My life in Colombia
Welcome to the blog of Chip Wiegand
I decide to take a particular road and am then involved in an accident. Life would be different.
If I had left just 10 seconds later, would I have missed that accident? Life would be different.
If I had taken a different road, would I have missed that accident? Life would be different.
You decide to go out for dessert; you sit at one particular table facing a particular direction, would we have met? Life would be different.
You could have walked a different route than you usually walk, would we have met? Life would be different.
A different path results in a different life, a different future.
If I had taken the route I usually take, you and I possibly would never have met. Life would be different.
If I had left a minute or two later you and I may not have met. Life would be different.
If you had chosen a different route, you and I may not have met. Life would be different.
This is something I struggle with - does life have different paths?
The bible talks about being "predestined" but just what does that mean? And how much of our day-to-day life is "predestined"?
I wonder about this because I have been a Christian all my life, and have been taught about predestination in church sermons over the years. But, how much of our life is prestestined? All of it? Every second? Every minute? Or just the overall story of our life - the beginning and the end?
Am I on the only possible path for my life?
Is there possibly another path that I can't possibly know, or be aware of, even if I'm on it?
Another day, another mass shooting. 2019.
Mass shootings and shootings total 253 so far this year. That's more shootings than days.
First, in the map are many dots, each one represents a mass shooting. The map was put together by the Gun Violence Archive (www.shootingtracker.com). They consider a mass shooting as being 4 or more people shot and/or killed in one location and at one time. For reference, the FBI considers 3 or more to be a mass shooting.
Just this past week we have seen 4 mass shootings in my home country. What is wrong with that place? I'm struggling with what to make of it. My mind is boggled by what I see on the news. Never in my life has life in the US been so thrown out of sync, so far from the norm, upside-down. What's even more mind-boggling is how so many people continue to support the man who espouses hatred and racism, the man who encourages violence against other people simply because he himself doesn't like the color of their skin - who is that man? The Fool on the Hill, the President of the US.
The internet, the media, video games, television, immigrants - the Fool on the Hill blames those for the problem of mass shootings, he says those are the root problem. Those are not the reason for mass shootings. When I grew up we played "cowboys and Indians" pretend shooting each other with our toy guns, and if we didn't have toy guns we used sticks and pretended they were guns. We had other types of violent toys that we played with and those things haven't created a generation of murderers. He talked about social media companies developing ways to find and block those who write about violence against others.
The Fool simply uses those as scapegoats for his own failings. He fans the fuel that pushes these people over the line. So, if he wants more investigations, more examinations, of social media posts, etc, does that include investigation and examination of his own twit posts? Rather than seeking real solutions to gun violence he says video games and the internet and media are to blame and need more control. Seriously?
When another mass shooting happens immediately the shooter is said to be insane, crazy, mentally ill, etc. I don't mean to defend any mass-shooter, but consider this - These shooters, not all of them are mentally ill. Yes, they probably have some kind of mental issues, but literally, legally mentally ill? After a mass shooting people, family members and friends of the shooter, are interviewed and talk about the shooter. "Oh, he was such a nice, sweet, gentle, etc, young man. I would never have suspected he could do such a thing." Often we hear that they suspected there might be some problem of some kind - they had guns, trained to use them, wrote certain things on social media, said certain things to others, but nobody, none of the family or friends, said anything about it to anyone. Why? Why don't people report such things to someone in authority? Are they afraid to offend thier family member or friend? Would they be diagnosed as mentally ill if somehow they spoke with a psychiatrist before ever pulling a trigger? I can't judge them, you can't judge them, as mentally ill sickos. We want to believe that every one of those mass shooters is mentally ill, but the fact is, chances are, they weren't/aren't certifiably mentally ill. They may have some kind of issues to deal with, but actually, legally insane? Crazy? I've known people who I swear have some kind of mental illness, but I'm not qualified to make that judgement. And really, maybe they were just suffering extreme insecurity, low self-esteem, depression, etc.
