This is the weekend of the Malibu Chili Cook-Off, our unofficial end-of-summer event that’s been going on for over 35-plus years. It’s one you took your kids to and now they’re taking their kids to it. You can buy your tickets online at malibuchilicookoff.org. It was produced for many years by the Malibu Kiwanis Club and now by the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu. Get your tickets now, because it’s fun and the money goes to support many community activities and you may get to taste some interesting chili.

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If your taste runs to the more adventurous, then head out to Burning Man, off in the Nevada desert, which is a weeklong event somewhere near Reno. If you’re in the mood for wind and dust and some insanity, head out to the desert and take a friend, water and maybe even a sleeping bag and, from what I’ve been told, just about anything you can drink, sniff, snort or smoke. Apparently, clothing is also somewhat optional—but be careful, or you’re going to get a hell ofsunburn.

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I pulled into the parking lot at the gym today, and there, parked in the lot, was this gorgeous new powder blue Rolls Royce convertible. At first, I looked at it and thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be fun to own a work of art like this car?” But then you think about it a bit and say to yourself, “Where would I park it?” If somebody banged the door in the parking lot, it probably would cost $5,000 to get the scratch out with all those coats of paint. Now you’ve got something to worry about. Those parking stalls are narrow, so to be safe you’d have to find two spots, side by side, and park in the middle. But then, suppose some Bernie-supporting kid comes along and keys it to make a statement. You could put a Bernie sticker on the rear bumper, but then suppose a red-hatted MAGA supporter comes along and keys it because he hates limousine liberals. I finally decided, the hell with it all, and took it off my Christmas list.

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The Amazon is burning and apparently, it’s been set on fire by local Brazilian farmers so they can get a couple of years of crops on that notoriously barren soil. The major problem is that the rain forests of the Amazon have been described as the lungs of the earth and without them to clean the atmosphere, the CO2 or whatever it is they clean makes the earth less habitable. The president of Brazil has a somewhat different take on the Amazon and sees the developed world, meaning principally North America and Europe, as wanting to turn parts of Brazil into a colony or a no-man’s land to serve the developed world, and to my mind he’s got a  bit of a point. I see nothing wrong with him essentially raffling off some of the rain forest to preserve the world’s lungs. The deal is, the world gives him money, and he gives some of it to the farmers and they don’t have to burn the rainforest. Meanwhile, the world has offered him $20 million, which seems like a pittance, to help put out the fires, but he says he won’t take it unless he gets an apology from France, whom he says insulted him. Formerly, heads of state were tough characters with thick hides, but apparently not any more. Today’s heads of state appear to be easily insulted, filled with resentment about their ill treatment and inclined to be easily offended because they are misunderstood. It’s a new day in international politics. It’s now the day of the sensitive head of state. Several names come to mind.

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The old venerable firm of Johnson and Johnson, famous for baby powder and stuff like that, just got nailed in a federal district court in Oklahoma for its role in the opioid epidemic that hit Oklahoma and where 6,000 citizens have died since 2000. They were sued by the Attorney General of Oklahoma, as has happened in many other cases by many other attorneys general. The verdict came in at $572 million and they got hit for over-selling the benefits and underplaying the dangers. This is the first of the cases to go to trial and I understand nationwide there are another 2,000-3,000 cases off in the wings, although surely that number will grow. Many are consolidated in a federal court in the Midwest. This is going to be bigger than the tobacco cases and is going to go on for years as states try to recoup all the expense and damage caused by this epidemic. Much of the money will probably go to fund rehab, and I suspect many pharmaceutical companies may end up going bankrupt. But what’s missing is the one thing that would work and might very well stop this kind of greed that fueled this entire crisis. That is, they have to prosecute some of these people criminally. I don’t mean prosecuting the doctor who prescribed the pills or someone else low on the totem pole. They have to go after the CEOs or company directors who saw this going on but were making so much money they didn’t care. They were shipping quantities of opioids to many little drug stores in many little towns, where it was absolutely obvious the drugs were making their way into the illegal market. 

Why we get so upset at some Mexican cartel leader like El Chapo that we put him away for life in some maximum-security federal prison, and yet are not prepared to prosecute these heads of pharma companies who are killing people for profit, escapes me. It’s not that El Chapo isn’t a bad dude, it’s just that many of these others are worse, and we don’t go after them. The CEOs of some of these companies are just mob bosses in a $5,000 custom-tailored suit and just because they went to Harvard or Yale doesn’t make them any less venal.

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