USA is loosing it's middle class. What about Europe?

Nothing wrong with sausages.
For several years, I notice around me how more and more folks have to live with just enough to survive but not enough to live to Western European standards. Other folks have a "normal" middle class income but can't keep up their way of life. Of course, still many want that shiny car to enlarge their ego. And they'll eat sausages in stead of steak when it comes to it. Nothing wrong with sausages if you like 'em.

An observation :
Let's compare to a business that I know (professionally) somewhat for the last couple of years : The motorcycle business. New motorcycles sell less than two years ago. Second hand bikes sells better than before. And above all, the cheaper mobility vehicles  (light scooters) sell really good. So what happens?
  • More people than ever sell their expensive motorcycle (second vehicle)
  • More people buy a cheaper vehicle in stead of an expensive vehicle.
  • People drive less kilometres / miles for pleasure 'cos driving costs money.
  • A shop has to sell more and do more efforts to keep business up to date.
  • Dousaines of shops had to close their business the last couple of year.
In Western Europe, most people are middle-class, meaning that we live in comfort and can effort most common luxury like a car, a decent housing, a voyage a year, refrigerator, washing machine and so on.

But I've observed the last decade how more and more working people have to live on a increasing income, what had nothing to do with the recent economic crisis. It is structural. I remember long before the crisis how logistic activities in the hospital where I work (part-time), were sold-out to an external firm. The workers were fired and immediately re-engaged (if they wanted),... with a cut in their salary.

About Eastern Europe :
During my travels through Eastern Europe, it shows that life is somewhat cheaper than in Western Europe. Not much. An example was the lady that rented me a room in Hungary. She explained me about the average Hungarian income. Her husband worked across the border in Austria and had a typical Western European middle class income. She got an extra income with her bed & breakfast rooms. But some working Hungarians still had to live with an average income of roundabout € 400 / $ 450 a month. That is not even enough to rent a small apartment ! So poverty is structural there. There is almost no middle class to impoverish.

Consequences, a nurses observation :
Two decades ago, a trained nurse could become chief of a team. It was not even necessary to have a higher degree (bachelor). A decade ago, the nurse had to get a second specialize bachelor degree (like me). And today, the nurse that gets the job is the one with an university degree. So, the consequence is that higher educated nurses get jobs that went to lower (also above the average) educated 20 years ago. The "simple" bachelors get no chance to take responsibility. And what about those with only a lower scholarship? They find it harder to get a job because their job went to someone with a higher scholarship. Talent is no longer enough. Papers do the job. 

Lost generation:
In Europe we speak about a lost generation. Those who came out of school the last decade without a (higher) degree. This discourages youngsters to do something back for the society that they live in. A dangerous evolution and "gefundeness fressen" (a manipulable group) for those that have lesser good intentions. Or a group of individually angry young men who follow no guidance at all.

So long middle-class :
An article was published in the American newspaper New York Post with the title : "So long middle-class. 25 statistics prove that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate."

Question :
How can you find out if you are one of those middle class people who are at risk to become (relatively) poor?

  • You live paycheck to paycheck?
  • You don't (or little) contribute to retirement savings?
  • You have little money saved up for retirement.
  • You need to postpone your retirement for financial reasons.
  • You earn roundabout $10 an hour.
  • You (independent) think about filing for personal bankruptcy. 
  • Your earnings have not followed the growing cost of life the last time.
And there must be more markers, but you get the point.
It is my belief that in order to keep (non-suppressed) order, people need to live in a relative amount of financial and/or logistic comfort. The last decades remind me of the description that I heard from my grand-father (30 years ago) about the 30ties of the 20th century. He predicted that the "thirties" (economic crisis and growing poverty) were about to show themselves again.
How could this simple brewer have so much wisdom?


Will we see the economy reboo(s)ts in order to make our capitalist system survive?
I have no problem with capitalism and economic liberalism as long as the freedom to make money respects "the individual right to have the opportunity and the tools to make the best out of a life". (This is genuine Liberalism as I understand it!) In a capitalist society, enough money is to be the tool towards comfort,  not the goal in life. What and when is enough?



