11/10/19

Half Way There – A Vancouverite Baby Boomer’s Almanac

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr

Chapter One

Since I’m perhaps nearing my end I thought I’d start at the beginning.

Some of the oldest human relics that have ever been found were fertility figurines carved from stones over fifty-thousand years ago. They depicted women with a figure of big bum, big belly and breasts. Perhaps not understanding yet that sex produces children, the men were no doubt in awe of what a woman could do that they could not. Women on the other hand were attracted to men who were confident, athletic, brave, a good provider, respected among the tribe, and handsome, with nice eyes. This was because women were selective as to which sperm they wanted, and because such men protected and provided for them. Thus, in nature and in human tribal cultures untouched by modern western ideology, males predominately do the wooing. There’s a perfectly logical reason for this, eggs are more valuable than the dime a dozen sperm. Most females are limited by how many eggs they have at birth, while males are only limited by the numbers of females they can have sex with. For example, for some women today, a pregnancy can simply be a too costly and time consuming responsibility to take on, especially if one is single, and if a decision is made to become pregnant, she at least should be selective as to whose sperm she wants, whether the survival of the species depends on it or not, unlike a Bonobo chimpanzee.

The Bonobo, kin to the other chimpanzees who lived on the other side of the river as it were, spend much of their time fondling, rubbing, and engaging in intercourse. Primatologist Frans de Waal described the difference between chimpanzees and bonobos as being, “Chimps use violence to get sex, while bonobos use sex to avoid violence.”

After studying them for years, Vanessa Woods describes the bonobo’s world as being where all your relatives “think sex is like a handshake”. And if left alone, they live high quality, nearly stress-free lives. Their world is one where everyone takes care of each other, especially the young, and where both males and females, share the babysitting duties, and don’t necessarily care who the father was. When having sex they cuddle, kiss, hold hands and gaze into one another’s eyes, perhaps even fluttering their eye lashes. While jealousy, is considered an ugly trait. Even before eating, instead of prayers, they all have a quickie before sitting down and empathically passing the food around smiling at each other. Then afterwards no doubt all take a nap. I would.

It’s perhaps not so surprising that for bonobos, chimps, humans and dolphins, all of whom might be the smartest of all mammals, promiscuity is the norm. Regardless, because whether by love, lust or instinct, when a male animal and a female animal have sex and do not use protection, there is a good chance a baby may be conceived.

In early 1958, somewhere in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia, my father’s performance reached its crescendo when the floodgates were thrown aside allowing nearly one hundred million sperm cells, the smallest cells in a human, to be ejected as semen, along with a part of his soul, and perhaps a quick pang of sadness that so often happens. Similar perhaps to how the vast majority of women have feelings of sadness or the “baby blues” after giving birth because maybe it’s that feeling that a human that grew inside her belly is now gone. In the there and then, the race was on, as the frantic sperm started swimming like crack addicted tadpoles, bobbing and weaving forward, with their long tails flowing behind. Others undoubtedly swam around like chickens with their heads cut off. Each one affected, or not, by how stressed out the father was, which could impact their future behaviour, just as a mother’s stress at fertilization can affect the egg.

Within five minutes, the hardier sperm made their way from my mother’s vagina, through to her cervix where, because it had been a couple of weeks since her last period, she happened to be ovulating. So her body had made the mucus in her cervix become more fluid and more elastic, allowing the sperm to pass through like going through a slippy-slide, and enter the uterus even more rapidly, as they wiggled their way forward in a mad frenzy bouncing off the walls and each other.

In the 17th century, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, was the first to observe sperm in action using a microscope. He called them “animalcules” or little animals, because of his belief that each sperm contained a fully formed but very tiny human being.

Once past the uterus, the horde of sperm still left dwindled dramatically. Similar perhaps to animal kingdoms, and early human tribes, where the weak, lost and stupid are usually the first to go – the survival of the fittest for the survival of the species.

Of the millions, perhaps only a very few were left to swim into the funnel-shaped ends of two Fallopian tubes. Door number one was a dead end, while behind door number two an egg (ovum) my mother’s ovaries had released, lay in wait. The largest cell in a human body, the egg, can be fertilized for twelve to twenty-four hours after it is released. It then makes its way down the Fallopian tube where it waits for a sperm to come walking through the door. As per chance, one of my father’s sperm picked door number two and sperm and egg would meet.

Picking the right door was easy, but only because of sheer luck, while the hard part came when confronting the egg that happened to be there. Back in my father’s scrotum, rumours among the sperm had run rampant that the egg was a tough nut to crack. If unable to gain entry after throwing all one has at it, relentlessly squirming like mad, a sperm runs out of juice after five days and are eventually expelled, as is the egg if it finds no suitors or anyone capable of entering. If one or sometimes two or more sperm make entry into the egg, the combination of such cells is a process that’s known as fertilization or conception. The whole process is undoubtedly nature’s way of ensuring only the healthiest sperm fertilizes an egg, through a sort of equality of opportunity over equality of outcome situation, to provide the best chances of having a healthy baby.

Once inside, the sperm’s twenty-three chromosomes paired up with the egg’s twenty-three chromosomes, and ta-da a human cell called a zygote. Within this newly formed cell are genes that had been passed down over untold generations from both parents lineage. Twenty-two of these pairs, called autosomes, look the same in both males and females, while the twenty-third pair is the sex chromosomes. Since all eggs have an X chromosome, the sperm’s contribution was a Y chromosome, thus I became a boy. If my father had shot off an X chromosome, I would have been a girl. In very few cases, or about as common as someone having red hair, some are born intersex. Meaning someone born with any of several variations in sex characteristics, including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. While the well used adage, “a woman born into a man’s body or a man born into a woman’s body” is false, for human sexuality is binary. Gender identity on the other hand are thoughts and feelings of our emotional system that do not match with one’s assigned sex, which are not hard-wired within us, they are developed.

Lining the Fallopian tube, tiny silk-like hairs, swaying back and forth like a bed of kelp in a current, move the fertilized zygote through the tube toward the uterus. A journey which took about three to five days, all the while the cells of the zygote began to divide repeatedly like an out of control virus. Upon reaching the uterus, the cells continued to divide, becoming a hollow ball of cells called a blastocyst. In two to three days the blastocyst implants itself into the lining of the uterus, usually near the top, side, front or back. The wall of the blastocyst is only one cell thick except in one area where it is three to four cells thick, and over the next few days the cells in the thicker part develops into an embryo, while the thinner outer cells burrow into the wall of the uterus and develop into the placenta. As the placenta develops, wire-like vessels, including two arteries and one vein, will branch out from its surface, much like the wires from a car battery, and entwine together to eventually form a 55 to 60 centimetre long umbilical cord which is plugged into us through our belly-button. The cord will supply us with everything we need, such as nutrient uptake, thermo-regulation, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother’s blood supply, to fight against internal infection, and to produce hormones which support pregnancy. Placentas are a defining characteristic of placental mammals, from mice to elephants, to whales and apes.

Most organs begin to form in the ever growing embryo, now the size of a pea, three weeks after fertilization/conception, which equals five weeks of pregnancy, because doctors date pregnancy from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period, which is typically two weeks before conception. Sticking with “since conception” henceforth, the heart and major blood vessels had already begun developing, around the 16th day. And by the 21st day someone flips on a light switch and the heart starts beating and pumping fluid through blood vessels. The first red blood cells appear the next day, while blood vessels continue to develop in both the embryo and placenta.

By the fourth week the embryo elongates, the first suggestion off a human shape, while the lungs continue to mature, as they do right up to nearly the time of delivery. Along the dorsal side of the embryo the cells had already begun to form a neuroectoderm, basically a neural plate of cells which looks like a flap of skin which transforms into a neural groove or fold, then eventually into a neural tube. This is where the central nervous system and the spinal cord will reside, topped off with a chemical electrical brain. Other cells start to arrange themselves around where the spinal cord and developing brain will emerge, mainly the face, nose, ears and eyes. All important because they all are where the brain will receive its information to operate. And still other cells will form into the skeletal structure needed to protect such vital areas. By the end of the week the heart and other organs continue to form, and the structures necessary to the development of the eyes and ears develop, while small buds show where the arms and legs are going to be. The embryo begins to take on a C-shaped curvature, like a little dolphin without the beak or dorsal fin, but soon sharing similar bone structures in our hands and their flippers.

Once the neural tube is formed, it slowly fills with cerebrospinal fluid. Its walls contain neural stem cells, which drive brain growth as they divide multiple times. Over the many weeks, some of the cells will gradually stop dividing and differentiate into neurons and glial cells, which are the main cellular components of the central nervous system. Neurons are generated from neural stem cells and progenitor cells, through the process of neurogenesis. These neurons will never divide again for the lifetime of the organism, and migrate to different parts of the developing brain to self-organize into different brain structures. Once the neurons have reached their regional positions, they extend nerve fibres, tiny antennas as it were, which allow them to communicate with other neurons via synapses, which are small gaps separating the neurons, basically they’re neurotransmitters containing mitochondria and other cell organelles. The first sparks of life begin to flash in synaptic communication between each other, which eventually will lead to the establishment of functional neural circuits that mediate sensory and motor processing, and make up one’s future behaviour.

As it develops over the next few months, the brain also divides into three sections, the hind-brain, the mid-brain, and the fore-brain. These simple sacks would eventually enlarge and further divide into other future sections, such as the cerebral cortex, thalamus, cerebellum and medulla, according to what XX or XY chromosome one has. On average and not in all cases, other changes in the brain include that males typically have a larger amygdala which is the centre for aggression and physical action, while females will typically have a larger and faster maturing prefrontal cortex which is responsible for inhibiting aggression, and is closer linked to verbal functions. But although females are slower to act out in anger physically, their verbal response is often just as hard-hitting, deep cutting, and harder to stop. And while a male’s brain circuits use more testosterone and vasopressin, the female brain uses more estrogen and oxytocin, which affects each other’s behaviour in their future.

By six weeks after conception the embryo has grown to the size of a kidney bean. Depressions that will give rise to nostrils become visible, and the beginnings of the retinas form. Lower limb buds that will become legs appear, and the arm buds that sprouted last week now take on the shape of paddles. Fingers began to form, and small swellings outlined the future shell-shaped parts of the ears, and the eyes become ever more obvious. The upper lip and nose have formed. The trunk and neck begin to straighten. By the end of this week, the embryo is only about 11 to 14 millimetres long, about half the diameter of a quarter.

Seven weeks after conception, the arms grow enough to where elbows appear. Toes are visible and welts where eyelids will appear form. The head is large but doesn’t have much of a chin. By the eight week the head has become more round, and we can bend our elbows. Toes and fingers lose their webbing and become longer. The eyelids and external ears continue to develop. The umbilical cord is now clearly visible, while the embryo from head to tail is less than 18 milometers long, about the diameter of a penny.

At the end of the eighth week after conception, the embryo becomes a fetus. It’s at this point that the chance of a miscarriage or birth defect was at its highest. Eight to ten of the fetus’ main organs are already formed. The exceptions are the brain and spinal cord, which continue to form and develop throughout the pregnancy. Ankles, wrists, and fingers begin forming, bones appear, and the genitals and inner ear begin to develop. The heartbeat can be seen via ultrasound, and the fetus begins to make involuntary movements.

Nine weeks after conception our heads make up about half the length of the fetus, but the body will soon catch up. Our faces become broader, widely separating the eyes, our eyelashes are still fused to our heads, with ears set low. We slowly begin to take on the features of our parents, and their parents, and their parent’s parents and so on and so on, who knows how far back in time, their genes continuing to combine and to create, passing on traits, abilities, and perhaps even the memories of souls, going back thousands of years.

In our closed mouths, buds for future teeth appear. Red blood cells are beginning to form in the liver, and by the end of the week our external genitalia begin to go either one of two ways; a penis and a pair of testicles or a clitoris and labia majora to protect the vulva. The intestines begin to form in our abdomen, while our skin is almost transparent. The average fetus at this point is about 61 millimetres long or the length of the short side of an old Canadian dollar bill or the size of a small peach, and fills the entire uterus, leaving it to slowly be pushed outward as the fetus grows.

More than ninety per cent of abortions in Canada and the US are carried out on embryos at six to fourteen weeks, with six per cent between fourteen and twenty weeks, and two per cent at a later stage. Of the abortions carried out beyond twenty weeks, most are due to a direct threat to the mother’s life or the detection of a very serious birth defect. Even though way before this stage and no matter from rape, incest, syringe or test-tube, women today also have the options of the “morning-after” pill and other chemical means. The majority of abortions are carried out because of economic reasons, because often there is no husband or partner.

In Canada, before it became legal in 1969, abortion could be legally performed only to save the life of the woman, to do so for any other reason was illegal. Former Chief Coroner of Ontario, Morton Shulman, recalls that, “while the pregnant daughters of the rich were sent to reliable physicians who did abortions for cash, with some of them performing twenty to thirty abortions a week, everyone else’s options were either performing the abortion on themselves or be assisted by a nurse abortionist.” The preferred method over others too ghastly to mention, was pumping Lysol into the mother’s womb. The mortality rate was high and the infection rate over 50 per cent. A doctor in Chicago was said to have performed over 70,000 abortions over his 40 year career.

