Thursday, August 25, 2016

Venice and Lido Island

Photo: Wikipedia Vladimir Shelialin
Giudecca Island seen from the Campanile
The 100-mile road to Venice took three hours in bumper to bumper traffic due to sheer volume on such a narrow two-lane highway 309, with cars joining the endless line of traffic, returning home from the weekend fishing trip or beach picnic to their villages that dotted the landscape. I felt like we were in rush hour in northern Virginia. Everything was closed, with no possibility to go to any bathroom along the way, not even nature’s secluded woods.

We arrived at dusk at the tronchetto (the ferry) which we boarded for the island of Lido where our hotel was located. I had been under mistaken notion that we were staying in Lido di Jesolo, a summer resort that is actually on mainland, not an island in the middle of the archipelago. I had stayed in Lido di Jesolo on previous trips and I was not impressed with the hotels but the beach was beautiful even during cold spring break explorations. I took a few students to the beach on such a cold mid-March afternoon and we dipped our feet in the cold waters of the Gulf of Venice.

As we were purchasing our ferry tickets, the windshield wipers came on, spraying the agent in the booth who, understandably, was not very happy about it and let us know in vociferous Italian fashion. We had no idea how to turn them off in the rented BMW that did not come with an operator’s manual, and were struggling to do so to the exasperation of the angry Italian who kept cursing at us.

We finally turned it off and bought three-day passes for us and one ferry crossing for the car, for a total of 101 euros, not bad considering that, from then on, we could board any water bus to the many islands around Venice, as many times as we wanted. Such a general ticket must have been a blessing for the locals who often traveled to faraway islands in order to get their groceries and necessities. I struck up a conversation with an elderly Italian lady who was carrying two large grocery bags of food and toilet paper. She told me that life was hard but she would not have any other way.

It was very cold over the water in late April and I could not stop shaking even with a flimsy cashmere sweater. I took pictures in the dark of a couple of cruise ship blazing with lights like a Christmas tree. I was surprised how dark the night line of Venice was. Piazza San Marco and the Campanile were totally dark.  Ambient light was coming from the ferries and from the numerous cruise ships, but not from street lights. Venice was pretty much in muted darkness.

Before we boarded the ferry, everyone lined up in seven or so lanes, very un-Italian like. Traffic was directed by a tronchetto employee. But when we got off, nobody was directing traffic and it was a free for all – all the three lanes of cars on the ferry became a race of who had more guts to push ahead of the person next to them without causing a crash, ending in the water below.

After a 30 minute ferry ride, we made it to the Panorama hotel, facing Piazza San Marco across the bay. Dave had to park in the courtyard, a very narrow, cobble-stoned driveway, surrounded by iron fencing and a gate.  Parking in reverse next to the only other car there required skill and daring. The tall receptionist, Marco, was jovial and pleasant, speaking English well, which he insisted we use because he wanted to practice his American English. He was so tall, he could climb a flight of stairs with two large steps. The room was passable, a three-star hotel pretending to be a four-star hotel. We slept well in spite of everything, that’s how tired we were.

Motoscafi from Lido di Jesolo to San Marco
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2005
This was my 22nd visit to the Serenissima and yet there were still places left to be explored. Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia existed as a state from the late 7th century A.D. until 1797, with a long history of war and conquest, a powerful economic and trading power.

The cupolas of San Marco's
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2005
 
We woke up to pitch blackness thanks to the wooden shutters opening into a narrow vine-covered terrace. The tiny shower barely accommodated Dave’s wide shoulders and did not drain well, typical Italian plumbing problem. They press and starch anything made of cloth but they don’t use bleach in the bathroom.

Breakfast was in a well-appointed and cozy restaurant with sweet and smiling staff who was glad that I spoke Italian. However, we had to suffer the indignity of listening to four loud Brits bashing the United States, totally overlooking their own problem in the U.K., the takeover of their beloved Londonistan.

All we had to do was cross the street to take a water bus to San Marco’s Square. Around 11 a.m., it was already a zoo everywhere and the lines to the historical sites were extremely long, the Campanile, Palazzo Ducale, the San Marco Basilica, the Bridge of Sighs, the Correr Museum, and the medieval prison. It did not matter to us since we had seen them all numerous times.

San Marco Square under water 2007
Photo: Wikipedia
The large San Marco’s Square is covered with flocks of fat pigeons and generous tourists who love to feed them to the horror of others who are being pooped on. Outdoor restaurants and shops line the square, and souvenir vendors hawking feeding corn, Venetian masks, funny Carnevale hats, fake Murano glass trinkets, Venice t-shirts, calendars, and, the newest addition for the narcissistic tourists who want to make sure the world knows they are there, selfie-sticks. Behind the Clock’s arcades there is even a Murano glass factory which we visited several times.

Piazza San Marco, “the drawing room of Europe,” is dominated by the façade of San Marco’s Basilica. The beautiful arches with marble decorations and Romanesque carvings around the main doorway pale in comparison to the four horses which face the whole piazza as symbols of Venetian power. In 1379, Genoa said that “there could be no peace between the two cities until the horses had been bridled.” The horses were “bridled” by Napoleon after he conquered Venice 400 years later and had them shipped to Paris.

