We are not always told the truth. Some things bald face lies, other half truths. Many the figment of someone’s imagination. Truth buried for selfish purposes by those keeping truth in the dark.
This week’s column covers a few such items. Very few. A book could be written re the deceptions practiced on the public. Not possible here because of space limitations.
I have always enjoyed reading Op-Eds. Editorial opinions by corporate CEOs, governmental officials, retired respected political figures, retired military, etc. Top-of-the-line persons.
I was distressed recently to learn that Op-Eds are not generally written by the person whose name appears as author. The Op-Eds are written by public relations firms.
The most prominent firm is Keybridge Communications. Named after Francis Scott Key. I find this amusing because of the recent furor involving the Star Spangled Banner.
Keybridge was founded and is run by a former Wall Street Journal writer. It specializes in writing and placing Op-Eds. Keybridge’s clients include influential trade groups and global corporations.
Keybridge places 3,000 Op-Eds a year. 500 to 800 words. Cost $5,000 each. Guarantee provided. Op-Ed will appear in one or more newspapers with readership no less than 50,000.
The client and/or Keybridge itself find the “author.” Now that I know, I consider Op-Eds a deceptive practice.
2. Facebook owns Facebook. Does what it wants. Understandable. He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.
The most famous photo coming out of the Vietnam War was of nine- year-old Kim Phuc. The picture of a young girl running and crying down a street. Screaming. She was nude. Her napalmed genitals visible to the world.
I thought it outstanding. One of the best ways to evidence the horror of war is to show those affected by it.
The photo was recently shown on someone’s Facebook site. Facebook pulled the picture and comment. Facebook said it violated its prohibition on “nudity.”
A bad call from my perspective. I do believe Facebook has the right to decide what gets run. It is their website.
Some called Facebook’s action in this instance an abuse of power. I further disagree. It is Facebook’s shop and can do what they want. However, I think it was a stupid move on Facebook’s part. They should reconsider.
3. Wells Fargo has been in the news this past week. One of the nation’s largest banks. One that needed bailing out during mortgage crisis.
No one from Wells Fargo or any other bank went to jail for mortgage wrongdoing. We were told at the time by our government that the banks …were too big too fail…too big to prosecute.
I thought it was bullshit then and think it bullshit now.
Wells Fargo has agreed to pay a $185 million fine for “widespread illegal” sales practices. 5,300 employees involved. Management down the ladder of responsibility. All discharged.
Wells Fargo had a program encouraging employees to increase the bank’s business. For several years. The employees opened millions of bank and credit card accounts for existing customers without telling them. Purpose: To meet sales goals. Customers were billed with fees.
The bank also transferred funds from customer’s legitimate account to the phony one without telling the customer.
The banks got away with financial murder in 2008. They continue to get away with wrongdoing. Always on a gigantic scale. When caught, the punishment is always a civil fine. No one ever goes to jail.
I say forget the fines. Charge devious bankers criminally. Convict them. Throw them in jail.
It won’t take long for banks to stop screwing around with personal funds and taxpayer dollars.
Let CEOs and other high-ranking officials spend some time in jail. The chicanery will end immediately.
No one wants to do jail time.
We do not do it. Probably because the banks and lobbyists own what is supposed to be our Congress.
It was just reported that the Wells Fargo employee running the unit to increase sales retired in July. After 27 years service. At a time when Wells Fargo was working on finalizing the investigation and civil consent order. Her name, Carrie Tolstedt. A top echelon person. She walked away with a $124.6 million pay out. Which proves wrongdoing has its benefits. Perpetrating a fraud pays well.
4. This one does not make sense: FDA recently banned the anti-bacterial chemical triclosan from soap. However, FDA said it was safe to use in toothpaste.
Colgate Total has been using triclosan in its toothpaste since 1997. Colgate feared the FDA was gong to come down on them following the FDA’s ruling re soap.
Colgate prepared a detailed report showing the chemical was safe and beneficial in its toothpaste. The triclosan is used by Colgate in conjunction with fluoride. The report indicated that after six to nine months use of Colgate Total, plaque was reduced 41 percent, gum inflammation 22 percent, gum bleeding 48 percent.
