brimstone, treacle and invisible suns


Anyone mind if I take care of a few things here? Good. First off…

1) Ramone, I appreciate your contributions here, because you obviously have a lot invested in your hatred of deadbeats, and it’s always good to see a guy who’s got some passion. But ever since your other comments, most notably about my “money and plastic and keys to important houses, and the turtleneck-wearing ID to [my] so-called Pubic Ivy”… you gave your mean-spiritedness away long ago.

But let’s just take you at face value. Anyone who writes that obese men at an NFL game are all voting for Hillary – I dunno, it strains the imagination that you’re trying very hard here. As for your other facts and figures, and your analysis thereof, I can’t find fault with the way you feel. It’s obvious how many people in America bother you, and while you think liberalism encourages handouts and a subsequent loss of dignity, I think you have no concept of the suffering of the lower classes in this country and you’ve lost the distinction between miserly and mean. Which one of us is right? Being the liberal, I’m open to discussion.

Your wife is much nicer than you are, so at least we have that in common.

2) The feedback I’ve gotten from a number of friends (who lurk on here) is amazement at the amount of antipathy directed at artists over the last week or so. I have to admit, I was expecting the usual eye-rolling, but nothing compared to the comments and emails that came my way. Again, the common theme is that we’re all “getting away with it” and thus have lost all permission to complain (or, apparently, to go on strike). In lieu of other emotions, I have decided to find it “interesting.”

Whatever. When capitalism takes over absolutely fucking everything, have fun buying your paintings at Target. To paraphrase Green Day, I guess we’ll have to be content being Faggot America™. In the meantime, if you hate your job, please don’t take it out on me. This is where I agree with Ramone: you made your own goddamn bed.

3) Our babysitter, an absolutely wonderful woman named L., accidentally poked her finger on a palm frond near her house in downtown Los Angeles last Monday. Not being able to afford health insurance for herself (she’s already partially caring for her grandson), she checked into the emergency room, as her finger went numb.

She sat in the emergency room for four days. Meanwhile, the numbness and nerve damage crept up her arm. At the end of the fourth day, she was finally seen, having not slept for about 36 hours, with the pain throbbing through her body. She woke up from her operation with a bill for $18,000.

Yes, she could have come straight to us and we would have paid cash to get her seen right away. But now she is on a payment plan to the hospital every month for the next twenty years. A single mom with two kids living at home, and partial caretaker to a small baby, barely earning above the poverty line. Who touched a palm frond.

4) Since we live near the beach, the fires raging out of control are all around us, but many miles from our neighborhood. Our thoughts go out to commenter Rebecca and the million+ people who have evacuated their homes – and hope they return to find they’d been spared.


0 thoughts on “brimstone, treacle and invisible suns

  1. Anne

    The fires are appalling. We have friends in Escondido for whom I’ve left a message. Their home is in a “red” fire zone on the official map. I assume they’ve evacuated. Prayers and strength to all affected by this disaster.

  2. Father Tim

    A bit late to the art v. commerce debate, but I wanted to add that there is no more noble a fight than the fight for a fair share of the wealth that your labor produces. It is the same fight whether you are an ironworker, hotel housekeeper, or Hollywood screenwriter.
    Best of luck to you and your fellow writers.

  3. scruggs

    Concerning health insurance…
    When our son was 2 we had to take him to the emergency room for what ended up being pneumonia. He stayed for 2 nights and left perfectly fine, but without medical care and oxygen treatments it would have not worked out so well. The bill was over $6000, but due to our insurance, we paid $100. I couldn’t stop thinking about how tough it is for those without insurance. With money probaby being tight, a parent would more likely chance it with a sick kid, knowing how “in the hole” even a quick visit could put him. That isn’t right.

  4. tbruns

    I would have to agree with Father Tim. If the work you produced was good enough for the industry to buy it the first time around, then why not get a cut of the residuals off the internet and other avenues of distribution. This to me is another example of how the studios or executives are behind the times. They are screwing the consumer with their insane DRM schemes and plans so it would seem natural that they would screw the artists as well.

  5. CL

    That Emergency Room story is disgusting. Health care in this country, on so many levels, is sick, sick, sick. Did anyone read in Newsweek this week about the man who goes to get a blood transfusion whenever his iron gets low, because it’s actually cheaper than his anemia medications, which he can’t afford?
    Gee, it must realllly be worse in Canada. (Heavy sarcasm at work.)
    Now I must actually go look up with a palm frond is.