Clock Tower
Photo: Wikipedia
The 1499 Clock Tower to the left of the basilica arches over the Merceria street which eventually leads to Ponte Rialto through narrow and dark streets dotted with tiny but expensive leather shops, jewelry shops, gelatterias, pizzerias, cafes, stationery shops, silks scarves and ties boutiques. To the right of the Clock Tower is the church of San Basso, now closed.

Two bronze figures, a young and an old, allegedly shepherds (wearing sheepskins), representing the passage of time, adorn the top of the clock.  They are known as the “Moors” because of the dark patina of the bronze. The two figures strike the hours on a bell which was cast by Simeone in 1497. The bronze figures are huge – the intention was that they could be seen from far away in the lagoon.

Below is a winged lion of Venice with an open book in front of a blue background with gold stars. When the city surrendered to Napoleon in 1797, the statue of Doge Agostino Barbarigo (1486-1501), who was kneeling before the lion, was removed by the French because it was a symbol of the old regime. Conquerors around the world have removed statues and destroyed historical artifacts in the process of asserting their rule.

Below the winged lion of Venice there is a semi-circular gallery with statues of the Virgin and Child seated, cast in gilt beaten copper. The blue panels on either side show the hour in Roman numerals on the left and minutes, in five-minute intervals, in Arabic numerals on the right.

Twice a year, at Epiphany (6 January) and on Ascension Day (the Thursday 40 days after Easter) the three Magi, led by an angel with a trumpet, emerge from one of the doorways normally taken up by these numbers and pass in procession round the gallery, bowing to the Virgin and child, before disappearing through the other door.” (Archives)

The huge clock face in blue and gold below is engraved with 24 hours in Roman numerals. A golden pointer with the sun moves around the circle. Beneath the sun pointer, within the marble circle, there are signs of the zodiac in gold, originals dating from the 1490s. In the middle of the clock face are the sun and the moon which revolves to show its phases, surrounded by fixed stars. The entire background is blue enamel.

San Marco Basilica and the pigeons
Photo: Wikipedia
 
On the north side of San Marco’s basilica is Piazzetta dei Leoncini, named after the two marble lions. The Palazzo Patriarcale, the residence of the Patriarch of Venice, is a neo-classical building on the east side, connected to the Basilica.

Early 16th century former homes and offices of the Procurators of St. Mark, high officers of the state during the days of the Venetian Republic, are located above the arcades lining the Piazza. Restaurants and shops are located on the ground level of these buildings such as the famous Café Quadri, patronized by Austrians during their rule in the 19th century, while Venetians favored Café Florian on the opposite side of the Piazza.

At the end of the Piazza is a wing which was built by Napoleon in 1810 and is known as the Napoleonic Wing. There is a ceremonial staircase behind the shops which was meant to lead to the royal palace but it is now the entrance to the Correr Museum with its library, the imperial rooms, the Canova collection, the Correr Library, and the photographic archives.

Café Florian, with its rich red velvet benches and very pricey espresso for expensive and famous tastes, located below the new procurators building, was opened in 1720 by Floriano Francesconi for Venetian patrons who hated the Austrians who were hanging out at Café Quadri, which was opened in 1775 in the old procurators building.

Campanile
Photo: Wikipedia
 
Standing freely in the Piazza, the Campanile (bell tower) of St. Marco’s Basilica, has been repaired repeatedly since 1514 and rebuilt in 1912 after it collapsed in 1902. An elevator can take visitors to the top, offering a fantastic 360 degree view of the Venetian lagoon.

Next to the Campanile is Loggetta del Sansovino built in 1537-46 as a lobby for patricians waiting to go into meetings of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace across the street and by guards when the Great Council was in session.

The Doge’s Palace (the ducal palace) with the Doge’s apartments, courtyard, the old prison (Piombi), the new prison, and the Bridge of Sighs (1614) are located on the same side as San Marco’s Basilica. Between the Doge’s Palace and Loggetta del Sansovino are three flagpoles with bronze bases in high relief decorated by Alessandro Leopardi in 1505.

Ponte dei Sospiri (The Bridge of Sighs)
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2004
 
The Bridge of Sighs, built in 1614, was a corridor linking the Doge’s Palace to the house of the New Prisons. As the condemned crossed from the Court in the Doge’s Palace to the New Prisons, he took one last look at the Venetian lagoon and Giudecca Island, at freedom, and sighed.

The ground floor of the southern wing was occupied by prison spaces built before the 12th century. More cells were added during the 13th and 14th centuries. Around 1540 the eastern wing was built with dark, damp, and isolated cells called Pozzi (wells).  In 1591 more cells were built in the upper eastern wing, under the lead roof, thus called Piombi. One of the more famous inmates was Giacomo Casanova.

He describes in his biography how he escaped through the roof, re-entered the palace, and exited through the Porta della Carta. There is a carving of Casanova’s portrait and a date on one of the prison’s window sills; it is not clear if he carved it himself or if it was done much later.

