Let’s trade

It is the habit of the electorate, and with good cause, to blame politicians when things go wrong. The United States, along with other nations, has suffered severe shortages of food, medicine, numerous grocery stock items and industrial components. In large part, the shortages were caused by pandemic interference with the shipping and processing companies that ship products to retail outlets. The politicians could do little more than watch.

In a PBS broadcast of NOVA last night, a viewer becomes aware that the supply chain itself is vulnerable to mishaps that can cause worldwide shortages. Container-carrying ships of massive size (as long as four football fields) carry unbelievable volumes of goods; for just one of these ships to fail in delivery, many smaller businesses can fail because their shelves are empty.

The NOVA episode analyzed the impact of one of these container ships blocking the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal is located in Egypt and is a key link between Asian shipping and Mediterranean shipping. Unfortunately, it is only one lane wide. If something blocks the Canal, hundreds of ships are held up at both ends – hence shortages on retail shelves. In the NOVA piece, one ship runs aground and stops all shipping, perhaps a thousand of these large container ships.

The reason this caught the interest of mariner is because ‘shipping’, aka ‘supply chain’ is the verb in the future of global economics. In the last century the concept for international trade was based more on trade agreements, e.g., “I’ll swap you two sheep for ten chickens and if you give me any trouble, I’ll slap a tariff on you.”

Needless to say, communication technology in this century has made the delay and overhead of trade agreements too expensive and too subject to circumstantial politics. What has become possible, however (if ships don’t run aground in canals), is an international arrangement where each nation can collaborate at the production level – thereby speeding productivity and increasing volume such that world markets may be available instead of piecemeal nation-to-nation deals.

A comical metaphor but perhaps it can clarify the new advantage: Nation 1, a large, rich nation that acts as an anchor to the supply chain, says to nation 2, the chicken producing nation, “You can grow chicken feet faster than I can but I can grow chicken heads faster than you can. We can save 25 percent of the time it takes to grow chickens if you send me your chicken feet. Then you’ll have room to grow even more chicken feet.” The anchor nation plays the additional role of an insurance company by covering market shifts, weather, etc.

Understanding this model, a move toward global economic domination, explains why China, the US, India, the European Union, South America (resource rich) and the Pacific Rim nations (Australia, South Korea, Japan et al) are jockeying hard to monopolize supply chains.

Except for Putin. He doesn’t understand the principle of sharing. It is important to know that Trump and his cronies don’t either.

Lest we forget, there is only one issue that will dominate world economics even more than global supply chains – global warming.

Ancient Mariner

 

Priorities

In a recent post mariner wrote about the idea that democracy requires a start with the individual and an individual’s sense of what is real. Yet, our society, indeed every society today, is controlled top down – the individual is told what is real. Profit is more important than individual wellbeing; skin color and sexual behavior are more important than individual wellbeing; political allegiance is more important than individual wellbeing.

Mariner is reminded of a sermon he gave many decades ago. As was frequently the case, mariner drew his premise from the Synoptic Gospels, frequently referencing the Sermon on the Mount and appropriate explanations provided by Jesus in his travels. To reduce a 20-minute sermonesque monologue to a few sentences, he offers a truncated interpretation:

The one premise Jesus advocated – the ONLY PREMISE he advocated – was that the holiest thing in existence, and the number one interest of God, is a single individual’s soul. Jesus says as much in the beatitudes: The poorest, ignorant, lost person is the focus of God’s interest. One person at a time; every individual is supreme in their own existence as a child of God.

God rejects individuals who put their own interests first, even if they are sympathetic. Placing divine value in earthly values is a no-no. Reality is a one-person experience.

In short, a healthy, thriving society will always act for the betterment of every individual, every individual’s existential reality, and every individual’s need. God did not invent nor advocate groups, corporations, class discrimination or totalitarian interpretations of an individual’s sense of reality. It is the job of each individual to execute God’s will at a person-to-person level. Amen.