I'll buy that for a dollar.

Human intelligence versus Animal intelligence

Quote Nondisputandum.com : 
"Finally we realize that human intelligence is animal intelligence, 
but animal intelligence is not necessarily human intelligence".

Humans react in the same way as animals when confronted to a threat.
That's not what I mean with intelligence because this is our animal-instinct. Imagine that you touch a hot plate. Your nerve system is faster than your thought and removes the hand before you can wheep: "Damn this is hot!" You do not have to consider: "I smell BBQ coming from the palm of my hand. BBQ equals to roast meat. Roast palm meat is not good for the health. Take that roasting hand away. Evaluate if the plate is the cause of the BBQ smell. Learn from it an avoid the same thing happening again." 


So, from what point do we speak of intelligence?
Former war surgeon Henri Laborit ("Eloge de la fuite") tortured rats in electrified cages to see how they reacted to stress and brilliant theorists like Peter Levine observed tigers and their walking dinner.
It's all about about flight, fight, freeze.
The reaction (not intelligence) that helps life to survive.
Example : The antelope that freezes when the tiger charges has also a chance to survive but less than the neighbouring more (clearly alive quality vivid) meat that flights, except when the tiger is so close that no chance to escape is possible. Than it is better to freeze and accumulate, not burn adrenaline. A frozen antelope is possibly not yummy for a tiger, it could be an old or sick animal. (Ya see, the tiger is not stupid!). When it comes to humans, freezing is rare among (example) trained professional emergency workers (nurses, docs, firemen, ambulance personnel) who are trained to act (fight the situation), but common for most people in an acute stress situation. Imaging yourself entering a store and the door is slammed open by an armed burglar that stares you in the eyes. When possible you flight, when impulsive and stupid (armed burglar) you fight of when frightened to death you freeze or panic. But no matter if the stress is acute or growing,
when it lasts, stress will eventually give symptoms like a decrease in immunity, (stomach) ulcers and even death (extinction). I'll write more about this subject and adrenaline later. 

How did this evolve into intelligence?
Evolution is only possible (except spontaneous favourable genetic changes) when there is need (for a species) to develop under changed circumstances or under environmental stress in order to survive. The better a stress situation is thought over, the better the chance to survive and pass this knowledge to offspring. If and when the stress allows to think it over. When that is not possible, than you have two solutions :

  • Flight - fight- freeze reaction (Adrenaline induced = Stronger / faster / only eye for the detail)
  • Act according to what you have learned during life :
    • Adrenaline driven (stress)
    • Intellect driven (overcoming stress = More eye for the detail within the global situation.)

Species who are able to overcome stress and find a solution, live in regained (relative) comfort in the changed environment, allow them to genetically evolve into a new subspecies. Mostly this overcoming is not individual, but in the fact that the most genetically / physically animal survives and continuous to produce a next generation. Men became an expert in survival and (with a little help of a growing protein diet) became always better in finding solutions for stress situations. Even though we are not the strongest, fastest of most fearsome animal on the planet, we placed ourselves on top of the food-chain and spread throughout the entire Globe. Humans life on every continent, under any weather circumstances, even permanent in space (Space lab).

We consider us the supreme intelligent species on earth, but at the same time we destroy our Earth.
So far, you might agree with me (if you are not into Divine creationism).

And than come higher animals who show to be very intelligent in their way, like Cetatia (whales and dolphins) and of course out brothers, the primates who share up to 98% of our chromosomes.

And that's about it?
There is still much to discover about intelligence from species that we don't eve
n consider eventually intelligent, aka "lower forms of life". It is only a rough decade ago that white scientists considered native Africans a lower form of human life. And so do you act accordingly to some as if they were lower forms of life thus mistaking the fact that you might be more intelligent with the term "higher form of human life". Is it not typical for humans to give less intelligent of less physically equipped humans a chance to grow, learn and develop themselves? In animal life, they would be eaten by predators. But we have learned that we can also benifit from these. Example "par excellence" is Stephen Hawking, an ├╝ber-brilliant mind in a crippled body. Is it not equally typical human to allow dangerous man-killers among our own species to survive (locked away)? That is something that I like to consider as a part of "Humanism"!

