08/6/14

The Day that Robert Newhouse Died by C.K.Baker

The news today this twenty-fifth day of July, Twenty Fourteen.

“Man”ing up in Texas

Geldof overdose

Needles at the bed stand

Starlet comatose.

California dreaming

Killer meets demise

Hurling in a taxi

Puke fee on the rise.

Fighting in the Gaza

Jordan’s Holy war

Rebels on a mission

Jihad underscore.

The North Korean riddle

Pales in grand design

Crisis on the border

Planes fall from the sky.

Cooking on a deadline

Tempting tapenades

Herbs are in the spotlight

Wines that give a nod.

Brewers fill the beast

With pork a starring role

50 shades of gray

A freckle and a mole.

Google maps the body

DOW at record highs

Uber hits the market

Corn is on the rise.

Apple on its earnings

Caterpillar dead

European sanctions

Banks have shit the bed.

Clippers threaten boycott

Longhorns follow purge

Lynch is out of training camp

James is on the verge.

Leinarts taking pot shots

Coughing up a lung

Lions take a licking

Fans are throwing dung.

Another day in Vegas

Primm from A-Z

Rolling out an ankle

A flying SUV.

Quiet tempting spaces

Made better by design

Multicolor pea coat

Silence fuels the mind.

Stabbing in the subway

Goat caught in a well

Apes are selling tickets

(but leave behind a smell).

Puberty on trial

A man without a head

Teachers feel alone

(Take them to the shed!).

Jonah’s tomb destroyed

Wreckage in Mumbai

“Sugar Daddy” sites

Freedom 85.

The immigrant debate

Russia’s mounting toll

Unions on a mission

“heads are gonna roll”.

Beaches for the nudist

Hotels are on the cheap

The best generic brands

A list you HAVE to keep.

Planning your estate

Questions from the camp

A mansion up for sale

Where once they filmed “The Champ”.

Midwives threaten action

Aboriginal act

Truckers want a “push”

That train has left the track.

Sharks are found in Fundy

A prized but perilous catch

Food we love to hate the most

An irrefutable batch.

A family on the brink

“I want my kids to fail!”

Politicians drains all hope

A ban on Israel!

Follow out each headline

Let media be your guide

All these things did happen

the day that Newhouse died.

07/29/14

My “Peace in the Middle East” Piece

Quick as a bunny, where is this picture taken?

tehran

 

It’s not entering Vancouver BC, nor any other similiar city in the States. But it could be.

It is but a large, typical human city, with the only differences perhaps being in diet, language and skin color. But then in most major cities today around the globe, multiples of such differences are coexisting within their own populations, and makes such cities, as the one shown here, so cultural, vibrant and alive. People, who are young and old, whether man, woman or gay. Of different beliefs and traditions, yet still get along with one another. A few have too much; far too many have nothing at all, while some are actually comfortably happy in the middle. Such cities are populated predominately by good folk; whose lives sometimes only get disrupted by wayward souls not handling today’s society, elected officials, middle management, entitled and rabid by-law aficionados,  fools, or the occasional true bastard or bitch. Life in the city.

Most are not concerned with world affairs at all, because instead, they are trying to focus on their own life, their own world-view, and the lives of the individuals who make up their life. Just doing the best they can, and trying to make each day count, and perhaps mean something, for not only themselves but for their friends and family as well. Hoping to make a difference and being happy with what you got, and with what one can achieve. All the while simply trying to put food on the table and have a roof over your head where you can crash, quietly, securely and safely. And each day go out into the world and do whatever you need to do, just don’t hurt anybody or yourself doing it.

The picture above is of a city that once the Nazis get done with persecuting, starving and killing, especially those who resist and shoot back, the Jews held within the Warsaw Ghetto, then move into the realm of trying to exterminate them…….. Oh my, I am sorry, wrong century.

The picture above is of a city that, once Israel is done with killing as many Palestinians in the Gaza Ghetto as they can, and then afterwards continue to persecute and starve the survivors, because such people have been made into “the other”, thus looked at as less than human, much like they themselves once were, will be next on Israel’s agenda and list of things to do, and kill if they have to.

Making their enemies, less than, is why in Israeli mathematics, perhaps one, maybe two, Israeli soldier deaths equal, or as often the case, be of greater value than, five hundred Palestinian civilian men, women and children killed.  Or that they stress to the media that they warn beforehand a neighborhood which will be reduced to rubble and that for the Palestinian people to run and hide. Run to where?

The Gaza strip is surrounded. For all intents and purposes it is a large concentration camp. To their west lies the Mediterranean Sea, where offshore an Israeli Naval armada sits and pounds them daily. Their 11km (6.8mi) southern border is heavily fortified by Egypt, who doesn’t like Sunni Muslims, which make up much of the Gazan population. To the east and north is their 51km (32mi) heavily fenced, mined, and armed border with Israel.  While the sounds of jets, helicopters and drones, hum from the overhead sky 24/7. All together, the Gaza Strip is 41km (25mi) long, 6 to 12 km (3.7 to 7.5mi) wide, with an area of only 365 km sq (139 sq mi). Within this space 1.8 million people live, well sort of live, with over half under the age of eighteen. The density is 5046 people every squared kilometer (13,000 people every square mile), making it one of the most densely populated parts in the world. Somebody farts and others will smell it, so of course a tank round’s explosion will kill and maim everyone around it, whether one is hiding or not.

Because in reality, Andrew Exum, a former US army officer and defence department special adviser on the Middle East, and who has studied Israel’s military operations, says this about what is going on in Gaza today, and how difficult it really is to target individuals and not have any collateral damage, “There are good strategic reasons to avoid using air power and artillery in these conflicts: they tend to be pretty indiscriminate in their effects and make it difficult for the population under fire to figure out what they’re supposed to do to be safe.” 

Military analysts and human rights observers say Israel is still using predominately, unguided, indirect fire with high-explosive shells, which are totally inappropriate for use on the Palestinians in Gaza. Exum adds, “[Israel’s 155m howitzer] shells have a lethal radius of 50 to 150 metres and causes injury up to 300 metres from its point of impact. Furthermore, such indirect-fire artillery (meaning it is fired out of direct sight of the target) has a margin of error of 200 to 300 metres.” Obviously meaning, the Israeli’s are killing Palestinian civilians on purpose.

As for rockets fired into Israel, it’s a war; and being the elected body, Hamas is allowed to defend themselves and fight for the end of their apartheid, much like what went on in places like Soweto and Belfast back in the day. Besides, their crude rockets are often either shot down, land harmlessly in open areas, or yes sometimes, even fall short. As far as the Israeli population in range, all they really have to put up with is occassional falling from the sky debris, which has only killed three people. Meanwhile the Gazans are getting the holy book thrown at them. Military technology and hardware being tested, missiles, jets, cruisers, tanks, drones, helicopters, ever more heavily armed and supported ground troops, and who knows what, because this time, the Israeli’s are intent of finally ridding themselves of these lesser people they have locked up in Gaza. Especially the children.

According to Pernille Ironside, who runs the UNICEF field office in Gaza, it is estimated that so far roughly “373,000 Palestinian children have had some kind of direct traumatic experience as a result of the attack and will require immediate psycho-social support. This is in addition to the 408 children reported as killed and the thousands left wounded.”

After Gaza, and with flared nostrils, filled with racism and exceptionalism, Israel will no doubt once again focus and be obsessed with the city pictured above, and its country. But not before world leaders will stand in front of podiums, and in strong voices, once again announce that we must never forget what just happened in Gaza, but must remember it always, so that such a thing may never happen again.

Government controlled mainstream media in Israel, the States, and to an ever greater extent as of late, in Canada, already deems the country pictured above, “the other” as well. So when Israel actually does something, the no doubt disproportional casualties and destruction will be easier to swallow. If they do go in, I’m sure the States especially, but a few other countries as well, like Canada perhaps, will continue to obediently stand behind them in lap dog like support. Hopefully the saner people of these countries, as they are increasingly doing, will stand up and tell those whom they voted for to cease and desist, though I highly doubt such a fantasy happening.

As to the situation in Gaza today, it looks like I’ll sadly have to add an attachment to The Borborygmus Which is Palestine – An Essay on Apartheid, which I posted in December/2012, and after the human atrocities are over in Gaza, I will be able to compare it to the transcripts of the Nuremburg Trials, oops did it again, wrong century. Sorry. I mean compare it to possible future war crime trials against Israel. Though in reality, the States will never allow such a thing to happen, because they are complicit, with no one to hold them accountable for anything they do, much like the Israelis, nor do they both seem to even hold themselves accountable anymore, perhaps they can’t, I don’t know.

As a superpower the States does seem to be fading in many parts of the world, not so much militarily, but the disdain, lack of respect and actions other countries now show, and act upon, towards American diplomats, who are still clothed in attitude and so-called ideals, like so-called democracy, speaks volumes. Much of the chaos in the world today was created by the States, and many sociopathic hawks and beurocrats, running many governments all over the world, are not buying the American loud and proud bullshit anymore, and are willing to take the risk and simply take what they want. Alas, the madness which is human history continues.

 

The picture above………Tehran, Iran   Sept.2012    Photo: Fred Dufour/ AFP/ Getty Images

 

 

 

06/13/14

Prologue to Plague of Guns – A Dense Essay

The border between Canada and the United States is nearly invisible when compared to the sieve of a steel and concrete wall being built between the States and their southern neighbor Mexico. And though there are many similarities between Canada and the States, there are also just as many differences. For instance, Canadians are clearly distinctive, while Americans have to tell everyone that they are. Canadians are also very aware, thus, cautious and resistant to being assimilated by the Americans. At least that’s what we’d like to think. If others look at Canadians and Americans as being cut from the same cloth, they would be grossly mistaken.

The States seems to be filled with characters written by someone else for their own reality show. Their corporate and government leadership and oligarchy obviously psychotic, much like Canada’s as of late. All so out of whack from reality that many of them actually believe they will come out on top even after the earth’s climate is devastated. They trust that they’ll be able to withstand monster tornados, food shortages, earthquakes, oil spills, or a lack of drinking water, or the insanity of the current gun epidemic. And still make money doing it.