  6. craighill

    my wife is much nicer than i am too! she is the only person i know who actually tithes. after tax, but still…
    re. L.- that is a very sad story. 4 days in the ER is cruel and unusual punishment to say the least.
    interesting tidbit: according to my ER doc buddy, the reason the waits are so long and the bills are so high is that “most” non-emergency ER patients don’t pay their bills anyway. so the thinking goes, if you’re willing to wait and don’t care about your credit, you get free treatment/surgery/whatever. sad but true.
    lastly, i pay $90 a month in health insurance. am i naive as hell or are a lot of people just not bothering to sign up?

  7. LFMD

    Re: Craighill’s comment, there are a lot of inexpensive individual health insurance policies out there. You can pick a policy that meets your needs, as you would choose auto insurance. Just saying that there are options out there for folks who do not have employer-provided health insurance.

  8. Claverack Weekender

    The problem that Ramone has, I think, is that in our country the majority can vote themselves benefits paid for by a minority. Ramone is hung up on the proportion of taxes paid by people in his minority, a feeling I admit to having many Aprils.
    Ian, you and your relatively small minority of media producing types are feeling a somewhat similar pain as people choose to “share” videos/mp3’s/tv shows rather than pay you.
    Sadly, our culture seems to embrace “getting paid in full” right alongside “getting as much as possible for as little as possible.” Hence Wal Mart, mp3 piracy, expanding “entitlements”, and a “poverty” level that is 100 times richer than 90% of the people living around the world today.
    I feel that the shift of American culture from deism to rationalism and consumerism is a big part of the problem. I highly recommend BBC’s “Century of the Self” and some of the books mentioned there by Bernays and Lippmann. You can get the show the for free on Google Video, btw, and the books are also available online, e.g.

  9. Neva

    In NC the best option for buying your own health insurance is “Blue Advantage” from BCBS NC.
    Here is a link to their rates..
    Looking at a woman my age the best individual coverage I could get is 140$/month. However, that is with a 5,000 deductible and a 50% coinsurance, large copays and fewer doctor choices.
    And… they have the right to refuse to treat any “preexisting conditions” you might have prior to applying or deny you entirely.
    What a deal!

  10. DFB's&T's

    Wrong. In NC, they can NOT deny to offer you a policy. They can charge you an arm and a leg. When I opened my own law firm, I got BC/BS coverage for my firm and my little boy has enormous pre-existing medical problems. Yes, my family is covered, but it is quite expensive b/c we were placed in the worst possible spot on the spreadsheet of cost/benefit.

  11. xuxE

    dude, what is a single mom childcare provider doing without medi-cal? she at least has her kids in healthy families, right?
    everyone except the pedantic fascists who spew on this blog know what is up with the system and the different rules that apply for the vast population of un-wealthy folks. sounds like your friend really needs to get help to figure her best angles to wring every penny out she can out of state services.
    i wish there was a big batman-type sign a woman could flash to call the underground mom network brain trust.
    i also wish we didn’t need one.

  12. CM nee CL

    “most non-emergency ER patients don’t pay their bills anyway. so the thinking goes, if you’re willing to wait and don’t care about your credit, you get free treatment/surgery/whatever. sad but true.”
    Well, I don’t think all of them intend to nver pay, it’s just that hospitals are required to treat the indigent who don’t have insurance, and private doctors (whom the patients would likely prefer) are not.
    This is only one of the many reasons that many hospitals across the country are going out of business – scary that hospitals can go out of business, right? – but quite true. But the other issue is that hospitals now have to compete with private MRI companies that don’t have to treat the poor, and with private companies that do other services that hospitals used to make money on – so what we end up with is hospitals that aren’t receiving enough govt and insurance reimbursements to cover the work they do. And they lose their formerly profit-making aspects to private MRI, physical therapy companies, etc.
    Unfortunately, this is a case where capitalism is failing. If someone is uninsured, and they are dying or sick, it is in the best interest of everyone that they get treated rather than expiring on the street or going to ER only when their problem is much worse and more contagious. Someone has to take all of health care by the horns and fix it. It’s not just the problem of po’ people anymore (and it never really was…)

  13. kjf

    as for the large hospital bill, if she hasn’t done so make sure that she negotiates the insurance rate with the hospital. one of the problems for the uninsured is that they get billed the “rack rate” whereas those with insurance get a reduced rate thanks to the negotiation with the insurance company. oftentimes you can get the provider to reduce your bill to the negotiated insurance rate (as long as you keep paying your bill)
    not that it would have helped her here but i would recommend to L. in the future that she find a doctor or at least identify a local doc in a box places (usually staffed by physician assts or nurse practitioners) they are cheap compared to an ER. if her problem is severe they can refer her elsewhere but for simple things they appear to be a good alternative for the uninsured.