Today abortion in Canada is legal at all stages of pregnancy as long as a committee of doctor’s sign off that it was necessary for the physical or mental well-being of the mother. While some non-legal obstacles exist, Canada is one of only a few nations with no legal restrictions on abortion, with regulations and accessibility varying between provinces, much the same as in the US with their states. Today the majority of women who do have an abortion have at least two, with many having three over their lifetime. In many developed nations a woman, on average, will have just less than one abortion over their lifetime. But, overall, abortion rates are dropping. Notably, abortion rates are similar in countries where abortion is highly restricted and where it is broadly legal: The abortion rate is 37 per 1,000 women in countries where abortion is prohibited or permitted only to save the life of the woman, and 34 per 1,000 women in countries where abortion is not restricted. As such, legal restrictions do not eliminate the numbers of abortions.

In early 2019, New York State passed a law, joining four other states, where an abortion is allowed right up to the ninth month, and a doctor is no longer needed to perform the procedure, but instead can be performed by a nurse or clinic employee. Additional states are currently hoping to pass laws where an abortion may be performed, not only up to natural dilation, but further – even after the baby is born, where the woman and doctor, after first making the baby “comfortable” can then decide to abort. Performing what was once called infanticide. At the same time other states are trying to outlaw abortions entirely.

I personally have no problem with abortions that are medically and morally necessary, but I am against using such a medical procedure as birth control, for stem cell misuse or for whatever mood one happens to be in at that time. And the fact that up to the present day, fathers are not included in the decision making, but then sadly and more often than not, there is no father in the picture anymore. And of course the instilled and accepted belief that it’s none of a man’s business what a women wants to do with her body. So I shall now shut up, and if this is the case of “my body my choice”, and all things being equal, then it is also my mind my choice, my business my choice, and my money my choice.

Moving through our eleventh week, our eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails, and the neck all form, while the skin has a wrinkled appearance. The arms and legs can bend, the kidneys start working and produce urine, and the fetus can swallow. Although electrical brain activity is first detected between the third and fifth week, it is considered primitive neural activity rather than the beginning of conscious thought. But the sparks really start going off at around 15 weeks, then begin to multiply ever more quickly around week 28, as it accumulates new cells throughout the pregnancy and continues, for the first year of life after birth.

By the halfway mark of a pregnancy, in the 18th week after conception (20th week of the pregnancy), a first-time mother may feel the first fluttering movements of kicking, squirming or turning, known as the “quickening”. This has got to be an amazing moment which a man could not understand where you feel a human growing inside you and it reacts to your touch. The fellow in the Aliens movie, who had that creature tear itself out of his chest, had to have felt something was growing inside him. Maybe he thought it was just a bad case of gas. But I digress. More interestingly, women who have been pregnant before, typically feel movements about two weeks earlier than women who are pregnant for the first time. Coincidentally perhaps, the same time the quickening is going on the fetus starts to hear sound vibrations. maybe we are already movin’ to the groovin’? Now eight to twelve centimetres long, an ultra-sound is able to reveal our sex, and take a picture of us so our parents can magnet it to their fridge.

One hundred and fifty days in we open our eyes for the first time. Eyes that people will later say look just like our mother’s or father’s or even grandparents. And though we become ever more active, chasing dragons no doubt, we also begin to sleep and waken on a more regular cycle. Lanugo, a fine hair, and a waxy coating called vernix, cover and protect our thin fetal skin.

At twenty-six weeks after conception, we have a 90 per cent chance of survival outside the uterus if provided with high-quality medical care, because though our lungs are completely formed, they don’t function yet. As such, these premature births are the leading cause of death for children under the age of five.

We are now able to hiccup, and are more sensitive to sound, and respond to noises and voices heard, which at this time, is mostly the sounds of our mother’s body. These include her beating heart, the air moving in and out of her lungs, her growling stomach, food being digested and expelled, and even the sound of blood moving through the umbilical cord. Recordings taken in the uterus reveal that noises from outside of the womb are muted by about half. Mostly because, there’s no open air in the uterus only amniotic fluid and it’s inside our mother’s body, making most noises muffled. The most significant sound we hear in the womb is our mother’s voice. Soon we will recognize it from other sounds, and in many cases when the father is speaking to the womb through the entire pregnancy; his voice will also be recognized. Recordings have also shown that when the mother or father is speaking, we are more alert and attentive; we cock an ear as it were.

Through the next few weeks we really start packing on the weight. Bones harden, except for the skull, which remains soft and flexible to make delivery easier. Whatever gender, our bones would grow similarly, except for sometimes longer lengths, bone densities, and the skull shape of a male and the pelvis of the female. If the average person ever found a human skeleton in the woods which had its pelvis and skull missing, they would be hard-pressed to distinguish whether the skeleton was male or female.

From about the 34th week after conception to birth in the 38th week, we continue to put on weight, and start preparing for what is to come, by ever so slowly turning into a head-down position. Our lungs are now fully mature and they prepare themselves for functioning on their own. During the later stages of the pregnancy our mothers gratefully give us our first buzz by infusing us with an increase in abundance of oxytocin, a hormone that brings feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security.

While my father was dutifully caring, providing for, and protecting my mother, she physically and mentally experienced all that is being pregnant. And astoundingly, do it three more times over the next four years. Take a break, and then in 1967 do it again, with the baby of the family arriving in 1973 to make it a six-pack.

In the first few months of pregnancy the hormonal changes, such as rising levels of estrogen and chorionic gonadotrophin brings on waves of nausea and vomiting. And despite its name, morning sickness can occur any time of day. The hormone progesterone increased sleepiness, and as her uterus grew and pressed on her bladder, trips to the bathroom were frequent. Her breasts more tender and swollen, her areolas, the skin around each nipple, darkened and enlarged. Her digestive system slowed down to increase the absorption of beneficial nutrients. But such reduced digestive system motility, caused heartburn, constipation, bloating and gas. Her heart worked harder by increasing its beat to pump more blood to the uterus which supplied it to the fetus, and gave her face a rosier complexion. Maybe this is where the craving for ice-cream came in. As well as the physical changes throughout the pregnancy, she would have experienced emotional highs and lows with mood swings running the gamut, from loving the world to wanting to kill somebody.

With her enlarged uterus pushing against her diaphragm, in the final trimester of pregnancy, she was possibly short of breath with less room for the lungs to expand. Her ankles, hands, feet and face may have swelled as she retained more fluids, while her blood circulation slowed. She may have also had more backaches and hip pain as these joints relax in preparation for delivery, and never ever able to get comfortable. Her face might have developed dark patches of skin, and stretch marks may appear on her belly, thighs, breasts and backside. She may also notice varicose veins on her legs. Her breasts may have experienced some leakage of colostrum, a yellow liquid, as they get ready for breastfeeding.

Nearing the big moment, we the fetus usually drop lower in our mother’s abdomen and become suspended upside down. False labor, known as Braxton-Hicks contractions, may have begun to occur as it got closer to our due date. During the final weeks of pregnancy it would have become harder to find a comfortable sleeping position, so mothers are usually extremely tired. As delivery approaches, some women love the whole experience of being pregnant and waddle around proudly, while others may feel like enough already, get on with this.

Then at a certain time, a very tiny unheard alarm bell goes off somewhere and the door is thrown aside and the dam bursts. The only womb we had ever known empties. Our mother begins to feel abdominal cramps or back pain that last around half a minute and occur every ten to thirty minutes. The cramps become stronger and closer together, while the mother’s cervix begins to rapidly dilate up to about five centimetres.

As our warm aquarium of pulsating organs and muffled noises empties itself, our soft skull is sucked by the flow down to a drain at the bottom, and the entrance to the birth canal. The sides of which slowly start to knead, squeeze and relax, pushing and pulling us through, like an anaconda swallowing a deer.

The contractions get strong enough where the mother has to bear down and “puussh” through them, in between either cursing their man, madly chewing ice cubes or chomping down on a stick. This stage could last anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours. And though most babies are born head first, about four per cent are born feet or butt first, and are known as breech births, or born face first facing up which is called posterior. In such cases, the obstetrician may need to recommend a Caesarean or C-section, or the use of forceps (for posterior births), as the best means of delivery. This is done by making an incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus, so the baby can be taken directly out instead of travelling through the birth canal. A truly out of body experience. Caesarean sections are done most often when the mother has had a previous baby by Caesarean delivery or the baby’s health might suffer if born vaginally. The two out of three women who do undergo vaginal births instead of caesarean, of course, avoid having major surgery and its associated risks, such as severe bleeding, scarring, infections, reactions to anesthesia and more longer-lasting pain, and have a much longer hospital stay and recovery time.

The biggest disappointment in caesarean births is the millions of immune cells (types of white blood cells) in the mother which slowly make their way to the birth canal during the later stages of pregnancy. In some form of celebration of the birth, they line the route, as it were, and lie in wait while expanding their size. As the baby passes through they make contact and cling on, and slowly enter the skin, and make their way to the baby’s bone marrow, and join other immune cells already there. It is where cells of the immune system originate from, and some mature. The “muscles” of the newborn’s immune system then migrate to guard the peripheral tissues, and circulate in the blood and in a specialized system of vessels called the lymphatic system. Ever ready to attack any foreign bodies they can use their plasma membrane to engulf any bacteria or large particle, then ingest or degrade it. Caesarean births not only miss out on such a benefit, but destroy the hopes of millions of immune cells because the headliner didn’t show up.

As we get squeezed down the ever expanding birth canal each time our mother bears down and pushes, typically our head is facing either hip of our mother, but we slowly begin to rotate and face her bottom. We then intuitively hold our arms to our sides bow our head and rest our chin on our chest and humbly ready ourselves for our grand entrance into the world. Still hiding behind the curtain and waiting for the lights to come on. This position will allow the crown of our skull to go through the birth canal first, until that is when the back of our neck presses against our mother’s pubic bone. Here we genetically know to extend our neck, as if we are looking up at something and without even an excuse or a pardon me, slide by the bone by dropping one of our shoulders. By this time, the cervix has reached its full dilation of ten centimetres, the approximate diameter of a bagel, or a coffee can.

Once again we turn our head to restore its normal relationship with the shoulders, which are still at an angle, as if we are escaping from a straight jacket. Our shoulders repeat the corkscrew movements of our head, which can be seen in the final movements of the fetal head just before we emerge, by those attentively watching and ready to catch us. Undoubtedly the most painful part for the mother, who may experience an intense stretching and burning, is when our head pops out in the act of crowning. This final stage, where our head is out but our body isn’t, can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. A lifetime for the mother perhaps, with the final birth of her baby the greatest moment in life, possibly erasing any pain just endured.

We are then thrust into the spotlight and have to breathe air for the first time, with an umbilical cord trailing behind us, still attached to the placenta, which hasn’t arrived yet as it usually emerges about 10 to 12 minutes later. Luckily, being human and somebody grabbed us as we came out and not just dropped to the ground then licked clean by the mother as other animals do, we instantly have to learn how to adjust to temperature changes, to suck and swallow, though pooh and pee already comes naturally. The next few days are all about shock and awe, and radical adjustment. With the only thing needed to be kept warm and fed. Henceforth, all things learned are based on needs, experiences, then later by trial and error. And contrary to the popular belief of many today, being born does not ensure morality, good intentions or credibility.

Most medical authorities today suggest the infant be placed skin-to-skin on the mother’s chest for an hour or two immediately after birth. Any initial observations of the baby can be done while the baby remains close to the mother. Babies born in hospitals used to be removed from their mothers’ shortly after birth and brought in only at feeding times. The idea was that newborns would be safer in the nursery and that the separation would offer the mother more time to rest. This is what my mother experienced. Studies about immediate nakedidity between mother and babe have shown that such timely touching promotes neuro-behaviors and results in deeper and more fulfilling bonds with satisfaction of basic biological needs, especially feeding. The World Health Organization states that “the process of childbirth is not finished until the baby has safely transferred from placental to mammary nutrition.”

It is said that even a brief separation before the baby has had its first feeding from his or her mother’s breast can disturb the bonding process. Most newborns may be interested in breastfeeding within one hour after birth or even immediately, and will need to feed every three to four hours, even though the maternal milk production doesn’t really begin to flow until two to three days after birth. In the interim, the mother produces colostrum, a type of milk with high concentrations of nutrients and antibodies. Over the first few days, we poop what all mammalian infants poop, a greenish-black, tarry, sticky substance resembling thick extremely compressed motor oil, and which even has a name, meconium. It is composed of everything the fetus, now infant, ingested during the time spent in the uterus, such as intestinal skin cells, amniotic fluid, bile, and water.

Our first health-care evaluation is the Apgar evaluation, usually carried out one minute after birth and then again, five minutes later. They check our heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color, and score each of them from zero to ten to get a baseline. At the five minute mark, the same evaluation is taken. In more than 98 per cent of births, the Apgar score reaches seven out of ten. The other cases either need further medical care or at the least close monitoring.

Over the next 24 hours, the trials and tribulations of further “newborn screening” begin. We get washed, our weight and length is measured, and we are administered eye drops. Back in my day silver nitrate was used routinely, but burned a baby’s eyes while trying to prevent infection. Now erythromycin is commonly used. An antibiotic used for the treatment of a number of bacterial infections, including respiratory tract infections, skin infections, Chlamydia infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and syphilis. In fact, sexually transmitted diseases are the main causes of newborn eye infections.