Rolf Haldren, director of Environmental Security at Arizona State University, has tracked triclosan for years. An expert. He finds FDA’s position hard to understand. Soap on hands results in only a very small amount getting into the body. Whereas through the gums “chemicals get rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.”
FDA justified its decision re the soap by taking the position that long-time exposure to triclosan could lead to new strains of resistant bacteria. It could also disrupt normal development of the reproductive system and metabolism.
Soap, yes. Toothpaste, no. Hard to understand.
You should be aware. FDA is sensitive to big corporations and lobbyists. Like Congressmen. Influenced.
5.This is disgusting. I have been writing about the problem for five years. Recent news set forth the federal government was going to stop using private corporations to run its jails. The reasons simple. Poor quality service, brutality, money charging the prisoners, etc.
Private jail corporations also used for juvenile prisons in many states. 41 to be exact. Not good. The system is turning into a debtor’s prison for children. Poor families cannot pay the court costs and fines. They do not have the money. Children go to jail because the court costs and fines have not been paid.
Interest runs on the court costs and fines. The children’s confinement costs like room and board added to the unpaid court costs and fines. Medical, too.
Private jails are a business. Nothing for nothing. As a result, the children spend significantly more time in confinement than original sentence. No pay, no get out. The children are in effect punished for parents’ poverty.
This is America?
6. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has kept track of employment in the public and private sectors since 1939. There was a time when manufacturing jobs out-numbered government workers.
Government workers grew in numbers. Eventually overtaking manufacturing jobs. Last time there were more employed in manufacturing than government work was 1989.
Employment gradually changed from 1989 to August this year. Government workers include federal, state and local governments. In August, government employees totaled 22,213,000; the manufacturing sector, 12,281,000. 9 million-plus difference.
An example of cost of government increasing at same time manufacturing jobs disappearing. One of the reasons for decrease in manufacturing jobs being NAFTA, jobs going to China and other countries.
7. Numbers can be manipulated. To arrive at any conclusion desired.
Let’s talk about unemployment.
The unemployment rate is low. Obama deserves the credit. He got it down from 10 percent to 4.9 percent—a respectable number.
The way unemployment is calculated however results in an erroneous result. Not a real one.
The labor pool used for calculation does not include the aged and those no longer looking for work. If so, the unemployment percentage would be significantly higher.
Obama is not playing with the numbers. Presidents and the federal government going back at least 50 years have used the same system. The one that comes up with a lower more favorable number.
Attention is directed to those unemployed and no longer looking for work. A classification in itself. They are referred to as prime age workers. Those between 25 and 54.
Eighty three percent of prime age workers did not work last year. Contrast last year with the early 1960s when nearly 100 percent of prime age workers had jobs.
Stated another way, nearly 100 percent of prime age workers were employed in the early 1960s. In 2015, only 17 percent.
Another way to look at it, one in six prime age workers employed.
Most prime age workers are not working because they have given up. After looking and looking and looking for work and not being able to be placed.
Trump is correct when he says the 4.9 percent number is not correct. Hillary knows it, but is silent. Understandable. Obama knows it. Everyone in government knows it. I suspect most of us know it, but do not think about it.
Enough for today.
As Porky Pig of old would say, that’s it folks!
The War of 1812 primarily involved the United States and Great Britain. Britain had not readily accepted its defeat by the Colonial army. Britain did things to aggravate the new nation.
The aggravations included impressment of ten thousand American merchant seamen into the Royal Navy, trade restrictions, and the launching of minor invasions on U.S. shores. Britain also wanted to prevent the expansion by the United States westward.
The United States declared war on September 12, 1814. A war of importance and significance to the new nation. Britain considered the war an extension of the Napoleonic wars going on in Europe. Once again, Britain failed to take seriously America’s interests.
Britain won the first two major battles of the War. The second being the Battle of Washington. Britain burned Washington, including what today would be described as the White House.
Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane was the British leader during the first two victories.
Following his Washington victory, Cochrane wanted to do battle next in Rhode Island. His judgment was overridden by higher authority. He was told to take Baltimore.
The Battle of Baltimore began with the bombardment of Fort McHenry. The bombardment was ineffectual. Cochrane was reluctant to get his fleet and men too close to the Fort. He feared the Fort’s return fire would gravely damage his fleet and men.
Cochrane kept his ships quite a distance away. Cochrane used his bomb vessels and rocket ships to attack the Fort. Both long range guns. Both highly inaccurate at the distance.
A large American flag flew over Fort McHenry. It was still flying after a night long bombardment.
Cochrane’s soldiers consisted of British professional soldiers and Corps of Colonial Marines.
The Colonial Marines were made up of two groups. One a company, the other a battalion. They were black American slaves. Escaped slaves. Some 20,000. They had joined the British forces based upon Britain’s promise of freedom. Freedom in return for fighting their former masters, the
The Colonial Marines had assisted in the burning of Washington.
Britain lost the War of 1812. Britain honored its promise however. Following the War, the former slaves and their families were relocated to Halifax and Trinidad.
Francis Scott Key was a prominent Washington attorney. Well respected. A consummate Washington insider. An important player in the early days of the United States. A competent lawyer. Argued more than one hundred cases before the United States Supreme Court. Served for a time as U.S. Attorney for the District of Washington, D.C.
Key was opposed to the War of 1812. Considered it “abominable”, as well as a “lump of wickedness.”
The evening that Cochrane was bombing Fort McHenry long distance, Key was on one of the British vessels.
A client had been taken prisoner by the British. He was on board seeking his release. The release was granted. On one condition. Key and his client had to remain aboard the entire evening till the bombardment had been completed.
Key remained awake all night. Observed the bombs and rockets being fired on Fort McHenry. With the dawn, his heart was gladdened. The American flag still flew.
While still on the British vessel, Key wrote a poem in recognition of the event. A poem of pride in the American flag still waving. He titled it the “Defence of Fort McHenry.”
Note, a poem. Not yet set to music.
London had many men’s clubs in those days and the years before. One was The Anacreontic Society. Amateur musicians.
One of its members was John Stafford Smith. Some forty years earlier in 1773, Smith had written an official song for the Society. The song was titled The Anacreontic Song.
The music of The Anacreontic Song was applied to Key’s poem. The musical version renamed the Star Spangled Banner.
The Star Spangled Banner first consisted of four stanzas. A fifth was added some time later.
The United States Navy began officially using the Star Spangled Banner in 1889. The only governmental department to do so at the time.
President Woodrow Wilson decreed it should be used officially as a national anthem in 1916. However, Wilson had two lines removed from the third stanza which he thought might be considered objectionable by the British. In 1916, the U.S. and Britain were close allies. Britain was already in World War I.
The two lines were reinstated in 1931 when Congress passed a resolution signed by President Herbert Hoover declaring the Star Spangled Banner the United States National Anthem.
Baseball got into the act in 1918. During the seventh inning stretch of game one of the World Series, the Star Spangled Banner was played.
Patriotism hit its peak during World War II. The Star Spangled Banner was played before every game. It still is to this day.
The first stanza is generally the only one played. The others rarely heard. Key’s experiences on the ship that night evident in the words he wrote: …..by the dawn’s early light…..bombs bursting in air…..rockets red glare.
Two lines in the third stanza that Wilson thought objectionable in 1916 have returned to the forefront in recent weeks.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave
Key regarded the British professional soldiers as mercenaries. He described them in the two lines as “hirelings.” Without question, Key considered the British soldiers scoundrels. He was upset with the havoc and destruction the British had brought to the Chesapeake area.
Key looked upon the escaped black slaves making up the Corps of Colonial Marines as traitors. Slave or not, the United States was their country. Key feared more slaves would escape and join the British ranks. He was concerned such would spark a national slave insurrection.
An interesting observation by a man who considered slavery a moral wrong. His position apparently was country first.