  14. Jody

    I second Neva on Blue Advantage, but for real. My son’s individual policy is $94/month with mostly the benefit of no pre-existing conditions and he never gets sick. This is 50% cheaper than an equal option through the state employee’s plan. So, any sarcasm aside, it is a deal in my particular case. I’m not that familiar with the deductibles because they occasionally just pay for shit outright.
    My pops is in a private family practice but is considering working for the VA hospital because his personal health insurance plus liability is around $7,000/month.
    His general take is that about half of his patients would be perfectly fine if they ate right and exercised.
    I also second kjf on the doc-in-a-box route. These practices really do undercut the ER. They serve vital needs- the non-emergency accident and primary care.

  15. craighill

    “sounds like your friend really needs to get help to figure her best angles to wring every penny out she can out of state services”
    jesus h christ on a popsicle stick. i thought i’d heard it all — a consultant on how to milk the system. perhaps the government could pay for this consultant?

  16. mike in NC

    “His general take is that about half of his patients would be perfectly fine if they ate right and exercised”
    This is a big part of the problem with health care that people don’t often talk about. I am a physician and have to agree that a significant percentage of patients have themselves to blame for their chronic and expensive health care woes. It may not be all their fault however, the medical system has traditionally not placed enough emphasis on prevention which is much more cost effective in the long run. But people have to start taking responsibility for their health. I can’t help thinking that part of the reason that other countries rank better on their health care systems is that they have healthier people to start with.
    It would also be interesting to really look at the people who claim that they can’t afford health insurance. I know there is a percentage of that population who could pay the premiums but would rather spend that other things like cigarettes, Cable TV, cell phone plans, etc. I would hope this would be a small percentage but my personal experience suggests otherwise.
    I would like to know the deductible levels and details on craighill’s $90/month insurance policy.

  17. connor beach

    Dear Ian,
    Two things, 1) I’m Ramone’s wife. As I mentioned before, I am the one who said the “money and plastic and keys to important houses, and the turtleneck-wearing ID to [my] so-called Pubic Ivy” comment. I was trying to imagine what the person who stole your wallet would think of your blog post about fancy scotch, the ole college days, etc. In retrospect, I can see how it could have hurt your feelings and I do apologize.
    Still, Ramone is nicer. In fact, I miss him! He’s been spending a lot of time lately trying to educate your blog readers about economics. If he must go to war, though, at least I believe in the fight!
    2) I hate to say it, but under Ramone’s and my health scheme, you and your family should pay your babysitter’s health bill–this time—and instruct her how to avoid such a bill in the future. I am talking about that first line of defense for the less privileged– the“have”s taking care of their own “have not”s. L is in a bind. You can help her out. This relationship will do more to coach her toward self-sufficiency than a government hand-out. And this act of service will do more for you and your family than writing a check to the government ever will.
    I realize that there are many L’s out there who do not have Blake/Williams to look after them. The onus is on us to find them—not the government.
    I am not by any means claiming that Ramone and I do this perfectly. Probably most people reading this could name better examples from their own lives. We are pretty ordinary in that we keep our elderly housekeeper E. coming around just so we can pay her (and will pay even when she can’t come). We recently gave E.’s family a house full of furniture. I am mentoring a young woman, Jess, whom I met b/c her mom works for a neighbor. Her family has nothing, but she wants to go to nursing school, and she comes by once a week to ask me questions, and I check in on her to make sure she’s still on track. She knows me personally, and that I will see her through. The federal government doesn’t know her or care about her. Although if she made a WRONG choice and got pregnant, they’d give her a check every month.
    I am sure everyone reading this has their own Jess and E. whom they support. I am thinking also of Ramone’s inner city pastor friend. You would think they had nothing in common, but he was at our wedding—because there’s a relationship there. Ramone has given to Tommy’s church year after year, the idea being that Tommy can find the folks who need our help better than we can.
    Anyway, it’s been an interesting discussion. Thank you for the forum. I’m hoping you’ll talk about that precious daughter of yours some, so I can have my husband back!
    -connor beach