Rumour has it that as newborns we have poor vision with eyes that can’t focus or look far. The difference between boy’s and girl’s eyes, as in other mammals, is that typically male retinas are thicker, and have more magnocellular cells, which are distributed across the entire retina and are responsible for tracking the movement of an object, whether prey or the throwing of a rock. While the female retina is thinner and has more parvocellular cells, which are concentrated around the center of the retina, and responsible for identifying objects and analyzing texture and color. It is said that this is why females take more interest in people’s faces, while males are attracted to anything that moves. This also shows up in recent studies where males typically have much quicker auditory and visual reaction times than females. Could this be why men play video games and women snapchat?

As already mentioned, many of the behavioural distinctions between male and female come from our hormonal differences and how parts of our brains are used differently during development. One interesting, quirky difference is when we move around in our environments. Females use the cerebral cortex, the part responsible for thinking, perceiving and understanding language, and can get around by using landmarks, while men use the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is pre-wired for spatial navigation, and think in terms of how many blocks or kilometres and how far from here to there.

Our brain consists of about 73 per cent water, with dense sponges of white and grey matter, both of which are major components of the central nervous system. White matter forms the deepest parts of our brains, and is entwined throughout the spinal cord. It is composed of bundles which connect various gray matter areas (nerve cell bodies) to each other. White matter affects our learning, and coordinates communication between different brain regions. It’s like a large relay switch, modulating and connecting all the brain’s different signals of nerve impulses between neurons, then distributing them accordingly. Grey matter on the other hand, is found throughout the brain, brain stem, cerebellum, and spinal cord. It consists of cell bodies such as glial cells, the babysitters of neurons who protect and feed them oxygen, and the already mentioned synapses which permit a neuron to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another neuron, and finally, capillaries to supply the blood to the brain. Grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception, such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.

Upon maturity our brains will weigh on average 1.3 kilograms and contain about one hundred billion neurons. And though only around two per cent of our total body weight, the brain uses 20 per cent of our oxygen and calories, thus like any other organ, the brain is affected by our lifestyle, diet, and the amount that we exercise. Putting aside the old wives tale about us only using ten per cent of our brains, modern science and medical imaging show the majority of the brain is almost always active. Our brains have evolved to use its entirety, in order to use the least amount of energy while correlating and processing the most information possible.

The sensory and motor regions of the brain mature first, followed by other cortical regions. The frontal and parietal cortices mature around the age of twelve years, the temporal lobes around sixteen years, and the superior temporal cortex being the last to mature. Female’s brains reach maturity usually a year earlier than those of males the same age. But it doesn’t end there, the brain’s maturation continues, where males tend to exhibit grey matter of increased volume but lower density than that of females. As it is, the latest research shows that the brain doesn’t fully mature until it is around twenty-six years old, if one is lucky.

Both males and females will also develop two emotional systems, based on the chemistry going on in our bodies: the mirror neuron system (MNS) and the temporal-parietal junction system (TPJ). The MNS is responsible for emotional empathy for others, while the TPJ guides cognitive empathy and the ability to distance oneself from another person’s emotions by focusing analytically on solving a problem. Both sexes start their empathy process in the MNS, but the male brain quickly switches over to the TPJ. These emotional differences will unfortunately play out later when a woman tells her man about a problem she has and is in need of emotional support and comforting. If he doesn’t see a solution to her problem, he doesn’t see the need to talk about it any longer. But then, we are supposed to be logical and not emotional, yet we are, because we’re often chosen as leaders of communities, societies, and countries, including our own families, while being too emotional is often deemed as a weakness. No matter our emotions, we are each born to have the balance needed for the survival of our species. But not all humans are well balanced, hence, survival of the fittest.

About 1.7 per cent of people born will have emotional systems which will make them either gay men or lesbian women. This has been occurring over the history of our species. I grew up having a gay uncle who was one of my most important mentors through to my teens, and who taught me much about being a man.

If one were to add bisexuality and transgender, which are both not biological but psychological, the current LBGTQ community in some Western countries is about 4.5 per cent of the population. As to the transgender movement, there are arguments being made today that it is an attempt to make it a civil right to have a mental illness, much like there is discussion lately that perhaps pedophilia should be listed as a sexual preference.

Our basic emotions are actually not a thing at all, and there are only four of them, arousal, pleasant, unpleasant, and calm. And since we are electromagnetic and electrical organisms, these basic emotions operate on their own separate frequency. Though unable to travel through solid objects, such frequencies are felt when we interact with one another. They are the vibes we get from one another from the sparkling giddiness of romance to the undertone of unease and danger, “love is in the air” and “cutting the air in the room like a knife”. The frequencies are also based on our five physical sensors: of taste, sight, hearing, touch, and smell, which along with the senses of balance, pain, hunger, thirst, and temperature contributes to our experience of our surroundings, and only shows us a three-dimensional universe. Our behaviour on the other hand will come from inherited traits, while our perceptions of things, comes from information received, experiences, and our consciousness. When such fields are in balance we are healthy, when they are not, we experience disease – physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. Insidiously modern technology, particularly 5G (fifth generation cellular network technology), can manipulate these frequencies, scrambling them to induce feelings of arousal, conviviality, meanness, friendliness, anger, and even experience extreme pain, without our awareness. The previous four generations of cellular transmitters used between one to five gigahertz (GHz), 5G on the other hand operates from 24 to 90 GHz and uses millimetre waves, not cellular. These waves have a shorter range than microwaves so their antennas will have to be everywhere. A typical urban street will have to have them atop every fourth or so light pole. The 5G waves also cannot travel through solid objects, such as trees, so in many urban areas they will have to be the first to go. To date, cases of both people and insects alike getting sick due to nearby 5G towers is already on the rise. But they do have quicker internet.

Further to the differential qualities of men and women, brain scans, controlled studies, basic biology, chemistry, evolutionary psychology, and anthropology, all demonstrate that men and women are physically and mentally different. We absorb, process, and deliver information differently. And though we are all one consciousness but having different experiences, we also evolved with different priorities, and are immersed in different combinations of hormones. This leads to a varied interpretation and perception of reality, which is the root of the problems between male and female, within our families, and in the lives of our children. To remedy it, all one has to do is embrace the differences empathically, where equality only exists in compromising. Accept the reality that often and in many ways, men and women have pre-determined biological and psychological roles. Our differences are not always mutually exclusive, but we must face the fact that in some evolutionary way we complement each other so very much, and must not allow such a symbiotic nature of man and woman to be destroyed.

Back to the poking and prodding of male and female babies, it is currently possible to collect two types of stem cells during childbirth: amniotic stem cells and umbilical cord blood stem cells. Amniotic stem cells can be taken when we are still in the womb, from the amniotic fluid which surrounds us, and can be obtained through routine prenatal testing without the need for abortion or fetal biopsy. Umbilical cord blood stem cells on the other hand, are collected from the blood of the placenta and the attached umbilical cord, but are also found in various maternal tissues and organs including blood, bone marrow, skin and liver.

The use of fetal cells has been highly controversial because firstly, on many levels it’s an ethical issue. The tissue is known to often be obtained from the fetus following induced abortion. And because the supposedly “best” stem cells are from a fetus’s or newborn’s spine, not from their blood, they are very valuable, thus are often misused for anti-aging purposes or private medical matters by those who can afford it. And though both embryonic and adult derived stem cells from ethical sources, are being studied as possible treatments of a number of conditions including hematopoietic and genetic disorders, in many countries it is still deemed unethical. Canada, the UK and Japan derive stem cells from bone marrow, while the US and their prominently evangelical led Food and Drug Agency (FDA) are against stem cell use and consider it an illegal drug, but certain states do allow adult stem cell use. And though several applications to begin human trials of embryonic stem cell-based therapies have been approved, there are many steps required for such approval. Yet in Panama, stem cell therapy has been done for 16 years and has had excellent results. But if embryonic stem cell harvesting continues it could still be many years before therapies based on embryonic stem cells are widely available.

In adults, stem cells are found throughout the body. They are the handy repairmen, running around fixing anything that needs it and each having the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. They are especially attracted to inflammation which they immediately attempt to lessen. They also modulate the immune system, and stimulate regeneration, thus most stem cell therapy today is used to battle auto-immune diseases, and inflammation of joints. Adult stem cells have also been found to be able to replace neurons damaged by spinal cord injury, stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease or other neurological problems, possibly produce insulin in the treatment of diabetes. Imagine having the ability to replace or restore any tissue or organ in the human body.

As to how useful stem cells may be in the future, consider that by 65 years of age we’ve lost approximately 90 per cent of our adult stem cells. But is eternal life possible or desirable? Some say it is, especially those who can afford the “best” stem cell therapy available. Then consider that in January 2019, 97 year old Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II of England, and who had just had recent hip surgery, supposedly pulled out from a driveway in his Land Rover Freelander and was t-boned by a small KIA car. The collision was enough to send his vehicle rolling across the road, or as a bystander described, it “somersaulted across the road”. In the KIA, a woman broke her arm and the driver had cuts to her knees, while thankfully the ten-month old baby in the back seat was alright. Prince Philip’s vehicle ended up lying on its driver’s side, where a passerby, after first checking on the occupants of the KIA, pulled Prince Philip out of his vehicle, totally unscathed. He blew negative on the breathalyser and said the sun was in his eyes. Checked over and sent home. On a similar note, one of the many who have travelled to places such as Panama where stem cell therapy is allowed was a 92 year old who needed a wheelchair to get around, had problems with his prostrate, lungs, kidneys, hips, heart, had trouble talking, and orthopedic problems. He was injected with ethically obtained adult stem cells and over the next few months and following years he was soon walking, his ailments healing, pain dissipated, his speech and eyesight improved, and his cognition improved. He’s now 99 years old, and supposedly even has his libido back. In both cases they both may have looked a thousand years old, wrinkled and nearly dead, but inside they undoubtedly were not. Similarly, just watch Mick Jagger prowling about upon a stage wailing his heart out, singing songs he has been singing for over fifty years, and how is it, no disrespect, that Keith Richards is still alive.

Back to us wee ones in the neo-natal nursery, another procedure and another reason to cry, is because we are often given an injection of vitamin K. This started when forceps deliveries were common, to help prevent bleeding in the brain due to the extra trauma to the baby’s head from using basically pliers to pull us out. But, despite the fact that forceps deliveries have changed, and occur less frequently, vitamin K is still given to prevent bleeding problems. Some countries have newer policies of when to provide vitamin K as opposed to doing it routinely.

The onslaught continues, while I can’t imagine what was done in previous centuries and eons to keep us alive, especially when in the past the infant mortality rate was atrocious. Ever onward, a small blood sample is taken by poking us in the bottom of the foot to screen for some serious, but often very rare metabolic diseases, including Phenylketonuria (PKU) a genetic disorder. What exactly is being tested for varies by state or province. We are pricked within the first twenty-four hours and then often need to return in a week for an addition test.

Then there is the universal immunization against Hepatitis B, even if our mothers test negative for it. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can lead to chronic liver infections, as well as such things as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Some ask why babies are given vaccines for Hepatitis-B, when it is picked up through unprotected sex and needle use. Then by the time they are teens they no longer have protection when they do become sexually active. Upon birth a baby is given 250 macro-grams of the neuro-toxin aluminum. The highest daily adult dosage is 50 macro-grams. This vaccine is mandatory where available and is given either at birth or at the two month check up. In California, a child who is vaccinated for Hepatitis-B can go to school, but a child that does not cannot.

It is strongly advised that children get vaccinated starting at two months of age and that the recommended schedule be followed. The pharmaceutical companies that come up with these vaccines promise they protect children against diseases that can cause serious illness, long-term disability and death. All together from birth to six years old we receive fourteen vaccination shots. Playing the field so to speak, just in case and you never know, Chickenpox, Diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Measles, Meningococcal, Mumps, Pertussis (whooping cough), Pneumococcal, Polio, Rotavirus, Rubella and Tetanus. Today the big Pharma lobbyists are pushing their respective governments to call for mass medication “prevention” programs, and claim they will improve the health of citizens, while also pushing for heavy medication upon children and teens, while their brains are still developing. As of 2018, vaccine manufacturers, specifically Merck, share in the over $85 billion of the “outsourced healthcare logistics market”. This is expected to increase to $105 billion by 2021. Merck is also interestingly enough, a major backer of the transgender movement.

Not all vaccinations are bad, but they do disrupt and/or degrade our immune system. Though eating a healthy balanced diet builds a healthy immune system, few are able to accomplish this today. And in our toxic world one needs a fortified immune system. As it is, people with allergies, infections, cancers, asthma, suicide, anxiety, depression and autism are all on the rise, with vaccine auto-immunity causing chronic health problems. In a recent report of which 3,345 cases were studied, 715 were not vaccinated; there was only one case of autism. Another report showed that people who were on a vaccine-friendly plan (choosing certain vaccinations) only one out of 440 patients was autistic. Yet the American Center for Disease Control, states there is one case of autism for every 45 people not vaccinated. In the 1980s medical students were not even taught about autism. Personally, growing up I do not recall ever meeting or seeing an autistic person. In the 1990s it started to become an issue, mostly because vaccinated children are sicker than non-vaccinated children.

And finally most of us are given a hearing test using wee little headphones or microphones, to see how we react to sounds. But before being released out into the world, some of us boys were taken aside, and for either cultural, religious, or social reasons, had our foreskins cut off.

