
February 7, 2014, President Obama signed the Federal Farm Bill into law, starting the long overdue reversal of one of the most damning corporate scams this country has ever fallen for. In doing so, he opened the door for Kentucky to once again cash in on what still is a potentially billion dollar crop.
Despite the Farm Bill’s making hemp cultivation legal, the only legal way to obtain the hemp seeds was by importing them — from ITALY, at that! Olive oil, sure, but for the Bluegrass state to have to import hemp seeds from Italy in order to start hoeing its roes, well, that’s hogwash, but the fact that it’s legal hogwash meant nothing to the customs officials, who doggedly shook their heads and just said, “no.”
Penance: Build a memorial to Gatewood Galbraith out of hemp and display it in front of Louisville’s CBP office.
Three Ken Ham quotes from his evolution/creationism debate with Bill Nye are all that’s needed here:
— “I believe it’s the creationists that should be educating the kids out there, because we’re teaching them the right way to think.”
— “I’m a Christian. And as a Christian, I can’t prove it to you, but God has definitely shown me very clearly, through his word, and showing himself in the person of Jesus Christ, that the Bible is the word of God. And I admit that’s where I start from. You can go and test that. You can make predictions based on that. You can check the prophecies in the Bible. You can check the statements in Genesis. You can check that. And I did a little bit of that tonight. And I can’t intimately prove that to you. All I can do, is say to someone, look, ‘If the Bible really is what it claims to be, if it really is the word of God, and that’s what it claims, then, check it out.’”
— “Public school textbooks are using the same word, “science,” for observational and historical science. They arbitrarily define science as naturalism and outlaw the supernatural. They are imposing the religion of naturalism/atheism on generations of students. They are imposing their ideology on students and that everything is explained by natural process. That is a religion … It’s an indoctrination.”
Penance: Watch the entire first season of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”
Forget Ebola. Forget ISIS. Forget zombies. Sinkholes are coming to kill us all. These dastardly holes are poised to open up at a moment’s notice, itching to swallow us whole, along with our children, our pets and our sleek American race cars.
In February, a massive sinkhole opened up beneath the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, sparking millions of people worldwide to gawk at the security-camera footage on YouTube and ask in astonishment, “There’s a Corvette Museum?” Middle-aged men going through mid-life crises clutched their shrunken junk and watched in horror as the sinkhole swallowed eight shiny Corvettes down into the rocky, slimy, karst wasteland below.
Karst is the culprit. That’s the uppity geology term for the ground we walk on and, like Rick Pitino and Elijah Craig, karst is pretty much impossible to avoid if you live in Louneyville. Underground springs eat away at the rocks and soil until holes open up, and make no mistake: one is coming for you. Just last month, a super-classy sinkhole opened up on Fourth Street, where it tried to swallow trolley-hopping art lovers. Unlike the ‘vette hole, it was able to gobble only part of a TARC trolley and caused minor injuries to its passengers.
Of course, many of our rural cousins find these sinkholes helpful places to deposit their old, broken washing machines and/or hide items they may have misappropriated from the state Department of Agriculture, but complex asphalt jungles like Louneyville have nowhere to run. There is probably an immense sinkhole underneath you right now, poised to suck you and everyone you love into a rocky, karsty grave. Be afraid, Louneyville, be very afraid.
Penance: Opening up under the Lees Lane Landfill and swallowing a maw full of 1,4-dichlorobenzene.
Pappy Van Winkle
A heist? Death threats? Is it just me or does the recent Pappy Van Winkle release resemble a Jason Statham movie? On October 14, 2013, 65 cases of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle: Family Reserve were stolen from the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, where it’s made. (They retail at $130 a bottle, so they lost $8,450 in sales). It’s a mystery that hasn’t been, and, at this point, probably never will be solved, which is one of the reasons the situation earned the social media reference “Pappygate.” Fast forward a year later, to this past late-October, early-November, when the high-end cocktail bar Meta made Jell-O shots out of Pappy. It garnered national media coverage from ABC News, NBC and Playboy, among others. It also attracted the crazies, as Meta co-owner Jeremy Johnson received a death threat via email. (How old-school.)
Penance: Whatever. Keep Louisville weird.
Let’s face it. The weather in Louisville has been batshit crazy ever since bats started shitting. Thanks to our natural location in a valley surrounded by a knobstone escarpment, we’ve always been prone to weather fluctuations known to meteorologists as “Hoosier smegma.” And thanks to coal, oil and cattle flatulence, weather lunacy is the new normal worldwide. But 2014 made even Eskimo nipples fall off and spell out “REDRUM.”
First, a bitter cold wave dubbed the “polar vortex” began last December and lasted until April, when the governor stopped it by performing a bloodletting ritual on the perinea of ten senators on the Capitol steps. We’re guessing. We’re not sure what stopped it because we were too fuckin’ cold to come out from under our coal-powered blankets, but local schools were closed for 11 parent-maddening days.
