Our Movies Are Being Sanitized

There’s always somebody out to control your life. Jack Black addressed this in the 2003 movie “School of Rock.”

Jack Black as Dewey Finn in “School of Rock”

Dewey Finn Give up, just quit, because in this life, you can’t win. Yeah, you can try, but in the end you’re just gonna lose, big time, because the world is run by the Man.

Frankie : ” Who?”

Dewey Finn : ” The Man. Oh, you don’t know the Man? He’s everywhere. In the White House, down the hall… Ms. Mullins, she’s the Man. And the Man ruined the ozone, and he’s burning down the Amazon, and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! Okay? And there used to be a way to stick it to the Man, it was called rock ‘n roll. But guess what? Oh no. The Man ruined that, too, with a little thing called MTV! So don’t waste your time trying to make anything cool, or pure, or awesome, ’cause the Man is just gonna call you a fat washed up loser and crush your soul. So do yourselves a favor and just GIVE UP!”

Is the Man still at it, always out to get us? Are there people who are still trying to control how we think, how we reproduce, how we act at parties, sporting events, college functions, and so on? The answer is, of course, a resounding “yes” on an increasingly global scale.

I’m going to confine my discussion to just one area where the Man is so obviously at work: movies and to a lesser extent, television. I’m 74 years old and have seen media go from the very first cathode ray tube televisions to the high-definition smart TVs of today. I’ve watched movie theaters go from grainy black-and-white motion pictures to today’s iMax and Dolby theater systems. More importantly, the transition from celluloid film projectors to the Sony digital theater displays has made the movie business global in every respect. Nowadays, any famous movie produced here in America is simultaneously dubbed into Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, and other languages so that the motion picture can be premiered everywhere on the same day. To distribute the film, they download it via the Internet directly to the theater in New Delhi. The money to be made in this instant international marketplace is beyond the wildest dreams of avarice.

Today’s mass-market movies (and television) are being sanitized of any sexuality whatsoever. I’m not the first person to notice this. Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday addressed this in a summertime op-ed titled “Sex is disappearing from the big screen, and it’s making movies less pleasurable.” Here’s a link to her piece, though be warned that the Washington Post has a paywall.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/sex-is-disappearing-from-the-big-screen-and-its-making-movies-less-pleasurable/2019/06/06/37848090-82ed-11e9-933d-7501070ee669_story.html

In her essay, Hornaday lamented that ” U.S. audiences were flocking to see “John Wick 3,” in-between making “Avengers: Endgame” and “Aladdin” huge hits. One of them a dark, fetishistically violent thriller, one a live-action comic book, one a Disney fairy tale, all resolutely sex-free.”

Now I can understand Disney being resolutely sex-free, that’s always been their brand. Marvel Comics, on the other hand, has always been rebellious, with most of its female super heroes and villains erotically presented. That’s now gone with the wind after Disney bought Marvel lock, stock, and barrel a few years ago.

Likewise for Star Wars. Who can forget the sexiness of Princess Leia in her “slave Leia” costume in the Empire Strikes Back?

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in “The Empire Strikes Back”

So, do we see anything like that in the new Disney Star Wars films? Absolutely not, and I mean no disrespect for Daisy Ridley, who is quite enjoyable as Rey in the recent films.

I’m seeing the same desexualization in today’s television. After the sexual revolution of the sixties, it was commonplace for some TV performers to present themselves as sexually alluring. For instance, consider Farrah Fawcett of Charlie’s Angels and Jennifer Anniston of Friends.

Farrah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels
Jennifer Aniston in Friends

Putting it more delicately, you can observe that these women have nipples, just like you and me. And sure, the “pokies,” as they are described today, are alluring, but so are the actresses’ perfect complexions, prominent limbal ring in their eyes, lustrous hair, washboard abs, and other elements of their beauty. Are we seeing anything like this in today’s television? Once again, absolutely not. If you look at TV shows and movies today, you’ll see the use of self-sticking silicone nipple shields to make female nipples disappear. These things are $25 on Amazon.

It’s not the end of the world if some actress’ nipples are subjected to an invisibility cloak. Still, I imagine that if I were an actress, I’d be irritated at being required to stick these things on while my male co-star was not.

The real question is “why is this happening, who is doing it, and what are the ramifications?”