Which brings me to the motivation for this column. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sitting and kneeling while the Star Spangled Banner was being played.
In a nation where burning the American flag is Constitutionally protected free speech, sitting or kneeling while the Star Spangled Banner is played is significantly less offensive.
Kaepernick had something to say. He had a right to say it by his actions. Especially as an African-American. He was speaking out. Protesting racial injustice, minority oppression and police brutality.
I sometimes think we have not come very far from pre-Civil War days. Nor from the anti-black happenings in our country in the 1950s and 1960s.
I have written and spoken about the police shooting of blacks the past two years. My message was…..Beware! What goes around, comes around. You can only tread on a people for so long before they retaliate.
That time has come this past year with the killing of police by blacks.
I tolerate neither.
Without any question however, Kaepernick has the right to protest in his fashion. He kills no one. He did not yell or scream. He made a silent showing of protest. Legal and proper.
Too many Americans have condemned him. Wrong. Condemn that which caused him to make his statement by sitting and kneeling.
I read somewhere this past week that the “home of the brave” is not necessarily the “land of the free.” Think about it.
Our country is mired in discrimination. It is part of the national fabric. It will remain such till there are few if any persons of white color remaining. With the increasing number of colored making up our society, the day will come sometime in this century where discrimination will have disappeared. Via intermarriage of the races. It is inevitable.
The little guy does not get a break. The big guys get everything.
Two of the biggest whores are the big pharmaceutical houses and Congress. They defecate on the public without thought or consideration.
An example is Mylan Pharmaceuticals. Their #1 product is the EpiPen. Forty percent of their business.
Mylan’s CEO is Heather Bresch. Her father is Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Bresch is on the hot seat. For the unusual high cost of EpiPen. She is taking a beating in the media.
EpiPen is a life saver for anyone allergic to common foods. Like peanuts, shellfish and eggs. Even bee stings.
The resultant medical condition is anaphylaxis. A potentially fatal allergic reaction. Required to cure/save a life is an emergency dose of epinephrine. A quick dose.
Life can disappear rapidly from the symptoms. Shortness of breath, throat swelling, tongue swelling, vomiting, and low blood pressure. Seconds are important.
Prior to Epi Pen’s invention, anyone with anaphylaxis had to be treated by drawing epinephrine from a bottle with a syringe. Too time consuming. Death could occur in even that slight time. A quicker method was required.
Turned out to be EpiPen. EpiPen is a small machine. Looks like a big hypodermic needle. The epinephrine contained in it when purchased. If needed, a shot in the hip is all it takes. The size and force of the needle guarantees immediate introduction into the blood stream.
Mylan cornered the patents in 2007. The patents have since made millions for Mylan. Mylan today is #1 in the food allergy market. It’s U.S. market share is 90 percent.
Mylan successfully lobbied a bill through Congress requiring all public schools to carry EpiPens. Obama signed the bill into law November 2013.
Schools were and still are required to buy the EpiPens. A big time expenditure. The life of an EpiPen is one year. Ergo, each year the schools and others in need of EpiPens are required to repurchase them.
Oh, the money coming in! Mylan made its cash flow even more profitable. Mylan automatically implemented double digit price hikes every other quarter.
The genius behind Mylan’s successful marketing is Heather Bresch. CEO of Mylan.
After having cornered the market for the device in 2007, Mylan’s consumer cost has increased by 481 percent. During that time, Bresch’s salary has increased 671 percent. All in a period of nine years.
EpiPen is presently selling in excess of $600 a package. Two pens per package. To the consumer, the cost is $415. After insurance discounts.
In France, the consumer pays $85 USD.
In 2007, Bresch’s salary was $2.5 million. Today, $18.9 million.
Bresch proudly proclaims EpiPen as her “baby.”
In addition to her executive responsibilities, Bresch has acted as a lobbyist for Mylan. At one time her position at Mylan was strictly as a lobbyist. Bresch was a factor in Washington even before her father Joe Manchin became a United States Senator in 2010.