Memo2myself:
Must write something about dilution of responsibility leading to mass murder without sense of responsibility :
I did not touch that button, I only gave the order to hit the button. >< I Am not responsibility for touching the button that had death as result. I only followed the order. >< I only build the device with the button that had death as result. I never said to use it
.

Watch this video about an octopus analysing a problem and finding the solution.



See the impressive video of "Leonard" the octopus who learns to interpret symbols and take actions accordingly. I know some guys in my favourite pub who would not be able to do better.





Read also : Scientific indication that whales have emotions.

Global warming: 24 hours of ravaging fires, floods & landslides.

Global warming : Not for all of us?


The countries along the coast in Western Europe have an fairly mild climate for the last couple of hundred years. During the summer, it stays comfortable way up to Scandinavia. I've enjoyed beautiful summers in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Drove my motorcycle, enjoying the weather as if it were the south of France in springtime. Of cource, winters in Scandinavia are all but mild. But a bit more to the south, in Belgium, Holland and France, winters are mostly wet (filling up our natural water reserves) and fairly mild. It's been since my childhood (40 years ago) that extreme quantities of snow (more than 10cm / 4 inches) have fallen.
So, we say that "there are no real winters anymore."




Is seems to be to late to avoid the influence of human interference on the Global weather.


"So, why bother if it is to late?
Nothing we can do, right?



Why it could be colder in some western European countries while the Globe is generally heating up. 


The mild weather in Western Europe is largely due to warm Atlantic Ocean water (part of the gulf stream) that flows from the equator to the north and into the North Sea. Today, polar ice is rapidly melting, and so removing the Earth from it's reflective solar shield (see picture below). So we should expect even more rapid Global heating, not a local cooling down. But the North Sea is undeep.

What if a growing cold understream (blue arrows) overwhelms the warm upper stream (red arrows)? Could this (for a period) cool down the temperature in countries bordering the North sea?


"Hmm,... waiteminut,... I live in Belgium, bordering to the North Sea,... thiziznotfunny!"


Science-fiction?


Ice and snow reflect up to 90% of the Sun back into space.


24 hours of newsgathering :


  • Interfax informs that today alone, 300 new fires are buring in the area of the Russian Capital sity, Moscow. Sight is limited in the city to 50 meters. And the misery is not over yet. All countries call back their personnel from their embassies.
  • Hospitals, roads and houses flooded in the Polish city of Warsaw. In the city alone, 500 trees were lifted out of the ground by the wind. 
  • In Germany, Poland and Tsjechia floods killed people, destroyed roads and houses. 
  • Giant ice shelves, 260 square kilometers, four times the size of Manhattan New York, broke free from the coast of Greeland. The icebergs are now floating between Greenland and Canada.
  • Pakistan is flooded by the hardest mousson rains in the history of the country. Evacuation of 15 million Pakistani is nearly impossible as half the country is struck by heavy rain.
  • Giant land slides in the city of Dong Chung destroy houses and kill people in China. Heavy rain fall destroyes houses, sewers and roads. 
  • Tornado's in the USA destroy farms.
  • The north and center of Portugal is ravaged by bush fires. 
  • In Croatia, wild bears can't find food anymore. The authorities decided to feed the bears corn, meat and fruit to avoid that the animals enter the cities.


Our planet is heating up. Climate zones are shifting from the equator to the poles.


Slow animals and plants can not cope with the speed of displacement of the climate zones.
Life that cannot follow the speed of the climate change vanishes or has difficult to survive in the original habitat. Animals and plant life moves to other regions where they disturb the local natural system. This is not doomsday talk. It's an observation.




Example : Spain becomes a desert.


A week ago, I drove on a motorcycle from Faro, in the South of Portugal, diagonally crossing Spain to the north (Andorra). It is shocking to see the country, below the northern mountains around Calatayud, transformed in to a dry desert where no man or mouse can survive. Only in the mountains closer to the Pyrenees, grass starts growing again. Coming from the south, Madrid, the capital city of Spain looks like an oasis of surviving human life.