The leap into human tribal tendencies must always abide by a primary interest in every individual’s need. In politics, an individual’s perception of need comes before any organized presumption.

The need to vote begins at home for home’s sake.

Ancient Mariner

Quick

SHOOTINGS. When there are 300 million people around, statistically a few thousand are crazy. That’s the way it is. The real problem is that there are way too many guns!

200 Mass Shootings in 2022

PUTIN. The Nordic nations have opted to join NATO plus a division of the Ukraine army pushed the Russians back into Russia plus world sanctions have plummeted the Russian economy plus Putin’s behavior has strengthened the West and has given it raisons d’être. Putin may not be winning despite war crimes. Today, bullet wars are too expensive.

NORTH KOREA. Mother Nature has joined the fight against President Kim. The nation, not known for humanitarian aid, is under attack by Covid.

PRIMARIES. Five states vote next Tuesday: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky and Oregon. The mix is thorough with republicans, democrats and trumper candidates all in the mix. Watch for trends.

SOLAR SYSTEM. Mariner had a front row seat to a clear and unobstructed view of the solar eclipse of the Moon. The geometry between the Sun, Earth and Moon is impressive. What adds wonderment for mariner is the amazing speeds at which the eclipse happens. The Earth travels around the Sun at 67,000 miles per hour; The Moon travels around the Earth at 2,288 miles per hour; The Sun is moving through the Milky Way at 536,865 miles per hour. Catching that Moon eclipse is one hell of a cosmic selfie.

Ancient Mariner

 

Know your Representative – for now

Mariner has read three sources that cover gerrymandering. The cycle goes like this:

Party 1 draws new district lines.

Party 2 sues.

The courts throw out the new gerrymandering district, leaving the old gerrymandered district in place.

Everyone goes home.

In short, gerrymandering is de rigeuer. So what?

In 80 percent of the cases, Party 1 controls the legislature. Unfortunately, it will take a majority of the legislature and the blessing of the Governor to create a non-partisan commission, supposedly politically neutral, that will draw district boundaries.

To be absolutely, theoretically pure about it, the only measurable virtue is that each district should have the same number of voters. It is a trial and error process to look at maps then lay in a grid that approximates equal numbers of voters in each district. The rub comes when these innocent grid lines ignorantly cross right through a neighborhood that reflects race, may or may not have decent income, may be liberal or conservative, dense or rural. Mariner speculates that this pure, innocent arrangement will never occur.

Imagine that the reader’s neighborhood is generally white, conservative and financially comfortable. However, a grid line cuts your neighborhood in half – in fact, between you and your next door neighbor. Seems innocent until the conservative neighborhood turns out to be the minority in two districts that are black and labor class. Mariner speculates that this pure, innocent arrangement will never occur. Even independent commissions know better.

What commissions will be required to do, given moral turpitude, is pursue solutions that, where practical, favor equalizing the influence of both parties; not so much with an eye toward political value but in an effort to respect the independent nature of grid lines. One can imagine the turmoil – something akin to conflict over Roe v Wade.

The prize at the end of this process is the number of Congressional representatives who will represent each party’s opinions. In many cases regionally, all the gerrymandering in the world will not diminish party priority but as the reader knows, Congressional representation is so close to a tie today that just a few districts realigned can turn over dominance in Congress.

Now let’s examine state, county and local redistricting. Perhaps not.

Ancient Mariner

Metaverse News

Mariner just read that in the metaverse there is a clothing store that will sell clothing fitted to your avatar. Mariner weeps quietly as he remembers going shopping at the nearby discount department store – now closed.

He has conceded that the new culture is not interested in genuine human interaction. He is waiting for the metaverse to celebrate the first birth of a young avatar bred solely through avatars. Mariner speculates how many nanoseconds labor will last. Mariner understands that instinctively Homo sapiens knows the future doesn’t look bright for the species. The reader surely knows there is an active real estate market for metaverse property, right? Better bring your crypto coin with you – it’s a bull market.