The practice of circumcision is thought to be at least fifteen thousand years old. Today circumcision is probably the most common surgical procedure on children worldwide, yet it is not a medically necessary procedure. It’s most common in the US, parts of Africa and the Middle East, while less common in Europe and other countries. The most common reasons for removing the foreskin off the head of penises are religious traditions and trends. The religious laws of both Judaism and Islam require that boys be circumcised. Jewish boys get to go through the experience when they are eight years old, for Muslim boys between seven and nine. Other reasons to circumcise include, the myth that it will reduce the likelihood of developing herpes or syphilis or other medical conditions or infections, the desire of some fathers to have their sons look like them, personal choice, and aesthetic preference. And in Canada, at least in BC, such a procedure is not free either. As for the later I know a fellow who had to have a circumcision for a medical issue, when he was twenty-seven. He said he cursed his parents every morning when he would awake with a morning need to go pee hard-on, which kept tearing the stitches. I’ve heard and read other stories where having a foreskin adds to the sexual experience for the man, yet not having one is more attractive to females.

The procedure is most often performed from twenty-four to seventy-two hours after birth. We boys are splayed out on our backs, with arms and legs secured, like being readied for dismemberment or beheading, by the English in the 13th century. An anesthetic is given via injection or cream, to numb the penis, the foreskin is opened, adhesions are removed, and the foreskin is separated from the glans (the bulb). After that, a circumcision device may be placed over the bulb and the foreskin is cut off. There are three different types of such devices commonly used and all look like devices invented and used during the European inquisitions around the same 13th and 14th centuries to torture people. They include the “Gomco clamp”, the “Plastibell device”, and the ever popular, “Mogen clamp”. Each device works by cutting off circulation to the foreskin to prevent bleeding when the doctor cuts the foreskin. The entire procedure takes about fifteen to thirty minutes. Afterwards, bewildered by the pain and trauma, our mothers are told to expect us to be “fussy” over the seven to ten days it takes to heal.

For females there is no reason whatsoever for any circumcision to be performed, though today in the Western world the cutting has been replaced with piercings, tattoos and such. Unless of course you happen to live east to west from Somalia to Senegal, and north to south from Egypt to Tanzania, in Africa, which covers twenty-seven countries, as well as Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen, and many immigrant communities in North America, Europe and the Commonwealth, where female genital mutilation is prevalent and customary. Recent estimates show that about two hundred million women have undergone the procedures. Girls are most commonly cut shortly after birth to age fifteen, with most cut when they turn five.

The procedures are generally performed by a traditional circumciser or “cutter”, in the girls’ homes with or without anaesthesia. The cutter is usually in no way a medical professional, but often an older woman, town barber or butcher, or cleric who uses non-sterile devices, including knives, razors, scissors, glass, sharpened rocks and fingernails, which they often use multiple times without cleaning between jobs. While procedures differ according to the country or ethnic group, they include removal of the clitoral hood and clitoral glans; removal of the inner labia; removal of the inner and outer labia, and the closure of the vulva. In this last procedure, known as infibulation, a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid. Later the vagina is opened for intercourse and opened further if needed for childbirth.

Back once again to our births, and perhaps wanting to forget what was just read by slowly uncurling our toes and exhaling, twenty-four to forty-eight hours after a vaginal birth, with no complications from mother or baby, we get to go home. For a caesarean birth, if no complications, it’s a forty-eight to seventy-two hours wait until discharge. According to our biology, anatomy, and chromosomes we will be designated either a boy or a girl, and later according to psychological and chemical differences, a very few will be boys who feel like girls and girls who feel like boys. Only later will society dictate one’s gender according to a set of expectations, standards, and characteristics about how men and women are supposed to act.

I was born at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, and weighed in at seven pounds six ounces, to a twenty year old 11th generation Scottish American/Canadian mother and a twenty-two year old 2nd generation Belgian-Canadian father. Their lineages were simple hard working folk, farmers, ranchers, and pioneers. And often were restrained and respected leaders in their communities.

My father drove my mother, with me in her arms, home safely in his 52’ Chevy with no seat belts or due dated baby car seat, listening to either Conway Twitter or Elvis on the radio. My given name was Joseph, but for the next couple of decades would be Joey, then mature into just Joe. My parents would quickly have to learn how to hold me and support my neck with, I’m sure, mostly my Mom having to change all my diapers, bathe, dress, and swaddle, soothe, and goo-goo gaa-gaa to me. Then there is the feeding, and burping, which for some weeks, is at least every two to three hours, including over night, with graveyard shifts. The cleaning around our belly buttons after being unplugged, and for many males, caring for our healing circumcisions. Our temperatures are taken, and turkey basters filled with water are used to clear our nasal passages when needed. We survived diaper rash and having our faces washed. We cried and we laughed and began to learn things because every moment was new. It was in many ways perhaps the best and worst days of our lives. But thankfully, we’re unable to remember.

Chapter Two – Half Way There

02/18/19

Earthquake Precautions

Because you never know; especially in areas where there is frequent earthquake activity.

A very interesting read, which goes against everything you’ve probably been told about how to survive an earthquake. And in fact was quite controversial when it came out in 2004. Here in Canada, fifteen years later, the federal government hasn’t adopted any of it, but then, the feds won’t even allow AEDs, which are literally everywhere today, in any of their office buildings, citing legal issues. An AED is an automated external defibrillator, a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the life-threatening signs of a heart attack and able to treat them through defibrillation. They have and are, saving thousands of lives, unlike the advice given that in an earthquake, crawl under the desk, kitchen table or doorway, or simply duck.

Spread the word to everyone you care about and maybe save a life one day.


From Doug Copp’s article on the “triangle of life”, edited by Larry Linn for MAA Safety Committee brief on April 13th 2004.

“My name is Doug Copp. I am the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world’s most experienced rescue team. The information in this article will save lives in an earthquake. I have crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams from 60 countries, founded rescue teams in several countries, and I am a member of many rescue teams from many countries. I was the United Nations expert in Disaster Mitigation for two years. I have worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985; except for simultaneous disasters. In 1996 we made a film which proved my survival methodology to be correct. The Turkish Federal Government, City of Istanbul, University of Istanbul Case Productions and ARTI cooperated to film this practical, scientific test. We collapsed a school and a home with 20 mannequins inside. Ten mannequins did ‘duck and cover,’ and ten mannequins I used in my ‘triangle of life’ survival method. After the simulated earthquake collapse we crawled through the rubble and entered the building to film and document the results. The film, in which I practiced my survival techniques under directly observable, scientific conditions, relevant to building collapse, showed there would have been zero percent survival for those doing duck and cover. There would likely have been 100 percent survivability for people using my method of the ‘triangle of life.’ This film has been seen by millions of viewers on television in Turkey and the rest of Europe, and it was seen in the USA, Canada and Latin America on the TV program Real TV. The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under their desk. Every child was crushed to the thickness of their bones. They could have survived by lying down next to their desks in the aisles. It was obscene, unnecessary and I wondered why the children were not in the aisles. I didn’t at the time know that the children were told to hide under something. Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them. This space is what I call the ‘triangle of life’.

The larger and stronger the object, the less it will compact, and the less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the ‘triangles’ you see formed. They are everywhere. It is the most common shape, you will see, in a collapsed building. They are everywhere.”

Copp’s Ten Tips for Earthquake Safety

1 – Most everyone who simply ‘ducks and covers’ when buildings collapse are crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed.

2 – Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position. You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival instinct. You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it.

3 – Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake. If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs.

4 – If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on the back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.

5 – If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa, or large chair.

6 – Most everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the door jamb falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be killed.

7 – Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different “moment of frequency” (they swing separately from the main part of the building). The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads – horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn’t collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if the stairs are not collapsed by the earthquake, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.

8 – Get near the outer walls of buildings or outside of them if possible – It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked

9 – People inside of their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway. The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles. They were all killed. They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles. All the crushed cars had voids one meter (3 feet) high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them.

10 – I discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices and other offices with a lot of paper that paper does not compact. Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper. Spread the word.

08/20/14

Teabags by Mrs. Henderson

 

 

Tilling the Soil

 

Whilst making my tea yesterday afternoon I was compelled to ponder. What effect did tea bags have on the staple  industry when our modern world discarded their trusty kettles and Brown Betty combinations steeped just right to perfection, to on the fly zap it in the microwave. Hence having glue fasten our strings on. How relieved must the string suppler have been. How rejoiced the glue factory must have been …. Did they see this shift in demand coming ?

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

04/16/13

One Day in the US of A

April 15th 2013

Of the 2.5 million Americans who die every year, the approximately 6,850 Americans who died this average day, 45 of them were murdered, 31 of them by gun.

As well, there were 72 deaths attributed to alcohol.

95 were killed in motor vehicle accidents.

105 killed themselves, 50 of them used a gun.

110 deaths by overdose and drug induced.

234 people died in unintentional accidents.

1,580 deaths attributed to cancer, 25% of them lung cancer.

2,150 people died because their hearts gave out, blood pressure was too high or other cardiovascular illnesses, nearly two people every minute.

569, mostly women, were raped or sexually assaulted, about one every minute.  At least those are the reported cases, it is estimated that 63% of all rapes or sexual assaults go unreported, so the actual number is probably much higher and closer to 1,500 women raped each and every day.

 86,575 people injured themselves today someway, somehow………………..

Meanwhile, 3 deaths and 176 injured in bomb attack at the running of the Boston Marathon and the world mourns. While the country screams out for vengeance. Very much unlike their reaction after the Newton massacre last December, of 20 first-grade six year olds and six of their teachers, when many Americans refused to even glance into the mirror. Though in this instance they might have to start.

Postscript;

Father’s Day weekend, June 15th + 16th, 2013, Chicago, Illinois, 7 dead and 31 wounded in over 50 unconnected shootings.

July 4th weekend, 2013, in Chicago,72 people, including children, shot. 12 killed.

Iraq 2003-2011, 4,422 American troops killed. Chicago 2003-2011, 4,265 people murdered.

 

04/8/13

Costs Of Living – Inequalities, Poverty Levels, and the Cost for one Person to live in Victoria BC

“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and for his family an existence worthy of human dignity”  U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights


 

While we have been busy climbing ladders, wishing we were someone else and purchasing our personalities, the basics of life have become much more than simply the costs of living, and are in fact taking much more from us than just income and capital; it’s taking away the planet we live on as well.

To exist as a biological species we need safe drinking water, food, clothing, a roof over our heads, and sex. To be human we need someone to love, someone to love us, friendship, an individual talent which gives us self worth and the ability or opportunity to question. To keep humanity’s greatest resources, imagination and ingenuity, in proper context, we need what Albert Einstein called “the principles of free and responsible development of the individual so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of mankind.” To keep ourselves mentally healthy is to relish each one of these essentials. But each one of these essentials, especially over the past thirty years, has now become nearly entirely privatized, as we stare like deer caught in the headlights.

Today such basic needs and rights also include education, health care, parks and recreation and freedom of speech, all of which are now packaged into products to be simply bought and sold, with many of these rights easily taken from us. Obtaining them is now based on who can pay the most, because anything good, important, healthy or reliable costs more.

The cost of living before agriculture and civilizations was called life and death. Then about twelve thousand years ago, after seventy thousand years of our current mutation as modern humans; we began to domesticate animals and invented agriculture to feed them, eventually feeding ourselves as well. We also began to live communally in larger numbers, which rose exponentially after such villages became cities. The cost of living became income. At this time the characters bearing psychopathic tendencies, such as “self-esteem derived from personal gain, power, or pleasure; failure to conform to lawful or culturally normative ethical behaviour; lack of concern for feelings, needs, or suffering of others; lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another; exploitation is a primary means of relating to others; deceit; the use of dominance or intimidation to control others and misrepresentation of the self”, were finally able to rise to the top, feeding on their thirst for power, to control the food source, and demand tithe for doing so. Where once there was enough for everyone slowly became never enough. The seeds of inequality among humans began to quickly sprout and split into the haves and the have-nots.

At the same time, laws were formed by the individuals who controlled the wealth to control the public and soon the populations began to lose the opportunity to be noble or heroic, with everyone’s destiny and position in life laid out for them. Distractions such as literature, theatre and sports quickly followed, becoming the places where we could live out an honorable life, through someone else’s actions.  To further control the masses the elite created capital, usury, then debt, by imposing scarcity on their own populations, and any conquered ones, thus causing inequality which created poverty. To keep at least a wee bit of hope, religion was created.

Eventually the distractions and illusions became what they are today, sports heroes, movie stars, politics, and numerous economic theories that only exist on paper and which keep us focused on anything other than our own lives. Ideas such as GDP, which we base our economic worlds and societal success on, but which have nothing to do with our personal well-being or the planet’s. It operates under the illusion that unlimited growth under free market capitalism, operating on only one delicate and finite planet will work, and that a person’s well-being has all to do with material gain and how much one consumes. As it devours our social and natural environments it has us thinking that money will bring us happiness, where instead life should be doing that.

But we do not live in a world where the economy understands that there are now over seven billion people living on a single and finite planet and concerns itself with the importance of everyone getting along, the welfare of each individual, and having enough for everyone, even future generations, by caring for the earth’s resources. Instead we have an economic system, neo-liberal capitalism, which only generates extreme wealth for a very few individuals and is destroying the planets ecosystems by replacing the earth’s resources with waste, and controls the majority of the human race using nationalism, intolerance and oppression by economic means. For instance, if every country on earth were to consume resources and generate as much waste as the United States, we would need five planet earths.

