You Sold Your Soul

Date April 27, 2018

(I know some of my former, ‘friends’ if any of them still hang around here, are going to get really steamed if they read this post. And that’s OK. When the Democrats kick the republicans out of power they will get their comeuppance also.)

Another week of no spine republicans. No capital r anymore. They have abdicated all right to respect and honor.

What was this week that was different?

It wasn’t.

Another House report from the non-intelligence committee that absolves trump (no capital here either) of any and all blame. Since they are lifting the guilt from his shoulders it means they must be placing it squarely on their shoulders.

In an article in the Washington Post on February 6, 2018, author Michael Gerson makes the quip that Speaker Ryan and trump are either “deluded or deceptive.”.

Since the redacted report of the year-long ‘investigation’ was released today, I thought it appropriate to take a look at the whole charade the republicans are playing in front of the American voter.

They read the reports that trump is all well and good in his world of misfits and they must assume that they can play in the same mud with him.

I am 68 years old and have lived through Reagan and Bush too. They, while stripping the middle class of its wealth and in Bush’s case run up a war debt that America’s soldiers are still paying for in today’s blood, did not have the brass balls to shake in front of the voters like trump’s minion do.

Brass Balls Google Images
Brass Balls Google Images

Of course, if we are speaking of republicans brass balls they swagger like this

the swaggering brass balls Google Images
Swaggering brass balls Google Images

“We were honored. It was a great report, no collusion, which I knew anyway. No coordination, no nothing. It’s a witch hunt, that’s all it is.” trump said.

I am going to return to the well-turned phrase of Mr. Gerson. In February, two short month’s ago, he wrote: “With the blessing of Republican leaders, the lickspittle wing of the GOP is now firmly in charge. The existence of reckless partisans such as Nunes is hardly surprising. The nearly uniform cowardice among elected Republicans is staggering. One is left wishing that Obamacare covered spine transplants. The Republican-led Congress is now an adjunct of the White House. The White House is now an adjunct of Trump’s chaotic will.”

Today of all days the ink is not drying well on the republican’s report. Newly surfaced emails indicate that Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with trump campaign associates in 2016, once worked with Russia’s chief legal officer in an effort to thwart the Justice Department, The New York Times reported.

So while trump bald-facedly declares that there is no collusion the lawyer that met with son Donnie and son in law Jared again makes an appearance. But in more detail.

Trump can hack sputum on his own intelligence services all he wants they will continue to do their jobs and lay bare all the illicit actions he is trying to hide. This lawyer even admits that she is an informant. Isn’t that a hoot? The Russian is more honest than the American crooks.

I think another testament to the ill-gotten gain of trump is the way those who have colluded with him against the American voter are abandoning the rat-infested ship of state.

Paul Ryan is leading the charge out the door. Going back to 1930 according to Vital Statistics on Congress 1992 was the highest departure of representatives. That year 29 republicans did not seek reelection. This year, so far, 39 are not seeking a return.

I would like to step away from my vitriol for a few minutes, not very long I can assure you

If I remember back to my youth when I wanted to be a writer, an important tool in a wordsmith’s belt was a device called imagery. Using a picture of one thing to highlight, illustrate, what you were trying to say about another. (Teachers did I get that correct?)

In Mother Jones, a favorite of mine, an article by Jackie Flynn Mogensen January 25, 2018 talks about mosquitoes.

The gist of the article is that when you “swat at a mosquito it could remember you for days.”

If you have spent any time camping in the woods or even sitting in the backyard and you’ve been plagued by a solitary buzzing around your ear please be heartened. “You may actually be able to train that bloodsucker to avoid you for a while.”

Mosquito surrounded by the names of diseases it spreads, malaria, zika, dengue Google Images
Mosquito surrounded by the names of diseases it spreads, malaria, zika, dengue Google Images

The brains of mosquitoes are not a big as this (.) period. But they are finally tuned blood-hunters. A new study by researchers from the University of Washington, the University of California-Riverside and the California Institute of Technology suggests that the mosquito species responsible for all of the nasty diseases listed above is actually capable of learning.

I wonder if the same will hold true of the blood sycophants on our society, the republicans?

Are they tired of getting womped on not only by trump but they must sense (I never said they were dumb just abject of soul) that they have so poisoned the minds of voters they know there is no redemption?