Mylan’s patent rights run out in 2018. The generic would hit the market at a significantly cheaper price than what Mylan is charging.
As Mylan CEO, Bresch successfully lobbied anti-generic legislation that will benefit Mylan in 2018. The thrust of the new law is that the FDA must first approve a generic before it can go to market. The FDA is a useless political tool. Needs redoing from top to bottom. It could take years to receive FDA approval for anti-generics. Especially Mylan’s EpiPen.
Bresch is a typical corporate CEO. The bottom line is everything. She got Mylan into inversion. She reincorporated Mylan in the Netherlands to significantly lower its effective tax rate.
Everything is as before the inversion. The plant is still in Pennsylvania. The Netherlands merely a small office.
Bresch has taken advantage of the inversion loophole in the tax laws. Laws passed over the years by Congress and signed into law by our Presidents.
Her father Senator Joe Manchin considers inversion illegal.
Regarding Bresch taking advantage of the inversion laws, she told the New York Times, “You can’t maintain a competitive disadvantage…..I mean you just can’t.”
In 2014, Fortune Magazine listed Bresch as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women In Business.” Number 31.
Joe Manchin is Heather Bresch’s Dad. A well known and respected political figure. Since 2010, he has been a United States Senator from West Virginia. A Democrat. Leans modestly left of center. Considered bipartisan. Frequently votes for Republican legislation.
A professional politician. Since 1982, he has served in the West Virginia House of Delegates, West Virginia Senate, Secretary of State for West Virginia, and Governor of West Virginia. Now, a United States Senator.
His family bears resemblance to the Bush’s. His father, grandfather and other relatives were politicians locally and at the State level.
Manchin was already a prominent politician during Bresch’s upbringing.
Sometimes a measure of a person’s character can be measured by prior life experiences. One of Bresch’s was her short lived MBA.
Bresch earned a Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University. She attended West Virginia thereafter to obtain an MBA. She completed only 26 of the required 48 credit hours.
In 2007, Bresch was a prominent staff member at Mylan. She had been claiming she obtained an MBA from West Virginia University. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette exposed her MBA claim.
West Virginia University disputed it. However, subsequently awarded Bresch an MBA. Still with only 26 credit hours.
Her father Joe Manchin was West Virginia Governor at the time. He and West Virginia University President Michael Garrison were friends. Garrison was also a family friend and at one time a business associate of Bresch. He also had worked at one time for Mylan as a consultant and lobbyist.
Faculty and others at West Virginia were incensed. A degree given without completion of necessary work unheard of.
The Faculty Senate voted 77-19 against the situation. In effect, a vote of no confidence against Garrison. The full Faculty in an open vote, voted 565-39 with 11 abstentions. Another no confidence vote in effect of Garrison.
Garrison tendered his resignation soon after to take effect September 1, 2008.
The University rescinded Bresch’s MBA degree.
There was a grand jury investigation. No indictments were forthcoming.
The price gouging disclosure is at an infancy stage. More will come. The country appears unhappy with Bresch. TV evening luminary Stephen Colbert referred to her as a “douche.” The term has been picked up by the media and is being circulated as “douchebag.” Whatever, one and the same.
No question I am unhappy with Big Pharma and the manipulation of drug costs. I have complained in writing and on my podcast show in the past about such.
Then there is the political influence that is available to the big guys. Not the little people. The 99 percent.
Is there price gouging? Is there political influence?
Consider the facts. Then make up your own mind.
You know where I stand. There is a stink here.
America is not producing Rodans.
America’s school children are being cheated. They are not learning to think. They are being taught to pass standardized tests.
Bush 2 recognized there was a problem in teaching and evaluating the quality of teaching. Prior to his election, minorities and poor whites were being passed for social reasons. Get the kids through the system and out.
Bush 2 signed into law in 2002 the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In good faith, he thought it was the solution to the problem. He was wrong. Fourteen years later, the educational process is worse rather than better.
NCLB required standardized testing. From pre-K to 12th grade. In three areas only. Reading, math and science. Each State would be responsible for devising its own standardized tests. Most were strictly multiple choice. A few with essays added.