There are 3 countries in the world that give their people the right to own guns in their constitutions. What countries are those? The US, Mexico, and Guatemala. What's different about those other two countries' constitutions from the US constitution? They have restrictions written in their constitutions in regards to guns, the US has no restrictions of any kind. That is one problem that has lead to where the US is today, people interpret the lack of restrictions as being equal to "everything is allowed". They completely ignore the society in which the constitution was originally written. In light of the lack of restrictions we should consider the period of time it was written, don't simply call it a blank check and fill in anything you want.
What can be done about? I don't have any perfect answer, nobody, absolutely nobody, has the perfect solution. But, I believe what we can do can include such things as ban all assault style weapons from private ownership; ban all clips larger than for 5 bullets for any and all weapons that use clips. Ban all semi-auto weapons of any kind from private use; None of that infringes on a person's right to own a gun for personal defense. Those weapons are designed for and meant for the military, not personal use. In the 1930's the US banned certain guns - tommy guns, machine guns, and guess what? The country did not come to an end. Life did not end. People did not cry and moan and protest. Also, make sure that every gun sale, every gun sale of any kind in any location in the country, by any person, must include a full universal background check. Then make the violation of those hurt the persons pocketbook so bad that they cannot imagine how they will pay it. Not jail time (jail is for violent offenders, not non-violent offenders), but a fine, a huge fine, a mortgage-the-house size fine. And, finally, modify the constitution. I know that is unimaginable to most US citizens. After all, that constitution is holier than the bible. But it desperately needs to be updated to the 21st century. That document is obsolete in many ways and patching it with amendments is only putting band-aids on broken bones.
Will banning certain types of guns end mass shootings? No, I'm not foolish enough to believe that. Will universal background checks end mass shootings? No. But those two things will certainly reduce the number and severity of mass shootings.
It's time to end all the talk and arguing about what to do about gun control and mass shootings. The time has come for a leader, a strong leader, not the lush in the Whitehouse now, to make the tough decisions without concern for what the Democrats and Republicanss will say about it. That leader needs to say I don't care what you think, this is what we are going to do, no more arguing about it, period, the end. And put this country back on the track it was on up until a few short years ago.
People all over the world often think of the USA as the number 1 country in the world. People in the US think their country is the number one country in the world. While it is true the US is the number one economy in the world, in other categories the statistics tell another story.
I researched many categories of statistics for many countries, from various sources that rank countries, and present what I found below. From these various sources of information we learn that the USA is not numero uno in any categories that a US citizen can take pride in.
Look at the politics of the US - a mess beyond imagination, for citizens and non-citizens alike. Look at the polarized society that is moving backwards, that is, towards more segregation, more separation of people into groups. Whatever happened to bringing the people together that Martin Luther King, Jr. espoused? That is a long forgotten dream in today's United States.
Being an expat, and speaking with lots of people about many subjects, one subject that always comes up is life in the States. These people have such big ideas of how great it would be to live there. I ask them, "Why? What do you think is so much better there than what you have here?" And their responses are always based on what they have seen on TV and in the movies. The people I have talked to here in Colombia who have visited the States, and the ones who have lived there but are back in their home country again, all say they much prefer life here in Colombia. They know from personal experience that what the US has to offer is not necessarily better than what they have right here in their own country.
So, herein are a few of the categories that show how the US compares to the rest of the world. I present these in no particular order.
Number of expatriates
An expat is a person who has left their home country to live/work (for an extended period of time or permanently) in a foreign country. It appears every source of info about expats has wildly different statistics, so who's to know the truth of these numbers? And, some contradict themselves within the same webpage.
One source, ParagonRelocation, says that Saudi Arabia and India have the most people expatriating, but also says the USA and UAE follow Saudi Arabia.
The best guestimates of the number of US citizens who are considered expats runs about 5.2 million, or 6.3 million, and according to Wikipedia there are 9 million US expats, and many other estimates. According to the website justlanded.com the US ranks 6th in the number of expats, after Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, France, USA. The problem is there is no database of expats, there is no registration of expats, there are no definitive numbers, only guestimates.
Regardless, the US is very high up on the list of countries with people leaving, if not at the top of the list.