On the other hand is trump. He debases them every chance he gets and that has to get very old.

At one time the GOP, the Grand Old Party stood against the extension of slavery and eventually for the abolition of slavery altogether.

A short history.

The Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson, (have we heard that name being admired in recent history?) had shown itself incapable of coping with the national crisis over slavery.

Some former members of the Whig Party met in Rippon Wisconsin in 1854 and founded the Republican Party. This meeting is remembered as being held on March 20. Their first presidential candidate was John C. Fremont.

By 1860, the Southern slave states were threatening secession if the Republicans won the presidency.

In November 1860 who was elected president? Abraham Lincoln and six weeks later South Carolina seceded. Within another six weeks, another 5 states joined in. In April 1861 the Civil War started when Fort Sumter was fired on.

Of course, the republicans weren’t very nice ‘winners’. They forced “Radical Reconstruction” on the South.

We heard and saw last year of the Civil War Statues that came tumbling down. Some Southerners protested that the honor of the south was being despoiled.

While other people, who read history knew that the statutes were symbols erected after 1877 and had nothing to do with the pride of the South. The statues were erected thru the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and were symbols meant to keep blacks in their place. They held high the Southern price known as the Jim Crow laws.

US Flag behind barbed wire Google Images
US Flag behind barbed wire Google Images

Were you aware that the private prison companies in this country force immigrant detainees (not guilty, just detainees) to work for little or no money? And these private prisons have a powerful group of advocates? Eighteen members of Congress, all republicans.

In the 2016 election cycle, private prisons gave a record $1.6 million to candidates and parties and outside spending groups.

That was almost triple what they’d given in 2014 and more than double of what they gave in the 2012 presidential cycle.

Geo Group was responsible for most of that. It gave $300,000 to super PACS including one backing now-President Trump.

Since 1990 private prisons have given 73% of their total to republicans.

These prisons have seen an increase in lawsuits claiming they are human traffickers.

Private prisons housed up to 18% of federal prisoners in 2015 (and 75% of federal immigrant detainees). They also hold about 7% of state prisoners and an untold number of locals in jails in Texas, Louisiana and a handful of other states.

There are claims that private prisons can save money. That is not proven.

What they do is donate!

Silhouette of people behind a barbed wire fence. Google Images
Silhouette of people behind a barbed wire fence. Google Images

Another little republican side hustle?

Tip Pooling.

Who has worked as wait staff and had to share tips that only you had earned but had to share with others who didn’t work as hard or a well as you?

THIS IS NOT THAT!

This is the owners of tip enterprises, taking tips of the workers who had earned them, and pocket the money for themselves.

This is all well said Mark Mulvaney, now the Consumer Affairs Protection protector. As long as the owner paid the staff the required $7.25 per hour mandated by federal law.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that workers stand to lose $5.8 billion per year. Now can you see the republicans lips smacking?

How did they pull that one off? By deleting references to the amount of money that businesses could skim. This has been a particularly good trick the administration has learned.

Delete negativity in its reports!

As you can tell I have been saving some of this research since January.

Any tidbit? I am physically ill from writing this.

Everything I thought I knew about even the most jaundiced, bitter, resentful person in this country does not compare to those that stand by, no, that actively allow and countenance these despicable acts.

I think I can guarantee that someday the tide will turn. And I hope that when that day comes, the new landlords don’t treat the republicans the way that they treat others.

Thanks for stopping by.

Proud to be the Elephant in the Room Google Images

Craig

Black and white hydride tea rose with water droplets on it's petals. Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!
Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!

 

 

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Recovery from Brain Stroke

April 23, 2018

BUT FIRST!

A JAW-DROPPING STUDY

This is just a tease before the main course. But it is so GOOD I couldn’t wait to spill the beans!

This is just a tease!

I found researching topics regarding the brain to be very difficult. I’m not sure why but maybe the terminology, maybe the subject matter, maybe the seriousness of the articles or the fact most articles dealt with people’s injuries or illnesses?

Regardless, I thought I would try to draw you into the main portion of this post by offering a really cool tidbit of information.

The topic of this article on singularityhub.com is: “This Memory Prosthesis Boosts Recall in Humans by Roughly 40 Percent!” (the exclamation point is mine). The article is by Shelly Fan published on April 10, 2018.