Schools would be evaluated based on the results. Teachers inadvertently were evaluated also. If the school did badly on a standardized test, it followed that the teachers must have taught poorly.
Some States required one standardized test in reading per semester. Others up to nine.
Recognizing that test results were being viewed the hall mark of competent teaching, administrators and teachers began teaching to the test. In other words, the test was everything. All else was forgotten. Like other courses such as Social Studies and the arts.
It became drill and kill. Teach students how to pass a multiple choice test in the three areas.
Practice/drill sessions became common place. Whereas generally one to nine tests were scheduled per semester, it now became as many as fifty plus. Over the course of the full school year, practice testing in excess of 100 tests.
Big numbers. Left no time to teach students to think. Teaching to the test was a rote way to learn. Like knowing the alphabet and being able to repeat it, counting to 100, etc.
The for real tests were required to be done on a computer. Ergo, the practice drills were also done on computers. Which meant that the computer room was no longer available for anything but testing. There was no time for students to otherwise use the computers.
Children were not being challenged. Even the smartest became bored with the drilling.
Many got the jitters. Fear. Especially the younger ones. It was heaped upon them by certain teachers who stressed the importance of the test and that the kids had to do well. Vomiting during the test became a problem. So much so that the Stanford-9 examination came with instructions on what to do with the test booklet in case a student vomited on it.
It did not take long to recognize that test scores were being used to reward and punish, in one fashion or another, schools and teachers. Some schools and teachers became encouraged to cheat the system for their own gain.
Some teachers began erasing and correcting answers. Answers on multiple choice questions were made with a # 2 pencil.
The teachers in one Atlanta school held weekend pizza parties during which student answers were corrected.
In 2015, 11 employees of a particular school district were convicted by the federal government of racketeering for changing answers.
Some administrators and teachers are guilty of gaming the results. Low performing students are encouraged to stay at home on school days. Or even worse, counseled to quit school or be suspended before the test is administered.
Money comes into play. The U.S. Government Accountability Office claims standardized testing is cheap. No burden on States or school districts. The Office says the cost per student for test purposes is $2 a year. The tests are computerized. Take one hour. Graded by a computer. The government claims costs are minimal.
Don’t tell that to Texas or Florida. In 2003, Texas’ education budget was $9 million. In 2012, $88 million. Florida spends an average of $250 million yearly to an outside firm to administer Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Eighty six percent of Texas’ school districts report standardized tests are “strangling our public schools.”
China produces some of the smartest graduates in the world. The federal government uses China as an example of standardized testing being successful.
Such was once thought so. By China itself. No more. China is in the process of departing drill and kill. Chinese educators today admit standardized testing has produced only “competent mediocrity.”
The Obama administration has become anti-standardized testing. In 2014, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the testing was “sucking the oxygen out of the room.” He promised to do something about it.
So far, nothing has been done. The problem is politics. Present day Republicans say the States should control education and that the Education Department should be abolished. Obama says the federal government has to have a hand in it.
The problem is money again. The States do not have the money to properly run an educational system. History tells us so. The money has to come from the federal government. He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.
At some time since the NCLB was passed, the federal government provided that parents could opt their children out of the standardized testing program. Parents country wide were complaining. There was to be no adverse impact on any of the students opted out.
Thousands of parents have opted their children out. To avoid the useless testing and pressure it placed on them.
One thing the federal government has for sure are too many laws and regulations interpreting them. One of the problems involving NCLB and opting out reared its head in a Manatee County, Florida court room last friday. The Judge, Karen Gievers. I sense her to be a defender of children.
Federal law permits opting out. Several parents opted their children out in Manatee County. The students were third graders. Some honor students.
The counties are the bad guys. The counties say because the children did not take the standardized tests, they cannot be promoted. They must be held back. The fact that some are honor students is immaterial.
Everything is money.
Federal law says ninety five percent of students must take the standardized tests. In order to qualify for federal funds. Less than 95 percent have taken the test in many school districts over the years with no repercussion.