Life in these cells was very dark, cold, and damp. Water and food was provided by the citizens of Venice whose benevolence kept them alive.  Old buckets are testimony to the sanitation methods in these granite prison cells. Contents were dumped into the lagoon waters.

Palazzo dei Dogi (Doge's Palace)
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2005
 
One interesting room in the Doge’s Palace was the Compass Room where justice was served. A large wooden compass in a corner is overseen by the statue of Justice, hiding the entrance to the offices of the Three Heads of the Council of Ten and the State Inquisitors. It was an antechamber where those called in front of the magistrates waited patiently the disposition of their fate. The beautiful ceilings were painted by Veronese and the fireplace was designed by Sansovino. Beyond this room, there are two ways to exit, either pass the Armory and the New Prisons on the other side of the Bridge of Sighs, or go down the Censors’ Staircase to pass into the Council of Justice rooms on the first floor.

Doge's Palace Interior Courtyard
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2005
 
The magnificent Chamber of the Great Council represents the power of the Venetian Republic. It is the largest room in the Doge’s Palace and one of the largest rooms in Europe (53 m long and 25 m wide). The most important political body in the Venetian Republic, the Council was made up of male members of Venetian patrician families, at least 25 years old, regardless of merit, wealth, or personal status. A fire destroyed this room in 1577 and was restored in 1579-80 by artists such as Veronese, Jacopo, and Tintoretto.

The walls display Venetian history, tumultuous relationships with Popes and the Holy Roman Empire. The ceiling displays the Virtues and Venetian history. Portraits of the first 76 Doges are painted below the ceiling in a frieze. The rest of the Doges’ portraits are found in the Scrutinio Room. Each Doge is depicted holding a scroll which tells about his reign’s most important achievements. One Doge, Marin Faliero, who attempted a coup d’état in 1355, is pictured by a black cloth, a traitor to the Venetian Republic. The largest canvass painting in the world, il Paradiso, the work of Tintoretto and his shop, adorns the wall behind the Doge’s throne.

TO BE CONTINUED

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Canal Fulton, Ohio, a Historical Role in Transportation and Commerce

Photo: Ileana Johnson 2016
Canal Fulton is a small town in Stark County, Ohio, with a rich history of transportation and commerce. You wouldn’t know it today because Canal Fulton is a sleepy town of 5,479 (2010 census) along the historic Ohio & Erie Canal or what is left of it.

Three small villages developed along the Tuscarawas River. Fulton, originally baptized after a local pioneer, Ben Fulton, changed its name to Canal Fulton in 1832, to include the historic Ohio Canal now a block away from the center of town.

This tiny town is home to 80 buildings and sites listed on the National Historic Register.  Most interestingly, it is home to a mile and a quarter of the original 308 miles of the famous Ohio & Erie Canal. And I had the privilege to take a leisurely ride through history aboard the St. Helena III Canal Boat at the breakneck speed of 3 MPH.  This boat is a concrete replica of the second wooden boat built in 1970 which sits on stilts in dry dock in all its restored former glory.
The original wooden boat had rotted out beyond repair. A sepia photograph still exists of the original St. Helena. The second boat built in 1970 stayed in service for 18 years, pulled by mules. When the mules went to mule heaven, the concrete replica boat was built and Percheron horses have been used ever since to pull the boat along the canal.

Helena II restored
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2016
Surprisingly, concrete does float. For over an hour, time stood still while we were pulled along the canal by two Percheron horses, named Dan and Will, draft horses from the Perche province in western France, owned by a local Amish farmer. We were entertained by the amazing stories and banjo music of our lovely guide Ron, a retired civil engineer.

Ducks, turtles, fish, water snakes, and other critters highlighted the gentle glide on water and on the wings of time while cyclists, runners, walkers, and moms pushing strollers on the right tow path bank passed us laughing. In the old days the bank was only used as a tow path to pull boats.

We experienced life in the slow lane at the cruising speed of 3 MPH as it was for our great  grandfathers. The boat had no oars, no sails, no propellers, no engine, it only floated, as long as it was pulled by ropes. The boat was steered along the canal by a young lady who worked the tiller and the Percheron horses pulled the ropes, guided along the banks by two young Amish men who also helped pull the heavy ropes to allow the boat to turn once we reached the end of the remaining canal which terminated in a water lock.

Tranquility on the Canal Fulton
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2016
 
The four ft. deep canal could accommodate flat bottom boats that carried people and cargo. The boat we floated on was a modified freighter. Back in the days, it would have been really uncomfortable for people to ride in such a boat.  

End of Canal Fulton, Ohio
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2016
 
We floated under a wrought iron bridge built in 1890 for one wagon pulled by horses. It is the only bridge surviving – the rest were made of wood and had rotted out. The bridge is now used solely by pedestrians who cross the canal.