This study describes the ability of the researchers headed by Dr. Robert Hampson at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, “to extract memory-encoding electrical signals directly from a group of human volunteers while they performed a memory task.”

SAY WHAT?

When asked to recall the task, “the researchers injected the signal back and it boosted the volunteer’s performance by roughly 37 percent!”

WOW!

The results of this research are published this month in the Journal of Neurol Engineering.

That scientists could identify and distill a patient’s own brain cell’s code into ‘electronic’ memories is a monumental step.

To translate the memories into Zeros and Ones is mind-boggling.

Imagine an Alzheimer’s patient or a stroke patient. They will now have a glimmer of hope to form new memories now that this finding will give their failing brains a boost.

Dr. Theodore Berger explains that something as abstract as a memory can be encoded as a mathematical equation. These equations are translated as electrical impulses and then re-implanted back into a person’s recall as a new memory.

Dr. Berger is a biomedical engineer at the University of Southern California.

With Dr. Dong Song, he developed a new model of hippocampal processing  (the hippocampus is a part of the limbic system responsible for long-term memory) that distills electrical signals of a rat learning to pick a correct lever into a computer code.

The researchers then used the same methods to restore memory deficits in monkeys.

Then came the work with 22 patients awaiting surgery for epilepsy.

This is where the article gets really scientific. I don’t think I can do it justice. So I must refer you to the article at singularityhub.com

A word about the very accomplished author: Ms. Shelly Xuelai Fan is a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco where she studies how to make old brains young again.

Onward to the Main Post

I am researching and writing this post (it will be part of a series) as a personal project. A dear friend and mentor suffered a devastating stroke.

His amazing perseverance and strength of character have brought him healing farther than I could have imagined.

He stills suffers on several fronts. I am trying to find a procedure, a medication, a tool that may help him further his progress.

I hope that soon one of these next research projects will provide the impetus for a company to formulate medications that will serve him well.

So Much Research

How do I sort all the research?

“Health Hub – Brain & Spine Health – Can a brain heal itself after a stroke?”

“Mechanisms that regenerate brain cells after stroke discovered”

“Post-stroke pain treatments – The Complete Guide”

“Recovery after stroke – Dealing with Pain”

This is a just a tiny sample of the information that is available. Some of it seems rather simplistic like, “What to do if you cut yourself with a rusty soup can?”

The rest is written in medicalese that my dim brain just glazes over trying to read it let alone comprehend what it means.

Perhaps I am just hoping for more grade level five articles. Perhaps I am just not good enough at researching technical topics.

I have been putting writing this post off for so long just because I feel so inadequate. But I must push on.

I should start at the beginning.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a ‘brain attack”. A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off.

When a stroke occurs brain cells are deprived of oxygen and die. When brain cells die abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory or muscle control are lost.

How a person is affected by the stroke depends on where the stroke occurs and how much damage is done.

A ‘small’ stroke may cause some temporary weakness of an arm or leg.

Large strokes leave people permanently paralyzed on one whole side of the body or they can lose the ability to speak.

Some people recover from a stroke. But over two-thirds of survivors have some disability.

By the Numbers

Each year 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke

More women than men have strokes

A stroke happens every 40 seconds

Every 4 minutes someone dies from a stroke

Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented

Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.

Types of Strokes

HEMORRHAGIC STROKE

A brain aneurysm that bursts or a weakened vessel leak is one of two types of strokes. It is the least common but causes the most deaths.

ISCHEMIC STROKE

A blood vessel carrying blood to the brain is blocked by a clot.

TIA

When blood flow to part of the brain stops for a short period, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) can mimic stroke-like symptoms. These appear and then last less than 24 hours before disappearing.

A TBI, traumatic brain injury is not a stroke nor is a stroke a TBI.

Pain

Injury pain – If you have damage to body tissue, you feel tissue pain.

Neuropathic pain – This is damage to brain’s pain-processing pathways. This is central post-stroke pain (CPSP) or nerve pain (about 12% of stroke survivors will suffer from central post-stroke pain. The brain is used to receiving normal sensory inputs, when it doesn’t, the brain itself produces the painful sensations.

Headaches – are more common after a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a break in the wall of a blood vessel in the brain. Irritation of the lining of the brain or pressure on the lining can then cause headaches.

Ischemic strokes are caused by a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Blood cannot get to that area and damage occurs.

