Hawking Up Hairballs

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nowhere With Obama

"The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under George W. Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or 'extraordinary rendition,' restore habeas corpus or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems."

The above is the first paragraph of an article by Chris Hedges on the Truthdig web site. I say, amen to that. It gives me no real pleasure to say this but, when it comes to Obama, I told you so. People I know of the liberal persuasion were filled with hope at the election of Obama. They really believed all that bullshit about change. This, in spite of the fact that Obama's record suggested that he's a centrist. In today's political climate, that makes him right of actual center. Or, as Hedges says, the main difference between Bush and Obama is a matter of branding. I don't see how anyone could argue otherwise.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

U.S. Fascism?

I'm linking to this article from the Alternet web site. It's entitled "Is the U.S. on the Brink of Fascism?" The author cites the historian Robert Paxton as the preeminent expert on how countries become fascist. Whether he really is or not, I have not idea. However, he apparently identifies five stages that countries go through on their way to fascism. According to the author of this article, we have entered stage three. That's when the conservative elites become willing to work with fascists. We're certainly seeing that sort of thing in the Republican Party now. If this guy Paxton is to be believed, that's the turning point. Once a country reaches that stage, he thinks they're in for the whole ride, that there will inevitably be a big struggle for control of the country and its institutions.

We can only hope that he's wrong but, given the dire economic straits that we're still in, and the fact that the administration is doing nothing to address the real causes of the problems, it's hard to disagree. Yeah, the administration and the finance boys have been conducting a PR campaign to try and convince us that things have bottomed out and are turning around, but the facts say otherwise. Most ominous, to my mind, is something that was reported on the naked capitalism web site. The alleged function of all the bailouts was to save the banking industry by reducing overall debt in the economy. However, according to the piece I read, overall debt has actually increased somewhat since all this started. The main source of the problem is that Wall Street and the banks are trying to play the same game they were playing before, and thy're doing everything they can to prevent any sort of true regulation. It's a recipe for disaster and you know what that means, don't you? Sarah Palin, come on down!


Thursday, August 06, 2009

My Inner Redneck

So there I was last night, listening to the Jamey Johnson CD for the third time, when it hit me. Damned if I don't have a pretty significant inner redneck. I actually like the CD, even though it's really that corny, cry-in-your-beer type of country blues. And, yeah, I admit it, the lyrics are full of cliches, but at least he doesn't use the word "baby". Thank God for that. And if that isn't proof enough, there's the protagonist of my new novel. He's a good, old boy and he's a heckuva lot more interesting than the vanilla suburbanite that I chose for Buster Bungle's Big Top.

How the hell did this happen? I wasn't raised like that. My family was solidly in the middle class. I made good grades in school, finished third in my class in a demanding, all boys Catholic high school, was Phi Bet Kappa in college. That ain't exactly what you'd call the inner redneck career path, but here I am thinking about going out for a six-pack of Bud and a pouch of Redman.

I'm thinking it must be genetic. I got it from my daddy's family. Mama was from Ohio and her family was German immigrant on both sides. They fled the troubles in Europe in 1848 and, though they were of working-class stock, they weren't exactly what you'd call rednecks. Hell, they didn't even fight in the Civil War, which was quite remarkable, given the way that war reached into most people's lives at that time. No, it was definitely my daddy. My paternal grandmother's family was from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and they were redneck through and through, though they had pretensions and would have bristled to hear themselves talked about like that.

Now, the Oliveros family. They were Minorcans. You wouldn't know about Minorcans unless you came from the vicinity of St. Augustine, Florida. The town was originally settled by the Spanish, many of whom came from the island of Minorca, and everyone who was descended from those settlers eventually came to be called Minorcans whether or not they were originally from the island. A lot of those folks still look like they came from the Mediterranean. They have black hair, brown eyes, and swarthy complexions. My paternal grandfather was one of them. When he was young, he looked like a bullfighter. The racial hierarchy in St. Augustine was a little bit different than it was in the rest of the South. The whites were at the top, of course, then came the Minorcans, and finally the blacks. The Minorcans were the rednecks in St. Augustine and, during the Civil Rights protests in the town in the Sixties, they were the ones who harrassed and attacked the marchers.

I wasn't raised with any of this history. Through high school and the first few years of college, I pretty much lived in the north, particularly Ohio. So, where did my inner redneck come from? It has to be in the blood, or the DNA, thanks to Crick and Watson. In that case, there's no fighting it. Hmm. When I finish with this Jamey Johnson CD, maybe I'll go looking for George Jones or old Bocephus. But at least I'm not tempted to buy a pickup or watch NASCAR.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Jamey Johnson

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a sports writer who covers the Braves. He also maintains a blog about them on the paper's web site. This writer is also a big-time music buff. At the end of each blog entry, he will usually include the lyrics of some song by a musician that he likes. His tastes run toward rock and country. Last week he included the lyrics to "That Lonesome Song" by the country singer, Jamey Johnson. I liked them, so I sampled a couple of his songs on Amazon and ended up buying his CD of the same name.

Johnson is firmly in the tradition of low-down, country blues, something which he himself recognizes. For instance, the last song on the CD is entitled "Between Jennings and Jones". For those of you who may not know, that's Waylon Jennings and George Jones, and Johnson is somewhere between those to men in musical style. He's also between them in the record bins, a coincidence that he exploits in the song. As I said, he's typical country blues, and all the themes are there. There's a short track right at the beginning of the album where he's supposedly being released from prison, the conceit being that the songs that follow describe his life after leaving prison. I say conceit because he's apparently never been in prison. There's also heavy drinking, women doing him wrong, and him doing women wrong. There's mama, of course, and pickup trucks. The only thing missing from the classic scenario is the dog. It doesn't sound like Johnson has him a dog.

I enjoyed the album, as corny as it is in spots, and it is corny. For instance there's the first song on the album entitled "The High Cost of Living". One of the lines in the song is, "I tell you the high cost of living ain't nothing like the cost of living high." I don't know what it is about country music and this kind of corny wordplay, but it seems to be a part of the tradition. Here's some more of the same from Johnson. He's got a song entitled "Mary Go Round" about a woman who's running around town on him. There are some lines on the CD I like too, at least for what they are. He's got one song called "Angel" about a divorce. I like this line from the song, "...now it's so hard to tell, am I shaking a demon that's after my soul, or sending an angel to hell." Classic country stuff, that. And how about this, "That morning sun made its way through the windshield of my Chevrolet. Whiskey eyes and ashtray breath on a chert rock gravel road. What the hell did I do last night? That's the story of my life, like trying to remember words to a song nobody wrote." Now, that's just plain fine.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Weapons 'R' Us

I just had to share this link. As is pointed out there, at this point, the US economy manufactures almost nothing but weapons. That should have come as no surprise to me, but I hadn't quite thought of things in those terms before.