You might think that this is the result of President Trump’s mob of evangelical red hats. Their leaders have always wanted to keep women home in their prairie dresses, pregnant, and cooking dinner, but I doubt they’re the culprits here. Every year, PornHub reports that, without fail, their best customers are the bible-belt states like Mississippi, Louisiana, and so on. They may nod their heads every Sunday as the preacher rails about the evils of pornography, but they go home and watch reruns of Daisy Duke in her busting at the seams T-shirts and short-shorts, and log on to Porn Hub when the wife has fallen asleep. Nope, I give them a pass here.

More than likely, the culprit is a person with an MBA degree running a spreadsheet for one of the media corporations, like Disney, Apple, Sony, Paramount, et. al. These people are motivated by greed only, never artistic expression. They research what movies will give the biggest rate-of-return. Sadly, the answer is consistently sequels and non-controversial, sex-free movies.

Green-lighting sequels makes good business sense. The sequel has a guaranteed audience, the actors are usually locked into a multi-picture deal, and the special effects department has gigabytes of visual-effects files available. The Star Wars, Star Trek, Avengers, Superman, Batman, and James Bond films are examples of lucrative sequel mongering; they are sure winners. The problem is that sequels are the bane of originality. You sit in the theater and wonder, “haven’t I seen this before?”

OK, so why then are movies and television being rendered sex-free? The answer is simple, China. China is the second-largest movie audience in the world. The potential for profit exhibiting movies in China is massive.

The problem is that China is also puritan. It is one of the most state-controlled societies on the planet. China’s government is heading into 1984 territory these days as there are Internet-connected cameras everywhere, doing facial recognition. If you participate in an unsanctioned demonstration (or refuse to go to a government event), they identify you and enter you into their database. They are creating a “citizen report card” where you are scored for being a good citizen or a trouble-maker. I’ve read that once in place, the citizen scorecard system will come with sanctions, including taxes for bad behavior.

A totalitarian government will always try to control all aspects of your life. This interference is nothing new; we’ve seen it for millennia with religion. The religion I was born into, Roman Catholicism, has a phrase “Your Life in Christ.” They have rules for every aspect of life, like sex and reproduction, foods, costumes, etc.

China may be an atheist society, but they act like any religion. They fostered a “one family – one child” regulation decades ago, and it failed miserably. Mainly, the restriction upset the 50/50 spread of males versus females born, shading to more males than females. Now there aren’t enough females available for men to marry; supposedly, there are over 30 million Chinese men who have no chance of finding a mate.

China is also prudish by our standards. I love Chinese movies and watch them all the time on Netflix and Prime Video. They are epic, with attractive people and dazzling special effects. That said, those movies are devoid of any sexuality (Girls don’t have nipples in Chinese films either). Explicit sex scenes are verboten in China.

The Wandering Earth is an Epic Science Fiction Film

So it looks like American movie studios are green-lighting big-budget films that cater to China’s censorship requirements. In effect, they are forcing American audiences to lower our movie standards to the least common denominator, material approved by the Chinese censor.

I believe that there should be movies and television shows for grownups. Films that present people and relationships honestly where characters curse like adults, have sex like adults, and deal with adult problems. These days, you can see this entertainment at Independent Cinema. This summer, a Julianne Moore film, Gloria Bell, played at my local theater for two weeks. It had an R-rated sex scene and only grossed just $11 million at the box office.

Julianne Moore in the film Gloria Bell

Another film I wanted to see, Susperia, only played at one theater 45 minutes away, for five days. Yeah, it had a witch’s orgy at the end but there were excellent performances from Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson.

You can see these indie films on Netflix and sometimes Amazon Prime videos, but they are slowly being excluded from the theater chains in favor of the sure-bet, Chinese approved sequels.

I have great admiration for the Chinese people and their contributions to science, the fine arts, transportation, manufacturing, and so on. I just don’t think they should have any control over what I can watch in a movie theater. If this keeps up, I’ll just quit attending movie theaters with their sex-free Chinese-approved movies and stick to streaming my entertainment.

Conspiracy Theories

Alex Jones
Alex Jones of Info Wars

Conspiracy theories have always been with us. As a teenager, I remember a story that a 100 miles-per-gallon carburetor had been developed and then buried by the automobile manufacturers because the oil industry wanted to sell more gasoline. Over the years, it became evident that this story was completely bogus. Still, a lot of people believed it.