Canal Erie
Photo: Wikipedia
 
The Tuscarawas River flows to the right of the canal bank for over 100 miles before it meets the Ohio River. The Tuscarawas River was never used for navigation because it was too untamed and dangerous and in summer time too dry. But the fearless and experienced Indians floated their canoes along the many rivers in Ohio for centuries before the settlers came.

Dan & Will, Percheron horses
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2016
 
When Ohio became a state in 1803, it was one of the poorest states and last among the states in existence. By 1820 there were 580,000 residents.

In those days people in Ohio had no means of transportation except on foot or horse back. To go on horse, you had to hack away a four ft. wide trail. The dirt trail would turn into a quagmire in spring time and into a dry rocky hill in summer that could easily break a horse’s ankle. Trails meandered through large and dense forests. There were no towns, no stores, no hospitals, very few neighbors, just rivers to navigate on and Lake Erie.

Land was really cheap, $1.25 per acre, but in those days, the average person who lived in the village made $200 a year. Life expectancy was really low, 38 years. One out of five children did not live to see their first birthday. Many died in infancy and few adults lived to be 80. “When you turned 40, you might see an undertaker sneak up on you,” joked Ron.

Canal Fulton
Photo: Wikipedia
 
The State of Ohio looked at five ways to develop the Ohio River and Lake Erie and they chose two. The first one was this artificial canal, the Ohio Erie Canal, from the Ohio River to Lake Erie, 308 miles. It was built by the State of Ohio not the federal government.  Back then if you had the money, you could start digging immediately after the surveys were completed, no permits, applications, and regulations.

Canal Fulton
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2016
 
According to archives, “On July 4, 1825, at Licking Summit south of Newark, work began on the Ohio & Erie Canal.” The canal was built over a seven-year period; by 1827 they were already digging the ditch we were floating on, the following year they filled it up with water, and started to float wooden boats on it, 14 ft. wide, 80 ft. long so they could have two-way traffic  on the 40 ft. wide canal.

“On July 3, 1827, two years after the ground breaking, Governor Trimble and the canal commission boarded a canal boat in Akron and the next day arrived in Cleveland. By 1832 the entire 308 mile route of the Ohio & Erie was open to traffic.”

Immigrants from Ireland dug the canal and the channels and built the tow path. Immigrants from Germany did the stone work for the locks and dams. Five thousand men were working at any one time on the project. These guys worked six days a week, sunrise to sunset, for 30 1/3 cents per day in cash. Cash money did not exist in those days in the State of Ohio. Back in those days everything was done by barter.

Started in 1825, by 1832 the canal was completed to the Ohio River, 308 miles long, at a cost of $16 million. Today, guide Ron told us, “In Columbus, Ohio, we burn through $16 million in two hours.” Because it did not have the money to build the canal system, the State of Ohio floated bonds; it took until 1903 to pay them off, about the time the Wright Brothers “invented the first successful airplane.” https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/wright-brothers/online/fly/1903/

During construction, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever made workers sick for a month and a half, with no hospitals, and limited treatment.

The canal was only 40 ft. wide and it was difficult to turn boats around. Every few miles there was a wider area where boats could be turned around or tied to a tree for the night. There was enough room to tie up to fifteen boats. Boats were tied so close to each other that you could walk across their roofs. Many boats were operated by families and children as young as six became part of the crew.

Agricultural products, flour, grain, coal, and other raw materials were ferried across the canals. There were 146 locks on the canal and it took a lot of time to clear a lock. On a busy day, there were 100 boats waiting to go through a lock. Water level was maintained through dams and sluices.

Life on a canal boat that carried passengers was miserable, hot, crowded, and painful. The sanitation buckets were dumped into the water, the very same water they used later boiled to drink and to make tea.

The concrete St. Helena III boat could carry about 80 tons of cargo, no benches, chairs, or anything of comfort, just bunk beds and a pot belly stove. For families who operated the boat, it was an uncomfortable home for 8-9 months of the year.

The Miami & Erie Canal was 250 miles long once and connected Lake Erie with the Ohio River; the state still owns 75 miles of it, the largest watered section is 44 miles and is located along the Loramie Summit. The hydraulics are maintained by the Division of Parks and Recreation employees.

The remaining watered section of the Ohio & Erie Canal is also located on the summit, maintained as a water supply for local industries.

By 1850s the railroads came to the Fulton area at 12 MPH; even jumping off tracks or breaking down, trains were still four times as fast as canal boats and could pull much more than 80 ton of cargo at a time.

 “The canals prospered until 1855, the year revenue receipts were their highest. At its peak, Ohio's canal system consisted of almost 1,000 miles of main line canals, feeders and side cuts. Located in forty-four of Ohio's eighty-eight counties, the canals touched the lives of all the state's citizens. After 1855 the impact of the railroads began to be felt, and by 1903 water sales income from selling canal water to businesses and industries exceeded the income from freight carried on the canal.” http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/canals

 

 

 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Louisiana Flood of 2016 and the Yangtze River Flood of 1931 Not Caused by Climate Change

Photo: Wikipedia
The severe flooding in Louisiana, the result of torrential rain and the location of Baton Rouge 56 ft. above sea level, contributed to the destruction of 40,000 homes. More than 30,000 people and 1,000 pets had to be rescued.