Headaches can also be a side effect of medications. A dull, generalized headache can sometimes be part of post-stroke fatigue.

Duration of Pain

Pain can be acute or chronic. Chronic pain often needs different treatment than acute pain.

Treatment and Recovery

Treatment can be with medication such as NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or steroid injections if a specific part of the body is injured.

Opioids can also reduce pain.

Psychological treatment is used to help change thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors related to pain.

Electrical Stimulation uses electrical impulses to activate nerves.

Exercise and devices to help support the exercises are used.

Keeping active is important because the body releases endorphins or natural painkillers.

Pain Management Clinics are available to teach techniques to cope with chronic pain.

Repairs

Way back in 2009, a new study pointed a way that could help stroke patients recover lost motor ability.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) in combination with occupational therapy boosted recovery better than either treatment on its own.

The researchers used a simple device, a nine-volt battery connected to large flat sponges, moistened and applied to the head.

I have used the above tool, it is now called a TENS device. I now use an ‘Alpha-STIM’ device that aids in pain relief, relief of anxiety and depression, and also insomnia. The electrical microcurrents generated by the device stimulate the body and brain.

The Alpha-STIM M is manufactured by Electromedical Products International and provided to me by the Veterans Administration Healthcare System.

This device sends microcurrents at much lower levels than a TENS unit and the effects are longer lasting and cumulative. The price is correspondingly different. A TENS unit to relax muscles can be purchased on Amazon for about $30.00. An Alpha-STIM is about $800.00 and must be prescribed.

In 2009 studies showed patients had improvements lasting from a week to three months with an Alph-STIM.

The Dawn Study

“Standard stroke treatment guidelines have long dictated that there is a six-hour window to start treatment. However, a new study has shown that even if thrombectomy is performed beyond that timeframe, the benefits to patients are meaningful.” Futurism.com April 6, 2018, written by Brad Jones

The DAWN study observed 206 patients who were admitted to hospital between six and 24 hours after a stroke. One set of patients were treated according to standard guidelines.

The other set was treated using a procedure known as endovascular clot removal therapy. This is a thrombectomy.

In this study, 48.6 percent of patients that received this procedure could perform normal daily activities within 90 days after treatment.

Only 13.6 percent of patients achieved a comparable level of activity after receiving standard therapy. This test pertains to situations where the damage is minimal.

When presented to the Society of Vascular and Interventional Neurology’s 10th Annual Meeting last week it was met with a standing ovation from attendees.

A thrombectomy can be an effective way beyond current standards. There is an adage “time is brain” when it comes to treatment for stroke.

If you or someone you know may be having stroke get to the emergency room as soon as possible!

Continuing New Developments

A MECHANISM THAT REGENERATES

LUND UNIVERSITY, SWEDEN

Scientists in Sweden made an astounding breakthrough as published in The Journal Science. Working at Lund University and Karolinska Institutet identified an unknown mechanism in the brain.

They found that this mechanism produces new nerve cells after a stroke.

“This research shows that cells called “astrocytes” form new nerve cells in the injured part of the brain following a stroke.” This process follows astrocytes forming immature nerve cells which then develop into mature nerve cells has only been mapped in mice.

Zaal Kokaia, Professor of Experimental Medical Research at Lund University said: “This is the first time that astrocytes have been shown to start a process that leads to the generation of new nerve cells.”

“The scientists identified the signaling mechanism that stops this conversion from happening in an uninjured brain.”

This mechanism is stopped in a healthy brain and therefore stops the development of new nerve cells.

After a stroke, this mechanism is suppressed and astrocytes can then regenerate new cells.

“The major advancement with this new study is that, for the first time, self-repair in the adult brain involves astrocytes entering a process by which they  change their identity to nerve cells.”

Now the task is to see if astrocytes are converted to neurons in the human brain that has become damaged or diseased.

Astrocytes, spidery cells that are interspersed between neurons, carry a latent program that can entice astrocytes to replace neurons.” Science 10 Oct 2014; Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 237-241 (see the image at the beginning of this post for the depiction of a mouse brain).

Olle Lindvall Senior Professor of Neurology states that this could become important not only for stroke victims but also people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Strokes per year in the US 795,000 about 600,000 are for the first time and 185,000 are recurrent attacks. About 140,000 people die each year in the US from a stroke.