When the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11th, high school friends of mine believed the conspiracy theory that the destruction of the Twin Towers was an “inside job” by the government; that explosives planted within the buildings brought them down. They pointed to photographs showing windows on the lower floors blowing outwards as the building above started collapsing towards the ground.

tower collapse
Window blowing out on the lower floor as the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11th, 2001

Of course, mechanical and civil engineers quickly explained this. The Twin Towers had poured-concrete floors supported around the perimeter by steel brackets. The burning jet fuel softened (not melted) these angle brackets. Eventually, they failed, and the blazing floor fell onto the floor below. Now the sheer weight of both slabs exceeded the load capacity of the support brackets, and they broke loose. The buildings had a large elevator shaft in the center running from top-to-bottom. As the floors pancaked towards the ground, you have the equivalent of a bicycle pump – the pancaked slabs acting as a giant piston, overpressuring the levels below as the building fell. Naturally, some of the windows blew out below, as shown by the above photograph. Try to explain that to proponents of this conspiracy theory, and they’ll call you “stupid liberal,” “snowflake,” “cuck,” or whatever.

While most of us would agree that the Internet is the greatest invention of our time (who doesn’t love Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Netflix), sadly, the Internet has weaponized the crazies among us. Websites such as Breitbart, 4chan, Stormfront, and InfoWars have gleefully participated in the creation and dissemination of idiotic conspiracy theories.

The poster child of conspiracy theorists is none other than Alex Jones, shown above, who runs a website called Info Wars. Donald Trump has appeared on his show, and Jones is a card-carrying member of the White House press corps. His conspiracies, espoused on his show, run from the entertainingly nutty to the outright cruel.

On one notable showing, Jones hosted a conspiracy nut, Robert David Steele, who claimed that NASA had a pedophile base on Mars where little children were held there as sex slaves. While Jones himself looked a bit skeptical at this one, nonetheless, he put this insanity on the air. A few days later, NASA had to release a statement that “No, we don’t have a pedophile base on Mars.” Here’s a link on this: Mars Slave Colony

The most horrifying Alex Jones conspiracy theory involved the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass killing. A deranged individual, Adam Lanza, murdered his mother, then entered the Sandy Hook school and killed twenty children and six staff members. This horrifying event energized the gun safety movement in the United States. The right-wing hellscape switched into overdrive to deflect the nation’s attention away from the tragedy by claiming that the whole thing was a “deep state” hoax. Alex Jones was front-and-center on this nonsense, and the resulting publicity caused grieving parents to start receiving death threats and other forms of harassment. Some fought back, sued Jones and Info Wars, and caused him to broadcast a retraction. This case is still under litigation, and Jones may someday find himself driven to bankruptcy.

Sandy Hook
Carlee Soto (left) finding out that her sister, Vicky, was killed in the Sandy Hook Massacre.

These tragedies always involve real people dealing with the worst kind of heartbreak – the death of a child or sibling. The photograph above is Carlee Soto at the moment when she was told that her sister, Vicky, was killed in her first-grade classroom, trying to protect her children from the gunman’s bullets. To question her grief and anguish to shield the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby is vile beyond belief.

Which brings us to the conspiracy du jour, the Ukrainians hacked the Democratic National Committee’s web server. Grab yourself a cup of coffee as I take us through this flight of fancy.

On May 10, 2016, George Papadopoulos, one of Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisors, bragged at a London pub to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that Russia had Hillary Clinton’s emails. Downer, to his credit, immediately tattled to the United States government, specifically the FBI and CIA. They got a FISA warrant to follow Papadopoulos, and the chase was on. Eventually, the FBI brought Papadopoulos in for an interview, and he lied to them. That’s a federal crime, and he was found guilty and served 12 days in prison.

George Paradoulous
George Papadopoulos, Trump advisor who started it all.

The FBI, with the assistance of the CIA, began an investigation of Russian meddling in the upcoming 2016 election. At the time, President Obama wanted to go public with the preliminary results. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell objected, and the whole thing remained under-the-radar up through the election.

Trump won, albeit an electoral college victory only (he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots). On assuming the Presidency in 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was prosecuting Trump’s National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn (Mister Lock Her Up). Acting FBI Director Rod Rosenstein created a special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, to continue the investigation.