The New York Times  published a story immediately, “Flooding in the South Looks a Lot Like Climate Change,” blaming the flood on the global warming hoax created by the very profitable climate change industry.

Al Gore said, “These kinds of record downpours – that’s one of the manifestations of the climate crisis.”  The community of Watson had a record 31.39 inches of rain during the downpour. http://fuelfix.com/blog/2016/08/16/al-gore-houston-louisiana-floods-exacerbated-by-climate-change/

Nicolas Loris points to two studies by climatologists Patrick Michaels and Paul Knappenberger that seem to contradict Al Gore and the New York Times. In the Daily Signal, Loris quoted Chip Knappenberger, “Lower Louisiana is a climatologically prime location for massive precipitation amounts.”  http://dailysignal.com/2016/08/17/the-facts-show-louisianas-floods-not-caused-by-man-made-climate-change/?utm_source=TDS_Email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MorningBell&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTWpkbU1tVmtZekZqT1RkaiIsInQiOiJPUysySWxTWEgxN082M1lORWV1UjZVcGRCRW9PTFZuUWlHUVlSazhqTEhwZE1pTUliNnRxMzFhaWpPSTNLMWNIWnNwc29BaDd1cnpyQm1HNjNrM2VtK0xFSXNFYmRIWGhaT1J4b1ZcL09sN0k9In0%3D

Patrick Michael’s and Chip Knappenberger’s paper reported, ”Our findings indicate that the climate variability of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans can exert a large control on the precipitation frequency and magnitude over the contiguous USA.” http://www.cato.org/blog/you-ought-have-look-natural-climate-variability

In a second paper, by a research team at NOAA/GFDL, Karin van der Wiel et al, who analyzed “climate model projections and observed trends in heavy precipitation events across the United States,” wrote, “Finally, the observed record and historical model experiments were used to investigate changes in the recent past. In part because of large intrinsic variability, no evidence was found for changes in extreme precipitation attributable to climate change in the available observed record.” http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0307.1

Iman Malakpour and Gabrielle Villarini, researchers at the University of Iowa, wrote about their study,  Analysis of changes in the magnitude, frequency, and seasonality of heavy precipitation over the contiguous USA, that “over the last 65 years, the stronger storms are not getting stronger, but a larger number of heavy precipitation events have been observed. The annual maximum precipitation and annual frequency of heavy precipitation reveal a marked seasonality over the contiguous USA.” http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00704-016-1881-z

Knappenberger mentioned the NOAA study of June 1978 when the main stream media focused then on the next ice age and global cooling, not global warming.  The 100-page document described the various levels of tropical storm precipitation, moisture, and rainfall around the country. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/oh/hdsc/PMP_documents/HMR51.pdf

Even the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported, “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale.” http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_Chapter02_FINAL.pdf

But before Al Gore’s global warming movie and the profitable global climate change industry, there was the flood of August 18, 1931, when the Yangtze River peaked and killed 3.7 million people “directly and indirectly over the next several months,” as reported by the History Channel in 2009.

In April 1931 China the rainfall was above average. Torrential rains in July exacerbated the previous conditions and the Yangtze River flooded a 500-square mile area. Waters continued to rise in August as more rain fell and flooded the rice fields, destroying the crop. The population of the adjoining cities who depended on the rice crop starved to death or died from typhoid and dysentery from the polluted river, “perhaps the worst natural disaster of the 20th century.”

This Chinese region is densely populated and thus people depend on the Yangtze River for water for personal and farming needs. Millions died from starvation and disease simply because flood-control measures were not enforced.  The Yangtze River “carries large amount of sediment, which accumulates in certain areas of the river and must be cleared regularly, However, with much of the area’s resources devoted to civil war at the time, the river was neglected.” http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/yangtze-river-peaks-in-china

The facts that natural disasters occur for reasons other than global warming, such as oceanic currents and underwater volcanic eruptions, are inconvenient details for the environmental/green growth agenda.

 

 

 

 

Monday, August 15, 2016

How Much Did the Equally-Poor Proletariat Travel?

A rare photograph of my mom and dad, second row left and of
my grandma on the first row (taken in the village)
For the first twenty years of my life, I never traveled much.  I have actually seen more of the world since I escaped the clutches of Ceausescu’s communism than I had actually seen of my own country as I was growing up. I changed that in the last five years when my husband and I did cover at least half of Romania. But I still have not seen the other half and I find that to be so sad because Romania is not that big of a country. It is beautiful, with stunning vistas and a rich history, but very small when compared to the United States. And I have seen a lot of the United States!

I wanted to visit the world then, to get away from the communist oppression, but my parents were very poor, everybody was really poor, and the only people allowed to travel were communist elites and their families.

Athletes, ballet dancers, and famous opera singers were given visas to go on tours after much debate, interrogations, investigations, and threats that the remaining loved ones would be imprisoned should they decide not to return.  Political operatives were assigned to follow them like shadows during the entire foreign trip. There were not many opportunities to escape the political babysitters.