Meanwhile we are extolled through the corporate government media machine that we should worry about events in far-flung places, rather than what’s happening in our own communities, ignoring the depravity within our own society by watching it happen somewhere else. More often than not, global mainstream media is not the real world; our everyday lives are not filled with horror, crime, and continuous bad news nor are they filled with the need to always exact revenge. Most all news stories are about things we cannot influence, and the daily repetition of such things we cannot do anything about, makes us passive. It is grinding us down and is undoubtedly one of the core reasons for the widespread disease of depression which is ravaging our societies. Media could and should, put life into better perspective though in many instances it is verboten to do so and now simply sticks to peddling the ideology of the corporate state.

We are further led to believe that lavish spending and waste makes one a better person somehow, to be a true human you need stuff, especially stuff you don’t need. That what one is wearing or what vehicle one drives denotes their personality and that money is everything. Even assets and debts are to be carried over, and still to be paid after we die. We are bludgeoned and brow beaten about debt and how much is owed, numbers in the billions and trillions on the national level and which we have no hope of ever relating to. On a more personal level we simply try to ignore the amount we ourselves are amassing.

We are also told that having a distinct personality is imperative to be the most powerful, invincible, admired, sexy and unique, yet our daily lives are interactive and interdependent worlds, as are most all species whether animal, bird or fish. No matter the distraction or how far one buys into it, the underlying questioning of what we are told to do, say, act and buy, goes against the reality of who we are. And it’s confusing the hell out of us.

For generations’ topics such as religion, politics, what one does for a living, inequality and sex were simply not spoken about or brought up. Climate change and the current economic crisis can also be added to this list. Yet these are all things we should be talking about, because they are the causes of the abuse we are doing to ourselves and the planet. We get upset when talking about such issues because it’s taken personally, thus we become emotional and offended. Talk about any other fundamental global issues today and people really get their hairs up and knickers in a twist, and either emotionally expounds their personal world-view at you or simply doesn’t want to talk about it and quickly changes the subject. The main reason for this is because it gets too close to the bone; we are hurt emotionally because our inaction, obedience to the system, and denial are complicit with the digression of our unequal societies and destruction of the earth’s eco-systems.

It is getting harder and harder to differentiate between truth and fiction so we interpret reality through illusion, believe what we want to believe, and are quickly rid of anything unpleasant, instead of learning to cope. Our comfort zones have been separated from reality, with the media working their best for their corporate masters, to ensure that they shall never meet. The paradox today is that people have to be far enough out of touch with reality to function and yet acknowledge reality to survive.

The separation between reality and illusion is a thin veil and is creating so many contradictions in our lives that many people today, especially in the developed countries, simply can’t cope with daily life. Each year the United States and Canada consumes more than two-thirds of the world’s pharmaceutical anti-depressants, the bulk of the global cocaine supply and have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world. Not to mention deteriorating physical and mental health. There is a reason for this.

We have become a public overwhelmed, numbed, and weary of the stories and realities of climate change, unwinnable wars, whether drugs or terrorists, and the ever worsening global economic recession and the strain it’s putting on our lives. No matter how much one becomes distracted, such issues weigh heavily upon us. For many, worrying about where the next meal will come from creates stress and worry, which affects our health, therefore also becomes one of the costs to live today.

Underlying our human madness is the reality of each day in an individual’s life and the fact that our basic, modern needs, and fundamental requirements to exist as a healthy biological species, along with, income disparity and the lowering of our morals, are all becoming more expensive and much more than we, as well as the planet, can afford.

It is estimated there are billions of people in the world living on less than $2.50 per day. Most are indeed poor, but then again there are also some peoples and places on the earth, where consumerism and capitalism haven’t become a belief system, nor has the surrounding environment been eroded or poisoned. In such places $2.50 a day is all you really need to fulfill one’s daily need for water, food and a roof over your head, with lives which are just as fulfilling, loving, rich and rewarding as anywhere else. But for much of the planet’s populations, one’s life is determined by how much money one makes and what you do with it.

Today the cost of living is based on what is called the “poverty level”, which is the minimum level deemed adequate to afford the essential resources an average human being needs to consume in one year. It is based on a human’s basic food and water requirements necessary to exist.  With food, a human’s health is determined by what’s called “body-mass index”, which is a human’s body shape based on an individual’s weight and height. The minimum “allowed” body-mass index is 16, although the more accurate and real body-fat % number is being used more often as the scale, with the highest percentages being in North America. The BMI is still used globally, with the lowest BMI scores, averaging 19, are found in many of the poorest countries, especially Eritrea, Congo, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, and Southeast Asia. The highest rates are Tonga, Micronesia and Samoa, with an average of 32. As a rule a BMI of over 25 puts one overweight.

Though there is no standard caloric intake list, a person needs a minimum of 1500-2000 calories of food per day. With the actual number of calories each individual needs depending on multiple different factors, including age, gender, height, weight, lifestyle, availability and metabolism, and that not all calories are created equal, so it depends more so on what kinds of calories you eat.

The minimum amount of water our bodies need, in a moderate climate and average activity level, is about 5 litres (1.3 gal) per day, while the minimum water needed for drinking, cooking, bathing and sanitation combined is about 50 litres (13 gal) per day, per person. In perspective, Americans and Canadians use 250-300 litres (65-78 gal) of water per day per person for drinking, cooking, bathing, flushing toilets and watering lawns. In the Netherlands, they use 104 litres (27 gal) per day, while in Gambia, in Africa, they use only 4.5 litres (1.17 gal) per day. The poverty level minimum water needs also states that every person must have safe drinking water available less than 15 minutes away. And although 70% of the earth’s surface is water, less than 2% of it is fresh water, of which only a few hundredths of a per cent is actually drinkable.

As for food and water, these minimums are scary as in many parts of the world they are still not being reached, and in fact are declining, with the supply of these basic needs being the most affected by climate change. The UN estimates that there are 925 million humans with insufficient food, 1 out of every 7 people, with over half of all the children in the world today living in poverty. Global fresh water is dwindling quickly, not so much from drinking, but from growing food, while the acidification and oxygen depletion of the earth’s oceans, lakes and rivers, drought, severe weather, glaciers disappearing and rivers drying up continue unabated.  We whine about what a litre of gasoline costs, yet are paying sometimes twice as much for the same amount of water in a plastic bottle. Heck, in Victoria we are paying fifty-cents to simply put air in our tires.

The poverty level provisions must also include proper sanitation for our biological waste, health care for serious illness, injury and pregnancy, and shelter, where fewer than four people live in each room with at the least a floor and a roof.  Next up is education, where each person is able to read and write, thus learn. Finally, the poverty level includes that everyone should have the modern essentials of having information at hand, whether in books, magazines and news sources, as well as access to services such as further education, health advice and care, legal assistance, social services, and financial services such as credit unions.

While in reality many of these minimum requirements can never be reached by someone actually living at the poverty level; with many of them slowly being erased or priced too high and out of reach for the majority of humanity.

Before we continue I would like to emphasize that I understand very well there will be a wide range of circumstances when further discussing the cost of living, and to some extent income inequality, but I’m just going for an average, ballpark figure of an average Canadian, with the odd comparison to the Americans. I’m not really comparing but generalizing, because there are so many variables, such as where one lives – city, small town or suburb. Are they male or female, single or have a large family, or two people sharing expenses and with a joint income of $40,000 and having a higher standard of living than two individuals living alone on $20,000 each, with all sorts of intangibles in between.

In Canada the after-tax poverty thresholds are $18,421 for one person, $34,829 for a family with two children. One in ten Canadians live at or below these levels; 3.2 million people, of whom 634,000 are children, with British Columbia continuing to have the highest child poverty rate in Canada. In the US the poverty level is $11,344 for one person, and $22,133 for a family with two children, with more than one per six Americans living at and far below these levels.

Such income levels have not changed much over the past 30 years, though the actual costs of living and the income of the top earners have risen dramatically. Consider that in 1982 the median income of an average Canadian was $28,000 annually after taxes, while the income for the top one per cent was $191,600 after taxes, seven times higher. Fast forward to today where our economy has grown twice as large, the richest one per cent now report a median income of $283,400, nearly 10 times higher than the median income of the other 99% of Canadians whose median income has only risen to $28,500.

Income inequality is even more disturbing in the US. In 1980 the average CEO’s annual pay was 42 times more than the average worker. By 2011, their pay was 340 times more, regardless of business performance or shareholder value.  As to income growth over the past 45 years and adjusted for inflation, 90% of Americans annual income, has risen a mere $59 per year, while the top 1% of the top 1%’s annual income has risen to $18.7 million. To put this in perspective, for each dollar that an average household’s income rises, the household incomes of the top 1% of the top 1% rises $311,233 annually.

In Canada the top 100 CEO’s earn an average of $6 million per year, while the average minimum hourly wage in Canada is nine dollars, in the US its $7.25 per hour. The lowest minimum monthly gross income in Canada, working a 40 hour work week, is $1,631 per month. To currently live in Vancouver B.C. an individual needs to earn at least $18.81 per hour and work a 40 hour week. In 2012, the average weekly wage in BC was $860.57 before taxes, with an hourly average wage of $23.53. In a nut shell, more than half of all Canadians are living on less than $25,400 per year after taxes and would need to work one month to make the same amount a top CEO makes in one hour.

Out of the pie, 51.9% of Canadians make $29,299 a year or less, 48% make more than $30,000 per year, and the final 1% makes $169,000 or more a year, with 0.1 % of these individuals making an average of $30 million a year. Breaking it down further, if you make more than $60,000 per year you are in the top 19%; above $120,000 per year you are in the top 5%. As for weekly income, the top 10%, who are mostly just the managers of the top 1%’s industries, governments, corporations and wealth, and who are really just commodities themselves, average $6,000 per week. Their bosses make about $160,000 per week.

The disappearing middle class in BC have individual earnings between $40,000 and $125,000, while in the US their middle class is determined to be those earning $36,000 to $57,657 per year. In both countries it’s becoming blatantly clear, yet readily ignored, that the bulk of the populations of both are below middle class, with a few at the very top.

The latest employment reports show that since the economic downturn in 2008, 60% of all jobs lost during the subsequent recession paid middle income wages, while 60% of jobs gained are low paying jobs in the accommodation or fast food industry. Declining traditional middle class jobs include executive assistants and secretaries, construction laborers, carpenters, bookkeepers, accountants, telephone operators, general maintenance and repairmen, and reporters and correspondents.  With the biggest drops in employment occurring in utilities, public administration and especially manufacturing. Although actual manufacturing sales are rising, the higher paying manufacturing jobs are disappearing quickly, and being replaced with low paying service jobs. Staying stagnant are jobs in business, trade, and information, culture and recreation, while rising employment opportunities are in education, health, and as previously mentioned, the fast food and service industry, which is growing four times the overall rate. People are getting jobs but staying poor, because the increasing low-wage jobs don’t pay enough to live off of.

Besides income disparity, wealth inequality is equally outrageous. The richest 300 people in the world have the same wealth as the poorest 3 billion. In Canada, the top 1% possesses more than 45% of the wealth, while eight out of every 10 working Canadian share 7% of the wealth between them.  As for who actually has the wealth, meaning who has the share of money, gold, real estate, stocks and bonds, not very many. In 2012, Canadians with more than $30 million in assets numbered only 4,922 individuals, with a combined worth of over $148 billion. In 2010 the population of Canada was 43 million people, yet only 164,000 individuals made more than $250,000, while in BC there were only 18,810 individuals making that much, and once again, possessing nearly 45% of the wealth.

In the US, the Walton’s, heirs to the monolith that is Wal-Mart, are worth a combined $110 billion, more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined. If Wal-Mart was a country it would be the 26th largest economy in the world, with yearly sales exceeding $444 billion, $20 billion more than Austria’s GDP.

The problems with such growing inequality are that most of the wealthy do not even invest their wealth back into where they live; instead they move it offshore as quickly as possible. There is no trickle-down effect. Record profits in the private sector haven’t led to an increase in wages, but rather quite the opposite, less wages along with fewer jobs.

After all that, and taking a deep breath, we come back to how much does it really cost for somebody to live. In BC the average working stiffs, putting in 40 hour weeks, with no dental plan and no pension plan, other than what the Canada Pension Plan eventually pays when we are 65 years old, gross median annual incomes, range from the ticketed master carpenter making $50,070, to a construction labourer averaging $36,147, an apartment manager making $32,300, a bartender $23,198, to a waitress making $22,242, while a bookkeeper makes on average about $17.95 per hour,  a pharmacy technician, $15.91 per hour, and someone working in retail/fast food $10.25 gross per hour. Currently, the before taxes, gross median annual income in Canada is $30,800.

The poverty level mentioned earlier, supposedly is the least one needs to survive as a human being in a developed nation. In Canada, as earlier noted, it is $18,421 per year after tax, while one’s actual cost of living is determined by how much of a consumer you are and how much of the bullshit do you buy into. In Canada, in 2012, for every $100 an average Canadian family earned in disposable after-tax income they owed over $164 in market debt.  Why this is so, is in part because many of us are buying stuff we don’t need, and with stagnant wages for the past few decades the basics are costing so much more.