When it finally did stop, we had a couple blissful weeks of asthma season before it got hotter than that episode of “Masters of Sex” when Bill and Virginia spend almost the entire episode in the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel, where they … um, we may be getting a bit off track here. Let’s just say it was pretty hot. In fact, September was the hottest September on record, when the mercury topped out at Kill Me Now.
But before we could dash out for more ice to pour into our undergarments another blast of cold air swept back in, which set the tone for an autumn in which temperatures went up and down faster than crude oil futures. Boring comparative? How about up and down faster than Bill and Virginia in that “Masters” episode with the lighted, glass, camera dildo… well, never mind. Goddamn weather’s fucked up is what we’re saying.
Penance : Having Marc Weinberg posting Instagram selfies with you all the time, making duck face.
Tim Stark, the owner of the nonprofit Wildlife in Need in Southern Indiana, which is basically an exotic animal breeding center/roadside zoo/home of the infamous Tiger Baby Playtime, all nestled away in the safety of Stark’s personal property, has faced a lot of troubling allegations over the years, but he’s been under extra fire recently. A year ago, when a few of her dogs went missing, one of Stark’s neighbors stayed up all night to see what was happening, and her boyfriend ended up shooting a leopard. Stark, who had leopards registered to his name, said that particular leopard wasn’t his because he “euthenized” both of his leopards — one with a baseball bat — after they turned on him because of a rare bone disease. Umm…ok? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — the guy has all sorts of large cats and other crazy animals. All the while, because of Indiana state laws, governing agencies have not been able to levy sanctions or file charges against him. For an in-depth look, check out Kristina Goetz and Erin Keane’s excellent story, “The Troubling Record of a Southern Indiana Wildlife Refuge,” on WFPL’s website. It’s stranger than fiction. The story contains quotes like this one: “I’m the expert, not them … There’s not a single person that works for USDA (who) knows their ass from a hole in the ground about a (expletive) tiger or a lion or a bear.” This guy has to be best friends with Ted Nugent.
Penance: Check himself into an insane asylum.
We really hate to pick on West Virginians because, like Mississippians and Arkansans, they work tirelessly year in and year out to make Kentuckians look good. Plus, do they really belong in a collection of the lunatics impacting Louneyville?
Yes, they do. Last January, an outfit named (naturally) Freedom Industries that supplies chemicals to (of course) the coal industry spilled 7,500 gallons of a toxic substance into the Elk River, which flows into the Ohio. The substance goes by the name “4,” followed by approximately 50 vowels and consonants, which is usually a good sign that a chemical can ruin your day. Five million people who get their drinking water from the Ohio River watched in horror as the poison drifted downstream, while officials assured us that, sure, it smelled like licorice but probably wouldn’t make our kids grow extra toes.
So far, so bad. But now these mountaineering morons have a far more diabolical scheme: to frack under the Ohio River. Yes, you read that right: West Virginia plans to drill for oil and gas UNDER the Ohio River. Because what could go wrong there? Yes, chemical or petroleum spills could poison the drinking water for millions of people. Yes, fracking causes earthquakes. Yes, fracking releases methane gas, which contributes to global warming. Yes, completely insane ideas like this underscore why we need environmental protection from the greedy psychopaths in power. West Virginia, we’ll say what everybody is thinking: John Denver was full of shit!
Penance: Change your motto from “Almost Heaven” to “Maybe It’s The Meth.” And leave our water alone!
Most times the loony antics of our state legislators make us cringe. If they’re not handing cash over to creationists they’re trying to ban women’s access to reproductive healthcare or turn the Commonwealth’s coffers over to the coal and/or basketball barons. But every once in awhile one of our leaders goes rogue and does something so delightfully crazy that we skip to work in the morning and wear a smile for the rest of the year every time we think about it.
Such a blessedly crazy event happened on January 7, when Kentucky representative Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, busted a cap in the ass of the bookshelf in her Capitol office while unloading her Ruger 380 semi-automatic handgun. No one was injured (but the bookshelf was super-pissed). Even more delicious was Combs’ response. Instead of saying what any responsible person would say in such an inescapably embarrassing situation, like maybe, “I’m so sorry! I am never, ever going to bring a gun where children might be present and from now on I’m going to vote for any legislation that will keep automatic weapons out of the hands of people as irresponsible as me!” she said, “It happens.”
This being Kentucky, the criminally careless Combs came off like a folk hero and the media pretty much gave her a free pass to say further stupid shit like, “I am a gun owner. I support the right to bear arms.” And “I will be the first proponent for gun safety, at the same time I’m also a proponent in support of people to be able to carry weapons properly and with a concealed carry permit.” And, presumably, “Do what I say and not what I do. Nothin’ to see over here.” Because, obviously, the only way to stop a government bookcase without a gun is a clumsy state legislator who doesn’t know how to use a semi-automatic pistol in a place where busloads of schoolchildren regularly visit.