The rest of the proletariat was equally exhausted and miserable to care whether they went anywhere or not. It was hard enough to find food and to trudge each day from work to a cold home in winter, no water, no hot water, no toilet paper, no medicine in pharmacies, no food on shelves, just long and endless lines. Who had energy left to even dream about traveling?

People ran from work with a jute shopping bag in hand to join a huge line forming around the block, not knowing what was on sale, but they knew whatever it was, it was in short supply, and they would need it.

Once, Joe told me, a long line formed in Bucharest in the mid-80s to sign a book of condolences for a Russian communist dignitary who had just passed away. People stood in line winding around several blocks and were madly disappointed and furious when they got to the front of the line after hours of standing and there was no food or toilet paper with splinters for sale. I actually saved a small scrap of this toilet paper and have shown it to my students over the years but it seems that the lesson flew by their ears and eyes as they voted in droves for communist “social justice” in this country.

One evening, going home to his safe house, my friend Joe bought a tray of freshly picked cherries for his friends who were coming over to watch a movie. It was common for people who did not own TVs to get together on weekends at someone’s house that had a TV and watch whatever movie was on that night. They ate the tasty cherries in the dark when suddenly, his daughter who went into the kitchen to get a glass of water, screamed in horror. The table was crawling with white worms from the empty cherry crate. Nobody bothered to tell Joe that almost all fruits, but especially cherries, plums, and apples, had worms due to lack of pesticides. Like everything else, chemicals were in short supply as well and fruit flies overwhelmed the crops. The five year communist party plan worked like a charm from the Tower of Babel – nothing made sense, it was just communist rhetorical babble, impossible to translate into real life.

To this day, mom views with suspicion any fruit that I bring her to eat. She even thinks that bananas, when they turn slightly brown, have worms. I wrote a story about her titled, “Wormy Bananas.” http://canadafreepress.com/article/wormy-banana

It was a real treat to go see my aunt and uncle at the Black Sea during summer vacations. Mom and dad scrounged enough money for the train ticket and the daily bus fare to the beach; my parents hoped that Mom’s brother fed me for the duration. I was used to little food so being fed once a day was no big departure from my routine.

I honestly don’t know how I lasted every day at the beach without food and water, without passing out. My skin turned a honey brown hue after a few burned layers peeled off and a few treatments with yogurt to draw out the heat from the burned skin. I had no lotion with SPF to protect my skin nor sunglasses to shield my eyes from harmful rays. And I could not swim at the time. The water was murky black from the algae, hence the name, the Black Sea, dangerous to be in at any speed.

My aunt and uncle were considered much better off than we were simply because she worked in the port and got to bring home whatever things may have spilled in the cargo of a ship, including the famous barter currency, Kent cigarettes, while my mom’s brother worked in a wine factory where it was easy to barter wine for other foods. They were not starving for sure, had a well-stocked fridge and pantry, and a small but much nicer furnished apartment, and they certainly ate well.

My uncle owned a dark green Russian made car that had seen better days twenty years earlier. He drove it once in a blue moon; most of the time it sat in a garage being washed, hand-polished, and tuned every weekend as if it was a prized jewel.

He even bought a motorcycle, an unprecedented luxury that attracted the attention of the financial police. I am sure he bribed his way out of that investigation predicament. His wife and daughter had the nicest clothes from the west, bought from foreign tourists who discarded their clothes upon leaving for home in favor of hand-made souvenirs. Some commercial ships would bring in brand new goods they would sell on the black market to people like them who had excess cash.

I think my aunt and uncle took me once to Tomis, then a beautiful art deco restaurant at the edge of the sea and made fun of my disgust upon seeing for the first time, shrimp, frog legs, and escargot.

I would look at all the foreign young people having a good time in places we, the proletariat’s children were not allowed in, such as discos, but the children of the moneyed communist elites were invited in with open arms.

I traveled in 1977 to Sofia, Bulgaria, shortly after the 7.2 Richter scale earthquake which took place that spring. It was a distraction my parents could barely afford but they wanted me to keep my sanity in college when I had to pass by mounds of rubble of collapsed buildings with the stench of death.

It was then that I realized how truly incompetent the communist regime was in the face of disaster and how inadequate in its heavily promoted care for the people. They were so dishonest in their outright theft that they even stole the donated blankets from the west – we knew because they appeared for sale in certain department stores. The commie elites only cared about themselves and their rich lives.

Once in a blue moon, my mom would pay for me to go on a school trip, usually to Sinaia, at Peles Castle, to a museum, or to Poiana Brasov, then an unspoiled mountain meadow with a winter ski resort for the elites and the European rich. My dad was skittish about letting me go. He always had a morbid image that his only child might roll into a ravine with the school bus. Sinaia was not far away from our hometown, Ploiesti, but it was at the end of a mountain road composed of constant hairpin curves. I never did appreciate my dad’s fear until I drove through it myself, decades later. The vertiginous drops at the bottom of the mountain were breathtaking and scary.