  18. janet

    why are you not with lucy all the time……i feel the same pain every time i leave them at school…i question school ….i question society……i question a nanny……i question parenting…..i never question how much i love them ….i sort of understand you but i sort of dont…..and i question that xxx

  19. Ramone

    Wrong – I don’t hate deadbeats:
    I do not want to waste my energy hating deadbeats or anything else for that matter. I simply don’t respect them. The fact that i don’t agree with your liberalism and respond to you with hard facts supporting my conservative positions does not make me a hateful person.
    Wrong – deadbeats does not equal poor people:
    I’ve got a half brother, 30 years old, who does not work. he lives off his trust fund. He is a deadbeat. I’ve got a first cousin, 49, who has never worked either – he too, lives off his trust fund. I’ve got a second cousin, 45, who has never worked – he too, lives off his trust fund. I love them all. They are deadbeats. They do not contribute to society.
    Wrong = I do know the poor.
    I know them very well. I’ve been involved in inner city churches for 25 years. I completely funded two inner city churches that are still operating today. One offers a SAY YES program that tutors children after school and i spent years tutoring. I can say a whole lot more but i’ll stop here.
    Ramone Calhoun
    International Businessman
    MBA – Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies, Durham, NC

  20. janet

    final comment…..will be my final comment….not enriched by commenting and am now studying something much more nurturing… like i was once born and eventually will cease to be here in this form on this wonderful planet….stuff…stuff ……..stuff..!!!????

  21. CP

    my scrotum is a deadbeat. but maybe I can get someone pregnant and be proven wrong. (is jess legal?)
    this blog has been brought to you by gunga din and the feudal system.
    ps — ian, you’re a fuckin’ deadbeat! you need to spend more time (like every waking minute please) with your kid. really, what kind of deadbeat dad are you???
    pps — I want to be related to ramone. that sounds like THE LIFE! I could handle being called deadbeat all day while I bathed in gold like daffy duck…
    ppps — keep bringin’ the noise, people! keep bringin’ the crazy!

  22. Ian

    connor beach – we were sorta friends in school, weren’t we? Or at least friends-of-friends? I just want to make sure you are who I think you are. You wrote good poetry, as I recall.

  23. xuxE

    ohmydog, “gunga din and the feudal system” that was extremely fucking funny.
    you know, it must be exhausting for craighill and connor and ramone to edjumacate us poor misguided liberals who never got saved by the reaganomics religion – but hey – here is some good news!
    i found the ann coulter site, it’s right here:
    oh- hear that? they’re calling you! oh, they are welcoming you with open arms! just look at that, it’s a huge party with hundreds of folks just like you, where they have fancy cake and champagne and it’s all served up by service class folks who are so discreet about their problems that you’ll never have to worry about how they pay for their health care on minimum wage! in fact, now that i think about it, all the people at the party are probably paying their health care costs out of pocket, cause you know, with all the tax savings from their offshore cayman offshore funds they got a little extra they can share with the help.
    oh look, you better go quick! thurston and lovee are saving your seats and i think bernanke is about to give the keynote speech about his new charity, the bear stearns subprime investor support fund!
    now, if you’re lucky you’ll make it to the after party where i hear cheney may make an appearance!! just imagine how you can impress him with your ideas about diverting tax dollars away from our safety net programs because god knows we need that money to spend on the war.
    hurry up! you might miss it!!!

  24. Ramone

    You are a quintessential liberal – as you mock the conservative agenda – playing the champagne and caviar hand. the irony is that, it’s the liberal elite (ex, Hollywood) that eats and drinks that crap as they switch spouses like musical chairs. Look at red states middle-america, farmers and blue-collar workers ,who wake up at 5:00 in the morning to go to work in their pickup trucks. They just want to be left the hell alone by the pestering federal government – they work hard and raise their family, that’s right, family values.
    Every sentence you write is a sound bite. there is not one thing you substantiate with evidence, facts or stats. Read all my previous post – everything i’ve said is backed by evidence, statistics and policy. That is why Air America et al repeatedly fail. there is nothing behind the liberal rhetoric – nothing but bush bashing, cynicism and meaningless sound bites.
    I know what liberals are against – but what in the world are you for? And – how do you implement these nebulous policies that you push? All of your feel-good policies will have to be funded by raising taxes and you know the bottom 50% tax payers (who pay only 3% of the total tax bill) are not going to have their taxes raised. I pay enough already – I’ve provided you with all the facts and statistics. It’s not money, greed or lack of compassion that says “stop taxing me” – it’s the fact that I want to be able to use my remaining after-tax hard earned wages for my own purposes, not the government’s.
    Ramone Calhoun
    “Everyone Here is a Loon cept Ramone Calhoun!”