Penance: Ten training sessions at that cockamamie Balls-On-Your-Face outfit that always advertises on our back page. And body armor for all Capitol visitors.
You would have to be some sort of cartoon character politician to get caught at a pro-cockfighting event, but, somehow, good old former Republican Senate candidate Matt Bevin did just that. It takes quite the effort to make Mitch McConnell look sane and rational, but Matt Bevin knocked it out of the park. Maybe, just maybe, it was all a conspiracy, thought up by Mitch, to give the turtle campaign just the sort of PR boost it needed to skyrocket past the bat-shit crazy inner-party opponent, so he could focus on the weak sauce Democrat. I mean, someone like that can’t be real, right? Half-baked and unserious hypotheticals aside, the best part of the story is how Bevin defended it. “It wasn’t a cockfighting event, that’s where you all need to start telling the truth about what happened,” he said on MSNBC. “This was a gathering of people talking about states’ rights. I don’t know what they talked about other than the fact that when I was there, I talked about my campaign.” Airtight rebuttal, Matt. Airtight.
Penance: Be thrown into an MMA ring with Kimbo Slice, while wearing a chicken costume.
In what turned out to the be not the biggest election of his life, but rather his biggest victory, Mitch McConnell’s sixth Senatorial campaign had one of the looniest toons in American politics — Jesse Benton. Benton was on his way to becoming one of the biggest players in Republican campaign politics. After successfully managing Rand Paul’s 2010 campaign and taking Paul from obscurity to the A-list of contenders for the 2016 Republican nomination, Benton was tapped for the (seemingly) unenviable job of reelecting someone with lower approval ratings than years served in office: 30.
Oh, how fast the mighty can fall in politics.
Rand Paul’s popularity in the Commonwealth led to Benton’s hiring. While McConnell and Paul are far from what you’d call friends, job one for McConnell was to display his allegiance with the freshman Senator, which is why he hired Paul’s campaign manager in the first place. The first act of lunacy: a recording surfaced of Benton admitting that he was going to have to “hold his nose” to work for McConnell. Needing to keep enemies close, McConnell and Benton later posed for a nose-holding photograph.
The second act of lunacy: allowing a pro-McConnell ad to run with images of UK basketball players, only, the “UK” players were actually mortal-enemy Duke players! Kentucky fans would sooner have video of Denny Crum and Rick Pitino playing swords (peeing) on Rupp Arena than Duke celebrating a championship. Not sure where Benton was on this one, but it is on his resume.
Finally, the lunacy became too much for Benton, as he was forced to resign. As political director for Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, Benton was too-closely connected to a bribery scandal, where an Iowa delegate was paid thousands of dollars to endorse Ron Paul instead of Michele Bachmann (talk about someone from Louneyville!).
And in a truly looney display of remorse, Benton professed that the resignation “breaks my heart.”
Penance: I guess … go away until it’s time for Rand Paul 2016?
In a rare exhibition of teens-gone-wild, an estimated 200 teenage boys and girls took over the town in March, when 17 cases of assaults and robberies were reported in one night. A group that gathered at Waterfront Park, at what was supposed to be a vigil for a teen killed the week before, quickly turned violent and spread across downtown and throughout other neighborhoods around the city.
While this kind of occurrence is extremely uncommon, much of Louisville did not see it this way. Instead, many saw this event as a vital threat to the city we once knew as Louisville — now Louneyville — a peaceful midsize, Midwest town, and a cultural, “epicurious” gem we are all proud to show off to visitors. You can almost hear President Roosevelt calling from the grave, “The only thing to fear is fear itself … you morons!”
So what sparked this violent flashmob? It was the first warm day after one of the most brutally cold winters in Louneyville history, prompting an inordinate number of kids to get out of the house. Perhaps it was a calculated protest or spontaneous emotional response to a slain peer. Maybe it is the result of years of neglecting the West End — both economically and representationally. It was possibly the result of an education system that has failed a generation.
The truth probably lies somewhere between all of these factors. However, an episode of “The West Wing” offers some insight: A teacher asks a student why there is violence and unrest in the Middle East, and the student replies, “Thousands of years of religious conflict.” The teacher responds, “That’s possible, or it could be that it’s really hot, and there’s not enough water.”
The answer may be harder than the problem, but the problem is obvious.
Penance: We all must be part of the solution. Invest in the community. Break down the segregation in Louneyville. Give these kids something to do and a reason to hope.
The bridges project has had downtown commuters navigating the ever-shifting local roadways like river boat captains, wondering which channels are open and where the placid path hides an invisible snag waiting to test our patience and amity.