The proletariat was allowed to go on picnics on Sundays, a good distraction from attending church which was frowned upon. Grills were fired up in the communist-owned outdoor restaurant or people brought their own food to eat on a blanket on the green grass. It was such a treat to feel grass under your bare feet because stepping on grass in the city resulted in a big fine and signs everywhere alerted the pedestrians to stay away.

Children were happy, playing ball, hide and seek, tag, and picking wild flowers, not a care on their minds because they did not understand the world around them.

Beer was abundant and relatively cheap at these outdoor booths and many got drunk to forget their dreary lives. At the end of the day, the forested patch of green heaven on the outskirts of town looked like a trash pile. This bad habit to discard refuse in nature has not died today.  I saw with my own eyes the trash dumped in beautiful and pristine areas. At the same time, the tiny trash bins were empty then, absent or overflowing today because nobody empties them often enough.

Ceausescu had hired crews of gypsies to sweep the streets with big brooms made of twigs but the recreational green areas were not tended to with as much care or picked up as much.

The extent of most people’s travels was to the neighboring villages were their relatives and parents still lived, on a radius of maybe 20 miles. The buses were old and rickety, spewing black smoke and the travel was not comfortable and it certainly was not fun. Visiting relatives and returning home with a dozen eggs, a pat of cheese, one liter of fresh milk, or a live chicken helped the family survive for the week.

Baptisms, weddings, and burials were valid reasons for travel but again, relatives did not have to go very far because mobility was not encouraged by the totalitarian regime – you had to have a permit to move from the village to the city. If you were caught living in the city without a permit, you were fined, and possibly arrested. People were born, lived their entire lives, and died in the same town or village, no possibility of upper or lateral mobility.

Trains took us further out but a one hundred- mile journey could take all day as they stopped at every little village. The faster trains that stopped less were much more expensive and beyond the reach of most people. Flying was something only stars did in the movies and the president and his entourage.

The proletariat was rewarded for their hard work with subsidized tickets to a two-week wellness resort run by the state. During this time each person was treated to massages, mineral water wells, mud baths, cafeteria food, and a hotel room. The sad thing was that they could not travel as a family. Only one person per family at a time was allowed such a luxury and they could not pick the time, the communist labor union did.

My parents went together to such a resort years after I left Romania. Growing up, I don’t ever recall when my parents went on vacation together and only a handful of times when they went to a nice restaurant – those were reserved for the fat elites. And children were always left at home.

 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

De-Nationalize and Globalize at the Expense of Working Families in America


I have described in my book, “Liberty on Life Support,” the American economy and the country in general as a comatose patient.  There was even a widely circulating cartoon on social media picturing Uncle Sam on a hospital gurney, attached to life support, barely clinging to life. At first glance it may seem a gross exaggeration until you actually look at the national debt clock, understand the true state of the economy, the condition of the socialist and collectivist education driven by Common Core, and the political power and corruption.

It seems that fundamental changes are occurring around the globe, driving countries to de-nationalize, to destroy their sovereignty, and to globalize under the guidance of the same U.N. elites who know what is best for an “overpopulated planet” that is going to be destroyed by a manufactured global warming Armageddon.

If we accept the financial terms dictated by the trillion-dollar climate change industry, too vested into its own financial gain to care about the inhabitants whose lives and futures are expendable to the whims of the few billionaires, we might be spared our doomsday fate by allowing ourselves to be literally taxed to death. Money always solves problems for bureaucrats; why not tame Mother Nature with taxed money as well?

Our country is a sick patient who is being experimented upon by transnational groups that are intravenously administering “transfusion” therapies that are not in the best interest of the patient. It is an experiment that is supposed to prepare the patient for integration into the global master plan.

These transfusions seem to be quite toxic to the sick patient, especially when the treatment is administered against the will of the people. Once the patient is infused with so much globalism, the arteries are left wide open and the patient is likely to die, unable to defend himself from the onslaught of foreign body invasions.  At such a point, nationalism will disappear, sovereignty will be gone, and the strange idea of global citizenship will become mandatory.

Alienating people from their national roots, from their identity, culture, language, and history, will certainly endanger their safety and survival. This transfusion of globalism is likely to change the patient from a solid nationalist grounded in history into a Frankenstein-ish metamorphosis that will remove the patient’s spine.

The fundamental transformation around the globe is not going to leave any country unscathed or unaffected. The master plan is composed of many treaties, public-private partnerships, committees, organizations, and other foundations for the “public good.” Unfortunately, the good public had no input into its own plans, and was never invited at the planning table.

Here are some developments that have already occurred, fully advanced and propagandized by the main stream media:

-          The institution of family has been discouraged and derided; fertility rates have dropped precipitously among the civilized world.

-          Large groups of people have left their countries for economic reasons or were displaced by war and tribal rivalries.

-          Increasing health issues due to poor nutrition or poisoning of the food supply with unnecessary toxic substances used as “preservatives.”

