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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

These are the richest people in the world... and below them are the poorest:

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are the two richest people in the world, according to Forbes Magazine. Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg are the third and fifth richest. Adding Larry Ellison, David Koch, Charles Koch and Larry Ellison gives America eight the top ten fabulously wealthy at just a few bucks short of half-trillion dollars.

These are the poorest people in the world. Two-thirds of the world's poorest people live in just five countries, according to a new World Bank study--India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is somewhat understandable that India and China, the two largest countries in the world with 2.5 billion people, would have a large number of poor. The U.S. is third largest with a mere 340 million.
The top one percent of the rich have more wealth than all the rest of us in the world. (If any of you mega-billionaires and millionaires are reading this, excuse me, I didn't mean you.)

In The United States, even though we have eight of the top ten richest.. a great number of us below that incredibly rich level are well off by any standard, a greater number pretty OK, some sort of OK and about 14.5 percent of us have to exist below the poverty level--not OK at all.  

Those 45 million in poverty are living, breathing and surviving, trying to do better like the rest of us but with unique problems and no means to address them. These are the disadvantaged where the stairs to an upper level don't come down far enough for them to climb.

Awww! Poor me.
I was poor once... not dirt poor or desperately poor as many are... just regular poor. And that was in a most different time under most different circumstances.

My family didn't have much, but my sister and I didn't know what we might have been missing. We had food and lived in a small, variable rent house owned by my grandparents. Rent was $20/month when we had it, $0 to minus $20 (they paid us) when the situation required. Living close to grandma and grandpa was like having a fairy godmother and godfather. We lived  in a lower class part of town at a time before two-stall garages, second cars, electronics beyond a light switch, television, lawn tractors, outdoor grills, kitchen gadgets, snow blowers, etc. so we had less to covet.  Internet, cordless phones, video games... what were those?

Simple is not possible today. The pressure is on to live to survive if you are poor. The chasm between high income and little income continues to grow wider as cost-of-living rises without earnings to match for the poor. And to answer at least one critic, many of those in poverty do have cell phones because today, that functions as a lifeline that circumstances demand. That does not equate to being able to afford basic health insurance or take even one step closer without two backward. It's not "Either this or that." It's "How can I and my family survive at this level."

The poor are most often minorities, the disadvantaged and the discriminated against. They are often broken families with mothers and/or fathers working multiple low paying jobs. The are mostly non-college educated and sometimes, lacking a high school diploma. They live in the worse part of town in the worse conditions and often can't help themselves because the steps to a higher level don't start that low.

They live more often in the high crime areas, often circumstantially of their plight. But here's where those lowest share something with those highest. Some-- a minority thank goodness--game the system at both status extremes. One end is more desperate and violent than the other. If there is one thing money does buy, it is a life cushion.

If being powerful can corrupt, then being powerless is it's match.

If you have read Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, seen the movie or know the story, you know of Jean Valjead, the French peasant who stole a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child and paid dearly for his act of survival without empathy. It's not easy being poor.

It's as if we believe some of us are more important than others and taking care of Number One doesn't go any further than ourselves and those like us. That's not a world we can live in. As those below us  grow proportionally less well off, (the richest gained 14 percent in wealth last year) the gap between haves and have-nots becomes almost unbridgeable.

We are governed by the rich, the almost rich and the average rich. Does trickle down mean it is their responsibility to get richer... not that there is anything wrong with that. But can those with great power see beyond partisan politics and winning to realize their responsibility runs far deeper than that?
For those who view a future for our children... and our nation, if it's not win-win, then it's lose-lose by default.

There are actually two golden rules commonly acknowledged:
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • He who has the gold, rules.

Which is it to be for us?

PS: That said, thank goodness for the rich. The moneyed can and often do act incredibly benevolent. and by their actions, they do help us all. It's not the money we have... or don't have. It's how lives are lived and action taken that makes a nation.