Laboring for two years, Robert Mueller investigated the Russian election interference and published a 400-page report. His team identified the Russian facilities that did the hacking and social media manipulation, and the actual individuals who did the work. They have all been indicted and had better not attempt to travel to the USA. Mueller, being a stickler for DOJ rules, declined to indict Trump, but rather punted the football to Congress.

President Trump objected to the suggestion that his election might be tainted by Russian interference, and looked for some way to prove that the Russians are innocent in this election business. Lucky for him, the nutty conspiracy theory goons came up with a whopper: The Ukrainians Did It!

The “Ukrainians Did It” conspiracy has two major parts: the Bidens and Crowdstrike.

Vice President Joe Biden’s last surviving son, Hunter Biden, is a Washington lobbyist. In 2014, Hunter took a job as a member of the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. His salary at Burisma was $50k per month. Ukrainian prosecutors have investigated Hunter’s activities and found nothing illegal.

Hunter Biden is no angel; the Navy discharged him for cocaine use. His divorce in 2016 was tabloid fodder. Although a Yale law graduate, Hunter was always in the shadow of his late brother Beau. He’s just someone using his Father’s notoriety to land a cushy job, something prevalent in Washington these days.

The Crowdstrike part of this conspiracy theory is a real howler. Cooked up by Steve Bannon, Breitbart, and other right-wing idiots, the story goes like this. The Ukrainians actually had the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server in Ukraine, hacked it themselves using the Ukrainian cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike, released the data to Wikileaks, et. al. to embarrass the Russians. This brilliant plan also allowed the Democrats to lose the election.

Here’s the truth. The DNC had several servers. Here’s a photo of one of them in their DC headquarters. It’s the small electronics rack on the table to the right of the file cabinets. As far as I can tell, none of these servers was in Ukraine.

DNC Server
One of the DNC’s Servers

So the Ruskies figured out the Internet address of this server, got in there, and copied the whole shebang (calling Julian Assange!). When the DNC got wind of this, they hired the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike to investigate. Crowdstrike worked with the FBI on the inquiry and, you guessed it, found out that the Russians did the hacking. One of Crowdstrike’s founders, Dmitri Alperovitch, is of Russian birth, coming to the USA as a child. It’s not a Ukrainian company. So why would the Democrats hack their DNC server, spill it’s contents to Wikileaks and others, to facilitate losing the election?

Only an idiot would believe this nutty story. Unfortunately, our Idiot-in-Chief, President Trump, believes it. He demanded that the new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky find this “server” and get the goods on the Bidens if he wanted to get the Javalin missiles that the Ukrainian Army so desperately needs. This mob-style shakedown of the Ukrainian President is, of course, the essence of the House Impeachment Investigation. I’ll comment on that in another blog post.

Concluding, I’d like to talk about lying. I’m a firm believer in the First Amendment –  freedom of speech. I’d go to the barricades with anybody to uphold that freedom. However, I don’t believe that Freedom of Speech grants you the right to lie.

Facebook has said that it’s not their job to police lying on their platform. Evil people, like Steve Bannon and his ilk, use social media voluminously to promulgate conspiracies that are demonstrably false to the general public on a massive scale. Grieving people, like the Sandy Hook parents, the family of Seth Rich, and others are then harassed and threatened by fools who believe these lies. The worst cases are the demented gunmen who, egged on by these conspiracy theories, have killed scores of innocents in the last couple of years.

These social media platforms are the root of the problem. They’ve made it too easy for the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, and others to manipulate the American public. Here are some ideas to reign in the influence of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

You Must Have a Social Security Number to be on Facebook, etc.

Force all American users of Facebook, Twitter, etc. to re-register with a name, address, and social security number. Have the Census Department provide a database to do this. This new arrangement will prevent bots from creating bogus users in the United States. You’ll know if the post you’re reading is from a foreign entity.

Eliminate the Share and Retweet Buttons

Eliminate the Facebook “Share” and Twitter “Retweet” buttons. You can send cat photos to your Facebook circle of friends, but they cannot send them on with a single click. This limitation wipes out the “chain reaction” effect of exploding memes and dishonest postings to everybody in the country and the world. If you want to pass on a post with your cousin’s baby pictures, you must take the time to create a message yourself. 