There is an older law referred to as the retention law. I am not sure if a federal or State one. I suspect State. Which ever, immaterial.
The retention law says if a student does not take the standardized tests, the student will be retained. Fancy for not passed.
Several counties fear they will lose funding. Note again the retention law was passed before the opting out one. I would assume opting out superseded retention. Note again also that the 95 percent has not been met by many school districts nation wide over the years with no penalty applied.
This is the first time retention has been utilized. It is academic class achievement versus retention. Recall, several of the students were honor ones. All had passing grades otherwise.
The counties wanting to hold the children back are counties who are impacted if school funds come up short.
The Florida Department of Education takes the position that opting out never mandated that students be held back.
Judge Gievers has indicated she will rule this week. She may already have ruled by the time this column gets to press. I suspect she will rule with the students and chastise the attorneys against them. It’s a for shame thing.
During the hearing last friday, several of the students testified. Eight to 9 year olds. Each cried. One mother, also. The mother of an honor student. Through her tears, she could be heard saying her daughter was a good girl and she and her husband good parents.
All these happenings as a result of No Child Left Behind. Hard to believe. The law an admirable try. Much flowing from it a disgrace.
Venezuela. Once one of the richest countries. Its oil reserves the third largest in the world.
By the mid 2000s, everyone was eating. Average consumption 2,790 calories a day. Thanks to Hugo Chavez. Venezuela’s President from 1999 to 2013.
Chavez was a SOCIALIST among socialists. He wanted everything for the people. With the people making minimal contribution to paying for things. The government would pay.
Oil was big. Chavez smarter than the oil companies. He nationalized the oil companies and other foreign industries. with the stroke of a pen. All profits then went to the Venezuelan people.
Chavez’s goal was to expand access to food, housing, health care, and education. He initially succeeded in all areas.
Eventually however, Chavez’s extreme socialism began to falter. A society cannot be the end all to all. Especially when few contribute in any significant degree to their own support.
Oil revenues fell. The high oil profits of 2003-2007 became a thing of the past. It was oil profits that sustained Chavez’s socialistic society.
Food a perfect example. Chavez fed everyone. Till the ceiling caved in.
Chavez had the price of all food stuffs set with a ceiling. The people paid no more. The government picked up the tab for the rest. The rest equating to significantly more than the people could directly pay.
Literally, everyone got fat.
Most of the food was not grown in Venezuela by Venezuelan farmers. It was imported. The oil profits were more than sufficient to pay the cost.
When things started getting bad, Chavez got sick. The two not related. The last four years of his life Chavez was fighting to save his life and Venezuela’s at the same time.
Chavez died in 2013 from a massive heart attack and advanced colon cancer. Venezuela had become corrupt. He had opposition. There are those who believe Chavez was murdered.
Nicolas Maduro became President. Inept and incompetent from day one. A puppet of the military. The generals wanted to rule Venezuela. From 2013-2016, they succeeded. Today, the generals run everything. They hold all cabinet posts. They hold Maduro in their hands. He dances to their tune.
The government is corrupt. The generals are eating, economically and food wise. They want for nothing. As does the puppet Maduro. And a handful of high level civilians.
At the same time, the people starve.
The first inkling of a problem came in 2013. Maduro had been President less than a year. Venezuela ran out of toilet paper. Once a person is without, the realization hits home that toilet paper is a necessity of life.
There is still a shortage of toilet paper.
Store shelves had less and less food. Eventually no food. People waiting in lines for hours. When finally in the store, nothing remained for sale.
In 2014, food shortages hit 28 percent. In 2015, 75 percent. Forget the percentages in this year of 2016. Famine has moved in. Maduro has declared a national food crisis.
Food has become precious.
The New York Times described the situation as follows: “Venezuela is convulsing from hunger.”
2016 also became the year that water became in poor supply.
Inflation is expected to exceed 700 percent by November.
There is no work. Factories cannot operate. There is no electricity. Maduro provides electricity 1-2 days a week. Maintenance has been neglected thereby causing the inability to produce electricity.