We former 86-64 supporters may especially feel the rub, chafing with the knowledge that the city decided to build more roadways separating the city from the river of our genesis despite all of our clever bumper stickers (good try, Tyler).
There’s no easy way out anymore, even if your commute doesn’t require interstate travel, even if you know at least a half a dozen route options. One by one, some maniacal planning board has constricted, closed or congested every last one. Market Street backed up? Ha, no problem, drop down to River Road, which for some unknown reason has one whole lane solely dedicated to the task of sustaining big orange traffic barrels. Perhaps they had no place left to put them or perhaps it is some Governor Christie-esque lane closure scheme to punish you for supporting the wrong District 9 candidate in the last election. No matter, for even Frankfort Avenue is closed at River Road. The only way into the heart of District 9 is via Zorn. Our fahrvergnügen is far from groovin, and there is no shoulder to cry on ‘cause there are no more shoulders.
And then there are instances like the funneling of all local eastbound traffic onto a route that entails the closure of the E. Main Street bridge over the south fork of Beargrass Creek. One can’t help but wonder whether a confederacy of dunces or a sadistic Illuminati is behind it all.
Penance: Mandatory “I wish I’d built a light rail” neck tattoo for all parties involved (in Old English font).
Back in the middle of August, with kids and families returning from summer break, a casual hoax tweet by a Louneyville high school student caused a rash of mind-blowing reactions— from the police, the Mayor’s office and local media outlets — prompting community-wide fervor.
The tweeted image included the photo of a mask and the text “Louisville Purge [sic]/8:00pm-6:30am, Friday August 15th, 2012.”
For those unaware, “The Purge” was a summer-release movie where all crime becomes legal for one day a year. This permits society to go on a massive killing binge for 24 hours. Some hunker down with their families and ride the storm out at home, while their neighbors become homicidal maniacs.
Hey, Louneyville, seriously, even if we are all naturally homicidal and the only thing preventing complete anarchy is the social constraint of the law … it was a movie! It’s still against the law to murder your neighbors.
There are so many instances of inappropriate hoax posts on social media that require serious, even exorbitant responses from authorities. This was not such an instance, yet the (aforementioned) institutions that we depend upon lost their collective minds and misconstrued an insanely innocuous social media post as a serious threat, and then exacerbated and perpetuated the hoax.
And there were actual social, economic consequences! It was a Friday night and people stayed home clinging to their guns and religion … just like Barack said they would. A high school football game was cancelled. Can you imagine what those high school boys were saying about school administrators that night? Even the Mayor’s spokesperson, Chris Poynter, acknowledged a “real economic impact” from “the threats.”
You know what was actually purged? Any semblance of sanity. That’s what this was, a “Sanity Purge.”
Penance: For Purge 2015, instead of wearing creepy masks similar to those in the movie, we all must wear unicorn masks or Teletubby costumes. Idiots.
It’s been quite a year for Churchill Downs. But before a spate of bad press, including Secretariat jockey Ron Turcotte’s public outcry that the track denied him a handicapped-accessible parking spot, Derby season looked AND sounded bigger than ever. In April, the track unveiled its new “Big Board,” a 170-foot, $12 million HD jumbo-tron that the Churchill Downs website trumpets as being bigger than: “3 NBA basketball courts, 5 average size U.S. homes, 2,200 46-inch flat-screen TVs, and 320,000 Apple iPhone5 screens.”
Within a month of its debut, the 750-speaker jumbo-tron could also add to its list of features what may be the first-ever thoroughbred death by sound. On May 21, 5-year-old mare Never Tell Lynda was getting a walk-through of the track when a commercial playing on the “Big Board” blasted the sound of a starting bell and starting gate slamming open. According to Never Tell Lynda’s owner, Kenneth Wirth, the mare “reared, twisted and fell, hitting her head.” As a result of her injuries, Never Tell Lynda was euthanized by one of the track veterinarians.
We humans, especially when wasted in the infield, sure do love a virtual wall of sound. Thoroughbreds? Not so much. With ears that can swivel 180 degrees, the ability to hear frequencies an octave higher than humans and extreme sensitivity to low-frequency sound waves, horses don’t groove to sound quite the same way we do. In fact, being high strung animals, they tend to bolt in response to sudden sounds, like that of a starting bell.
“We teach horses to break from that and you’ve got it on a loud speaker that everybody in a two-city block can hear,” Wirth explained of the mare’s response. “Well, what’s she going to do? She thinks she’s supposed to take off. And that’s what she did. And when she did, she lunged and she lost her balance and went down.”
You’d think Churchill Downs, one of the country’s leading Thoroughbred institutions, might have considered the horses when designing their new jumbo-tron. Audibly not.
Penance: Oaks Day to benefit Heuser Hearing Institute or at least a women’s charity that — unlike Bright Pink, last year’s recipient of $57,000 — directly impacts the local community.