Make Knowingly Lying on Social Media a Federal Crime

If you lie to the FBI, that’s a federal crime (ask Martha Stewart about that one). In the same light, it should be against the law to lie to you and me, especially if it’s on a social media platform. If anyone places a posting, meme, or statement on these platforms proven demonstrably false, the content creator (e.g., Alex Jones) and the content transmitter (e.g., Facebook) will be held legally accountable if the posting caused harassment or death threats to innocents. Put this concept into law and watch how fast Mark Zukerberg applies Artificial Intelligence (AI) to fact check every posting.

Lying has become too prevalent in today’s America. Maybe it’s time to stand up and say we’ve had enough of this mendacity. We could start by ridding ourselves of the biggest liar of them all, President Trump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swedish Stink Eye

Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg, 16 years-old, is from Stockholm, Sweden. She is slightly autistic (Asperger Syndrome) and doesn’t talk much. When she does, it’s about climate change and she is as blunt as a military general when expressing herself. She convinced her parents to change their lifestyle to a more climate-friendly carbon footprint (no more international air travel for her opera singer mother, vegan diets, and so forth). She now travels by train and sailboat.

In speaking to the United Nations today, she concluded her short remarks with this message:

“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Later, Greta encountered our President Trump at the United Nations. He did not see her, but she saw him and the look on her face mirrors what I think of the man – a greedy, stupid fool who once called the climate crisis a “Chinese Hoax.” Enjoy, if you will, what I call “The Swedish Stink Eye.”

The Swedish Stink Eye

Note: credit to The Guardian for the quote and the video.

 

 

 

Medicare for All (Elizabeth Warren Style)

Elizabeth Warren

I like Senator Elizabeth Warren. She’s smart, has an amazing recall of facts and financial minutiae, and has a real understanding of one sad truth about America these days. That truth being that a small cabal of hyper-wealthy billionaires and corporations have been stealing from all of us for over forty years and have essentially wiped out what was once a prosperous middle class. If this isn’t stopped, pretty soon most of us will be subsisting on a diet of rat soup.

Her campaign motto is “I have a plan for that!” Well, that’s great and most of those plans are brilliantly conceived and plausible. One plan though, Medicare for All, has a serious flaw. She cannot bring herself to explain how it will be funded.

I cringed last night watching her on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert evading all his attempts to get her to explain how this idea would be paid for. What’s the problem here?

This is a central problem with the entire Progressive movement, actually. We just can’t bring ourselves to admit that proposals like Medicare for All will cost all of us more money. You can’t just tax the rich to pay for a program like this. All of us will have to pay a lot more of our income to support something like true universal healthcare.

I have conversed with fellow engineers from many countries over the years. An engineer in Finland (a place that has cradle-to-grave healthcare for all) once told me that he pays over 50% of his income to the government. For that sacrifice, he gets healthcare, education, state-of-the-art railroads, roads, and bridges. “Is it worth it?” I asked him. “Absolutely, he replied.

So as Senator Warren gets closer and closer to attaining the Democratic nomination, expect her to be ganged up on this funding issue.

I’d like to humbly propose a different approach for Senator Warren to roll out. Let’s call it “Medicare for Sale.” Allow any citizen to buy into Medicare as their health care solution. Raise the Payroll Tax slightly and, of course, tax the rich to pay for those in lower income tax brackets where the cost would have to be proportionally less.

True, my idea would cause everybody’s taxes to raise a bit, but this would be much less expensive than trying to put the whole population on Medicare overnight.

What would eventually happen? I’d surmise that some small companies would encourage (or force) their employees to switch over to the Medicare plan. This effect would start slowly, but would eventually become a tsunami. All those greedy medical insurance companies would find themselves no longer competitive. It’ll take a few years, but we’d have Medicare for All in America, eventually.

 

 

 

I’m Ashamed to be an American, Part 1

The cruelty of President Trump has no upper bound. Consider the sad case of Jimmy Aldaoud, who was deported to Iraq and died last month of diabetes.

Jimmy Deported

Jimmy’s parents were Iraqi Chaldean Catholics, a branch of the Roman Catholic Church who trace their roots to ancient Mesopotamia. Jimmie’s parents fled Iraq 41 years ago as persecution against Christians increased under Saddam Hussein. Jimmy was born in a Greek refugee camp, then brought to the United States as an infant. Jimmy was a lawful permanent resident, not like his sisters who were born here and are US citizens.