Striatum - input center for the basal ganglai Google Images

Basal Ganglia - best known for facilitating Voluntary Movement Google Images

The basal ganglia receive signals from the cerebral cortex and facilitate voluntary movement. Parkinson’s disease affects the basal ganglia pathways resulting in slow movement, tremors, and rigidity.

More new News

In an article in Brain & Spine Health posted on Monday, May 11,2015, entitled “Can a brain heal itself after stroke?”

“Neuroscientists believed the brain cells you were born with were the only ones you would ever have. Recent research centers on neurogenesis, the ability of the brain to create new nerve cells.”

“The new research involves stem cell research in learning how to maximize the benefits of this discovery.” Jon E Bentz. Ph.D. clinical neuropsychologist with Lancaster General Health Physicians Neuropsychology writes in Brain & Spine Health.

FDA APPROVED DRUG STROKE REPAIR

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

New research using a drug already approved by the FDA for clinical trials showed researchers could reduce brain damage and boost the growth of new brain cells in mice suffering from a stroke.

Researchers from the University of Manchester using this drug (that has already been approved) developed a new treatment that can promote repair in damaged areas of the brain due to stroke.

They used a drug, interleukin-1receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) which is anti-inflammatory drug already licensed for treating rheumatoid arthritis. 

Along with researchers from Unidad de Investigacion Neurovascular, Departamento de Farmacologia, Facultad de Medicina, in Madrid Spain and the Department of Neurology at Yale University, they published an article “Reparative effects of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist in young and aged/co-morbid rodents after cerebral ischemia” describing that IL-1Ra improves stroke outcome in both young and aged/co-morbid rats. It also not only increases stem cell proliferation but enhances the number of newly born neurons.

Their findings then further highlight the therapeutic potential of this clinically approved drug. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Vol  61, March 2017 pages 117-126 ScienceDirect.com.

This study is a year old. The studies in this post travel thru time from 2014 to 2017. The next phase is to research studies to see if new information has been attained or even if some of the research using already approved interleukin has been approved for use in humans after suffering a stroke.

Thanks for stopping by.

Craig

Black and white hydride tea rose with water droplets on it's petals. Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!
Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!

 

 

 

Neuroscience Advances – Alzheimers and Electronic Toys for Infants

April 22, 2018

Two articles I just read are of such importance that I will share them now rather than incorporate them into a longer post.

Advances regarding Alzheimer’s

An article published in the April 22 issue of  Neuroscience News references an editorial in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The editorial “indicates that certain microbes  – a specific virus and two specific types of bacteria – are major causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

The Journal is published online and is a highly regarded peer-reviewed journal.

This “landmark editorial summarizes the abundant data implicating these microbes, but until now this work has been largely ignored or dismissed as controversial.”

Professor Douglas Kell of the University of Manchester’s School of Chemistry and  Manchester Institute of Biotechnology is one of the editorial’s authors.

“We are saying there is incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s Disease has a dormant microbial component, and this can be woken up by iron dysregulation. Removing this iron will slow down or prevent cognitive degeneration – we can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence.”

“Professor Resia Pretorius of the University of Pretoria, who worked with Douglas Kell on the editorial, said, “The microbial presence in the blood may also play a fundamental role as a causative agent of systemic inflammation, which is a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease”. Furthermore, “there is ample evidence that this can cause neuroinflammation and amyloid plaque formation.”

The findings of this editorial could also have implications for treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, and other progressive neurological conditions.

Graphic of Brain showing divisions activity Google Images
Graphic of Brain showing divisions activity Google Images

 

Electronic Baby Toys Associated with Decrease in Quality and Quantity of Language in Infants

First, publishedNeuroscience News.com December 31, 2015, is an article indicating that “electronic toys for infants that produce lights, words and songs were associated with decreased quantity and quality of language compared to playing with books or traditional toys such as wooden puzzles, a shape-sorter and a set of rubber blocks. The article was published online by JAMA Pediatrics.”

“Anna V. Sosa, Ph.D., of Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, and colleagues conducted a controlled experiment involving 26 parent-infant pairs with children who were 10 to 16 months old.”

The participants were given three sets of toys: electronic toys, traditional toys and board books with farm animal, shape or color themes.

The results were that the children vocalized more with the books. Parents also used less content-specific words when playing with toys other than the books. The biggest difference was between electronic toys and books.