An example; a single male living in Victoria BC in 2012, pulling in $24,000 a year gross, whether $2000 per month salary or working 40 hour weeks for $12.50 per hour, is determined to be on the poverty level.  Off the top goes $3600 (15%) to Federal taxes, $1214 (5.06%) to Provincial taxes, $1080 (4.5%) to Canada Pension Plan, and about $360 (1.5%) for unemployment insurance. Using public transit with a bus pass costs $82 per month ($984/year) and living in a one-bedroom apartment costs an average $830 per month ($9960/year).  Cost of consumables such as food one only makes at home and personal care averages $280 per month ($3000/year). BC Medical (health care) is $55 per month ($660/year), $66.50 per month if you make over $30,000. Some sort of Life insurance, Critical Illness insurance or even savings, will cost at least $40 per month ($480/year), and that’s if you don’t smoke. Though I will not be adding such a cost to total when complete, a pack of cigarettes averages $9.30, a pack a day habit will cost you $279 per month.

Apartment insurance is about $15 per month ($180/year); the average cell phone costs are $71 per month ($852/year), though a basic land-line phone on one’s home runs about $26 per month.  Very basic cable is about $38 per month, including taxes ($456/year), while having an internet connection is about $40 per month ($480/year).  The cost of electricity for an apartment, with free hot water with heat registers, is on average $18 per month ($216/year), if it’s electric heat, $50+ per month. Entertainment is going out for a dinner for two ($50) once a month, grabbing the $10 burger and beer special once a week at the local pub, buying a bottle of cheap wine ($10), a new book ($15) and perhaps going to a movie once a month ($12), will total about $127 per month ($1524/year).

After paying these costs of living, the single person living in Victoria will be left with nothing, in fact they will be in arrears $1046, and still have to cover any clothing expenses, stamps, laundry, newspaper and occasional coffees, and emergencies. While the two week holidays one gets annually, never really includes an actual vacation. Such things as owning a car, paying for its gas, smoking, having a drug problem, eating out and being an obedient consumer is simply not possible. Though many cut corners and/or borrow to do so, a minority steal to do so. With over half of Canadians making less than $30,800 net per year, the poverty level is not so far away for the majority, and it is very true that “most everyone is a couple of paychecks away from being on the street.”

Many people whose income is $60,000 a year are also living paycheck to paycheck. The more you make, the more you spend, most times on frivolous and disposable stuff that has no actual value, and on such things as a bigger car loan or lease, a mortgage, higher credit card debt, purchasing higher end stuff and more of it, such as phones, clothing, TVs and shoes, personal loans, eating out more often, expensive holidays, TFSA’s, RRSP’s and savings, maintenance of home and a higher standard of living. It’s all relative. Though of course, no matter how much a person makes still does not guarantee them happiness.

The proverbial wrenches thrown into the cost of living are the facts of life that drop in and disrupt our lives from time to time, the stuff that happens in between paychecks. One’s mother dies on the other side of the country. Can one afford to fly there and bury her? One breaks their collarbone in an accident at home and has to go on six weeks unpaid leave, or someone has the flu and can’t afford to take the time off work. The car needs new tires, or one who has no dental insurance needs a tooth pulled, a root canal, or heaven forbid needs a crown.  It is estimated that 60% of all the people in the States who go bankrupt each year, have done so because they had a medical crisis and huge medical bills and costs.

As it is, wages have been stagnant for thirty years, which we have compensated with debt. Our society is becoming ever the more insecure, living in fear of losing one’s job, not being able to provide for family and the worry of losing one’s stuff. Stuff which we have been programmed to believe that we simply could not get by without, but which has no value whatsoever. Yet our response to the madness continues to be, think me and mine.

We have been told to do things in our lives that make us feel important, more independent, vital and valued. Interacting in the world of my daily life, I see so much of it, where people have taken what should be self confidence and empathy, and instead have created a profound sense of entitlement and a drone like stare. But no matter the cape one wears, we are all having a hard time of it mentally and emotionally. Though we try to smile and coo that everything is alright, we are actually barely putting up with the arrogance and ignorance of our fellow human beings, including ourselves.  But then this should not be surprising considering its now three generations of people, in Canada, the States, Europe, et al, who have been raised by television, and we are never wrong.  History has also proven that the worse society becomes the more delusional they become.

Ever since television, the powers that be have worked very hard at selecting for us what decisions we make. Forty years on, most of our decisions are already made for us well in advance and the income equality and wealth distribution gaps have widened to a point never seen in all of human history. Meanwhile the majority of us are finding it ever more difficult in bearing the brunt of what the cost of living today is demanding from us.

With any society truly only “three meals away from a revolution,” the trigger point for change in how our economic and social worlds operate is nearing. But when people rise up because their child is starving and they themselves have no prospect of an advancement or job, because as our population grows there will never be enough jobs for everyone, will pharmaceutical drugs and the gods of consumerism replace the most powerful drug we possess, which is hope?

Extreme wealth and social inequality is nothing new, nor is the inability to afford the cost of living. It has happened more than a few times over the course of human history. Each time there was ever worsening of physical and mental health, shorter life spans and more criminal behaviour, especially among the wealthiest, because unfortunately, when life gets hard, living wrong is easier than living right.

But when we cannot feed ourselves or get access to drinkable water anymore, enough will then be enough. And there will be change. Such crises in the past have touched off revolutions, which more often than not are led by middle class, educated leaders, doctors and teachers; though the problem with revolution has always been that they are messy and very violent affairs. For to achieve true change, the system must not only be beheaded, the base has to crushed and swept away as well. Leaving it and just getting a new head, operating within the same system, same rules and regulations or lack thereof, eventually fails as well, because the system is broke, and has never worked. At that time the step will have to be made to cross the great divide between being aware of our current dysfunction yet only standing back and pontificating about it, and start acting on the dialogue about alternatives and solutions to the problems and becoming involved in its reform. It’s why many of the earliest civilizations had laws where wealth would be distributed anew and all debt erased every seven or so years.

Today I fear that I myself am caught up in the current age of myth and capitalism and that as a people we do not have the courage to rescue ourselves from ourselves anymore. It has become too easy to shut out the madness of our corporate governments and oligarchs with sports, movie stars and reality TV. I sit here and peck away on the computer analyzing, researching and giving an opinion about problems that thousands have already and quite often have done so more eloquently and intelligently, but I feel this is all I can do. Of course it is not.

The proof in the pudding will be when enough of us scream “time out”, get up from our couches, step away from our routine distractions, put one foot in front of the other, get out onto the street and make our voices heard, and come up with options and alternatives as to how we currently operate as societies. Instead of future generations cursing our names, we should at least give them the impression that we tried the best we could, and for once stopped thinking about me, myself and I. How can we expect any hope for our children and our children’s children if we do not?

The height of ignorance would be for us to continue to operate on self-denial, excess and self-indulgence and believe it’s all about us, with no thought to our children and grandchildren and what type of world they will be allowed to grow old in. The epitome of ignorance personified is to actually think the ecosystems and weather patterns of the earth, which we have greedily altered, care if we can cope or change our ways, or not.

After forty short years, the reality being proven in most developed countries is that in general, and not through a lack of trying or working hard, but because we are operating within a flawed system and have become distracted, we won’t do better than our parents, and our children will not do better than us. Heaven help our grandchildren.

 

 

 

08/29/12

Salesmen of Sport

With capitalistic bubbles stretched taut, economies and individuals staggering under debt, infrastructure rapidly falling apart and the legitimate rape of the planet continuing unabated and ignored, one of the distractions in a Canadian’s life, hockey, seems to be heading for another strike. Imagine that, individuals of the top 1 % arguing over how much more of the pie they can take. As of 2012, the average wage of a NHL hockey player for one season was $2.4 million, about $29,000 per game. In the real world $2.4 million equals someone making $48,000 per year for 50 years. Yes, wow.

Comparatively, the other major sports in North America that keep us preoccupied and distracted and who also possess an insatiable thirst for our hard earned dollars, the NBA, MLB and NFL, have combined revenues that are higher than most countries make in a year.

The numbers quoted in this article for any players cited as being one of the richest 100 athletes in the world include player salaries, bonuses, appearance fees, prize money and endorsements and licensing, just like any other corporate entity, because that’s what they are, ask them. These 100 players combined earnings last year was $26 billion.

The National Football League brings in revenue of about $9.5 billion a year and even though they generate the most money of all the pro leagues in the entire world, their players are the least paid at an average wage of $1.9 million a season. And yet as so happens, of the 100 richest athletes in the world, thirty of them are NFL players, the most from any sport.

Leading the way in the NFL is Peyton Manning who just recently signed with the Denver Broncos for $96 million over 5 years. For signing he was given a $6 million advance. Last season (2011) he did not play because of rehab from neck injury but his team at the time, the Indianapolis Colts still paid him his player’s wage of $32.4 million. Manning also made over $10 million in endorsements, making his combined earnings in 2011 $42.4 million. Manning is listed as the 10th richest athlete in the world, while on average the top ten players in the NFL are making upwards of $20 million per season.

NFL players get 47% of league revenues, but there are 1,696 of them, spread out over 32 teams, playing a 16 game season and perhaps a few playoff games. The NFL has the shortest average career span of the big leagues of only 3.3 years.

The Dallas Cowboys (#1 at $1.8 billion), Washington Redskins, New England Patriots and three other NFL teams are presently, some of the most valuable teams in the world of a combined worth of over $8 billion.

Yes the States has the over-hyped bling, attitude and 2 yard running plays of the NFL, but in Canada a superior game of football is being played, mostly because of a slightly different set of rules and character of player. The Canadian Football League is all about finesse, throwing the ball and the smoothness of the game as it is played out, mainly because a CFL team only has three downs to get 10 yards and a first down so you have to make things happen, while in the NFL they get four kicks at the can to get 10 yards, conveniently allowing lots of time-spots for advertisers. There are only eight teams in the CFL, with 42 players per team, 19 of which may be imports, plus 4 players in reserve, playing 18 games and a few playoff games if lucky and they’ve been working hard. League revenues each year are between $120 and $150 million, with each team having a salary cap of $4.3 million. Playing wages go from league minimum of $43,000 per season to the quarterbacks on each team, who make the most at $250,000 to $400,000 per season. The average CFL player makes about $82,000 per season and the average career span is about three to four years.

Major League Baseball has revenues in the $7.7 billion range, the second richest pro league in the world. With 30 teams and 750 players who play a 162 game season and a few playoff games, the average wage of a player is $3.31 million per season, while the average career span in baseball is about 6 years. Twenty-one baseball players make up the world’s 100 richest athletes, with fourteen of them making more than $20 million per season. And then there is Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.

In 2000 and playing for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez signed the largest sports contract in history, a ten-year deal worth $252 million. In 2004 he was traded to the New York Yankees and in 2007 he opted out of what the Rangers had still been paying him, and what they still owed, by signing a deal with the Yankees for $275 million over ten years and breaking a new record for sports contracts, the record being his previous deal with the Rangers. Since he started playing major league baseball in 1994 Rodriguez has made over $296 million, with his teammate Derek Jeter, playing since 1995, having over $220 million in career earnings. Rodriguez’s current annual playing wage is $30 million. Meanwhile, his team, the Yankees, had a 2012 team payroll of over $198 million and is the third highest valued sports franchise in the world, at $1.7 billion.

Even though they are the second richest pro league in the world, MLB is also the most regional of all major sports and is strictly and truly, America’s game. And lord knows, especially today, they desperately need the distraction and the emotion the game brings to them and are obviously still willing to pay for it.

Though actually attending a pro game is far above what most people can afford because the arenas will soon be filled with corporate boxes, we do have bars and TV. Instead of actually going to a game and spending a hundred or more bucks, if you’re lucky to find a ticket, we can buy a $200 team jersey with someone else’s name on the back, go to the pub and spend another $50 on pints and a burger, with friends.

Over on the hard court, the average wage of a player in the National Basketball League is $5.5 million per season, making them the highest paid players of the major sports leagues. Indeed, only thirteen NBA players are in the top 100 richest because there’s so many of them right behind them. The NBA has only 450 players, on 30 teams which play 82 games and if hope willing, have a long playoffs to endure. The average career in the NBA is about six years.

The average player earns about $67,000 per game. League revenues in 2011 were $3.6 billion, of which nearly 56% went to player salaries. The elite players are earning anywhere from $10 to $15 million per season, Kobe Bryant is the highest paid basketball player at $20 million per season playing for the LA Lakers. He also is paid $32 million from endorsements, making his 2011 income in the $52 million range. Lebron James of the Miami Heat meanwhile made more overall money than Bryant, with $13 million in players’ wages and $40 million in endorsements, totaling $53 million, he also now owns a stake in the English League, Liverpool Soccer Club.

Bryant and James were both on the US Olympic Basketball team, their games as exciting as the Canadian Olympic Women’s Hockey team beating yet another opponent 16-2.

Ah, finally back to the good old game of hockey. There are no NHL players amongst the 100 richest athletes of the world and considering a very recent poll suggesting Canada could support another 3 NHL teams, hockey is truly Canada’s game.

The National Hockey League made $3.2 billion in 2011-12, a 50% increase over the past 7 years. Currently the players receive 57% of revenues, with the owners taking 43%, though as I’m writing this article, the players union and the league are at an impasse at meetings to renew their contract, mainly concerning economic issues. If no deal is made by Sept15th the players will be locked out. The player’s side would like to see an increase of $100 million to $250 million for a subsidy fund which goes to teams who can’t afford to pay their players and are struggling in shitty markets, such as the successful operations in Phoenix, Arizona, two teams in Florida and one in Carolina. To keep these teams and others, competitive, they must be subsidized by the other team owners to do so.