To be honest, Jimmy was not a saint. He suffered from schizophrenia and other mental health issues, was homeless often, and had over twenty criminal convictions on his record. Being a permanent resident, he was ordered deported more than once. He was a Type 1 diabetic, requiring insulin and other care to survive. He spent a year and a half in ICE detention.

Trump’s Nazi-like obsession to get rid of all non-white immigrants led to a final decision to deport Jimmy to Iraq last month. Jimmy had never lived in Iraq, did not speak Arabic, did not know anybody there. He was homeless in Iraq, sleeping on airport benches, unable to get the medical care he needed. He died in just two weeks of insulin shock. Ironically, the ICE have allowed his body to be returned to the United States for burial.

I see no difference between deporting this man to a country he has never lived in, could not speak the language, had no family there, with a deadly medical condition and just having an ICE officer enter his cell and shooting him dead. In either case, the result is the same.

What discourages me is the so called Evangelical Christians who are OK with this. Any reading of the Gospels would tell you that Jesus always taught compassion and kindness to the vulnerable. Let’s not forget that Jesus and his family were refugees themselves, when they fled to Egypt to escape King Herod’s wrath. We should have kept Jimmy Aldaoud here in the United States, provided him medical care, and worked to rehabilitate him. Even if that failed, living his life in a US jail would have been better than deporting him to certain death.

How have we become so cruel?

 

Everybody Down!

This is Trump’s America, a dystopian shooting gallery where we are now the targets. Yesterday’s mass shooting was in Texas where a simple traffic stop escalated into a John Wick movie. The shooter had a assault rifle and led police on a ten mile chase through Odessa, Texas before being killed near a movie theater. The killer sprayed shots indiscriminately on civilians as he ran from the police, killing seven and wounding 21. Included in the injured was a 17 month-old infant in a car seat who was hit in the mouth, knocking her teeth out.

This video was shot by someone who was in the line of fire, sobbing in fear as the shots rang out.

What this woman experienced is coming to your town next.

Who’s responsible for this mass shooting surge? To me, the culprits are glaringly obvious.

  1. President Trump, who has promoted racial division and hatred in his speeches and tweets.
  2. The NRA, who have resisted any form of legislation on guns.
  3. Republicans, who have been bought off by the NRA and look the other way in the face of Trump’s hate-mongering because he got them a tax cut for the rich.
  4. Fox New,s who have promoted hate and conspiracy theories on television for forty years.
  5. All the idiots in red MAGA hats cheering Trump’s raging hatred.

There is only one way to change our violent country – one party rule. Vote the Republicans out, from dog catcher to President. Vote them all out. Ditch the Senate filibuster rule, thus restoring true democracy to our government. First order of business, outlaw all assault rifles, with no exceptions or grandfathering.

That would be a good start.

Insulin Prices – Profit or Theft?

Insulin

Lija Greenseid, of St. Paul, Mn, has a 13 year-old daughter who has Type 1 diabetes. The cost of her life-saving insulin supplies in St. Paul is $12,400.

Lija drives four hours north into Canada to buy the same insulin supplies; the Canadian price is $1265. (Source:).

Is this profit or is this theft? It’s pretty obvious to me that this is outright theft.

First, is the Canadian insulin being sold at a loss? Not a chance in hell. No drug company would be able to operate at a loss for very long. Also, the United States is the only place in the world where this drug is being sold at such a astronomical price.

How does Big Pharma get away with this? Herds of stampeding lobbyists have bought off Congress and the Government so to keep drug prices high in the United States. These lobbyists even managed to force Medicare to refrain from even negotiating a more favorable price for essential drugs. Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted at a recent hearing that one insulin drug was being manufactured for $3.00 and sold for $300.

People are now dying because of this. What happens if you can’t make it to Canada? What happens if you’re unemployed or just barely making by on a meager salary?

This is immoral on so many grounds. First, it is theft. The average profit for American corporations is 7.9% this year. A drug company selling a $3 dose of insulin for $300 is making a 99% profit. It’s not a fair profit, rather it’s an outright theft.

Second, it’s exploitation of the vulnerable. You just know that the Pharma executives must have laughed when one of them said “their lives depend on this stuff, we can charge whatever we like; what are they gonna do?”