-          The dumbing-down of education, glorifying mediocrity and bad behavior, excusing violence, deriding honor, love, kindness, patriotism, respect, sacrifice, diluting and destroying the work ethic, and erasing history, culture, and ancestors of note.

-          Destruction of the societal cohesion united under one nation and one God.

-          The excessive and massive spending that put many countries into huge and unpayable national debts, affecting the future of generations to come.

-          The damage to Christianity and the Church through its transformation into a political body that advocates collectivism and social justice.

-          The destruction of traditional capitalism and private property and replacement with crony capitalism.

-          Corruption and harm to the rule of law.

-          Promotion and advocacy of atheism, pornography, and deviant life styles as the forced norm.

-          Endorsing abortion, the sale of body parts, and trafficking of human organs and of sex slaves.

-          Societal reorganization around the climate change industry under a master plan called Agenda 2030.

-          Giving up sovereignty to an international body such as the United Nation, or to a transnational entity like the European Union, or to a partnership such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Presidential candidate Donald Trump talked about China and the bad trade deals that Congress has made with foreign countries to the detriment of our nation. It flew by the ears of most people unless they were directly involved or victims of such bad trade deals like NAFTA.

On November 5, 2015, our government released the full 6,000-page document of Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP, a proposed 12-nation trade deal which is skimpy on trade and large on giving away our manufacturing sector to the third world. https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/trans-pacific-partnership/tpp-full-text

Seeking to establish one huge market, similar to the failed EU, TPP proposes to eliminate tariffs and other barriers to goods and services, trade, and investment, production and supply chains among TPP members, creating jobs in places other than U.S., raising the third world’s living standards by transfer of wealth, and increase welfare in third world nations. The tariff schedule includes “all goods,” about “11,000 tariff lines” and “all service sectors.”

Investments will be made via TPP in digital economy, green technology, commercial relations, and capacity building assistance in needy countries (more wealth transfer from the U.S.). Little or no customs control will release goods immediately. Cross-border services will be supplied electronically. Digital E-commerce, environment, and custom duties are also addressed.

Under environment heading, marine fisheries, conservation issues, biodiversity, invasive alien species, climate change, and environmental goods and services are discussed. This document seems more about every facet of the economy and much less about trade.

Financial services, government procurement, intellectual property, investment, labor, legal issues, rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, telecommunications, temporary entry, textiles and apparel, and trade remedies are included in this huge document.

If Congress has not read the 2,700-page Affordable Care Act before passing it in secret, in the dead of night, they certainly will not read this monstrous 6,000-page TPP proposed trade bill. Immediately, Bernie Sanders office wrote that the bill was “worse than I thought.”

"This trade deal would make it easier for corporations to shut down more factories in the U.S. and ship more jobs to Vietnam and Malaysia where workers are paid pennies an hour. The TPP is a continuation of our disastrous trade policies that have devastated manufacturing cities and towns all over this country from Newton, Iowa, to Cleveland, Ohio. We need to rebuild the disappearing middle class, not tear it down.”

"The TPP would allow foreign corporations to sue federal, state and local governments in an international tribunal for passing an increase in the minimum wage or any other law that could hurt expected future profits.

"The agreement would threaten American laws that protect the safety of the drugs we take, the seafood we feed our families and the toys our kids play with every day.

"At a time when prescription drug prices are skyrocketing, the TPP would make a bad situation even worse by granting new monopoly rights to big pharmaceutical companies to deny access to lower cost generic drugs to millions of people.

"Outrageously, the proposed agreement includes violators of international human rights, like Brunei, where gays and single mothers can be stoned to death and Malaysia where tens of thousands of immigrant workers in the electronics industry are working as modern day slaves.” http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/bad-trade-deal-worse-than-i-thought-sanders-says

I found myself agreeing with the socialist Bernie Sanders that a trade deal should benefit our country, our working families, not CEOs of multi-national corporations looking for cheap labor, low corporate taxation, and no burdensome rules and regulations.

According to A. J. Cameron, “free trade is euphemism for moving jobs out of the U.S. with the intention of destroying the U.S. economy, in order to bring us into the One World Government fold. NAFTA and GATT were just warm-ups for TPP.” The concept of free trade is just a ruse to facilitate the redistribution of jobs to other countries. The U.S. loses because “free trade stifles employment and wage growth,” forcing more Americans to depend on government for daily subsistence. Cameron believes that “the corporate tax rate is artificially high to provide cover for globalists to offshore operations and jobs. They have created a problem and designed a solution that only profits them.”

Corporatist globalists win all around because of lower wages and job redistribution overseas where regulations and anti-pollution measures are lax or non-existent which allows them to pollute away. This flies in the face of their so-called concern for the environment and for green growth much touted business model.

China is not part of this “treaty” they call “partnership.” But there is a provision for a non-member nation to request membership into this “slush fund” for the corporatist elites.

Whether this profound crisis across the globe will motivate citizens to save the comatose patient called USA remains to be seen. The experimental global change to de-nationalize, to devolve us into multi-nation “partnerships” in the name of free trade, and the fundamental transformation of western societies will have deep and long-lasting consequences for generations to come.