But no matter the shock or what the Americans do and say, we watch them like we watch for a train wreck. And though we still peek through our fingers, their ever increasing immoral societal stench those at the top have created, keeps our noses turned away, but you can still smell it. Not only does it cloak us Canadians, but also people all over the world. They have no idea how ignorant they look on the world stage, nor how much their fear and hopelessness is shining through what is a closing window, which when closed, furious anger will shatter.

Their blatantly obvious psychopathic military industrial complex’s foreign policy has made them simply bullies, creating mortal enemies worldwide, which will last generations, all to keep America safe and secure, and of course creating perpetual profits for the American arms-manufacturers.

Guns in particular, have become a plague upon the planet, especially in the States, to the point of being a flesh-eating disease. And much like some other diseases; obesity, consumerism, perpetual war, incarceration, addiction, and ever growing disaster capitalism, the gun epidemic has become a highly profitable venture to a few, while wounding or killing the rest of us, kind of like cigarettes.Plague Mask

With almost as many guns produced during Obama’s first four years of office than in all eight years of George W. Bush’s administration, such a love and proliferation of guns has brought only blindness to the reality that America’s gun epidemic has also become one of its biggest health crisis, something Obamacare could never cure. And even though over 70 percent of Americans want gun reform and more controls, the right-wing white guys will never let it happen. Indeed, the majority of the population in many democracies, including Canada, have no impact on public policy, economic elites like organized lobbying interest groups do.

With cracks in the fabric of present day society splaying out in all directions at a cheetah’s pace when in pursuit of their next meal, the States has become a country that one could swear is either trying to act out a national suicide attempt, or trying to pull off the largest home grown terrorism operation of all time. Like Jim Jones in Guyana, but on a much grander scale, because the kool-aid has already been greedily gulped back. Much of this has to do with the abundance of guns now available, because when unbridled capitalism, marketing, firearms manufacturers, the Republican right wing and the NRA, along with hundreds of their lawyers, got together in the seventies, the epidemic of gun violence in the States began to ever increase in frequency.

These mad organizations and economic systems which have created the current gun violence epidemic, the differences in gun laws in the States and Canada, and remedies and suggestions will be covered in the Epilogue of this essay. A brief history of Canada and the States before and after, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was enacted, will be discussed in the middle of this essay, in what I call the Background Check, because how each country was raised has a lot to do with the perceived need to be armed or not today. This Prologue will let the numbers tell more of the story.

What got me shaking my head, lighting up a candle and pulling out the quill and ink in the first place, was finding out that in the United States there now is nearly one gun for every man, woman and child with little or no regulation in how to obtain one. It was a cry and laugh moment. It is insanity.

When speaking of guns I am including handguns, rifles, shotguns and certain assault weapons, which Americans need in case one of the few remaining big-game animals or a lone rabbit bobbed and weaved fast enough that the first twenty rounds missed it. But I’d also like to add that hunting has never been the issue with guns. It’s been what other people do with them and how easily available they are that has been and is the issue.

In my article, Murder by Gun, posted in September, 2011, I cited the gun numbers at the time; 45 million Americans possessed over 200 million firearms, including 66 million handguns. Nearly three years later, with a current population of 317 million, American citizens now own well over 300 million guns, including 115 million handguns. A further half a million guns are bought by Americans every year, and shockingly, only 12 percent of all these guns are registered.

In comparison, the second most armed country in the world is India. Their current population is 1.27 billion, with over 6 million more people added each year, and yet they only possess 45 million guns.  Today there is one gun for every ten people on the planet. If you include the States in the statistics, that changes the ratio to about seven guns for every ten people in the world.

Over 47 percent of households in America own at least one gun, with 20 percent of the population owning a handgun, which many can walk around with at any time, because of course, just in case. National Rifle Association vice-president, spiritual leader to some, and Mad Hatter of the club Wayne LaPierre, refers to ownership of a firearm as morally obligated vigilantism. Vigilantism I suppose against an out of control federal government, whatever the party, or against perceived enemies, which can only be themselves, and their fellow Americans.

But then LaPierre also sees the world as a place: “where there are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and car-jackers and knock-out gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping-mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all”, but fails to mention and include the paranoid and psychopathic, which would sum up his breed nicely, as well as his followers. And the fact that all those killers he mentioned are American. While in reality studies show that the gun the American suburban family buys to protect itself and which is kept in the home, is 43 times more likely to kill a household member than to be used in self-defense.

In Canada, with a current population of 35 million, there are about 9.9 million guns, including 1.1 million handguns (a restricted weapon in Canada). Nearly two million Canadians (5.4 percent of the population) currently hold a valid firearms license for almost 7.5 million registered firearms and 350,000 are handguns. Only 15 percent of Canadian households own a long gun, and only 3 percent possessing a handgun. Overall, it works out to about 23 guns per 100 Canadians, while in America, as already noted, there are now basically 100 guns for every 100 Americans.

The American military possesses three million guns, in addition to everything else they have acquired, including the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. They work with an annual budget of $750 billion (20 percent of their country’s federal budget), which is more than the next 16 largest military budgeted countries combined. And though they are not threatened by any nation and are a military without equal, supposedly fighting the war on terror by way of protecting American and corporate economic interests globally, yet totally ignoring the fearful commercial interests, ineffectual politicians and government officials, and the home-grown terrorist, back in the States. And though the States have the most heavily armed populace in the world, their people still live in fear and continue to be the utmost in paranoia and narcissism in one fell swoop.

China has the second highest military budget in the world, spending $119 billion a year, with Russia spending only $59 billion. Canada’s military budget is $20 billion, with the military in possession of 233,949 firearms.

American Law Enforcement who try to keep it together and protect citizens, instead, are faced with two out of every three 911 calls being concerned with addiction and mental illness. This is also the situation in Canada, but in the States the police forces are increasingly being made up of ex-military personnel with skeletons and demons rattling in their own closets as a result of their war experiences. These people possess over one million guns. And much like the country’s military, they exist in perpetual war. In Canada the police forces hold 124,270 firearms.

The States don’t just use their guns to kill each other though; they also produce enough to supply the world. They are the biggest provider of guns globally, selling 70 percent of all guns made. To feed these guns, 14 billion rounds are manufactured worldwide every year, enough bullets to shoot every human on the planet, twice. The States provides 40 percent of them (5.6 billion), or enough bullets to shoot every American 17 times.

Because the States has weak gun laws and few controls regarding access to guns, what an American can buy easily and legally is often just as easily sold illegally to a country like Canada which has more controls. In many States one could buy a handgun every week. Why one person would need perhaps fifty handguns every year is anybody’s guess. But some States have recently “come down hard” and have changed this rule to where a person can only buy one handgun a month. I know. Wow and big deal.

Of the handguns seized in the course of a crime by the Toronto Police in 2010, 70 percent originated in the States and were trafficked illegally to Canada. In Mexico, 68,000 people have died from guns since 2006. Of the guns recovered, over 90 percent were smuggled from the States.

The majority of industrialized countries have some form of gun licensing and registration of firearms, with strict controls on access to assault weapons and handguns. However, only two countries, the United States and Yemen, treat gun ownership as a basic right. The remaining countries view gun ownership as a privilege.

Therein lays America’s problem. In the States nearly every citizen living their life within a society on a planet swirling down the toilet of environmental and moral disaster can get a gun. Furthering the madness, since 1980, forty-four states have passed some form of law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside their homes for personal protection, while in eighteen States; you can walk around in public with a gun on your hip. So of course it is more often the norm that over half of homicides happen after or during an argument between two people who know each other.


There are believed to be about 30,000+ deaths by gun every year in the States, about 20,000+ by suicide / 10,000+ by homicide, with 2 percent of them being children. Guns currently kill more children than cancer does. Not included in this number are the additional 1,000+ deaths per year from unintentional firearm injuries. In Chicago in 2012 alone, 500 people were murdered by gun. This by itself is more than double Canada’s total gun homicides in any given year of about 200 people, or 0.6 people per 100,000. The States averages about six gun homicides per 100,000.

Since 1960, there have been 1.3 million gun deaths in America. Currently 282 people are shot every day; of these, 32 are murdered, with another 51 committing suicide. Examples for context, in Vietnam from 1955 – 1975, 58,000 American soldiers died. These numbers match the American civilian population that dies by gunshot every two years. In the first seven years of the Iraq debacle, 4,400 US soldiers died, the same number of civilians currently killed by gun in the US every seven weeks.

Sadly, considering the States is perhaps the most economically advanced nation in the world, there have been about two mass shootings every month over the past five years, with Americans 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of all other developed nations. As it stands today, one in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. While every year on average, roughly a hundred thousand Americans are killed or wounded by guns.

American males have a 1 in 2,317 chance of being shot at least once in their lives. While the odds of either winning a lottery or dying in a terrorist act in North America, is the same, about 1 in 20+ million. And while one person out of every 100,000 dies by bee sting, at least five people out of every 100,000 will die by gun.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are about 5.4 million violent crimes committed in the United States every year. These include simple/aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders.  Of these, about 436,000 or 8 percent were committed by offenders armed with a gun. And though the US homicide rate (per 100,000), committed without guns, is less than twice the Canadian rate. The rate of homicide with guns in the US is six times higher than Canada’s, with American homicides with handguns seven times higher than Canada’s. This pattern can also be seen in robberies without firearms where the rates are comparable for the two countries, yet in the States, of the half a million robberies every year, 36 percent of them are committed with a gun, a rate of 55 per 100,000. In Canada there are about 32,200 robberies each year, with only 14 percent of them involving a firearm, a rate of only 13 per 100,000.

Though the States has higher homicide, aggravated assault and robbery rates than does Canada, Canada has higher rates of motor vehicle thefts, break and entering, and arsons, with both countries sharing the same rates for theft, about 2,300 cases for every 100,000 people.


Another big difference between these societies relates to the issue of privilege versus right. Holding a driver’s licence and owning a gun should be privileges not rights. No one should be allowed to carry or shoot off a gun or drive a car without proving to the public that he or she can safely and responsibly do so.

The States has 679 impaired drivers per 100,000. Canada’s rate is 277 per 100,000. And while drunk-driving fatalities have decreased over the last couple of decades in both countries, in the States they still represent 31 percent of the over 33,000 traffic deaths in the States each year. Today about 10,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver, 30 people every day, one death every 48 minutes. This is coincidently, the same number of homicide deaths by gun each year.