The players union has also said they would be willing to have a hard salary cap in place and are willing to take less than 57% of revenues for 3 years, maybe 54%. The NHL is countering with the players receiving 43% of League revenues and the owners getting a 25% raise. The League would also like to end long-term contracts with their front end loaded deals, such as those being signed over the past few months by their very selves, and that the same amount is paid each season of that contract, which would also have a 5 year cap on its length, forthwith.

Like kids in the sandbox, the owners have the bucket that the players shovel money into and the players who have the shovel are refusing to play any more if they can’t have their share, with the owners wanting a bigger share and if they don’t get it they’ll take both the bucket and the shovel and go home in a pout, it gives me a headache. Collectively the players make more money than all the CEO’s and owners who hire them and individually make far more in one season than what 80% of the planet will make in a lifetime.

As mentioned earlier, the average NHL player’s wage is $2.4 million per season, with thirty teams carrying 690 players, playing 82 regular season games. This year each team has a $59.4 million salary cap. The playoffs are four rounds of best of sevens, with the champion team having to win 16 games, playing a maximum of 42 games over nearly two months to achieve it. The Stanley Cup is mutually agreed upon as being one of the hardest physically and mentally challenging championships to attain in team sports. Yet in North America, out of all the major team sports, NHL hockey is the lowest rated sport. The average career in the NHL is five years, though 50% of all NHL players play less than 100 games.

The two highest paid players this past season, both earning $10 million were Roberto Luongo, currently of the Vancouver Canucks and Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Luongo signed a new deal with the Canucks in 2010-11, a 12 year $64 million contract, which paid him $10 million this past season and then pays $6.7 million each year after. Lecavalier signed his front-end loaded deal in 2008, an 11 year $85 million contract. The top NHL players meanwhile, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin each make $9 million a season. Tied for sixth richest contracts in the NHL are Chris Drury and Scott Gomez at $8 million per season each, which is sad considering since signing such huge deals years ago, both have either been injured or inept and ineffective when they have played.

The average NHL franchise’s worth is about $228 million. Toronto, NY Rangers, Canadians, Red Wings, Philly and Boston are all valued at more than $300 million, while Nashville, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Phoenix are valued at $150 million. Two teams, representing both ends of the scale, were sold during the 2011-12 season. Tampa Bay was sold for $93 million; the Canadians were sold for $575 million.

Besides the pro North American sports teams and athletes already mentioned, many of the richest players in the world are in individual sports. The boxer, Floyd Mayweather, is the richest athlete in the world. From June2011 to June 2012 he fought twice. The first fight he made $40 million, the second he pulled in $45 million, for a total of $85 million. I say this with a pure white cat on my lap which I am stroking and a pinkie finger touching the side of my mouth. Total time in the ring for Mayweather was less than an hour. Besides being his own fight promoter and having no need to endorse anybody other than himself he made no outside endorsement money.

The second richest athlete in the world is also a boxer, Manny Pacquaio, who made $56 million fighting and $6 million on endorsements. Number three, surprisingly, is golfer Tiger Woods. He made $4.4 million golfing and $55 million from Nike. The combined, $59.4 million is half of what he made in 2009. He would have made more, but after his wife attacked the car he was driving with a five-iron because he was following his little head around, he lost sponsors Tag Heuer and Gillette. Woods’ net worth as of 2010 is $500 million.

After #4 Lebron James, is the tennis player, Roger Federer, whose total earnings were $52.7 million, $7.7 million in winnings and $45 million on endorsements. #6 is Kobe Bryant, then golfer Phil Mickelson, who made $4.8 million for golfing and another $43 million on endorsements. Eight and nine are the soccer players David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is the highest paid soccer player in the world, but Beckham made more on endorsements. Beckham’s salary to play soccer was $9 million, with endorsements of $37 million. To-date he has made over $260 million in his career. Ronaldo on the other hand was paid $20.5 million to play soccer and made another $22 million on endorsements.

Soccer is actually the world’s third richest pro sport, behind the NFL and MLB. The franchise, Manchester United, is the second most valuable sports team in the world at $1.86 billion, followed closely by Real Madrid and Arsenal, both at over $1 billion each.

The tenth highest paid athlete is Peyton Manning and right behind him is another soccer player, Lionel Messi, with $20 million in playing salary and $19 million on endorsements.

Other notables, who are leading their respective sports in earnings and are included in the top 100 richest include, Formula One driver, Fernando Alonso with total earnings of $32 million, Valentino Rossi earning $30 million racing motorcycles and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the highest paid cricket player in the world earning over $26.5 million. One of only two women players on the list is tennis player, Maria Sharapova, the 26th richest athlete in the world, earning $27.9 overall earnings. The other woman is also a tennis player, Li Na, at #81.

Interestingly enough and at first a surprise, Usain Bolt is one of the richest athletes in the world besides of course being the fastest human on the planet. Bolt is the 63rd richest athlete with only, at least compared to this surreal world we are walking through in this article, $300,000 in prize money, appearance fees etc, but he makes over $20 million in endorsements, Puma pays him $9 million alone.

Basically, the top twenty-five paid athletes in the world are making in excess of $30 million per year, roughly the same as someone making 60 grand a year for 500 years, yes, five hundred years. There are no hockey players on the richest list, though they still make very, very good coin. And there are no rugby players, who average around $50,000 per season, with the top class players making $300,000 per and the elite, $500,000 plus. Also not on the list are the hundreds of millions of people, who are playing for the love of the game, whatever that game may be.

While back on earth, in Aug. 2012, over 20% of the United States population, 66 million Americans and each representing a family of four, made about $28,800 last year. Comparatively, over 80% of working Canadians are making less than $48,000 per year.

There you have it, at least inquisitively. The sheer wealth and the representative numbers so far mentioned makes my head spin. But then athletes are only one part of our distracting celebrity culture and always have been, with the question always being, how much of the integrity of the richest athletes in the world and their ilk, such as corporate CEO’s, movie stars, rappers and rock stars, is left after withstanding the demands, pressures and greed to make even more money. There are many who are wealthy and still show glimpses of empathy, they appreciate what they’ve got and they make an effort to give back, though never as much as they could afford. What they all share is that they understand what they do is strictly business.

Others are taken over by the voices in their head, the whispers in their ears and they simply can’t help themselves. What once was and who they really are is gone, reshaped, forgotten and not even allowed by their status and class, they’ve sold their souls. Enough will never be enough and eventually many simply stop caring.

A celebrity’s job is twofold; they help us endure while our society goes through controlled collapses and the more the situation deteriorates the more grandiose, fictional and contrived the spectacle of the arena becomes, whether in a stadium, boardroom, on a screen or upon a field. Personal dramatics become the agony, the defeat and the winning with tears of joy and chest of pride, while fiction eventually erases what is natural, genuine and spontaneous; and they are the faces and hawkers of goods for corporate society and the gods of consumerism.

We admire our stars because of three things, how much money they make, what they do and we wish it were us. We live our lives through them and the maybe couple of hours we spend watching them we can hopefully forget about the real world, perhaps even hoping for some inspiration. Our celebrities show us that we can triumph and get to the top of the world, often just so we can give a finger to those who thumbed their noses at us or belittled us at one time and we act and are able to extract revenge on something or someone. Or become a hero and save the day by overcoming much pain and hardship. These storylines run through most all that happens on television, in movies, sports, business and politics. But in reality, for a vast majority of people, they never happen.

I’ve coached young hockey players who besides talking their parents into buying them $200 high-tops so that they could be cooler, get them to pay for a $200 stick, which breaks at their next practise, and $400 skates, both believing they’ll make the kid a better hockey player. This is the other side of the celebrity’s job; to be the “human representation of commercial commodities.” Most of the world’s richest athletes make more money from endorsements than from their playing wage, the numbers are obscene. They’ve become salesmen for materials we don’t need or can’t afford and they personally don’t seem to have a problem with that and no matter how much the planet sickens and deteriorates around them they relentlessly ask us to spend more, to support them so that they can make even more money.

To underscore this article, I’d like to end it with a paragraph listing some of the corporations who gave the aforementioned richest athletes millions of dollars to sell their products for them. They predominately target people that have money or credit, children, those whose religious belief leans toward consumerism, those who believe there is no such thing as climate change and those who smile and say everything will be all right as long as everyone sticks to the status quo. The list is what our heroes and our children’s heroes want us to purchase, even though in reality none of these products define us, or at least they shouldn’t. Materialism is never ending, never enough, like allowing the voices in our heads to go on and on and on, like the band on the Titanic, until we eventually slip beneath the waves.

Nike, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Monster Energy, Haagen-Dazs, Hennessy, Hewlett-Packard, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, State Farm Insurance, Rolex, the Nike Jordan brand (over $1 billion in sales each year),Wilson, Credit Suisse, Exxon, Amgen/Pfizer (pharmaceuticals), Burger King, Samsung, Castrol, Reebok, Sony, Wheaties, DirectTV, Gatorade, PepsiCo, Dolce, AT@T, Adidas, Kia Motors, Bacardi, Quaker State, Rawlings, Range Rover, Toyota, Shell, Kraft Foods, Tag Heuer, Verizon Wireless, Gillette, General Electric, Head and Shoulders, Pepperidge Farms, Vita CoCo, Ford, Goodyear, Subway, RBC, Polo/Ralph Lauren, MusclePharm, EA Sports, Jeep, Pennzoil and Toshiba.

Highest-Paid Athletes 2012 – World’s Richest Athletes ‹ The Richest People In The World 2012

08/11/12

Dazed and Confused

“There must be some kinda way out of here.

Said the joker to the thief.

There’s too much confusion.

I can’t get no relief”

All Along the Watchtower – lyrics by Bob Dylan

After writing the four “Oh Canada, where art thou going” articles I felt drained, perhaps confused. Maybe it was the weight of too much information. Or the fact that the current political system in most capitalistic/democratic countries, including my own, is truly broken, with the world now being run rough-shod by a shockingly small number of transnational corporations and few hundred individuals doing what they will with the planet and its inhabitants. While at the same time many of us plead ignorance. The confusion I felt, altered something in me and made me remember what mostly affects our lives happens at the community level and not on the other side of the planet. But then I realized, holy cow, my community and more specifically my tribe is just as confused as I am.

On the federal level in Canada and after an election, we have no more say in any decisions made by that government, basically the same at the provincial level, who also make their own decisions without any public consultation, with their often times wrong and misguided decisions felt by all except themselves. While on the community level is where we live our daily lives.

On our streets, in our homes, at our workplace, where we buy our food, raise our children, where we meet with friends and where we share our lives with a loved one is what is important to our lives. What affects us the most is the environment, how clean the water is out of the tap, what are the conditions of our communities’ infrastructure and how safe are our streets, most all of our needs are met within the community we live in.

Politics on the community level, in most cases is working. If a municipal’s council comes up with something that many in the community feels strongly about, the town or city hall fills up pretty quick at the next week’s meeting. But reality dictates that councils are also often influenced by the local business community, small groups of usually retired teachers and other very politically correct individuals. Citizens who believe it is their civic duty to make their community safer but perform with such fervor that this type of over the top justified involvement most often becomes invasive involvement. They become hall monitors and snitches, always on the lookout for that one small thing a fellow citizen does that the police or city council might be interested in.

Technology seems to be opening up transparency and on the whole, at least at the town or city level there is still a degree of accountability. We live in the same community with those elected; their kids go to the same school as our kids. We get people into government by voting for them, supposedly to speak on our behalf. And only at the community level can you speak your behalf to the elected member of your community face to face and personal.

Of course this all breaks down the bigger the community, town or city is because those on council are humans and once they believe they have power over others and are becoming increasingly wealthy compared to their neighbours, they will move away and their kids will attend private schools. Scientific American and Psychological Science have both shown and have proven that the wealthier a person becomes the less empathy they have for people unlike themselves. They become much more focused on self and that such a level of self interest of course promotes wrongdoing and unethical behaviour. While the true psychopaths, if defined as individuals whose brains do not register stressful feelings when they observe harms on others, who are most likely to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain and who represent less than one per-cent of humanity while possessing more net worth than the bottom 90% combined, are the puppet masters and running the show.

So anyways, I’ve decided to focus my articles more on the community level. This came about because of two things: a community project I assisted with and the fact I just took a week off and travelled through some very cool little communities around nearby Puget Sound in the States. With an open mind, a willingness to always talk and with a friendly and inquisitive nature I’ve met many people over the past week. And you know what? Most people do know the current way of things is askew and wrong on many levels, but their lives take up all their time and though realized or not, the simple human interaction we have within our tribes, the thirty to forty people we come into contact with daily or at least once a week face to face, is what makes up nearly every moment of our lives. For this is where humanness resides.

The community project needed a dozen people to volunteer to work as a team, by using each one of our specific traits and experience to bring the project to fulfillment. Many in the group had obviously stepped out of their routine and you know what? They craved it, egos were not evident, and everyone was engaged in the moment and enjoyed the feeling of being a part of something far bigger than they themselves individually. It made us happy.

Happy is a funny thing. We consume, earn and spend, often times even when we can’t even afford it, forever chasing down some false and misguided happiness. Yet within our individual worlds, deep down, the level of respect and admiration from friends, families, peers and communities determines a human’s happiness, not wealth, economic status or overall success, while food, sex and water simply keep us alive.

We each would hope to be an engaged, trusted, generous and accepted member of our individual groups. Indeed within our local hierarchies the individuals with such traits hold a higher status among the group. And if truth were to be told, where we stand with those whom we live our lives alongside and the acceptance and respect earned from them makes us happier, regardless of our wealth or fame.

