Items Culled from Various Sources
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is regularly demonized in the US press because of his aggressive brand of socialism and, of course, we all know that socialism is bad and capitalism is good. Its goodness is best reflected in the record $40 billion in profit Exxon- Mobil reported last year at a time when the country is sliding into an economic recession brought on, in large part, by soaring gasoline, heating oil and natural gas prices.
A recent New York Times article reported on a bitter dispute between Chavez and Exxon Mobil over foreign assets frozen by Exxon, and controlled by Venezuela, a major oil exporter, including sending 1.2 million barrels a day to the United States.
Of Exxon Mobil, Chavez was quoted as saying: “They are imperialist bandits, white-collar criminals, corruptors of governments overthrowers of governments.”
Not far off the mark.
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross, struggling to restore its reputation in the aftermath of its incompetent performance in responding Hurricane Katrina, including wasteful spending of millions of dollars in contributions, received another black eye recently.
A wire service reported that the agency, the nation’s largest operator of blood banks, was fined $4.6 million “after regulators found it failed to properly screen blood donations.”
The story went on the report that “regulators have now fined the Red Cross more than $20 million” since 2003 when the Food and Drug Administration and the Red Cross reached an agreement “allowing penalties for failing to follow federal standards to ensure blood is not contaminated.”
It’s enough to make one wonder if making that annual financial donation to the Red Cross helps the agency provide needed humane services or to pay fines.
Also on the medical front, for those of us whose doctor prescribes that we take Lipitor for controlling cholesterol levels it came as a shock to find that the aggressive and expensive advertising campaign for the drug was bogus. The ads had Dr. Robert Jarvik extolling the virtues of Lipitor, and showed him rowing with great skill across a lake, apparently a beneficial side effect of taking Lipitor. Turns out Jarvik, the world-famous pioneer of the artificial heart, is not a cardiologist and not licensed to practice medicine, according to a New York Times article, and he does not row either, a stunt man did the heavy lifting, it turns out.
Congressional committees are now interested in finding out if these ad could be misleading. Gee, I can’t imagine the Pfizer drug firm, maker of Lipitor, would ever engage in such a cruel deception. Then why did the drug company quickly act to pull its Jarvik commercials on which it has already spent some $250 million? Could it be the publicity about the fradulent nature of its message?
(Parenthetically, I continue to get my yearly supply of a version of Lipitor through a Canadian pharmacy, by way of a drug outlet in Argentina, at a fraction of the cost of the drug in this country where no generic version is available.) Is the Argentinian version effective? Hard to know, but I’m still around.
Ursala K. Le Guin writing in Harper’s about the sharp decline in adults who read a book, and the threatened prospect for books:
“The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology, but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book."
“… To me, then, one of the most despicable things about corporate publishers and chain booksellers is their assumption that books are inherently worthless.”
…”Is it because you think if you own publishing you can control what’s printed, what’s written, what’s read? Well, lotsa luck, sir. It’s a common delusion of tyrants. Writers and readers, even as they suffer from it, regard it with amused contempt.”
And so, read on we will, still going against the grain.
Journalist Mark Bowden in an essay in the Atlantic entitled “the Angriest Man in Television” about former newspaper reporter David Simon, creator of the HBO series ‘The Wire,’ which, in its final season, focuses on the painful ills afflicting the US newspaper business observes:
“For all his success and accomplishment, he’s an angry man, driven in part by lovingly nurtured grudges against those he feels have slighted him, underestimated him, or betrayed some public trust. High on his list is his old employer The Baltimore Sun – or more precisely, the editors and corporate owners who have (in his view) spent the past two decades eviscerating a great American newspaper.
“In a better world – one where papers still had owners and editors who were smart, socially committed, honest and brave – Simon probably would never have left the Sun to pursue a Hollywood career.
“… His father, a frustrated newsman, took him to see Ben Hecht’s and Charles MacArthur’s classic newspaper farce, The Front Page, when he was a boy in Washington, D.C., and Simon was smitten. He landed a job as a Sun reporter just out of the University of Maryland … and, as he tells it, if the newspaper, the industry, and America had lived up to his expectation, he would probably still be documenting the underside of his adopted city one byline at a time. But the Sun let David Simon down.”
There is much more about Simon and about Bowden as well in this discouraging tale.
Fascinating story in the New Yorker Magazine by John Seabrook about the long history and current success in the gobalized economy of the American scrap metal industry.
”Most of the scrap metal that goes to China is turned into materials for the Chinese construction industry – rebar, beams, and floor decking. That steel flows into the skyscrapers sprouting all around Chinese cities and into new factory towns; the copper is used to wire the millions of houses being built for China’s new middle class. (In this sense, China’s industrial might is literally being constructed out of the ruins of our own.)
“But much of the aluminum returns to the U.S., in the engine casings of new cars, as well as in irons, coffee pots, and frying pans, among millions of other consumer products, which are loaded into containers and shipped back to the ports in Newark and L.A. – to be bought, used, and thrown away all over again.”
That’s why I’m still trying to get locally based scrap metal dealer Scappy Doo to come and haul away a brutally heavy steel basketball backboard I removed from my garage more than a year ago.
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