Of the 1,200 traffic deaths involving children younger than 14 years, 17 percent were caused by an alcohol-impaired driver. And while 1.4 million Americans are arrested for driving drunk each year, it only represents about 1 percent of the 112 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among adults. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes, injuries and property damage in the States totals more than $51 billion.

In 2010, of the nearly 300,000 Canadians injured in motor vehicle crashes 2,541 died, and of these fatalities 1,082 were impairment-related. It’s estimated that about 63,800 injuries happen every year due to impairment related crashes in Canada – roughly 175 per day. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes, injuries and property damage in Canada, is estimated to be about $20 billion.


Much like the alcohol and drug addiction epidemic, from drunk drivers to crack heads, America’s gun epidemic is not a race problem either. Guns offer equal opportunity tragedies, no matter what the mainstream media crows. And though Afro-Americans do indeed account for the vast majority of homicides by gun, a white person is almost six times more likely to be killed by another white person than by a black person. According to FBI homicide data, in 2011 there were more cases of whites killing whites than there were of blacks killing blacks.

Within corporate-mainstream media, gang-related deaths in the States are thought of as an Afro-American problem, while in fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for the period of 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang homicides were committed by white offenders and the majority of gang homicide victims (56.5 percent) were in fact white. According to statistics from the Justice Department collected from 1980 to 2008, white men are more likely to kill than any other racial group. However in gun related homicides, black men outnumber whites, especially when it comes to drug-related offenses. White men top the list in most of the other categories, showing that they were more likely to kill children, the elderly, family members, and their significant others, and tend to commit more sex-related crimes and gang related crimes, and are more likely to kill at their places of employment, than Afro-Americans. Most gun murders involving Afro-Americans are between men and usually over a drug deal. And despite racial biases, studies show that Afro-Americans are no more likely than whites to use or sell drugs, in fact, Afro-Americans make up only 14 percent of addicted American drug users.

Eighty-three percent of gun deaths by white people are suicides, 14 percent homicides, and two percent accidents, with a white person five times as likely to commit suicide with a gun, as opposed to being shot with a gun. For each Afro-American who uses a gun to commit suicide, five are killed by other people with guns, the gist being that whites are far more likely to shoot themselves, while blacks are far more likely to shoot others.

In Canada, there are approximately 600 suicides by gun each year or 1.79 per 100,000. In the States there are 20,000 suicides by gun each year (6.03 per 100,000) and as previously mentioned, over 80 percent are white males. One can also include the twenty-two American military veterans who are currently taking their own lives with a bullet every month. Men and women who enlist to serve their country, to make a difference, be deployed to another country and culture, which in most cases are people who wish they could be simply left alone, and hope to help, lend a helping hand and give guidance. Unfortunately they try to accomplish this while holding an automatic assault weapon in their hands. After they come back heavy guilt enshrouds their lives, the nearly schizophrenic disconnect from being told you were helping and defending America, but knowing deep down you were not doing either.

Although the number of suicides by gun is double that of homicides by the same means, they tend to be subdued tragedies, very hush-hush affairs, and only whispered about between family and friends, if talked about at all, though a celebrity taking their own life is big news. Suicide is also absent from any discussion of gun policy, instead it is all about murders, especially mass killings. Yet reality dictates that the availability of guns does indeed increase the risk of suicide, because it allows for impulsive suicides that otherwise might not occur. And while 2 percent of Americans do kill themselves every year, heart disease and cancer still accounts for nearly 48 percent of all deaths in the States and in most of the industrialized countries of the world.

Then there are the non-fatal gunshot wounds. For every two firearm deaths, there are five non-fatal firearm injuries. Of the 30,000+ people who die by gun every year, an additional 65,000+ are treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal gun injuries, while over 30 percent of traumatic brain injuries and 15 percent of all spinal cord injuries in America are caused by gunshot wounds. It is estimated that another 24,000+ gun wounds were either superficial or treated privately. Direct medical costs for non-fatal gunshot wounds tops $6 million per day and are the leading source of uninsured hospital stays, of which half are paid by the taxpayer.


There has been much recently in global news, of the escalating wave of mass killings involving guns. In the States from 1982 to 2012, over one thousand people have been killed or injured in 62 mass killings and counting, with this number rising every month, and as of late, nearly every week. One in five who are killed are 12 years of age or younger.

Half of these mass killings happened in the last seven years. Yet over the same time frame, more people died from migraines and accidents than by mass murderers. In fact, three times as many people died from sunstroke. But still, fifteen of the worst mass shootings in the last 50 years among developed countries happened in the States, with Finland in second place. The States is currently three times more violent than most of the developed world, with the most violence taking place in their southern States. But then American society was built upon slavery, genocide, aggressive racism, euro centralism, and exceptionalism, so what would one expect?

According to the FBI, a mass shooting is where at least four people die and is usually at the hands of a lone shooter, who blasts away in a public space, half the time doing so in a school or workplace. Of the past 62 mass murderers, 48 were white and only one was a woman. Average age was 35 years, with the majority having problems in their lives, just like everybody else. Seventy-one of the 143 weapons used were semi-auto handguns, along with 20 assault weapons and 42 weapons which had multiple, high capacity magazines. The vast majority of weapons used in these cases were obtained legally, only twelve were not.

Yet compared to all gun related homicides, mass killings only account for less than 1 percent of all deaths by gun. But the corporate controlled media loves telling the repeated and hyped-up stories about them, as we obediently follow along, enrapt, and inching ever closer into thinking that perhaps we too should buy a gun – you know, just in case. It’s called marketing.

How we treat mass killings via mainstream group-think, is we focus on the shooters’ skin color (mostly white), or their manner of killing, such as gruesome violence, or whether children are involved, or religion, or national identity. Such events are looked at as simply being a bunch of disconnected incidents that can’t be helped and have nothing to do with each other. Besides, mass killings are always done by the lone shooter, a terrorist, or someone mentally ill, thus, the “crazy man.” But you’ve got to wonder, killings or assassinations, especially when most of the victims in mass killings are either Muslims, immigrants (illegal or not), gays, liberals, women, intellectuals, comrades in arms, students or Afro-Americans.

Many of the mass killings over the last couple of years, especially in the States and Europe, were carried out by white men who often are a member of the racist radical right, and who either immediately killed themselves afterwards or surrendered, mugging proudly for the camera – a terrorist claiming to be a patriot, with their acts not thought of as terrorizing anyone, but instead, hate crimes.


The American laws in some States are such that you can be packing while enmeshed in road rage and completely out of control, or dealing with neighbours, especially if they are a different colour, or the kids in the truck next to you whose music is too loud, or simply someone who’s pissed you off and you feel threatened, as you shout-spit in their face, as a matter of fact, I do own the fucking road and what are you going to do about it. Or as is often the case, with gun in hand, they manage their nagging spouse, because for some Americans, it seems to be in their nature that only through violence and threat of force can they communicate with people. They already entertain themselves in such a way.

The right of every individual to possess a gun in the States also allows people who might be depressed about their life or with lack of future opportunities, at least can own a gun. One can also be panicked and armed, confused and armed, dying for your next crack hit and armed, in a jealous rage, or lost in body and soul, and simply overwhelmed with life, but be packing. In reality, the vast majority of deaths by gun are committed by very sane people, who feel weak or threatened or just pissed off with their life, and have the capability and power that they lack, to even up the score by the use of a handgun that can fire off huge numbers of rounds in a heartbeat.

Such a distorted world view, especially in the southern States, is fueled by intense anger and impotence in controlling one’s own life, which leads to, it’s always somebody else’s fault: the fault of the “other.” People are unaware of having been programmed to act in such a way. Chauvinism, cruel retribution, a perverted Christianity, and the celebration of a mythical white Anglo-Saxon history through cinema, have separated these people from reality, with the next destination along their road – American fascism. They’ve become unrepentant of the past and misinterpret the expectations of a privileged society, simply because one is white. They are also scared of the future, and with their ignorance still believe that a white man’s life exists at the center of the universe.

Most of the people defined above don’t look at the gun epidemic as a problem at all; rather their concern is the right to have a gun epidemic. America has become orthodoxy, where they actually believe they are the greatest country, not only presently, but in all of human history. From the git go, American society has viewed itself superior to other classes, races, origins, habits, diets, cultures and political preferences. They are taught to believe in their own subjective superiority. They feel unique and nearly a divine race. I call it arrogance of the ignorant, simple bravado. And it has distracted them from hearing that the toilet has been flushed on their society.

This facet of American society is, unfortunately, the driver behind their country’s gun problem, because beneath it all there’s nothing but fear and helplessness, with hope and love seemingly unattainable anymore. In the countries in the world where there is an ever widening gap between those who have money and the vast majority who do not, such as in the States and Canada, research shows that more begin to suffer health and social problems, lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality rates, more suicides, more murders, imprisonment, teenage births, less trust, obesity, mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction, than other developed countries. If you add in the fact that people have little or no influence over government policy, with most political decisions being made with no thought to the people. And an ever widening social polarization, deep racism, disintegrating family values, hunger, joblessness, and violence, it’s no wonder many Americans believe that to be disarmed means being further disempowered. But whether actually psychopathic, mentally ill, uneducated, ignorant, abused, or just having a bad day, an American can be reassured that they will survive, as long as they are armed. “Having a gun in one’s hand erases human inequality and alters human possibility.”


As mentioned, mass killings are always big news, good for the advertisers who support the media business, and a boon to the cinema and television industries, because they know such things as evil and madness contain the elements of the unintelligible, things which resist explanation. We watch, grimly fascinated, by such events, yet also feeling guilty for it for some reason, perhaps because we ourselves feel the fear and helplessness against such evil and look for an answer based on the killer’s upbringing and psychological history, desperately seeking an explanation on why they choose that victim, when in fact, an explanation may not exist. And at the same time knowing each one of us has such evil within us, and the ability to lose control or exact revenge. It’s all about how it can be controlled, and having the daily discipline to do so. It is hard work, but peace and love have always worked pretty good.

Some look at mass killers as individuals who are simply responding to the world in which they live, revolting against an injustice upon themselves, whether imagined or otherwise. Individuals confused about their identity, yet fatalistic at the same time, believing they are creating their own actions, thus their own destiny. Others believe a mass killer’s violence comes from conspiracy or influence, where the killer’s self is moulded by others, and somehow deemed more meaningful.

