Hawking Up Hairballs

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Nation of Nut Bags?

We're a nation of nut bags. How else to explain numbers like these. A Harris poll taken between March first and eighth came up with this little gem. 14% of those surveyed think that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. That's right, the Antichrist. Now, I have no use for Obama. Like all but a handful of high office holders these days, he's a tool of the oligarchs, but come on. I find it hard to credit that 14% of people even believe in a mythical figure like the Antichrist, and that's the 14% who don't like Obama. I'm sure there are also those who support him who also believe in this boogeyman.

Here's some other numbers from the same poll that are equally mind-boggling. 32% of respondents said Obama is Muslim, 29% said he wants to turn sovereignty over to one world government, and 25% said he wasn't born in the USA and wasn't a citizen. These sorts of things are just plain denials of fact. Maybe we should go ahead and change the name of the country to something like the Disney States of America. We could get Bruce Springsteen to sing, “Born in the DSA” and replace the bald eagle as national symbol with Mickey Mouse.

As Chris Hedges points out in his excellent book Empire of Illusion, we Americans are the most deluded people on the planet. Given the power of modern media, particularly television, we're probably the most deluded people ever. Quite a distinction, that.

Speaking of Chris Hedges, he feels that we're a people who are yearning for fascism. Here's a link to an article where he talks about it. I'd say it's a must-read.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Health Care Bill

So, the health care bill has passed, and I suppose there are those of a liberal persuasion who are celebrating. Just what they are celebrating, I can't say. It's in the executive suites of the insurance industry that the champagne corks are really popping. They pretty much got everything they wanted in the bill.

This health care bill represents a massive transfer of wealth from the besieged middle class to the insurance companies. Here's what I mean. For a family making $66,000 a year, annual premiums will amount to more than $8,000 a year. In addition, they will be responsible for over $5800 in out of pocket expenses a year before the benefits kick in. Some coverage that is. It means that there will be people who won't be able to afford to use their health insurance because of those out of pocket expenses.

Some might say that this is a first step. Apparently, the likes of Paul Krugman believes that, but I see no evidence of it. If anything, experience teaches us otherwise. Take the prescription drug insurance for those on Medicare. As one who is availing himself of it, I have to say that it is wholly inadequate. It saves you some money on prescriptions, but not much. At the time it was being discussed in Congress, organizations that claimed to advocate for older citizens, organizations like AARP, supported the bill. When criticized, they said that they were getting behind it because it was a first step. I won't be holding my breath until that second step comes. The same goes for this health care bill. It's the one we're stuck with for at least a generation.

There are a few sops for the public in the bill, but the benefits that come from them are illusory. For example, insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping individuals when they become sick. However, the bill does not empower any regulatory body to enforce this provision of the bill. What then is to stop the insurance companies from ignoring it?

The fact is that, to quote the site that I'm linking to below, “This bill is almost identical to the plan written by AHIP, the insurance company trade association, in 2009.” So, with President Obama and his changes, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The wealthy and powerful continue to wage their class war against the rest of us, and more and more wealth is still being transferred upward.

Here's a link to myths about the health care bill. http://www.scribd.com/doc/28632876/Fire-Dog-Lake-Health-Care-Bill-Myths

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


The other day, I watched the movie Factotum on the Independent Film Channel. It's based upon the Charles Bukowski novel by the same name. It wasn't much of a movie. The protagonist, Henry Chinaski, bounces from one shitty job to the next. He never keeps any of them for long. He gets fired from each and every one of them, either because he gets fed up and tells the boss to fuck off, or because he goes on a drunken binge and starts missing work. The story's a grim one, and the movie's failure to fully commit to that view of the world is one of its big weaknesses.

Matt Dillon plays Chinaski, and he tries his best. It's obvious that he's done his research. He's got the same way of speaking that Bukowski had, and the same way of holding himself, but that's not enough. In Bukowski's books, the Chinaski character is so down and out that he is beyond despair, and he just doesn't care anymore. Dillon fails to communicate that, probably because it's not something he's ever been familiar with. Then there's the casting problem. Dillon is too much of a pretty boy. Like Bukowski himself, Chinaski is ugly. They should have chosen an actor with more of a downtrodden manner.

As for Bukowski himself, I would argue that he was the last of the Beats. He's of a different generation from guys like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, but the literary project is the same. Not only that, I would also maintain that Bukowski's work represents the deadend of Beat romanticism. What happens if you devote yourself completely to writing, refuse to compromise, and hang with it no matter what? If you're lucky, and you have to be damned lucky, you'll have some success and find a way to earn a living on your writing. If you aren't lucky, you'll end up like Chinaski, leading a skid row sort of life as you bounce from one soul-sucking job to the other. Bukowski saw this too, and embraced it, though he was one of the fortunate ones in the end. In the closing scene, Chinaski talks about how you have to give yourself over to writing, and keep on with it no matter what, even if you end up on the streets, sleeping on park benches. That's a hard road to walk but Bukowski was a man who was prepared to walk it. That's what separates him from his imitators.