“These results provide a basis for discouraging the purchase of electronic toys that are promoted as educational and are often quite expensive.”

Both playing with traditional toys and book reading are most conducive to language-facilitating activities.

Electronic toys are discouraged as not promoting growth in language-facilitating activities.

Thanks for stopping by.

Craig

Black and white hydride tea rose with water droplets on it's petals. Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!
Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!

On line Sexual Predators

April 21, 2018

“A new computer algorithm may help identify sexual predators who target children in chatrooms. The algorithm dubbed CATT can identify language differences and self-disclosure in conversations to provide a risk assessment of potential predators, researchers report.”  Neurosciencenews.com

Purdue University

Purdue Polytechnic Institute faculty developed an algorithm tool that “will help law enforcement filter out and focus on sex offenders most likely to set up face-to-face meetings with child victims.”

Principal investigator Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar, assistant professor of computer and information technology, presented the Chat Analysis Tool (CATT) at the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts Conference in Anaheim California.

Sexual predators solicit minors to engage in sexual fantasy chats or even to set up face-to-face meetings with them.

Law enforcement officers are inundated with these cases. Characteristics of sexual predators groom victims for a face-to-face meeting for weeks or even months until a meeting is achieved.

With this tool that identifies language differences in the chats officers can perform risk assessments and probabilities that a person is a sexual predator and is attempting to set up a meeting.

The project started as a result of a partnership with Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in California.

“Seigfried-Spellar said that research discovered tactics like self-disclosure is used early in a predator’s talks with a potential victim.”

Two co-principal investigators were associate professor Julia Taylor Rayz who specialized in machine learning and natural language processing and Marcus Rodgers, who heads the computer and information technology department has an extensive background in digital forensics development.

Initial research was done by Seigfried-Spellar and former Purdue professor Ming Ming Chiu. They studied 4,300 messages in 107 chats involving arrested sex offenders and identified word usage and self-disclosure by fantasy.

The trends determined through this research formed the basis for CATT. The research, “Detecting Contact vs. Fantasy Online Sexual Offenders in Chats with Minors: Statistical Discourse Analysis of Self-Disclosure and Emotion Words”, has been accepted and will be published in the journal “Child Abuse and Neglect.”

 

Craig

Black and white hydride tea rose with water droplets on it's petals. Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!
Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!

MORE THAN “Just the Money, Stupid”

April 10, 2018

My wife and I are in the process of selling our home in Northern Minnesota. We are both 68 years old and we have been married since we were 21. We were married in 1971.

The time sure has flown by. That time 40 years ago seems so fresh and five minutes ago is not even a memory. Maybe life isn’t lived on a continuum by is lived in chunks.

Maybe it is just that I can’t adjust to losing a faculty that was once so dependable. When several of my faculties have been lost my living gets pretty disjointed.

Several things are hurtling at me as I write this. How to find an apartment we can afford, one level, two bedrooms (I have to one for my computer and writing Stuff!).

We may have to face losing our two Ragdoll cats and our Landseer Newfoundland. Losing Berkley will be heart-breaking for me more so than the cats. Berkey is rarely more than 5 feet from my side and is a Certified Companion.

Mango flame point ragdoll on his throne stairway banister Craig Martineau
Mango, The Headmaster, a flame point ragdoll on his throne stairway banister
Berkely, the Companion Craig Martineau
Berkely, the Companion a very faithful friend indeed
Lacey, The Queen on her Throne. Seal Point Ragdoll Craig Martineau
Lacey, The Queen on her Throne. Seal Point Ragdoll

That’s what brought this topic up. Was I so out of touch that I seriously misjudged the future? (I did by humor for a few minutes please).

Have the current economic times changed so drastically? (They have!)

Two years after we were discharged from the United States Army (I was drafted in 1971. Yes, I received my draft notice the day we were returned from our honeymoon!)

Income in the US is displayed in the information below.

Table of Average Income (abbrev.) 

1975 – $13,779

1980 – $21,063

2000 – $51,855

2010 – $67,392

2014 – $75,738

I don’t mind you asking. No, I was not making anywhere near the level of income listed here. I had the misfortune of changing careers three times since I was discharged from the Army.

It is hard to change jobs and maintain some semblance of the former income, at least in Northern Minnesota.

I am typing this after a long evening of looking at potential apartments. I asked my wife to join me tonight thinking that some good luck might rub off on me.