Someone, often adolescent, immature and white, who walks into a school or theatre and starts indiscriminately blasting away, has probably done the same thing on video games hundreds of times already. He has, no doubt, since birth seen literally thousands of images of death, killing, and guns on all sizes of screens, fiction or otherwise, and just maybe, had a typically bad childhood where he was abused, beaten and bullied, and though that person might not even have serious mental problems, we must say they do, and say they are serious ones at that.

A 2001 study done by the U.S. National Library of Medicine looked specifically at 34 adolescent mass murderers (under 19 years) between 1958 and 1999. All were male, 70 percent were described as a loner, 61.5 percent had problems with substance abuse, 48 percent had preoccupations with weapons, and 43.5 percent had been victims of bullying. Three out of four did not have a documented psychiatric history of any kind.

In the States, 6 percent of their population suffers from serious mental health illnesses. If one were to include minor mental health disorders, 26 percent of their population or 58 million people have to deal with this form of illness. In fact the leading cause of disability in the States and Canada today, is major depressive disorder. But these people are not all running around shooting people, far from it. But in the States, when they do decide to kill, they are able to kill in greater numbers because they are armed with a gun, which is usually plural.

Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, and one of the leading researchers on mental health and violence says that:

“just because someone has a mental illness and they committed a crime, the illness isn’t necessarily why they did it. Among these people with serious mental illness, the risk factors for committing a violent crime appeared to have more to do with the overall risk factors for violence: being young, male, socially disadvantaged, and involved with substance misuse. But on the face of it, a mass shooting (for example) is the product of a disordered mental process. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist: what normal person would go out and shoot a bunch of strangers?” “People with serious mental illness are 3 to 4 times more likely to be violent than those who aren’t. But the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent and never will be. Most violence in society is caused by other things. Even if we had a perfect mental health-care system, it won’t solve our gun violence problem. If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, which would be wonderful, but overall violence, would go down by only about 4 percent. I’ve done these back-of-the envelope calculations. If you were to back out all the risk associated with mental illness that’s contributing to the 300,000 people killed by gunshot wounds in the last ten years, you could probably reduce deaths by about 100,000 people. Ninety-five percent of the reduction would be from suicide. Only 5 percent would be from reducing homicide. Mental illness is a strong risk factor for suicide. It’s not a strong risk factor for homicide.”


When we humans are evil, as many of us can be, I’m sure we tend toward being slightly psychopathic for brief moments, for some it can be ongoing, but such behaviour as murdering a group of one’s fellow citizens is not a mystery so much, because it can be socially explained; it is a reflection of our societies. Bad people in the world doing bad things to others are more often than not, simply products of today’s society, with logic dictating that when guns are prevalent there will be more killing, whether mentally ill, or as in most cases, not.

While the adage, that if everyone was armed it would be a real safe place to raise the kids, is utter bullshit. If every talking, stumbling, imperfect, smarter than we need to be human being surviving today’s quickly changing world were armed, the only thing holding our societies back from a blood bath would be for everyone to trust each other unambiguously, and actually expect everyone to act sensibly, empathic, calm, and in control of their emotions: In other words, pure fantasy.

Meanwhile we believe every mass killing is committed by a crazy person, because it makes us feel better. But if the mass murderer is a young Arab man we deem him a terrorist, while a white extremist bombing a mosque or abortion clinic is a hate crime. One of the murderers of the five hundred killed in Chicago in 2012 is a just a gangster. The distraught father killing his family, he seemed like such a good hard working man his neighbours refrain. An American who joins the military and participates in unspeakable actions overseas, returns with no support from government and is often times trying to cope with serious issues in their head, and prone to shooting themselves once returned home, a hero.

The current gun laws in the States, of course also allow the monsters and psychopaths to be armed, for they have every right to do so, though many of them don’t need to be armed, because they surround themselves with bodyguards and henchmen. In fact, many of them are those manufacturing the guns and passing them out like party favours. And though psychopaths by nature are morally insane, they are usually people who “are intellectually above average and understand the nature and practical consequences of acts that are forbidden by law and society, and although they are often highly intelligent, they are simply unable to accept the moral nature of their choices”.


When we humans were still hunters and gatherers, the ones with psychopathic natures were made to disappear and/or be banished, because often their decisions would, could and did, affect the safety and survival of the group. But ever since we began gathering in villages and towns, the psychopaths took control of the food and water and rose to the top of society. Like the gods they created to control us, we can no longer banish them, lock them all up, or make them disappear, because it would decimate Wall St, Washington D.C., offices in Ottawa, and most of the corporate elite, including many dictators, prime ministers and presidents of the world. Though not all are insane, many are undoubtedly highly psychopathic, if we abide by the definition. I am referring to the true definition and not slang. That “People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others, using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get with they want. The symptoms of psychopaths include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others.” It is also not curable, because being psychopathic is not a mental illness.

Though there is no treatment for it, eminent criminal psychology researcher, author, and Order of Canada member, from the University of British Columbia, Dr Robert Hare, stresses that most psychopaths don’t commit murder, but are all social predators, pointing out that, “Much of a psychopath’s behaviour, even the neurobiological patterns we observe, could be because they’re using different strategies to get around the world. These strategies don’t have to involve faulty wiring, just different wiring.”

I bring up the topic of psychopaths within this article on gun violence, not because they are running around shooting everybody in sight because they’re not. Most of them are simply human sharks, moving through their communities, taking what they can from usually the weak and unaware, strictly for their own gratification and egos. And yes many are also at the top of society, who feel and act similarly, with each having their own projects to work on and corporations and governments to run. They operate with greed dictating their methods, no longer worrying about a curtain to shield them from our view, or considering an iota of anyone’s feelings, and are supported by legions of drone-like underlings consisting of lawyers, managers, brokers, bankers, and middle managers.

Two of the worst psychopaths running around today, are the American weapon manufacturers and the National Rifle Association, who have combined to bastardize the Second Amendment of the American Constitution to basically achieve sales targets and ever more vast amounts of cash, which is actually being very American. This is all accomplished because those elected, rather, those who have spent the most money get elected by getting people to vote for them by promising the world. Then when in office they abide by what young bureaucratic whips, party leadership and lobbyists, who have paid the most, tell them what to say and do. What has been produced by such people has created the world’s current gun epidemic. They deal in death for the almighty dollar and nothing else.

In reality, the majority of homicides, whether by gun or not,  arise from arguments, fights, drug deals and domestic disputes, while half of all murders involve a family member or intimate partner. We kill those closest to us. If guns are easily accessible, of course they will be used.

Gun violence is happening around the world, but it should not be so surprising that much of it is happening in totalitarian states disguised as democratic industrialized nations, populated by people who have simply become self-sufficient individuals, who only hang out with others who make similar personal consumer choices. Most are living paycheck to paycheck, if you got one, in a world that has become but a marketplace, which itself is based on fantasy and celebrity culture, with many brainwashed into thinking guns are cool. Many of us are living in communities where the politics are warped, and common sense, morality, and empathy have been lost or significantly undermined. Throughout the population, people are strutting around like it’s all about them, staring deeply into their phones, possessing the personalities of peacocks and attention spans of hummingbirds, maybe even thinking a camera crew is following them around,  This is not the case everywhere of course, but it is spreading as fast as obesity.

All the while climate change continues to affect our only true necessities as human beings, food and water, as our urban infrastructures, social services, education and health care erodes and fall down around us. But we still put on a mask each day and go to work. We are programmed to be proud of what we do, no matter what that may entail. Meanwhile everyone is so overwhelmed with information that they are stupefied, and finding it ever harder to believe what they are told. Underlying all this is what is hidden and ignored, and what is damaging us mentally, the reality that the majority of us are nothing but slaves, with little or no passion, nor love or peace left anymore in what we do; instead many of us are left with nothing but lust and greed for all the things out of our reach. And yes, many of us are depressed in some way, and yes, many of us will experience what could be classed as breakdowns or psychotic breaks from trying to fathom the contradictions that make up our lives where nothing is black and white anymore, just a sickly grey. Into this mixture the States adds insanely vast numbers of guns, colouring the world a far deathlier shade of grey, which inevitably bleeds red.

 

To be continued………

 

 

01/14/14

April 10th, 1950 – Happy 63rd Birthday by Owen Kavanagh

Hello Inquisitive readers,

Here is the latest poem submitted by Owen Kavanagh, of Victoria B.C. If anyone out there pens poetry, and would like it posted onto site, please submit through “Comments” and I will gladly publish it for you. As to articles, opinions and essays that I usually post, on what was a fairly consistent basis, I’m a bit behind, as since September much of my time has been filled with work (apartment manager), which keeps me fed and housed, and another passion of mine, coaching Midget level (15-17 yrs old) hockey here in Victoria. I find hockey is a great team game to teach life lessons, especially with the age group I work with. On the other hand it can also be said that it gives me practical experiance to challenge a Physcology degree.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to be posting new stuff soon.

Peace.

Now please enjoy Owen’s latest, “April 10th 1950 – Happy 63rd Birthday”

 

How trying for the centipede to tie-up all his shoes

once laced into the hundredth pair it’s long past time for school

so off they come and put away, the busy work is done 

our centipede can rest his feet at setting of the sun

 

Humans have a hundred pair of thoughts to guide their day

each to inspire the when & where which carry them away

to wander barefoot down some path, to crunch on stone to peak

to splash about in muddy pools, to hide beneath the leaf 

10/21/13

The Lost Mahout by CK Baker

the lost mahout

black cat in
a white wicker chair
pear leaves
strum
the high wire
creeping vines
on the hedgerow
root ferns claw
the sun drench bank

picket wall stained
on cedar
sow bug jumps
the grated  worn step
four legs
on a foot path
biscuit brown
trailers
fill the pipe

spiders march
on dew web
knots and rivets
cut at the seam
maples wide
on the canopy floor
sap balls ping
the front gate

dandelions drift
on west breeze
berries plump
at shepherds grove
wood sill holds
the broken stained glass
letter box lined
by the shoe scrub

delft ware
on the snap line
numbers drawn
for the promising guest
junior poised
with mouth agape
birds and squirrels
whistle their jovial tune

gold finch
darts the sea ranch
mountain steam brisk
at lush green pass
crafters window
in the alpine
follies await
the days task

copper roof on a
mud wall
airedale set on
woven front mat
watchmen of the
hollow…
earwigs and mites
scurry under
rustled wet leaves

frogs leap at corner creek
shutter bugs sit
at gryphons lair
still water ripples
at the deep pool
the folding tips
and fingers
on fishers bridge

brother bear
on the cut shelf
silver fish
come to life
whiskey jack high
on india green
elijah and xavier
pause at the days end

fin

———————————————————————————————

©CK Baker, 2013

 

09/30/13

You have got to be kidding me – The 2013 Queens Jubilee Awards

 

Diamond_Jubilee_Medal_webOnce again, to honor and commemorate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II ascension to the throne of the British Empire last year, Canada awarded another 60,000 “deserving Canadians” the Diamond Jubilee Medal. Each Member of Parliament will be giving 30 medals to their fellow citizens “for their contributions to the country, their province or their region.”