Quality of Life
What does the phrase "quality of life" mean? From USNews.com: The "ideas of broad access to food and housing, to quality education and health care, to employment that will sustain us, quality of life may also include intangibles such as job security, political stability, individual freedom and environmental quality". The number 1 ranked country in the world for the first half of 2019 was Canada. Where did the US come in on the list? ranks 17th.
Health CareIn the States we often see news articles and stories telling about somebody going to some other country to get some surgery done and how little it cost including airfare/hotel/food etc. We also see all kinds of reports that talk about the high cost of health care. But, how does it compare to the rest of the world? According to numbeo.com the US ranks ranks 30th in the world (according to their own surveys). According to internationalinsurance.com the US ranks ranks 11th in the world (they say their info comes from the Commonwealth Fund). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did a ranking and they show the US at #29. And, the World Health Organization put the US at #37 in 2018. Yet the US spends far more money per capita on health care than any other country. Here are a few statistics I found on the WHO website, these are for 2018 - According to the WHO in 2018 the US spent more than twice as much, per capita, than the #1 ranked country - France. The OECD data shows the US has the ranks 11th highest infant mortality rate; tied for the ranks 9th highest suicide rate; ranks 28th for life expectancy from birth (78.6 years); deaths from cancer the US ranks ranks 13th. Another source, premieroffshore.com, says the US ranks ranks 49th in life expectancy and ranks 178th in infant mortality, apparently those numbers came from a study published in the academic journal Health Affairs.
But, are you ready for this? The USA is number 1 in - health care spending. Not exactly something to take pride in.
Isn't the US number 1 in education? No, unfortunately it's not. We're far from the top slot. In fact, according to the 2015 PISA ratings (The Program for International Student Assessment, it tests 15-year-olds) the USA ranks ranks 23rd in the category of Reading, ranks 39th in Math, and ranks 25th in Science. The TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Assessment tests ranks 4th and ranks 8th grade students). On the TIMSS 2015 test we see the US ranked at ranks 13th for math and ranks 9th for science for ranks 4th grade students; ranks 9th for math and ranks 10th for science for ranks 8th grade students.
What about doing business in the USA? We have lots of data from the World Bank to look at and compare.
Let's look at "Economy ratings". The World Bank description for this category is: "A high ease of doing business ranking means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm. The rankings are determined by sorting the aggregate scores on 10 topics, each consisting of several indicators, giving equal weight to each topic. The rankings for all economies are benchmarked to May 2018."
Freedom of the Press
I looked at the Reporters Without Borders website to get this number - the USA ranks, ready for this?, 48th! Terrible! And, that has dropped since the previous rankings. Hmm, I wonder why? I think that's pretty obvious.
Surely we can do better in this area, right? Let's see what do we can find on the Heritage Foundation website, USA rank: 12th freest economy in the world. Not #1, again. In the Americas the USA ranks 2nd to Canada, and has Chile nipping at our heels.
Shall we see if we're the happiest country in the world? What do you think? The smart people at the Happiness Research Institute publish what is probably the most authoritative of the many happiness reports available, and according to their rankings the US is not number one, as I feared, we fell another position since last year. The US is now ranked, in the new 2019 rankings, at 19th.
Freedom from Corruption
Surely we rank high in this category, yes? According to Transparency.org the USA ranks 22nd in "corruption perception". This is how they describe "corruption perception": "The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. More than two-thirds of countries score below 50 on this year's CPI, with an average score of just 43.
"It reveals that the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world. While there are exceptions, the data shows that despite some progress, most countries are failing to make serious inroads against corruption."
Ok, not looking too good, yet, so howabout children vaccination rate? According to the OECD web site (the latest data is from 2018) the US is not number one, China is. Where is the USA? At 28th. Interestingly, such countries as Russia, Poland, Chile, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Korea, Portugal and others rate higher than the US.
Length of Hospital Stay
According to the OECD site this means "The average length of stay in hospitals (ALOS) is often used as an indicator of efficiency. All other things being equal, a shorter stay will reduce the cost per discharge and shift care from inpatient to less expensive post-acute settings." And again, the US is not even in the top 5, but it's not too far down the list, coming in at 9th, so we do make it into the top 10. Who is number one, you ask? Turkey, with an average length of hospital stay of 4.1 days. The US average length of hospital stay is 5.5 days. (The OECD webpage says the data is 2018 or newer.)