Families need food. People have been forced to extreme measures.
Last year, garbage was a source of sustenance. However, garbage pails only hold so much food products that last only so long when many are searching. Then a point is reached where there is no garbage. People have nothing or little to eat.
Stealing a neighbor’s food came next. Only so much to steal, however.
This year evidences just how bad things have become.
Home pets, generally dogs and cats, were killed and eaten by families. If a family could not kill such a loved one or could not afford to feed the pet, the pet was dropped off on a highway. There others not fond of the pet would pick it up and take the pet home for dinner.
Pets are no longer in supply.
Next were the zoos. In the last thirty days. First chickens, rabbits and the like were stolen and eaten. Then larger zoo animals.
Very recently, a Caracas zoo was broken into in the middle of the night. A black stallion was one of the zoo’s featured animals. When zoo staff arrived in the morning, all that was left of the horse were its head and ribs.
What next? Hunger goes on at the same time the food supply dwindles even further. Cadavers? I don’t know.
To appreciate Mommy, I’m hungry, consider the following.
Families only eat every second day. Some every third. Only one meal. Children included.
Children are malnourished. They faint in class. Some die. Their bodies nothing but skin and bones. The outline of ribs visible. Hands swollen. Skin stuck to bones. Bellies swollen.
Mothers try to make babies sleep till noon to avoid a breakfast of non-existent milk/food.
Whatever is available to eat is fried. With flour. Empty calories. Unhealthy. Nevertheless, adults and children develop bellies. The battle of the bulge. Not a healthy fat, if there is one.
People eat what they can find. What they find is not healthy.
There is a black market. Except for the generals and a handful of people, the others are poor. They cannot afford black market prices.
Meat. What meat? Most have not eaten meat since last December.
On the rare occasions food is available, the cost for a family of five for bare necessities for a month is $226. The problem is few are working. There is no work.
$226 is a lot of money. Especially in a society where the average monthly salary of one working is $15 a month
Medicines/hospitals are the same. Not enough of anything.
Diseases such as malaria and mange have returned. These diseases were eradicated years ago. Neither inoculations nor medicines exists. People are once again vulnerable.
Dengue fever a problem. The disease was controlled with medication. No medication means dengue is likely to be a death sentence.
There are no medicines to treat HIV/Aids. Many HIV inflicted are moving into the Aids category because necessary medicines are lacking.
Hospitals have neither equipment nor medicines. They are filthy. Cleaning products not available. Nor gloves, saline, antibiotics, painkillers, morphine, and anesthesia.
Operations cannot be performed. Not only because of a lack of what is listed in the preceding paragraph. There is no electric power. Therefore, no air conditioning. The risk of bacterial infection becomes too high to operate.
Cockroaches on every floor and every wall.
There is a sick humor to all this. People are dying. There are no coffins. Cannot be manufactured nor imported. No power, no money.
Chavez hated America. He thought Bush 2 was the devil. Recall his sulfur comment before the United Nations.
Chavez was close friends with Fidel Castro and Raul Castro. As is Maduro.
As Castro blamed the United States for everything for fifty years, Chavez and Maduro blame the United States also. Especially Maduro.
Maduro claims the United States caused Chavez’s cancer colon by secretly infecting him with cancer. He further claims the people are poor and without food because of Americans. Finally, he keeps his people in line by telling them the United States is preparing to invade. Just as Fidel Castro did.
I am not sure why I wrote about Venezuela this week. Is there a message? A lesson to be learned?
It hits home that here has to be a balance between socialism and liberalism. Both are needed in a society. However, Venezuela went to far to the left. Totally.
Beware of crazy leaders? Maduro is on the crazy side. A nut. Weigh your vote heavily in the November election.
What else, I don’t know. I think I wrote this column because it is a tale of sickness and sadness. Everyone should be aware. It could happen anywhere anytime. No nation is immune. Even the United States.
< e of whether Hitler and Rohm engaged in homosexual play in the 1920s also comes into question.