The medal honors those who have made significant contributions to their country, or achievements abroad which brought credit to Canada. It is an award that can honor anyone, from ditch digger to bureaucrat. Unfortunately, morality, maturity, character or ethics are not factors in the selection process. And one could only hope that 99% of the medals given out, from Haida Gwaii to Newfoundland, are for contributions to their communities and fellow Canadians, and are people who make a difference that they are here and alive, and assisting their neighbours in whatever way they can.

I wrote an article on the inaugural awards given out last year, and of my sheer amazement when a member of parliament gave medals to two anti-abortionists, prone to fire-bombing, with one of them in prison when given the medal. But since we must award ignorance and entitlement in equal shares, continue to enact laws and regulations simply to protect the stupid and the corporations, and to continue to have to suffer fools, some of the selections for the Diamond Jubilee Medal this year has made me mutter in my beer, you have got to be kidding me, really. I shake my head in befuddlement and embarrassment.

Lucien Bouchard is a lawyer and politician who up to 1990 was a member of parliament and held various positions in the Progressive Conservative government under the Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney. Bouchard stepped down from the Conservatives in 1990 after the Meech lake Accord, which he felt wasn’t sufficient in determining the rights or distinctions of Quebecers. PM Mulroney would later state that trusting Bouchard as much as he had was his most costly and regrettable error as PM. Bouchard would go on to form the Bloc Québécois, and lead them in the 1993 Federal election where they won 54 out of 75 ridings in Quebec, giving them the second most seats in the House of Commons. It was the first and only time in the history of Canada that a separatist was the leader of the opposition. Bouchard quickly realized that most of the 54 elected Bloc members didn’t speak English well enough to participate on the Common’s floor in parliament so he declares that henceforth, Bloc members will only speak French, which they still do today.

In 1995 the Quebec referendum was held, which would decide whether Quebec would separate from Canada. How close was it? – 50.58% against separation, 49.42% for. The next year Bouchard was elected premier of Quebec and held the position until 2001. In 2002 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, the QE II Golden Jubilee medal was awarded to those Canadians who had made “an honourable service in military, police, prison, and emergency forces, or for outstanding achievement or public service.” Bouchard received one, and today he receives another, proving being a monarchist or not, and wishing Quebec was separate from both the Queen and Country is not a criteria.

Then we have Alfonso Gagliano, former accountant and politician, who worked in government as a Liberal, from 1984 to 2002 in various capacities, including Minister of Labour, Canada Post, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and Political Minister for Quebec. It was always whispered that he had links to Montreal and Quebec organized crime, but to-date Gagliano still denies any involvement. In 2002 he was given the post of Canadian Ambassador to Denmark, but in 2004 was dismissed for being perhaps involved in the “sponsorship scandal.” The scandal involved Gagliano when he was Minister of Public Works, and a $100 million program that was set up intending to raise the federal government’s profile in Quebec, but instead simply went to Liberal friendly ad agencies.

With an overall operating cost of $14 million, the Gomery Commission was established to conduct a public inquiry into the scandal.They would find that $2 million in contracts were given out without any bidding process, $250,000 was found to be added to one contract for no additional work, and $1.5 million was awarded for work that was never done. At the conclusion of the inquiry, Gagliano would be the highest ranking Liberal to ever be charged with deliberate dishonesty, rather than negligence. Soon after, Liberal Premier Paul Martin expelled Gagliano from the Liberal party for life. But this year Gagliano has won a Queens Jubilee Medal, for being an outstanding Canadian, and instantly tarnishing all those who actually deserve the award.

Another Jubilee winner this year is Pamela Wallin, a television journalist and game show host, who in 2002, was appointed Canada’s Counsel General in New York City by Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretian. She held the position for four years, then in 2006, sat on the board of Bell Globalmedia. A year later she would be sitting on the board of Oilsands Quest Inc., Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc., an investment and wealth management firm, and on the advisory board of BMO Harris Bank. As a bonus, the same year, she was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada.

In 2009, on the advice of Conservative Prime Minister Stevie Harper, Wallin was appointed a Canadian Senator. Four short years later, in 2013, she would step down from three paid positions she held outside of the Senate, when she became embroiled in the Senate expense scandal, where in Feb. 2013, Senators Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Mac Harb were forensically audited on suspicion of fraudulent claims. In May 2013 Wallin resigned from the Senate Conservative caucus, and in August was ordered to pay back $121,348 in improper expense claims. In September she would write a check and pay it off. The case has been referred to the RCMP, and Wallin is under a continuing investigation.

Coincidently and astonishingly, fellow Senator Brazeau, also won the Queens Jubilee Medal this year. A Quebecer, Brazeau was the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) from 2006 to 2009. In 2009, amidst a sexual harassment complaint brought against him to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and facing allegations of improper spending of funds received by CAP for aboriginal health programs, Prime Minster Stevie Harper recommended Brazeau to become a senator, and so he became. At the time Brazeau tried keeping both, his senator’s seat and his national chief of CAP job, thus collecting two publically funded six figure incomes. He wilted quickly and the next day resigned from CAP.

While sitting as a Senator, Brazeau had one the worst attendance records of all 105 members. From June 2011 to Apr. 2012 for example, the Senate met 72 times; Brazeau was absent 25% of the time. As Deputy Chair of the Human Rights Committee he was absent 31% of the time. On the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples he was absent 65% of the time. Enough said.

In Feb 2013, he was kicked out of the Conservative Party after being arrested for assault against a woman. Recently suspended as a Senator, Brazeau is also under RCMP investigations into housing expenses and tax-filings, prior to him becoming a Senator, as well as currently under RCMP investigation for Breach of Trust.

Other recipients of such an honour, were 36 year-old Ray Novack, who lived above Harper’s garage for four years when Harper was serving as leader of the official opposition, and who is now Harper’s brand new Chief of Staff, after Harper lost his old Chief of Staff to the Senate scandal. And, also brand new, Deputy Chief of Staff, Jenni Byrne, who also won the Jubilee Medal. And heck, why not? Justin Beiber also received the Queens Jubilee Medal. Methinks for being a cartoon character.

I myself know a fellow who is into car crime. Enjoys smashing windows, stealing cars then destroying them, but who also happens to keeps dozens of Canadians in work, from cops to insurance companies, tow-truck drivers, mechanics, jail guards and repairmen. It’s like he creates an economy around him, helping other Canadians provide for their families. He has been staying home over the past few weeks waiting for his own Queens Jubilee Medal to come in the mail, and is confused and worried because it hasn’t arrived yet.

 

08/22/13

Dreams of Inheritances and Lotteries

While reading the daily rags a few weeks ago, on scan and bee-lining for the crossword, a smidgeon of information passed my way and halted my progress. At first I feigned surprise, recent surveys show that nearly half of Canadians are relying on either receiving an inheritance or winning a lottery for their retirement, with similar numbers showing up in other developed countries as well. My surprise died when I realized holy shit, I am one of those people. And then, as I happen to be currently reading up on social contracts, I wondered in a most dedicated and peculiar way, are lotteries and inheritances becoming but another interpretation of unrealistic hope subsidizing the con of what has become familiarly known as the “American dream”?

The seeds of the dream could be traced back to the concept of Res Communes (common things), from the Roman Justinian Code, issued in 535 AD. Res Communes were all the things owned by no one and subject to use by all. “By law of nature these things are common to mankind – the air, running fresh water, the sea, and its shores.” It would become known as the Public Trust Doctrine, where “a state serves as a trustee for such things on behalf of the present and future generations.” Today, International law recognizes all those things that lay outside of the political reach of any one nation state, but belongs to all people, as the global commons; the high seas, the atmosphere, Antarctica and Outer Space. To ask how this particular human contract is going we’d have to stand in front of a mirror before we answer, and then lie to our own face.

A thousand years after Res Communes, the contract had an amendment attached to it. During the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries when birth was given to humanism, there came a new way of thinking about humans and their place in the universe, that people’s actions were not directed by God, but instead, people are responsible for their own lives.

In Europe, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Renaissance would evolve into the Age of Enlightenment, where philosophers, artists, and scientists discussed the theory of a social contract, made up of unwritten constitutions of nature and society. Such a social contract was theorized to be the blueprint for modern society, where individuals are suggested to surrender certain definitive freedoms and submit to the authority of a ruler, in exchange for protection of their remaining assumed rights. Consent is given to be ruled by an executive power, though consent to be a part of society is not necessarily consent to such an executive. As Thomas Hobbes wrote in 1651, a social contract should be “a mutual exchange of benefits necessary to the formation of a valid contract.”

The deal would become where the ruling state would provide a neutral authority to act to protect the lives, freedoms and property of its citizens, and that justice was to be for all. The citizens on the other hand would promise to avoid doing harm to others, to not interfere with each other, and would be recognized to possess natural unalienable rights. The problem with this concept was that there was no shaking of the hands to seal the deal because it is a theory, and the authority of the state had nothing above it to control it. And most importantly Res Communes began to become privatized. Democracy was the promised placebo to deal with such lack of accountability, but alas it has failed. And though hundreds of millions of law-abiding citizens over the centuries have sacrificed their lives, and even more than that, in fulfilling their duties and their part of the deal to their state and country, the state hasn’t had to sacrifice anything. If such a social contract was indeed co-operative, changes would then  have been different than the present, and once again, collapsing of the middle class and the ever widening problem of distribution of wealth.