  25. connor beach

    Yes, Ian, you have me right. Thanks for remembering my poetry. I am touched by that. I think I also used to get embroiled in similar political discussions w/ you back in the day after way, way, way too many beers.
    Xuxe, Okay, I hear ya. Maybe you’re responding to my last post as much as to Ramone’s & I can see why you would read it that way. I can go along w/ some government safety net, but why, why, why does the safety net always morph into some huge entitlement program, like socializing 20% of the entire economy paid for by huge tax increases that slow down the economy in such a major way? A good economy helps the poor more than anyone else—the guy who gets a job who didn’t have one before, or a better job than he had before, so he can afford to buy himself health insurance. Isn’t that way better than taking my money and giving it to him as a hand-out (w/ bureaucracy soaking up ½ of it along the way)? Does that not make sense? Ugh.
    Thank you, Jesus, for Ramone $ Calhoun and his beautiful love child—and Rush, Ann Coulter, Ted Nugent and 50% of US voters. At least they understand me.

  26. xuxE

    if your morality is so fucked up as to challenge another human’s right to HEALTH, another citizen in your own country even, who gets taxed just like you do, sends her babies to war just like you do, and has just as much right to the overall wealth this country has accumulated in it’s history of raping, pillaging and stealing as you do, maybe even more right to it if she’s a person of color,
    if you have the audacity to believe that your own access to capital or your esteemed creditworthiness or your inherited wealth, or the current value of your economic productivity happens to actually give you more right than another human being to secure the most basic life needs, like food, shelter, and health care, the basic fucking survival “safety net” which a person is ENTITLED to, and you actually think we need LESS safety net and not MORE,
    then the chasm between my so-called liberal viewpoint and the fucked up place where your head is at is so vast that there is no way i can constructively communicate with you on the topic, nor do i want to.
    have fun at ann’s party. maybe they’re serving up irish babies for dinner.

  27. connor beach

    Xuxe, Of course I care deeply about the needs of every individual in our country. I just think the more control government has, the worse it gets for everyone. Our disagreement is about the role of government. If given the choice, I’d rather live in South Korea than North Korea. Maybe that’s just me. You may call me any name you wish.

  28. T.J.

    I’m as capitalist and free-market as they come, but I absolutely support the rights of any and all workers to unionize and strike if they so choose. And the government shouldn’t force them to go back to work or prohibit them from striking (screw Reagan!). But the employer should be able to hire strikebreakers if it chooses to do so, if it can find anyone to cross the picket lines.
    I also think Hollywood treats writers like garbage. I’ve read lots of Harlan Ellison’s stuff about his misery in Hollywood (why didn’t he stop long ago?).
    Health care ain’t no right.

  29. For Christ

    Dear Ramone,
    “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.” This was Jesus’ attitude towards those who tortured and murdered him. If you are a sincere Christian, or just interested in being a decent person, finding this attitude towards those who you call “deadbeats” should be a higher priority to you than whatever human judgements you harbor against them which lead you to not respect them. These are often people who are confused, conflicted, struggling, having a harder time with this life, whether financially, emotionally, or otherwise, perhaps, than you, no matter how their behavior may appear to you. Now, I understand that loving and respecting them does not equal supporting or opposing any particular government policies, but it is your disrespect for those people which permeates all of your words and points of view and that is the reason why no “liberal” will listen to you; No matter what you’re saying, what comes across loud and clear is “I don’t respect some of the people you are trying to help.” So, immediately, they oppose you and assume that your points of view are derived from this lack of compassion.
    So, if you are merely interested in having shouting matches with “liberals” then carry on, but if you are sincerely interested in being a Christian or in changing anything for the better, start with yourself, look at the next person you see who you would call a deadbeat and REALIZE, there but for the grace of God go you. And when you have truly realized that and no longer judge them in your heart, THEN, if you still hold the same policy views, you will be able to express them in a way that is not divisive, that “liberals” will not immediately oppose because of it’s inherent disrespect, and you will have a chance of actually communicating successfully what you think will make this country a better place. The only question is, do you want to make yourself and the world better, or do you just want to feel superior to liberals and deadbeats?
    Good Luck and God Bless.


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