Capitalism is not in our Constitution. Somehow we find ourselves now stuck with it. It’s a financial system consisting of a zero-sum game that gets worse every year. Now people are dying from it. I keep remembering that jolting line from Titanic movie. Rose says: “Cal, half the people on this ship are going to die!” Cal replies: “Not the better half, I’m sure.”

The problem is, here in America, that even the lesser half can buy guns. It would behoove us to fix these things now before all this descends into violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Your Passion

Michael Delano
Michael Delano 

They say that the secret to life is to “Find Your Passion.” That is, find something you love to do and throw yourself into it. That’s good advice, of course, but hard to implement in real life since family responsibilities and just surviving in this zero-sum world usually get in the way.

My oldest grandson, Michael Delano, wasn’t happy in regular High School. Fortunately, his mother (my daughter Liz) and school officials got Michael transferred to a NY State trade school where he’s studying recording engineering. This curriculum also includes recording your own music.

Michael found his passion: he’s a rapidly improving songwriter, a excellent guitar player, and a passionate singer (especially when he sings the blues). He wowed everybody this year by winning the 2019 Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Yellen Foundation Songwriting Scholarship Competition.

I’ve tried to chip in by providing him with professional-quality guitars, such as the Martin D-35E Retro acoustic guitar he plays for most gigs. This instrument has piezo acoustic sensors under the bridge and a signal processor that lets Michael plug into the venue’s sound system. This means that he doesn’t have to keep the guitar close to a microphone.

I went home to Grand Island, New York, last weekend to sell my home. On Sunday, I had the pleasure to watch my grandson perform at a nearby park. It’s an iPhone video, a little shaky, but it has all four songs. Maybe you’ll agree with me, this young man has a lot of talent.

Michael Delano at Niawanda Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Delia Rising – A Ballet in Three Acts

Delia Review Author
Janette DeFelice

Dr. Janette DeFelice is a 21st century Renaissance woman. She has an MD degree, a Masters in Humanities, A Bachelor’s in Political Science, and for a while was a professional ballet dancer. Now a mother of 9-year-old twins, she has directed her creative energies towards writing. I’ve been one of her loyal Twitter followers.

Her first novel, “Delia Rising – A Ballet in Three Acts” is a tour de force into the world of ballet dancers. It’s about the stage door mothers that get them there and the predators that beleaguer them when they arrive at the dance company. While she sprinkles in a lot of ballet jargon, do what I did – assume she’s talking about some twirling. The underlying theme of the book is the mistakes we make in our lives and our compulsion to try to steer our children away from them.

I wrote her a nice five-star review on Amazon. Looks like she appreciated it.

Delia Review

You can buy her novel from Amazon (Paperback or Kindle) here:

Delia Rising – A Ballet In Three Acts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The El Paso Baby

El Paso Baby

One of the most gut wrenching stories about the El Paso gun violence last Saturday was the death of Andre and Jordan Anchondo, who were killed shielding their 2 month-old baby, Paul, from the gunfire. Paul survived, but had two broken fingers. He was treated in hospital and released to Andre’s brother, Tito.

The Washington Post reported that both Andre and Jordan Anchondo and Tito Anchondo are Republicans and Trump supporters. As I said in my last blog post, everybody is a target now. The Anchondos were in Walmart buying school supplies. The gunman didn’t ask anybody’s political affiliations, he was there to shoot Mexican invaders.

The New York Times reported that Trump was incensed by press coverage of his Dayton visit. With Trump flying to El Paso, the advance staff at the University Medical Center of El Paso had a problem. None of the six shooting victims still being treated would agree to meet with Trump. The desperate advance staff brought in one victim who had been treated and released; that person was willing to meet with Trump. They also invited Tito Anchondo and his sister to bring in baby Paul.

The Washington Post stated that Tito Anchondo was very happy with the Trumps and felt “consoled” by the meeting. Then they posed for this now-famous photograph.

What’s my take on this? The photo is clearly bad optics. The Trumps don’t look particularly empathetic in this pose. The backstory indicates that the Trumps were kind to Tito Anchondo.

Trump has screeched “Mexican invaders” 29 times in his rallies and speeches. Now the nuts with assault weapons have come out of the woodwork to act on his scapegoating. The problem is that we are all now targets. The sad case of the Anchondos is a heartbreaking example of today’s new reality.