As to the planet, according to the international sustainability think tank, Global Footprints, August 12, 2013 marks the day when humanity has used up all the natural resources and waste absorption that the earth can provide in a year. Our human consumption and waste for the remaining four and a half months will be borrowed from future generations. This day has arrived three days earlier each year since 2011. Global Footprints have calculated that if everyone in the world consumed the same as the United States; it would take four Earths to sustain the global population.

The social contract theorized during the Enlightenment would eventually arise in the American Constitution, and would expand out globally and became everyone’s dream. Though it wasn’t until 1931, and historian James Truslow Adams’s book “Epic of America”, that the American dream became popular with the masses in North America and Western Europe. He felt the American dream, was the “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement….. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position…. The American dream that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been much more than that. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”

The dream was then interrupted by the Great Depression, which brought a deep understanding of deprivation. Soon after, World War II and its untold hardships and death on a massive scale erupted. After the horror and madness, those who survived returned and reunited, after sometimes years of separation, with their loves and families, all the while held intact through simple monthly letters. With many of the men, and no doubt much of the populations in many countries, suffering post traumatic shock. Never being able to tell their stories of what they had seen and done. They dreamed of a calmer life, where they felt safe, could toil in meaningful work, and aspire to educate themselves, get married, buy a house and raise kids in it. For decades on end working long full days, putting each of their children through school, and who after graduating, would themselves take on the responsibilities and accountability of being an adult, and stand on their own two feet. One’s dream in life was to be achieved based on individual talent, energy, perseverance, audacity, and a little bit of good luck once in awhile. But the reality of life dictated such a dream could not be for everyone, though generations have tried.

The dream would supposedly continue until the day came to retire and then life would become days of gardening, reading, playing crib, and knitting, baking, and puttering around aimlessly. Maybe obsessing over a lawn, or practising a craft, and if blessed, seeing the grandkids from time to time. Golfing, playing bingo, meeting with friends once a week, and every year going on a little vacation, by plane, train or automobile, to visit family, with the rest of the time spent watching a lot of television. This was not so much how people thought and hoped for; it was what was taught to us, rather advertised to us. Today, the end game of retirement isn’t something people necessarily look forward to at all; instead, for far too many individuals it has become a very, very scary thing. In Canada, 32% of 45 to 64 year olds are expecting lotteries to support them in their retirement, while only 34% of those who do retire have either relied on their savings and investments, or had a pension to achieve it. So for about six out of ten Canadians, retirement is not becoming an option.

Over the past forty years the one dream has morphed into four dreams and has laid waste through our societies at an ever accelerating rate. Writer and Professor of history, Ted Ownby, identifies the four dreams as, Abundance; of material goods, The Democracy of Goods; access to the same products for everybody, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class, Freedom of Choice; where everyone can fashion their own lifestyle, and Novelty; of ever changing models and products and “expanding the consumer experience and fine tuning people’s purchasing skills and awareness of the market.”

Our societies have become top down structures of capitalistic enterprises, with no one above them to curtail their greed and ego. They have skillfully revised the social contract into being all about maximizing corporate profit at the expense of the citizenry. For all intents and purposes the social contract is now null and void, and we’ve allowed it to happen, for we have been sufficiently distracted enough from reality that we continue to buy into the con, that we can have anything we want, be anybody we want to be, and be able to fulfill all our desires, whether self-indulgent, degenerate or with the best of intentions. Any changes to the contract have not been co-operative in any way, shape or form, and instead have been dictated to us.

Thus, inheritances and lotteries have become a part of the dream, subtly replacing jobs and opportunities. Where all we’ve got to do is buy a ticket and dream, while cruising through the nicer areas of town, doing the slow looki-loo drive by, ogling all the homes and finely kept lawns. Dreaming of what it would be like sitting inside that house, with an even bigger screen TV, an even more expensive couch, and a big truck, Sea-doo, Ski-doo and a ride-a-mower parked in the garage. Dreaming of the opportunity to live in a luxurious way, by not dedicating oneself to education and working hard and having the discipline to do so, but instead simply by winning the lottery, or with about the same odds, becoming a sports hero or celebrity. So wrapped up in technology and upgrading it every few months that we’ve become Star Trek’s, the Borg.

Many think that when they win, which they actually believe will happen, eventually, they will be able to expand their material wealth and instantly retire and do nothing in particular. Bigger house, a few vehicles, and month long travel vacations, with the destinations prone to be places one can shop. Some also believe they will, perhaps, maybe, probably win, but are thinking of the freedom it would bring. To finally go buy a guitar, get that easel you’ve always wanted and spend a couple of hours in an art supply store picking out tubes of oil paints, writing a book, or perhaps even going back to school or finally getting your teeth fixed, making a difference in one’s community, or finally being able to help out a friend or family member. Paying it forward in meaningful ways to people who truly deserve it, all the while not even carrying a phone, but for most of us this is all but a dream.

While in the reality of our daily lives we, and those who are supposed to lead us, have together accumulated debt on a massive scale, which has overshadowed and distracted us from seeking and finding true abundance, which is good health, education, family, friends, a healthy natural world and meaningful work. Instead we are searching for meaning and acceptance through what we consume. It’s like people actually seem to believe if you are rich you are automatically accepted as being successful, smart, honorable, and someone who should be looked up to. Even if what you do to make a living goes against all that is moral and right. It seems we have become simply paychecks, and are defined and accepted as such. If indeed this is the case, then of course inheritances and lotteries are important dreams for many people. They have become key to any long term financial security, especially considering that getting or winning such a windfall saves us from having to work for it in a job that isn’t there anymore. People feel they will gain importance and be more than who they are, but don’t understand its nothing but window dressing for what’s really inside. We have reached the point where we have become so successful at being consumers we haven’t the wherewithal to even retire, unless of course, as mentioned, we win this week’s lottery or someone close to us dies and leaves us the money to do so.

Inheritances

Of all the Canadians who have received an inheritance, nearly half preferred not to divulge how much. Of the rest, 47% said they received an average $57,000, one in five said they received $100,000 or more, while one in four received less than $5,000. Higher up the ladder, 36% of the wealthiest families have received an average of $136,000 inheritance, with this figure predicted to swell to about $300,000 in cash, real estate and other valuables, but then assuming and knowing can be the defining difference between fantasy and reality. It’s like the reports today concerned with climate change, worried that when the earth’s ecosystems collapse it’ll cost us tens of trillions of dollars. With the question instantly coming to mind, who’ll and how many will be left to pick up the tab? And who’ll care?

In a perfect world where all goes well, the economists and soothsayers estimate that Canadian seniors and boomers will leave nearly a trillion dollars to their offspring. On the other hand this estimate is in constant flux, as much of the bulk of inheritances is tied up in homes and property. Those lucky enough to have bought their house in the seventies, and stuck it out, now find the place’s worth has risen 300%. But there’s that second, perhaps third, mortgage that was taken out a decade ago for the $60,000 update on the kitchen. Before that the roof had to be replaced, then the trip to Europe, the loan to your kid so he or she could purchase their first home, a 550 square foot “condo”, the new car loan, thankfully now able to be amortized over 84 months, so that some money is left over monthly for buying other stuff, like food, and every year Christmas is finally being paid off in April. Over the past ten years, such home equity lines of credit have risen 170%. This is why today, about 68% of home owners have, on average, only about 34% in equity in their home.

In 1980 the average home was about $100,000, with an average household debt to income ratio of 66%. Meaning for every $1000 a homeowner earned, $660 went to the bills; mortgage, household expenses, food and such, while $330 was left over for savings and frivolous spending. Today the average house in Canada is about $353,000, over 11 times the median family income, with an average household debt to income ratio of 161%. In other words, the average Canadian household debt, as of 2013, is about $1650 for every $1000 of disposable income. Even crazier, more than one in eight homeowners’ debt to income ratio was 250%, meaning two and a half times their annual income went to mortgages, credit cards and other forms of debt, creating -you guessed it- more debt. It’s a similar system to how many governments work their books.

Canadian house prices today have doubled since 2002, and over 13% since 2008, but seem to now be bogging down; you can just about hear the balloon stretching if you’re quiet and turn the TV down. The only reason the Canadian housing today has stayed fairly steady is because we are buoyed up somewhat by the continuing global economic crisis. Meanwhile the most expensive homes, condos and properties in the major cities are being gobbled up by foreign buyers. The average house value in BC today is $498,000. In Vancouver it’s $684,000. Ontario’s average is $369,000, but $479,000 in Toronto, with Alberta’s average house value at $363,000, $420,000 in Calgary.

It is estimated that over the next ten years, house prices will rise perhaps 2%, barely keeping up with inflation, and while current debt and housing levels are ever more unsustainable, when the lending rates rise, and they will, they’re be hell to pay for many. Economists suggest that with only a half of one percentage point increase in the lending rate there would be an immediate drop of about 10% in house sales and over a 3% decrease in prices. A mere 1% increase in borrowing rates would drop house sales over 15% and decrease the price of the home by more than 7%. For many Canadians, they will not be able to  afford to live in the homes they own.

But over 80% of Canadians aged 18 to 29 years, still continue to expect an inheritance, especially those who attended post-secondary school, are savvy to the real estate market and the value of their parent’s home, and who are graduating with an average of $28,000 in student loans into a world where there will never be enough jobs or opportunities. While only 48% of the 45 to 64 year old baby boomers are expecting an inheritance of some sort, because they understand the fact that people are living longer and spending more in retirement, and are seeing firsthand how tough it’s going to be as we age. Boomers in particular are becoming more concerned with debt reduction than retirement and leaving an inheritance, and it’s highly likely we may well be one of the last generations to inherit anything. As to how much wealth is transferred to the next generation, it’s changing all the time, because of the high costs of living in one’s final years, especially if you want to live with a better than average standard of living. The reality will be mostly determined by the actions of the real estate market. As it is, forty-five percent of those 60 or older are going to need their savings to fund their retirement, with only one in four willing to make personal sacrifices to ensure an inheritance for their family. At the same time, only four in ten Canadians actually have a will.

Baby-boomers’ parents were unique, in that they grew up with a very deep understanding of deprivation, untold hardships and World War Two. When and if able to leave an inheritance, they feel compelled to provide financial assistance to their family. Boomers on the other hand have grown up in a relatively peaceful and affluent time, and a life of abundance. They are compelled more to treat any monies or property that they leave to certain people or charity and non-profit organizations, as a bonus, instead of a requirement. Of course that’s only if there is anything left after keeping us in diapers and well medicated in our final years.