Things are looking a little better in this category. In regards to "Permanent agricultural land" which is defined by the OECD as "Agricultural land is defined as the land area that is either arable, under permanent crops, or under permanent pastures" the USA is ranked 3rd, after Russia and Australia.
In Fisheries the US ranks 3rd as well, behind Russia and Indonesia.
Household Disposable Income
The OECD defines this as "Household disposable income measures the income of households (wages and salaries, self-employed income, income from unincorporated enterprises, social benefits, etc.), after taking into account net interest and dividends received and the payment of taxes and social contributions. Net signifies that depreciation costs have been subtracted from the income presented. "Real" means that the indicator has been adjusted to remove the effects of price changes. Household gross adjusted disposable income is the income adjusted for transfers in kind received by." So, where does the US rank in this? 13th.
40th. Yes, the US ranks 40th in Labor compensation per hour worked.
3rd in Net National Income.
Moving on to Education Spending. The US does spend a lot of money on education, and in the OECD rankings the US is ranked as 2nd highest spending country, after Luxembourg.
But, what about crude oil production? No. Infrastructure investment? No. Passenger transport? No. Road accidents? Thankfully, no, we're number 2. Air pollution? Again, thankfully, no, we're number 9. Government reserves? No. Life expectancy at birth? No. Overweight and obese people? No, thankfully, though we are number 3. Household access to the internet? We're 27th. Which is terrible considering that the internet was invented here in the USA by our DARPA.
What about CT Scanners? Surely, with the greatest health care system we should have the most CT Scanners, right? Wrong, we're number 4, after Greece, Latvia, and Germany. Thankfully we're 37th in daily smokers. But, we're 29th in deaths from cancer (all types of cancers included in this number). Number of doctors? Number of doctor visits? I didn't count, we're way down the list in both categories.
Okay, next let's look at the number of people who fall below the poverty line - the US ranks 4th. At least we're not first, and that's a good thing. Who are the top three? South Africa, Costa Rica, and Israel. For kids under 17 living at the poverty level and below we are ranked 7th; and for people 66 and older: 8th. Regardless of how you think of those numbers, for the country with the biggest economy in the world, the country that is supposed to be numero uno in the world, those numbers are not good.
Hey! I found one we are number one in! It's Permanent immigrant inflows described as "regulated movements of foreigners considered to be settling in the country from the perspective of the destination country. They cover regulated movements of foreigners as well as free movement migration." That means the USA is the most popular country to emmigrate to. The USA is #1. This is just the 2nd category I've come across in the data that we are number 1.
In regards to gun ownership, there are only 3 countries in the world that permit gun ownership by citizens in their constitutions, as a right - The United States, Mexico, and Guatamala. But there is a big difference between the US and the other two - the constitutions of Mexico and Guatamala include specific and restrictive conditions on gun ownership. As of 2018 the US ranks number 1 in the world in gun ownership, not something you should take pride in. There were 101 guns per 100 people in the USA. The second place country is Serbia with 58 guns per 100 people. This gun ownership info comes from worldatlas.com.
So, now we have seen 3 areas the USA is number 1 - health care spending, Permanent immigrant inflows, and gun ownership.
Now I will tell you a fourth area the US is #1 - the number of citizens incarcerated. Wonderful, that's something to be proud of. NOT! That number comes from the website statista.com. The U.S. prison population accounts for more than one-fifth of the global total despite the country's general population share being less than five percent.
Okay, that's enough, that's 47 areas of statistics. The USA ranks #1 in the world in 4 of those areas, and they are not anything to take pride in.