I have sent out emails on each of the last two nights and received only one reply. We live next to two college towns. What is going on that no landlord responds to my email?

I am just looking for tours!

So, in my funk, I started looking at some data and before long I was writing this article.

Let us set the tone of this conversation.

What do you have to earn to be considered Middle Class?

The American Middle Class has been DECIMATED!

Great question but it is different for every state and probably within select areas within a state.

Since I’m a Minnesota boy I will start there for a quick comparison.

In 2015 the Minnesota median household income was $60,792.

For the Minnesota middle class, the lower boundary was $40,468 and the upper boundary was $121,404. (Minnesota state income is the tenth highest in case you are dying to know).

For comparison, Mississippi’s median household income was $37,963. The lower boundary of the middle class was $25,309 and the upper was $75,926.(Mississippi is the last state on the list.)

It is hard to speak in generalities. However, I am going for it.

In 2014 The New York Times (“The American Middle Class is no longer the world’s richest”) stated that using the 20th percentile for comparison, Americans in 2014 earned less than Norweigns, Canadians, Dutch, Germans, Swedes, and Finns (comparing those in each country’s respective 20th percentile).

For comparison, three decades earlier Americans earned more than anyone except Canadians.

Income Inequality is a Conversation Starter

Let us start with a smart man (and a very wealthy one – one of the three richest men in America. (People with a net worth of more than $1 million represent just 0.7% of the world’s population but they have 41% of the wealth)

In the US three men Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos combined, hold more wealth than 50% of the population – 160 million US citizens.

The alarming detail is that 63 million, one-fifth of the population have zero or even negative net worth.

Is there some understanding of why I am in a funk? It isn’t just me.

I just read an article while eating a breakfast muffin at McDonald’s.

Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris had some nasty snafus last week. By the way, these two US Senators are projected to run for president in 2020.

In particular, Ms. Harris, while addressing a primarily black audience mentioned income inequality as a financial issue. Well, that didn’t play well to this audience. They address income inequality as only one slice of this ugly pie.

Let’s go international with this

Inequality is not just a financial issue, as Senator Harris quickly learned.

A United Nation’s official, Amina Mohammed notes:

Income inequality is a major problem because it also encompasses “poverty, environmental degradation, persistent unemployment, political instability, violence, and conflict.”

Graph Global Income Inequality rated by severity of problem PEW Research Center Spring 2014 Global Attitudes survey
Graph of Global Income Inequality rated by the severity of the problem

In the image above note that the date of the PEW Research Center graph is 2014.

This is not a new issue.

I think it is safe to say that the economic system that we have in the world today is not working for humanity.

“It will take 100 years for the world’s poorest to earn $1.25 a day. Global Development Professionals Network

Gold Bullion The Guardian April 7,2018. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Gold Bullion The Guardian April 7,2018. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

            Richest 1% on target to own two-thirds of all wealth by 2030

   The Guardian’s Headline Saturday, April 7, 2018
FORGET THAT!

Do you think the world will stand still and let that play out? I don’t think so.

This idea that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is not a silent issue anymore.

Nor is it acceptable!

It is also starting to really impact the United States.

The three richest men in America held a combined wealth of $248.5 BILLION in mid-September 2017.

As of April 8th, 2018, the “new estimated figure stands at $263 BILLION thanks largely to Jeff Bezos of Amazon.”

That is a STAGGERING 5.5% increase in LESS THAN ONE YEAR?!?!

(Of course, Jeff Bezos lost considerable wealth last week when Trump blamed Amazon, incorrectly, for stiffing the United State’s Post Office.)

Kill Capitalism Save the World
Kill Capitalism Save the World Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters The Guardian March 30, 2015

A Solution?

Is it going to be business as usual?

“Since 1980 the global economy has grown 380%!”

“But the number of people living in poverty (on less than $5 per day) has increased by more than 1.1 BILLION that’s 17 times the population of Britain.”

Please prove to me the trickle-down theory works!

I’m waiting.

There is a standardized unit that measures resource and waste. It is called a “global hectares.”

“Our planet only has enough resources for each of us to consume 1.8 global hectares” in any given year.

The average person in Ghana or Guatemala consumes approximately 1.8 “global hectares.”

By contrast, the people in the US and Canada consume about 8 hectares per person, while Europeans consume 4.7 hectares.”