I remember the vanishing of the gletcher of Kaprun Austria in the early seventies.


I was a younster and the impression of lost nature could not yet be fully understood. In only a few years time, these giant gletchers lost hundreds of meters of their lenght. The local Austrians were shocked, even more scared. They said that the World was heating up. Oh well, probably small town talk? Those farmers from the mountains, how could they know more than scientists.
The last time I went to Kaprun is roundabout 25 years ago. The cable train that used to bring you to the surface of the gletcher brought you to a rocky path,... that you followed at your own risk to the last remaining pieces of the once giant gletcher.
Addenum : On November 11, 2000, the cable train caught fire in which 155 people were killed.
That was the last time as far as I remember that the once majestic gletcher caught the news.






Extreme damage by water in the Alps mid seventies.


I remember (those days never seen) floodings in the village of Brixen im Thale (Austria Tirol). I was old enough to help "the men" build dams alongside the main street and young enough to be forced to go hide when it got really dangerous. The local tiny mountainstream (the Lauterbach), turned into a giant flood in a matter of minutes after extreme heavy rain fall thundered down the Alps. The ravaging force of water coming down the mountain brutally took over the main street. I remember a wall of water carrying trees and boldering rocks. Still smell the adrenaline among the farmers (and tourists that understood the gravity / gave a helping hand) protecting their homes and land with wooden dams and anything they could find to force the flood into one direction (obviously downhill). They had never seen such violence of nature in these extreme proportions before. I also remember that some tourists found it exiting (Disneyland) until panique struck the locals and woman and children were forced to go upstairs in the most solid house of the neighbourhood - safe(?) behind their dams.


One could say that accidents with nature can always happen but it was never seen in such proportions at the time in that area. As a child, I was amazed by the brutal force of nature, amazed by the courage of humans when thing go wild. Amazed how some got parallyzed by fear, others bezerk by fear. (I'll write more on my website nondisputandum.com or blog about adrenaline in the near future.)


Action for today : 


Chill out and take a hot bath.

Why do Europeans choose a non-flamboyant leader?

While the World craves for flamboyant leaders,
Europe choose a modest Flemish politician as first president of the "Uniting" States over the well known British Tony Blair. Only few Europeans had ever heard of Herman Van Rompuy. Though in the small mind boggling complex federal state of Belgium, this hard working elder kept the complex household together with the wisdom of a Greec philosopher. He is known among cultural friends as haiku Herman. So, even some Oriental culture is not strange to him.

Certainly, this first president had to be acceptable for all the local European countries. The president was not directly chosen by the European people, but by the representatives of the people. (Personally I think that it is acceptable that the leader of leaders is chosen by the people that he shall lead).

The same story all over again?
Remember the discussion about the choise of the European Capital city. A less flamboyant city like Brussels was finally chosen over more flamboyant cities like Towering Paris, Ancient Rome or Down the Wall Berlin. Brussels is known for it's Manniken Pis. Is it modesty or is it a solution not to offend any (representative of a) major European nation.

Does nationalism and globalism go together?
I believe that nationalism should not be in the way of the common goal, which is the creation of a structure that allows states to live in peace together, where it is safe and simple to travel, where rules and laws are comprehensive for all it's inhabitants. I also believe that nationalism is the guarantee that local customs and languages will be respected. One does not exclude the other. One can enforce the other if and when minds meet.

Yea,... many science-fiction novels have been written about this dream.
But with Haiku Herman as it's representative, it seems closer to reality than ever (for Europeans).

Examples :
There is a huge difference in the style between the personality of this modest first European President and (in example) the  flamboyant but controversial Italian tycoon/president of Italy, Mr. Berlusconi ("I did have sex with that woman"), the French president, Mr. Nicolas Sarkosy or German leader Madame Angela Merkel. These were the leading national European presidents when Van Rompuy was elected president of the European Council.