While in a lesson with a student our conversation turned to the opioid crisis and so we went to the OECD web site to look at the stats. What did we find? Not surprisingly, the USA is number 1 in the world in the category "Mean availability of analgesic opioids", and number 1 by a long ways above the number 2 country - Germany. But, what are analgesic opioids? "Analgesic opioids include codeine, dextropropoxyphene, dihydrocodeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, ketobemidone, oxycodone, pethidine, tilidine and trimeperidine. It does NOT include illicit opioids." On the OECD that talks about opioids they do say "Capturing the size of the illicit opioids market is very difficult." But, they do have stats for seizures of illicit opioids, and where does the US stand on that? Number 6th. Continuing down the page we find "Opioid-related deaths" and where does the US rank? Want to guess? Did you guess number 1? If so, you're right - opioid-related deaths. And number 2 is Canada. The problem with statistics in regards to illegal drugs is there are no reliable stats, therefore finding any real rankings for countries and usage of illegal drugs is difficult, if not at all possible. Regardless, all the numbers about drugs usage show the US in the the top 5 countries for any and all types of drugs, legal and illegal.
So, there you have it - about 50 categories of rankings and the USA is number 1 in six of them -
It's hard to take pride in my own country after writing this blog.
What is "fake news"?
Just what, exactly, is "fake news"? According to Mirriam-Webster:
"Fake news is, quite simply, news ('material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast') that is fake ('false, counterfeit')."
The term actually dates back to the late 18th century, though was rarely used even then. Spreading false propaganda, lies, rumors, and misinformation dates back much further, to the 13th century BC, where we find Rameses the Great spreading false propaganda and lies in regards to the Battle of Kadesh. Even Benjamin Franklin wrote fake news about murderous "scalping" Indians working with King George III in an effort to sway public opinion in favor of the American Revolution. There are written records of such famous people as Marie Antoinette, Joseph Pulitzer, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
We have news articles in legitimate newspapers dating to the 1890's that include the term "fake news". For example:
"Secretary Brunnell Declares Fake News About His People is Being Telegraphed Over the Country."
—Cincinnati Commercial Tribune (Concinnati, OH), 7 Jun. 1890
"The public taste is not really vitiated and it does not in its desire for ‘news’ absolutely crave for distortions of facts and enlargements of incidents; and it certainly has no genuine appetite for ‘fake news’ and ‘special fiend’ decoctions such as were served up by a local syndicate a year or two ago."
—The Buffalo Commercial (Buffalo, NY), 2 May 1891
Prior to those quotations, the term used was "false news", as seen in this quote from 1575:
"Other thinges are in this Court at a good price, or to say it better, very good cheap: that is to wit, cruel lies, false news, vnhonest women, fayned friendship, continuall enimities, doubled malice, vaine words, and false hopes, of which eight things we haue suche abundance in this Courte, that they may set out bouthes, and proclayme faires."
—Antonio de Guevara, The Familiar Epistles of Sir Anthony of Gueuara (trans. By Edward Hellowes), 1575
'If, however, Mr. B. should appear, and not forfeit his recognizance, then that the writer has been guilty of "spreading false news," contrary to law, "no rational man can doubt."'
—Impartial Observer (Richmond, VA), 9 May 1807
"The French press knows little, and under laws which punish "false news," and render a journal liable to suppression if it displeases the executive power, is naturally afraid to say what little it knows."
—The Detroit Free Press, 20 Sept. 1866
From that period of time until November 2016 it was not often used, especially in regards to any of the mainstream news outlets. It has some use in describing such "news"papers as The National Enquirer (and that other one that competed with The Enquirer, but I can't remember the name of it), which everyone knows is fake, but many enjoy reading it anyway. "Fake news" gained some popularity in the early 2000's when it was occasionally used to refer to particular websites, such as Breitbart, The Blaze, and Infowars. Those types of websites create "news" that distorts the facts, or is based on nothing but the writers imagination to drum up feelings of discontent, to sway people's beliefs, and to try to get some people to support them financially.
So what happened in 2016 that finally catapulted the term to the top of just about everyone's minds? November 2016, Donald Trump used the term to describe news releases that did not agree with his opinions.
"The media is really, the word, one of the greatest of all [the] terms I've come up with, is 'fake,'" Trump told former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, CNN reports. The interview took place in October 2017. "I guess other people have used it, perhaps, over the years, but I've never noticed it. And it's a shame. And they really hurt the country. Because they take away the spirit of the country."