Another generational difference is that no longer do the majority believe in a life after death, instead it’s now all about holding on to this one, even to the point of sculpting and altering one’s body to give the impression “age doesn’t mean anything”. Holding onto all we have, and getting as much of it as we can. Never going airborne to look down and see how massive our herd has become and how so alike we look.

At one time we used to inherit the best of family legacies, traditions and values. Perhaps an old watch or chiming clock, an antique dining room table with ornate chairs, perhaps a cache of recipes or a set of dishes and a tea set, or maybe some small plot of land and/or the family home, which was built to raise a family in and not just another investment. Or more importantly such things as honour, the level-headedness of one’s grandmother, the reason people respected your grandfather, having a good work ethic,  being taught etiquette, things like poise and reservation, or how to respect each other even if you don’t like each other. There are also other traditions and values that have been passed on which humanity could do without, such as out-dated social and religious values. But nothing lasts anymore, so there is less to be passed on. Even antiques will soon be no more, and more expensive, for I highly doubt an IKEA bookshelf or Wal-Mart writing desk will be around for auction in seventy years. Our legacies will be plastic effigies of ourselves.

Unfortunately, much of the best of past legacies, traditions and values have been replaced with economic inheritance. Which itself is based on the soft and shaky ground called real estate speculation, a global economic crisis, diminishing ecosystems, and a declining number of people who have planned for retirement, in non-existent or non-sufficient savings, tax, and insurance plans. As for stocks and bonds being a part of one’s inheritance, about 90% of all stock, including bonds, is owned by the top 15% wealthiest individuals. I know, made me cry too.

A few final thoughts on inheritances and why they are diminishing, debt is rising, and the ever widening gap between those with and those without continues. Between 1976 and 2010, Canada’s middle class saw their income grow only 7% when adjusted for inflation, which is about 0.2% per year. The top 20% of earners saw their incomes rise more than 40%, while those in the top 5% saw their incomes rise by that much annually.

Then there is the makeup of the average Canadian family today, where it’s not simply the married for forty years parents passing away and leaving their wealth for their two children and three grandchildren. Today if there is a pot left behind to be pissed in, it might well have to be divided between two or three unmarried and/or sometimes remarried spouses, children from the various relationships, siblings, next of kin, and of course creditors. This issue also appears when someone wins a lottery, and the relatives and friends start appearing out of the woodwork for their cut, whether entitled or not.

Most sadly, where grandparents were once very important within the family makeup, experience and values, especially to their grandchildren; far too often the thread of this legacy is rare or non-existent today. At the same time more and more parents and grandparents are dipping into their savings and retirement funds to financially help their struggling adult children who are finding it difficult to get jobs or meaningful work. But then, for three generations now, around the globe, television and mainstream media have far too often been the parents minding the children.

Reality is, for the majority in the present world, people need to keep for themselves what they would have left as an inheritance to finance their senior years, and/or need to keep working past the American dream’s unnatural sixty-five years old deadline. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that such a deadline is perhaps the reason for the rapid growth of people today developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. Preventing mental decline is all about keeping physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged; while drooling over daytime television sitting in a lazy-boy rocker, in a small apartment, taking your meds, smoking your reefer, or drinking enough so that you may sleep that night, does not. People should be able to work as long as they physically and mentally can. Today most have to, before having to spend their final years, often in decrepit, unsafe, and vulnerable situations, or having to rely on Government assistance and eating cold soup out of the can over the kitchen sink. All the while the body and mind deteriorate and one becomes ever more alone and frightened. Many thank God for bringing contemplation, forgiveness and erasure of sin before going to heaven, others now thank god for lotteries, for all the same reasons.

Lotteries

Once upon a time, when we began to jam ourselves into villages, then towns and cities, we slowly stopped believing in ourselves, we also stopped using both sides of our brain at the same time. But we had to believe in something to get through our daily lives, doing those things we usually didn’t want to do, so we came up with the concept of religion. Today we have lotteries.

Any local convenience store clerk will tell you they can actually see the physical and mental reaction a person goes through when coming in to check their tickets. Some people are either cheery, feeling that positive vibes will help their chances, or glum and quiet, hoping and praying under their breath. The “sorry not a winner” from the clerk, is followed by the customer exhaling all their air, shrugging and slumping their shoulders, dropping their heads, and feeling beaten down again. But then the moment they decide to spend the last toonie to their name on a “scratch and win”, voila, hope is restored. The ticket will be taken home or to a place where the aura will make the scratching almost ritualistic and holy. Or by using “reverse psychology’, they scratch the ticket immediately, like they don’t care if it’s a winner or not, and then nonchalantly wading it up and dumping it in the trash bin. The hope, loss and recovery are quickly experienced, as they then continue to go on about their day. For most, even a free ticket win nearly brings out the choir. The dreams a major lottery creates, believing if you don’t play you’ll never win, could put a spring into one’s step for a whole week. People will spend hundreds on Keno or pull-tabs, drinking coffees or beer specials for hours, chatting within their like-minded group, and win fifty bucks and feel like a million dollars. The altar is no longer in a church, it’s in a casino.

Meanwhile, the odds of dying in a terrorist attack in North America are about 1 in 20 million, while travelling abroad these odds drop to 1 in 650,000. In Canada, we have the lowest risk of dying from terrorism out of all the Western economies in the world, about  1 in 14 million, about the same odds of winning the national Lotto 6/49, which odds can be, on average, anywhere from 1 in 14 million to 1 in 28 million. In the States, the chances of winning one of their Powerball or mega-millions state lotteries is about 1 in 175.7 million. A typical, two dollar, thousand dollar prize scratch and win, where the odds of winning a thousand dollars is about 1 in 960,000 is similar to the odds (1 in 1 million) of being killed by flesh-eating disease. So getting beheaded in a terrorist attack, and winning a major lottery have about the same chance of happening in one’s life – interesting. Yet in Canada, we’ll drive at least 16 km (10 miles) to get our lottery ticket, consuming gas worth more than the ticket, and its 3 to 20 times more likely for us to be killed in a car accident than winning a lottery or being car bombed.

The odds of being killed by a bee sting or a snake bite are about 1 in 100,000. Dying in a plane crash 1 in 360,000, becoming a pro athlete 1 in 22,000, getting a hole in one in golf, 1 in 5,000, the same odds for getting injured or dying sometime over the next year. Then raw reality lays bare the odds of getting cancer – at least once in our lives – 1 in 2.

As to the Canadian lottery, Lotto 6/49, if you spend two dollars a week on one set of numbers you’re likely to win $10 at least once every 13 months. Another study found that spending $25 per week for 20 years on lottery tickets, you could make over a third back, occasionally winning in increments of either $10 or the 4th place range of $75 The odds of winning a free ticket are 1 in 8; winning ten to twenty dollars, 1 in 77. The average Canadian spends $257 per year on lottery tickets. British Columbians spend the least at $240, while 45 to 64 year old men spend the most at $880 per year.

One of the largest lottery jackpots won in the world was in March 2012, in the States, where three tickets shared in a $640 million cash payout. After taxes each of the winners shared $474 million. In the US, the federal individual income tax rate is 35-39.6% on taxable income above $400,000 for a single and $450,000 for a couple, plus state and municipal taxes. The highest combined federal, state and city tax rate paid by someone winning the lottery is in New York State at 48.5%. In Canada there are no taxes on lottery winnings, but there are on interest earned from them.

One of the highest lottery prizes in Canada was in April 2013, where there were four winning tickets sharing $63 million. Which was $15.8 million per ticket, but one of the winners had two winning numbers, because eccentrically, for 30 years he always purchased two identical sets of the same numbers, doubling down each time, thus he was able to pocket $31.6 million.

The good thing about the lottery is it’s like the left-brain right-brain thing. It gives hope, some solace during the week perhaps, where one walks a bit straighter, and a humbled confidence could even enter their realm. And in most cases it only cost two bucks. Then there’s the view of where does the money go, won or lost. The winners more often than not are broke within five years, while the money pooled by the lottery corporations, surprisingly, is often money well spent or at least it’s what we are led to believe.

Lotteries in North America are a fairly recent addition, and unfortunately governments have become enamoured with lotteries and casinos, because instead of some of the escalating revenues going to actually help communities, as has been the case, the monies they receive now are put into general spending, most often to cover their, but really our, growing debt. One can also say that lotteries give false hope, a release valve for the population, so that there is less pressure on political leaders, to remedy the growing inequality of modern society. But then these negative aspects of a lottery have been used for thousands of years, and as mentioned, have only been recently accepted, when governments wanted a piece of the action once controlled solely by the underworld and despots.

Evidence suggests lotteries began in China over four thousand years ago, with the first recorded signs of a lottery during the Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 BC. It’s believed lotteries were created to finance government works, such as the Great Wall of China. Gambling has gone on as long with the Egyptians, who became notorious dice players three thousand years ago. The first known European lotteries were during the Roman Empire. By 1400, many communities of Europeans would hold lotteries for needed public works.

Gambling, lotteries and sweepstakes were illegal in many countries, including Canada, the US and most of Europe well into the early 20th century. Gambling Mecca’s were always elsewhere, Havana, Beirut, Monte Carlo…. It wasn’t until the sixties that casinos and lotteries began to push for amendments in both Canada and the US.

In Canada, it wasn’t until 1969, when the Criminal Code was amended, that the federal government and the Provinces were allowed to operate such “lottery schemes.” BC offered Canada’s first lottery in 1974, with everyone else soon following. There are five lottery corporations in Canada today, covering all the provinces and territories; Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada and BC. Combined they bring in $8.5 billion in revenue annually. In the US there are forty-four States or Territories which offer government operated lotteries.

In 1985, selling under the umbrella of the Western Canada Lottery Foundation, BC opened its own lottery, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), which today is the largest net income generating commercial Crown Corporation in BC. But like the BC Transit Corporation, it is placed outside of direct government oversight. In 2011/12, over 5,000 community and charitable organizations received a combined $134 million in Community Gaming Grants for arts and culture, youth and disabled sports, public safety, environmental groups, animal welfare agencies, fairs, festivals, museums and for people in need. A further $100 million went to local governments that host casinos and community gaming centers and local economic development projects. With 900 employees, its revenues for 2012-13, by operating 2.5 lottery machines per 1000 people in BC, were $2.76 billion. While $624.5 million was paid out in winnings (39%),  total expenses were $910 million. Net income was $1.2 billion, of which $100 million in taxes goes to the BC government, hopefully going where it’s supposed to go, which is support for health care services and research, and a consolidated revenue fund to support other health care and education programs. Of the remaining monies, $128 million goes to debt; $116 million goes to Capital expenditures and finally the federal government gets its $9.1 million share. Millions also are allocated to gambling addictions. The bottom line is that, for every one dollar gambled in BC, eighty-seven cents goes back into BC. Funny enough, so do most of the prize payouts.