Maybe that can be called gluttony -one of the seven deadly sins.

Poor countries? They are never going to catch up!

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, the rich countries of the world got together and instead of bombing Syria, or even gassing its own citizens and decided to do something.

If something does change how can we measure if progress is being made? 

We should find some units that can be measured throughout the world. Let’s say ‘life expectancy”.

Life expectancy in the US is 78.4 years.

In Cuba, it is 79.1!

The Gross Domestic Product per capita of Cuba is $6,000. Each person consumes 1.9 global hectares.

To really rub salt in the insult:

A Sampling of Literacy Rates

Albania: 97.6

Uganda: 73.9

Ukraine: 99.8

Zambia: 63.4

Zimbabwe: 86.5

US: 85% at best (Wikipedia_

How do we look at this?

The richest country in the world consumes the most resources and is almost dead last in measurable levels of sustainability. That is the term I use to describe the way we function in our society.

Level of Sustainability: The actions that we take on the way to happiness and well-being. It is our way to be gluttons on the world stage.

It is not acceptable!

Have we earned the right to be such hoarders? Can we justify ourselves to the rest of the world when many countries measure up better than we do in things that make for a truly civilized society?

Maybe we should not look at other countries as deprived or third world or undeveloped.

Maybe we should look at other countries in the top tier of usage of global hectares as overdeveloped.

Maybe we should have to justify our existence, or at least our gluttonous ways to the rest of the world.

There is a great ray of light shining

Warren Buffett states emphatically that the rich should not just dine at their own table but share their riches with everyone.

Buffett along with Bill Gates co-founded “The Giving Pledge”

a commitment from 158 billionaires to give away at least half of their wealth. It seems Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Richard Branson have the same definition of success.

Others? Not so much

They cannot justify hoarding their wealth! What are they going to do with it anyway?

I realize it is a way of keeping score but once everybody knows your score what game is left to be played?

I have read posts on Facebook emphasizing that when people my age (68) were growing up new schools were built, the interstate highway system was built.

Also, there was not a teetering inverted pyramid of uber-wealthy at the top.

Now?

Now we cannot even maintain our highways and byways. Our bridges. Our everything!

Trump proposed $1 Trillion in spending on infrastructure. The budget that was presented to Congress proposed $200 Billion in infrastructure funds. But it also CUT $275 Billion in CURRENT spending levels!

According to Kevin DeGood, the director of infrastructure at the Center for American Progress the budget reductions to the Highway Trust Fund alone is a “fiscal two-by-four to the face.”

So, we’ve looked at INCOME INEQUALITY. This inequality exists not just in the United States. It is dysfunction that encompasses the whole globe.

So, we’ve surveyed INCOME INEQUALITY. It is not just an economic issue but a global issue of sustenance: health, education, housing, jobs. People need a sense of self-worth to survive in this world.

So, we’ve defined INCOME INEQUALITY as gluttony by a very few people around the world but especially in the United States.We use 8.7 global hectares of the world’s resources. Compare that to Ghana, Guatemala, Nicaragua just to name a few examples.

Can we really justify our gluttony when we can’t even compare to many countries using life expectancy and literacy as standards of civilization?

Which country is the undeveloped one?

Or do we have an underdeveloped ethos of what is proper and just?

How can we look down on other countries? How can we justify the gluttony-the third of the seven deadly sins!

The United States has outstripped and cast off our moral compass in our headlong rush to wealth. We have lost our capacity to keep our growth on an equitable path. We don’t enrich everyone so that ALL Americans can live with a degree of self-worth and prosperity.

The Moral Compass. Good Evil Wrong Right Google Images
The Moral Compass. Good Evil Wrong Right

Perhaps we do need to de-develop our sense of those ‘things’ we think we need so that we feel self-fulfilled. Then we won’t gobble up far more than our share of the world’s resources.

Perhaps I do deserve to feel a little out of sorts and funky because my income hasn’t kept pace with any standard of measure of the growth in US wealth.

Perhaps I don’t need to feel overwhelmed at the prospect for our future and its needs!

I am not alone!

Thanks for stopping by!

Craig Martineau

Black and white hydride tea rose with water droplets on it's petals. Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!
Hybrid tea rose with glistening water droplets on its petals. Svetlana Manic 282267 Unsplash!