Aside from the fact that what Trump says in the above quote is simply ridiculous or senseless, he does claim to have invented the word "fake". Of course he didn't invent a word that dates back more than a few centuries. It is commonly believed he was referring to "fake news", which became his favorite go-to word for anything in the media that did not paint a pretty (positive) picture of him.
The earliest use by Trump of the term "fake new" that I have found is dated Dec. 10, 2016 when he tweeted this: "Reports by @CNN that I will be working on The Apprentice during my Presidency, even part time, are ridiculous & untrue - FAKE NEWS!" And he has used the term many hundreds, if not thousands, of times since them.
So, that brings us to today. In today's world the term "fake news" has taken on a new definition: News that does not agree with my beliefs. News that does not paint a pretty picture of what I want to believe is true. Does this match up with the dictionary definition I started this essay with? Not at all. This new definition is the result of a couple years of misuse by the President.
Now I have to ask the people who follow him and believe everything he says - Do you honestly, in your heart, believe that ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, The NY Times, The Wa. Post, etc etc are fake news outlets?
Prior to Trump how many times in your life did you use the term "fake news" for any of those news outlets?
Do you yourself believe wholeheartedly that "fake news" is news you don't agree with? Is my opinion fake becuase it is different from yours? Is your opinion fake because I don't agree with it? Of course not. If what I write, or what you write, were printed in a newspaper column, would they be "fake news"? Of course not. Unless you, or I, made up a legitimately fake story to fool people into believing something that was not true (such as fairy tales, fables, Breitbart News, The National Enquirer all come to mind).
Why is it that only in the last 2 years or so all the main-stream news outlets have become fake? They weren't fake prior to November 2016. Then all of a sudden, boom!, they are all fake news. What's wrong with this picture? If you can't figure that out, then you are indeed closed off to the real world and completely brain-washed by Trump and his proven thousands of lies, his telling you the things you want to hear, and not the actual truth, by his extremism, and you being gullible enough to actually believe
I don't get it. Here is a man who has bazillions of dollars (supposedly), at least a few billion, and is completely out of touch with the middle and lower classes of the US, the "common" man, the working man, yet those are the people who have completely fallen for everything that comes out of his mouth. How many of you were Trump fans before November 2016? How many of you believed everything he said before November 2016? My guess - very few. How did your beliefs relate to his before 2016? How do your beliefs relate to him now?
How many of you voted for him because he was the most qualified for the Presidency? How many of you voted for him because of the words that poured from his mouth? For most of you, voting in the past was either a) vote for the party I am a member of or most relate to, or b) vote for the most qualified person on the ballot. But in November 2016, what happened? The majority of people in the US who voted chose H. Clinton, but the Electoral College voted for Trump, thus putting him in the White House. That's not what the majority of the citizens wanted. That's what the few people in the EC wanted. I believe that is the third time in the history of the country that the EC has chosen a condidate contrary to the popular vote. Obviously, I don't agree with this situation, and I don't think the EC is relevent in the 21st century. But is that going to change? No, because it's in the Constitution, which in the USA, is virtually unchangeable. But it too needs to be updated to better reflect society in the 21st century.
I got off track with that last paragraph, it's just a pet peeve of mine.
In the end, "fake news" is not fake news, it is simply news you don't agree with, so stop using the term "fake news" unless you are referring to The National Enquirer, Breitbart, etc etc. They promote fake news. The majority, by far, of the news on the main stream news outlets (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, all city/state newspapers, etc) is not "fake news". Get over it, get off the "fake news" bandwagon, and remember that just because you don't agree doesn't mean it is fake. It's not, it's just something you don't agree with. So instead of saying "that's fake news" you should be saying, as you probably did all your life pre-Trump - "I don't agree with that".
Contact me: Chip Wiegand
I teach english as a foreign language in Barranquilla, Colombia. I'm from Kennewick, Washington, USA. In my previous life, as I call it, I was an IT guy, systems administrator, computer tech, as well as a shipping/receiving guy and also worked as a merchandising guy for a year for a camping/RV accessories store.