Twenty-five per cent of Canadians consistently play the lottery, while it’s estimated that more than 60% of Canadians will plunk down at least two dollars on any lottery which prize has grown to mega-million size. And like all big business the push is always on. Previously noted, subsidizing a government’s lack of fiscal restraint means the revenues from gambling are paying for the services the government can no longer afford to provide, and of course the push has reached mainstream radio stations, where the evolvement of never ending contests has reached a place where if you win, you will receive $100 to play Lotto, plus have an on-line account set up for you, so that “you never have to worry you don’t have a ticket ever again”, and as a special bonus you will receive an e-mail notification when you win, oh yes, when you win! So all that is needed is to sit in front of the television, mouth agape, watching regular programming, drooling in front of the computer, or playing video games until three am, and simply waiting for the phone to magically ring, and will change your life.

Nine out of ten winners of $100,000 or less spend all their winnings in five years or less. Researchers have offered a few theories as to why so many winners blow it all rather quickly. Theories abound that most lottery players have below-average incomes and education and are highly likely to be financially illiterate and that winners might also engage in something behavioral economists call “mental accounting”, where a person treats their winnings less cautiously than they would their earnings, because the winnings are something they didn’t have before. And of course some people simply develop a taste for luxury goods that outlasts their money. Just like any other addiction.

According to a study by the Statistic Brain, compiled from 34 national lottery winners (8 male, 26 female, with an average age of 46), and who averaged $175,000 in winnings, suggests that 55% were of course much happier after winning, because of improved financial security, 65% were less worried, could purchase anything they wanted, and that 23% felt their life became easier, while 43% of the winners felt no effect on their happiness. Other studies suggest that such happiness, on average, ebbs over time. Interesting effects from this study include, 58% of winners’ families claimed to be happier, 40% increased their contributions to charity, 38% have moved since winning, 48% were in a career job before and are still there, 15% started a new job, 30% started their own business, and 32% have gained weight. The average number of friends that male winners gave money to – three; the average number of friends female winners gave money to – one; while 44% would spend their winnings within five years, and the probability that any such new wealth will be gone by the third generation (grandchildren), is 90%. Of course, all these numbers are dependent on the amount of money won and who the people were.

As for multi-million dollar winners, at least those who have a head on their shoulders, who are happy with who they are, thus, are well grounded, American Brad Duke of Star, Idaho, could be used as an example. When he realized he had won the $220 million Powerball jackpot in 2005, he kept it to himself and went about his daily routine. The breakdown of what he finally did with the loot, when he finally went public; $45 million invested in safe, low-risk investments such as municipal bonds, $35 million in more aggressive investments such as oil, gas, and real estate (personally, real estate for sure, oil and gas, not even if my life depended on it, which it does. I’d go solar and wind alternatives), a $1.3 million family foundation, $63,000 spent on a trip to Tahiti with 17 friends, he paid off the $125,000 mortgage on his 1,400 square-foot house, paid off his outstanding student loan of $18,000. As a mountain bike enthusiast he spent $65,000 on new bicycles, bought a used black VW Jetta for $14,500 and now gives an annual $12,000 gift to each family member.

But it’s all relative, depending on the winner’s sense of well-being, which doesn’t fundamentally change, and their current situation which will most certainly exaggerate. If you are unhappy, can’t manage money and you’re surrounded by people you do not trust, winning millions of dollars will probably make your problems worse. If you are happy with your life, it fulfills you, you are careful with your money and you have strong relationships in your life, a lottery win is likely to build on those strengths. We are who we are.

The downside of it all is that many people’s lives have become nearly entirely economic, and lacking any depth whatsoever. We believe we have very healthy relationships with our stuff, while our human relationships become ever more dysfunctional. And is perhaps why dog ownership is growing in leaps and bounds; people seeking unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. This gets us back to the idea of the American dream, discussed earlier, and how it has evolved into simply being the best consumer you can be, all the while, it is clearly warping our senses and human values. It has become the way of the world, for it keeps the global economy going. The 1% who run the world, control us by constantly reminding that if we buy, use, discard, then buy some more, all is well. If we do not, the economy will die. Meanwhile fossil fuel limits, environmental limits and debt limits are all being reached, and no heed is taken, and if it is, its then quickly squashed. It seems the only dying that’s going on here is us and all the other species that live on this rock.

In the US, it’s becoming blatantly obvious such a way of living is not working. A recent report out of Oxford University, estimates 80% of Americans (four out of five adults) will suffer the hardship of joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives by 2030. In 2012, 33 million American adults, 15% of the population, and only two million fewer people than Canada’s entire population, who were responsible for a family of four, saw their annual income fall below the poverty line of $23,021.

So if after eking through life and getting cancer, a hip replacement, suffering depression, getting hit by lightening, having a parasitic worm gnaw its way through your body, getting into a traffic accident where somebody died, becoming a superstar, writing a novel and fourteen million other things, you actually do win a lottery or receive an inheritance, be cool, chill for awhile, take your time and keep it to yourself. Yes, this will be very difficult, but so is life, and if indeed you won and if you play your cards right, it could get better.

Put one or two steps between you and your ability to spend the principle. Surround yourself with people you trust, whether a lawyer, financial advisor or even a committee of three of those closest to you. Meet with estate lawyers, accountants and financial advisors, and when you meet them do not let on you have fourteen or so million sitting in your savings account. See if they will show you respect thinking you’re just regular folk. Provide for your children with savings accounts; hold off on giving money to anybody else until you have a financial plan in order. Set aside a small amount as crazy money, but set a very small limit, do not dwell on it, and don’t hurt anyone.

Winning a lottery is much more than just money and managing it though. It is also very much about managing one’s behaviour. A real bitch or prick filled with self-indulgence, hate, greed and zero empathy living in a hovel, will no doubt be of the same character and possess the same attitude, if living in a castle. For as they say, doing the same thing and expecting a different result is a sign of utter madness.

As for the American dream, many citizens today the world over, are realizing that such a dream is becoming unattainable, and perhaps it never was, as George Carlin eloquently deadpanned, thirty years ago, “It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

No matter if one wins a lottery or has an inheritance thrown into one’s lap, or not; making a difference in your life has got nothing to do with money. Money simply gives one the freedom to do more. Our stuff does not define us. We are who we are. And we don’t change as much as we think we do.

Though I have no pension, nor substantial savings, and will never be able to retire, I don’t care. I’m a writer and though I don’t make money doing it, I wish it was all I had to do. But I continue to work, have a roof over my head, be fed and I’m blessed with family, trusted friends and acquaintances. I accept and deal with the dark days as they periodically appear, and enjoy the good ones, one at a time. So yes, I will still saunter over to the corner grocery store once a week, grab some chocolate milk and eggs, smell the smells, sample some freshly made pakora’s, gratefully take a small container of chutney, chat with the merchant and his family, smile at people there and back, perhaps shove my face into a blooming Lilac bush, and spend five dollars on BC/49. Because you never know, and no matter the truths written above, if five dollars is what it takes, in this economic world of ours to inject some confidence in looking forward to the future, and the freedom it would bring, and be able to dream of things outside our boxes and daily routines, without harming ourselves or others, I figure it’s money well spent.

 

 

07/30/13

“Alzheimer’s” by Owen Kavanagh

 

Words from the heart. Written about the author’s 93 year old former College professor, mentor and friend, who unfortunately now lives under the fog of Alzheimer’s disease, and who now needs to be reminded of his past, and how wonderful a man he was and still is.

 

I know a man who lost his way – his dearest things were gone

He searched the pockets of these clothes, given to put on
he scoured his mind to find a route back from his foreign war
scorched earth was all the proof he had of what he’d been before
he wondered at this place he stood and what he’d come here for
weights hung down where memory should recall
only space where once his pride would hold up every wall

Each face along the road he searched, “are you family?”
some said straight out that they were not, some pretend to care a lot
but one young fellow saw the man he’d known from long before
remembered him as one who’d walked the cliffs by park by shore
a jaunty chap with yapping dog, then arm-an-arm his grey haired wife
and finally in those last few years, hobbled, cane and hunched up life
Youth had yearned to know him then, this teacher from all time
but never had they passed a word, their seasons out of line.

Now chance, the youth reflects to show respect upon this day
so walks beside that bent old gent reminding him his way
oh what great tales lie so near, what happiness may dawn
if eyes be bright to see again, if voice be raised in song
Youth took one wrinkled hand in his as lurched along the street
toward the elder’s home, their passage to retreat

That night was as a prodigal son returned to kith & kin
rounds made, cups raised, the photo passed, stories roused within
that night each youngster crept from bed as first the tales begin
none left to feel alone that night, not when their gramps sat in
his start was slow but soon he spoke the secrets of their birth
stories only he would know, a life full-share of worth

He spent his youth in far south lands where folks drawl out their speech
recalled both the kindness done and cruelty of their reach
remembered child’s thistle wound salved in a black man’s spit
once hid his friend behind the sacks when Ku Klux Klan had hit
and all those tiny black girls in church basement bombed & burned
recalled he’d joined the walks for them, the peace for which he yearned

But stories and the night must fade as all are half asleep
youngsters carried off to bed without a single peep
The rest of us reflect on what our elder had to say
the worth of a man, is strong as the stance, he took along the way
and crystal clear it came to us who hear just why he hurt
why need he be amongst us here, so far from southern dirt

Next morning deformed hands to move, groaning and with sighs
shook out his snowdrift locks and glared from rheumy eyes
“I went to sleep back on the farm … with mule’s rein in my fist
… sister guiding plow’s deep bite … the cracker dirt adrift
and yet I wake in stranger’s house … with no one that I know
I’ll dress and leave you here in peace and trouble you no more”

I know a man who lost his way – his dearest things are gone.