Choosing wisdom over ego?
It is interesting to compare the differences between the “wise old - Van Rompuys" and the “Flamboyants - Berlusconi/Sarkozy/Merkel”
A quote from president Van Rompuy on juli 4th 2010 (VRT Flemish national TV):
“I have refused two times in a row when Angela Merkel (German President) and Nicolas Sarkosy (French President) proposed me the job of first European president. Twice I asked to find someone else. But it is an honor. I could not refuse a third time.”


Though I never voted for this man (Mr. Van Rompuy is member of the Flemish christian political party while I vote liberal), I've always considered him to be a genuine humanist in the largest sence of the word. Beyond political colours, a good choice for Europe as long as he does not (catholic style) mix dogmas with values. I trust this man.

Van Rompuy versus "the Flamboyants":

modest hard working >< craving for attention
comprehensive >< angry
intellect >< adrenaline
understanding >< frustration
philosopher >< emperor
consensus >< fight for it
provide a future >< crave for a place in history books
enlightened >< seeking

Some leaders show their true face, like Nigel Farage, the British anti-European European Parliament member (notice the inadequacy) who (passive aggressively) stated that Van Rompuy has the charisma of a damp rag. I think that he could not be more wrong in his jugement to state that he has no "charisma" : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqovTGjYjM4 .

Belgian humor :
When his sister went in politics with (controversially) the Belgian communist party, the communist party (PVDA) came out with a campaign showing Van Rompuy as a clown. Everybody in Belgium had a good laugh with it,... but nobody took it serious. Least of all Mr. Van Rompuy.


Life on Mars, soccer in space & solar storms?

Are there farting cows on Mars?
Space agencies NASA and ESA (Europe) have selected the Belgian spectrometer to orbit our neighbour planet in 2016 during the Euro-American mission named Exo-Mars. A spectrometer analyzes the athmosphere. Among other things it detects methane. It is allready known that this "fart-gas" (and water) exists in the Mars athmosphere. 



Hold your horses.
Do not yet zap to CNN for live (green nightview) images of a first encounter between Mars cattle and Earth people. Belgian scientists say that : "If any life could have developed on Mars, it would probably be microbiological". 

Only kidding?
Should future astronauts/cosmonauts/taikonauts take some kinda  Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate - anti-flu) or provide verrrrrry large spectrum antibiotics before setting foot on Mars? Science-fiction? Probably delerious!


Blasphemy?
Anyway, it's exiting to realize that it is no longer blasphemy to consider that life could be possible on other planets,... that life on other planets seems elementary (my dear Watson).
Let's not cheer to soon, because fart-gas can also be a natural proces, not originated from life.


Soir-Nomad
The spectrometer carries the name of Soir-Nomad. ("Soir" is French for "evening".)
The collected information will be processed by the Belgian Institute of Space-Aeronomics (BIRA-IASB).


Something else 1 :
A Belgian scientist has found the largest complex molecule in space using an infrared telescope. Looney tunes? Of course,... we still have the old Star Trek shows on our cable TV, but besides that,... there is a lot of research done in this tiny country, that allready had an astronaut and a cosmonaut sent in space to boldly go where,... oops. Sorry. Where was I? The international team in Canada, lead by the Belgian scientist Jan Cami found soccer-shaped carbon molecules of 60 and 70 atomes. Ya see,.. even sports is popular in space. Hmm,... As Belgium want to host the international soccer championship in the near future,... should they invit
e a team from Mars? 


Something else 2 :
Nasa claims that Earth could be hit by a solar storm today.
Is that dangerous? Should we use a double dose of sun-protecting cream?
It is know that in the periode of october - December, solar storms are (among other reasons) responsable for floods like the "acqua alta" that floods the city of Venice (Italy). It is assumed by NASA space-scientists that we await a rise of the magnetic energy in the Sun around 2013 (yea, yea,. .I know,... you doomsdayers,... If and When we survive 2012). More likely is that people who live around the north pole can see "polar light".
But is the worst case scenario, the storm could influence telecommunication, satellites and networks.

Conclusion for today : 

I'll quickly opload this information, put on a sun-blocker factor 40, wear my rubber rubber boots, shoot me with Tamiflu, swallow a double dose of antibiotics and hold my farts for the rest of the day.


Live long and prosper.