If President Harry Truman , who started his political career as a haberdasher no less, became a symbol of responsibility and action, then, we can ask ourselves, just where does the buck stop?

Friday, March 17, 2017

I've been scared of gorillas for some time now.

Call it silly but    I am  gorilla-phobic.

Yeah, I know... a silly thing. Gorillas are kind and sweet and love their babies and live as families and can beat Godzilla and are highly misunderstood and their breath stinks and when they growl they rattle bones and they can crush you with one hand and tear you to pieces and ... wait! I am sweating profusely, sobbing emotionally and curling into a fetal position. I am scared of gorillas.

Shows you what bad King Kong and Mighty Joe Young movies can do to a young child's mind. (FYI: There have actually been 18 King Kong movies, counting animation, starting in 1933 to the current King Kong: Skull Island. For fun and comparison, here's that 1933 trailer with a caveat--you may have to watch a 15 second movie promo first) Oh, I'm not nuts about Godzilla either.

Phobias are funny. What terrifies one of us causes others to ask if we are joking. Scared of heights? Who is scared of heights? Snakes? Spiders? Flying? Germs? Birds? Water (unless your feet are set in cement by the mob)? Gorillas?

"Are you kidding me?" you brave ones might say. But an accepted theory says that if you can just face your fears--with help, steely nerve and guts or sometimes even by accident--you have a fighting chance to overcome them.

True story: Years ago, my company had an annual celebration of autumn for employees and their
Obviously fake gorilla
families... 3-legged races, balloon animals (but not gorlllas), snow cones, cotton candy, picnic food, goofy prizes for the kids, etc. It was always a welcomed success. But one year I thought it would be fun to rent an an animated mechanical gorilla holding a sign that said PICNIC, THIS WAY with an arrow pointing toward our picnic area. It was a good sight gag that everyone enjoyed.

After the picnic was over and everyone had gone home, I loaded the life-size faux gorilla in my station wagon and drove it to the office where it would be safe until its return the following Monday.

So I had this misguided brainstorm... what if I positioned the gorilla just inside the entry door so the first person arriving on Monday would see it as soon as he/she walked in. Great gag, right? I thought so at the time.

Immediately after putting the gorilla where it would most scare someone walking in, I proceeded to my car, parked just 50 feet from the office door. Then, remembering something that I left on my desk, I went back to get it.

Not 30-seconds after I placed the gorilla, I opened the door and REALLY, ALMOST SCARED MYSELF TO DEATH. I once reached to tighten a spark plug under the hood of a running car (not recommended) and it literally knocked me backward against the garage wall. Lucky that's all it did. Well, this gorilla thing was worse than that. Honest. Just think how much worse it could have been if I had left it plugged in looking even more menacing.

And yes, lest I be responsible for a heart attack, I moved the monster to my office area, laid it flat and covered it with a rug. I left a second time, still shaking. So now you know my gorilla story.

(An even better ending though, would have been if, on Monday, I noticed the gorilla was gone, the office torn apart,  slippery banana peels laying everywhere and I slipped and fell on my you-know-what just as a custard pie, thrown from the kitchen by a wooley beast hit me in the face. But that didn't happen, ruining what might have been a terrific movie sequence making the Three Stooges and Soupy Sales happy in their graves.)

I do, however, have a tip for you if  you are trying to stop being frightened by certain things. Here is a real How-to-guide for knocking those fears in the head (unless you have a hit-in-the-head-phobia).

Ed Note: Yeah, this is a lame post but when you haven't blogged for a few weeks, you just have to jump back into the pool to jump-start the process in your mind. (Did I say jump back in the pool? I'm really not scared of gorillas except for the one at the office but I do have a respectable fear of the water being an ashamed non--swimmer who has foolishly tried to water ski and have actually dived from a low board mysteriously failing to come up like they do on television. Not much grace in wildly flailing your arms to a cheering crowd. See, it didn't work for me either.)