Volumes of reports and studies on happiness all clearly show that feeling respected and admired as a human can cause our happiness to increase and being happier makes those around you happier, thus overall happiness increases. Meanwhile, it’s also been proven time after time and over the eons that just feeling rich or feeling above others, one’s feeling of happiness does not increase. We should know this, you think?

Seriously I don’t see much happy these days. The smiles are there but the eyes aren’t smiling. There are days lately where I feel I’m either going nuts or I’m just noticing we’re all nuts. It seems everyone is questioning, whether it be our lives, relationships or jobs. There’s also a lot of denial out there, even with reality gobsmacking us in the face. We are all agog with far too much information, looking more zombie-like with a thousand yard stare and either a stupid little grin stuck on our face or in most cases just a permanent scowl, with everyone seemingly so pissed off.

Personally, I get excited when I sense change in the air. But lately it’s getting rather thick, with information exponentially increasing in speed and volume it is now far more than we can absorb.  It’s not even subtle anymore, this struggle we are having over our subjectivity, our inner reality, and how we define our needs.  If change is dealt with an honest apprehension of one’s situation and without cynicism, it can only be proactive, but our avoidance of doing so will only create tragedy.

Communities are being affected by change the hardest because it is where we actually live and because of the trickle-down effect from the top of greed, oily slime and the oppressive nature of capitalism and consumerism. Yes capitalism creates new ideas, but its goal is to intensify consumerism, even when it is no longer affordable for the average humanoid, and it does so with no ecological or moral principles. Advertisers have shaped our attitudes, what we taste, see, hear, smell and feel. Our car and clothes we are told are what defines us. And yes we have unlimited information and technology at hand, because it’s been put there before us to purchase to keep us busy and entertained, while we lose control of the world out on our streets. This happens oddly enough because we think we have freedom, no rights, but we say we are free and safe. We’ve given up far too much just to think we live in a safe and wonderful environment. Our idea of what normal is and what is sane, decent and patriotic has sucked our soul’s dry, while each day we desperately try not to notice that the systems running our societies outside our front doors are terribly broken. It’s like we don’t trust ourselves anymore. The weathers fine, no it is not. Equal rights, excuse me? There will always be jobs for anyone willing to work we are told, nope not no more, because there are simply too many of us. Our senses are numbed daily by a myriad of means, we are all self medicating in some way.

Most of us are seeing the same things, the same stories, yet we are coming to different interpretations. Everything that is said or done is becoming being taken the wrong way. People are offended very easily these days, always “put out”. Trying to prove their point is whatever they say it is by their level of indignation. Trust and respect seems to have been replaced with fear and blame. Any truths and realities are argued and often denied because of a two minute sound bite of only a few dozen words announced on any mainstream news stream that they had heard, seen or read. So much of what we say amongst others is misinterpreted and questioned. We are realizing the deteriorating situation of our lives, individual world-views and the planet, and it is scaring the hell out of us. The scariest is the realization that things have gotten so out of hand yet we allowed ourselves to be distracted while it went on and we are confused by the realization that many aspects of our lives have somehow become beyond our control. It seems all that is left is denial and rage.

Grasping reality can sometimes be painful but rarely does anyone die or lose an eye over it and a change in behaviour does not necessarily always mean mental illness, but could be perceived as a type of societal shell shock. It’s as though one doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Not knowing if one should accept the reality of our lives; where not everyone is a drunk driver, murder (at least here in Canada) is rare, there is no such thing as the perfect family, we all have mental illnesses, and the majority of the population will experience violence only on the screen, thousands of times and all different ways. Or we can keep acknowledging and swallowing the steady stream of propaganda shoved down our throats and which assault on our senses on a daily basis.

Changes are happening that are far too fast for the mind to comprehend and weigh their implications, because reflection has been ignored and tossed aside when the television entered our worlds and became the center of our universes. The people that are getting off of their addiction to the aptly nick-named boob tube are often times awakening to find themselves embarrassed for their blindness and ignorance. I was.

But then that is what a capitalistic system creates, class stratification; along with racism, prejudice and feelings amongst the majority of people of powerlessness, unfocused rage and shame. These frustrations are then controlled by developed compulsions and self indulgences which displace such frustrations. While the majority slave away at their lives the few at the top snicker away that so many have fallen for the propaganda. They do not snicker fearlessly though for they dread and pray the majority do not become pissed off and develop such insolence as standing up and saying enough is enough.

The less people who instead of simply stepping outside and being aware of what the environment is doing, are told what the weather and other people’s lives are doing via a seemingly drunk on caffeine and themselves, boob tube personality with a painted on smile, the better. The less people who still think the world is gumdrops and lollipops the better as well.

Nearly everyone I know is questioning something in their lives. What was once right or wrong doesn’t necessarily mean right or wrong anymore. We seem to have been programmed but are now trying to shake the cobwebs out. Whether because of our parents, peers or mainstream media, what we once believed good is now bad and vice versa. People are not dealing with their shattered dream so well I fear. One of the reasons for this is that too many of us are still living in the past and so very scared of the future, with many of us still hung up over things that happened years and decades ago. Yet all it takes to create positive change in one’s life is relentless struggle to keep a greater self awareness of the present. Most mistakes I have made and continue to make, happen whenever I’m not listening or not aware of the moment nor focused on the task at hand.

It seems ladies and gentlemen we have also somehow lost our empathy, equal rights and traditions. If we were electrical, which in part we are, we’re blowing fuses, experiencing black and brown outs, and disconnecting all over the place. The promise of more open communication through texting and tweetering is actually creating the opposite. Someone once said our generation has at hand, more information and technology than at any time in history, yet we have somehow become the stupidest.

It does not have to continue. All it takes is taking one step forward instead of leaning out of a sofa for the remote. Stepping away from mundane routine and habitual thought that keep us away from taking such a step, for the majority of folk, seems to be the scariest part. It is but being engaged in your world. It’s hard work being aware of each moment and is sometimes forgotten or ignored for hours or days at a time, but it must never be given up on. The only place the ego does not dwell or like, is when their host is living in the present moment. This is where true change happens.

Another step forward could be finally finding out your neighbours name and taking some pride in your community. Not so proud? Do something about it and get others to help you. It’s like if you want a responsible, trusted, smart and goofy child, you as a parent should be responsible, trusted, smart and goofy. You don’t agree to how we’re ravaging the planet and ourselves, speak up, create change and better yourself. Go to a municipal council meeting one night. Once a year spend the fifteen minutes or so and vote. Know who you are voting for. The community you live in is not your living room or house, its outside on the street. The people you meet each day are your community and this is where we can make a difference for the better. Don’ be intimidated by the media and corporate propaganda, no one owns the Earth. At the same time we must stop fouling our own nests, the rest of the animal kingdom are shaking their heads in disgust laughing at us and crying at the same time.

Let us not be souls who instead of dying peacefully, aware and grateful, it will be the tragic; sitting up from one’s deathbed after your life had just flashed before your eyes and very sadly gasping “Oh shit”. Overwhelmed with regret and guilt, thinking of all the things one should of, would of and could have done. Ruing all the differences in one’s life, in other’s lives and in their own worlds, that could have been made. And then slowly laying your head back down upon the pillow and allowing your last breath to escape from within. With finality perhaps asking ourselves if we had made a difference that we had lived or we had never made a difference and it was of no concern to anyone whether we had lived at all.

To paraphrase the humanist and writer, Eckhart Tolle, “The greatest achievement of humanity is not art, science or technology, but will be the recognition of its own dysfunction, our collective madness,” and dealing with it.

07/24/12

The Garage Sale of Canada

I’m minding my own business, inquisitively searching the web for information pertaining to community instead of the sheer madness and reeking greed happening at the top. Have been thinking about my daily life and not the “big picture”, more about the community in which I reside and those who make up my circle of friends and loved ones. Writing the last few articles made me turn my head a bit and I saw what appeared to be a trail running alongside the road my writing takes me.

After ducking under a couple of low slung limbs of Fir and squeezing past some bushes, I took its path and for a week, met and encountered people and places, wrote and loved a lot of moments, each one fully engaged. It is a path I’ll stay on for awhile for it’s got a good vibe to it. It’s all about community; because this is where changes can be made of things that affect us the most. The following path will be less taken for awhile.

But suddenly, because no matter how hard you need to get out, something sucks you back in. I ran across an article about another foreign corporation buying off another piece of Canada and thought wow, is there going to be anything left? And how much have we already sold off? As it is, thirty-six sectors of the Canadian economy is majority foreign owned, including the chemical industry, rubber industry, computer industry and the petroleum industry. Zero sectors in US are majority foreign owned. The following is but a smattering of what I found.

July 2012. A Chinese government controlled corporation, The China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC Ltd.), purchases the Calgary-based oil and gas firm Nexen Inc. (Canada’s 12th largest energy company) for $15.1 billion US cash. If the deal goes through it will be the largest foreign transaction that the Chinese government has ever made. The Canadian government and Nexen’s shareholders will have to approve the deal, by deciding whether the deal will be a “net benefit” to Canada. Interestingly enough, Nexen’s CEO, Marvin Romanow and executive vice-president Gary Nieuwenburg, stepped down from their positions in January.

Last year, CNOOC Ltd. bought the oil sands development company, OPTI Canada, which was under credit protection, for $2.1 billion. OPTI owned the other third of the Long Lake oil sands project that Nexen didn’t.

Since 2005, CNOOC has invested over $2.8 billion in various Canadian projects, including stakes in MEG Energy Inc. and a 60 per cent interest in Northern Cross (Yukon) Ltd. and have a firm foothold in the oil sands, also owning interests in Syncrude, Athabasca Oil Sands and Penn West Energy corporations.

July 2012. Calgary-based Talisman Energy sells a 49 per cent interest in its UK division to the Chinese state-controlled Sinopec Corp. for $1.5 billion. Sinopec is the same corporation which paid $2 billion last year, to buy the Alberta oil and gas firm Daylight Energy and back in Sept 2008, as the bubble burst in most democratic countries, they purchased Vancouver/Calgary based Tanganyika Oil for another $2 billion. They are also one of the biggest investors in the Enbridge pipeline.

July 2012. Swiss-based Glencore International PLC pays $6.1 billion to take over Viterra Inc., a Regina-based agribusiness. Deal to be completed after a review by regulators in China, Australia and New Zealand, where Viterra has operations.

June 2012. Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company, Petronas, offers $5.5 billion to buy out Progress Energy Resource Corp., their Canadian partner in northeastern BC gas fields.

The natural gas facilities in Kitimat, to be completed by 2017, are owned by Dutch Shell, Korea Gas Corp. and PetroChina Co. Ltd.

February 2011. PetroChina, the state-owned international oil and gas, corporation, buys 50% partnership with Encana Corporation, in deep shale gas development in northeastern BC and northwest Alberta.

In the last two years over 77 Canadian technology firms have been sold to foreign companies, mostly American. Because, as entrepreneur John Philip Green says, although there are “a lot of great stories to be told, a lot of people working really hard, really smart people doing world beater stuff, the biggest obstacle to being the next RIM (Research In Motion) is just that people sell out so quickly.”

San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, a leader in business software, purchased the Canadian companies Goinstant, the Toronto software company, Rypple and Fredericton-based Radian6, which specializes in digital marketing. Larger U.S. companies acquired Vancouver’s Singular Software, Ottawa’s Headwall Software and Halifax’s GoInstant. Toronto’s Scriptlance was bought out by the largest company in its field, the outsourcing and crowd-sourcing marketplace, Freelancer.com, which is based in Australia.

Brazilian mining giant Vale acquires Toronto-based Inco, the world’s second-largest nickel producer company, for $19.4 billion in 2007.

U.K.’s Rio Tinto takes over mining and aluminum company Alcan in a $38-billion US deal in 2007

Swiss company Xstrata acquires Toronto-based copper and nickel mining company Falconbridge in a 2006 deal that values the company at approximately $24.1 billion.

US Steel Corp. takes over Canadian steel-maker Stelco in 2007. The federal government sued US Steel after it said the company failed to live up to promise it made to maintain investment in Canada. A settlement was reached in December 2011 under which US Steel will maintain Canadian operations until at least 2015 and make a further investment of $40.7 million.

Graphics chipmaker, ATI Technologies based in Markham, Ont., is acquired by the US company, Advanced Micro Devices, in October 2006 in a deal valued at $5.6 billion US.

The Caterpillar Inc. takeover of locomotive builder Electro-Motive in London, Ont., in 2010 is questioned when Caterpillar closes the plant permanently in February 2012, after failing to obtain demands workers accept pay cuts as deep as 50 per cent.

Besides being the biggest purchaser at Canada’s garage sale, China is also our second biggest trading partner, behind the US. In 2011 Canada exported $16.3 billion worth of merchandise to China and imported more than $48 billion. We export commodities and natural resources, such as raw logs, and paper products, with 25% of what we export being the minerals nickel, copper and potash. And of course we will soon be exporting fantastic amounts of oil and natural gas.

We import from China more than three times what we export because of our thirst for appliances, electrical equipment, toys, clothing, rubber and plastics. Selling our natural resources for manufactured goods in return makes the trade relationship between China and Canada highly unusual says Gordon Betcherman, a professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. “It’s a weird trade pattern. It’s exactly the pattern you would expect to see between a rich, developed country and a much poorer developing country – except it’s exactly flipped.”

 

 

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/06/19/f-canada-china-trade.html