There is a new application available through smartphones and Alexi that will provide psychological counseling. Mariner doesn’t understand this offer. Isn’t an avatar to the metaverse as a pinball is to a pinball machine?

Will the proprietors of the metaverse be able to move your property to a poorer neighborhood if you don’t pay your bills?

Will the metaverse provide pornographic services? Will there be vicarious human elation when the avatar has climax?

Good luck with Zuckerberg, folks. I’m going to see my Mother-Nature-approved pony.

Ancient Mariner

 

Fading Democracy

Mariner appreciates that his readers tolerate his rambling across myriad subjects, his flaunting of philosophical irritations, and generally being the Luddite that he is. But this is a serious observation that must be dealt with within the first half of this century or democracy, by its literal definition, will no longer exist.

Succinctly, it is about money running our democracy. More abstractly, totalitarianism already has eroded the concept of one person, one vote. Authoritarianism (Trump stuff) has the headlines today but totalitarianism does not grab headlines because totalitarianism is accepted as de rigeuer. Simply said, “so what?”

To refresh the terms authoritarian versus totalitarianism, authoritarian means some form of self-aggrandizing dictatorship. Totalitarianism means that a central authority, usually a controlled set of institutions, determines what the people will believe and will be accountable for. A variation that may apply to the United States in particular is ‘plutocracy’, governed by the wealthy.

Let’s start with what detectives would call fingerprints. Every day, including weekends, mariner receives at least a dozen emails from political campaign committees and Political Action Committees. They are comedic on the surface, claiming ‘Trump cried when he saw this” or “Rachael was horrified when this happened” or ‘We need your opinion in this poll”. In truth, in every case the real purpose is to ask for money. The campaigners have the audacity to ask mariner for money to support someone who isn’t running in his federal, state or local district. Who is mariner to tell a voter in Arizona who to vote for? Remember for this post that money talks – in fact, a vote more likely is made of money than voter ballots.

Now consider that the detectives are after ‘The Mob’. The mob is the wholesale political money source provided by elite billionaires like the Koch Brothers who, by the will of dollars alone, can shape the political culture of an entire region of the United States. Foreign billionaires participate as well.

Finally, but not as simple as it sounds, there are the corporate sharks. They, too, push money into the election process for their own reasons. All this money does several things:

֎ Deep pocket PACs can flood local advertising markets, underwrite excessive junk election mail and pay for local on-the-ground campaign staff. This activity is overwhelming to a locally based candidate who has neither the funding nor the staff to competitively underwrite local district campaigning against a candidate backed by national PACs. To make the issue clear, having a national PAC tell local voters who they should vote for locally is very, very totalitarianistic. (is that a word?)

֎ Deep pocket PACs also underwrite far right or far left organizations not bound by local reality. Their messages range from scary, anti-American ‘truths’ (Tucker Carlson) to deliberate misrepresentation of operations (Zuckerberg) to political events (Sean Hannity and Joy Behar) to leftist battle talk by Bill Maher – not to mention Proud Boys and QAnon. Very little of this financed information has factual backup and in terms of local culture and issues, is irrelevant.

֎ Beyond elections, big money easily influences votes by legislators. A few favors to a politician or two can stop a vote that may not be desired by the contributor. One need think only as far as fossil fuel (think Manchin), redistricting, citizen privacy and obviously, taxing the very billionaires disrupting the democratic process.

֎ Corporate sharks can interfere even with neighborhood politics. One example is the building of major public roads only through poor neighborhoods promoted by collusion between homeowner associations and construction corporations – enough to tilt any local legislator. As suggested earlier, “so what?” Totalitarianism is de rigeuer. Where one lives defines voting power; one person, one vote does not exist.

In the past Presidential election, mariner heard the same attitude in greatly different situations: A young female Trumper, when told of Trump’s gross misbehavior, said “I don’t care”. On the other hand, a young black woman was asked if she was going to vote. “Why?” She said. “What difference does it make?” Totalitarianism lives. Who needs one person, one vote?

A skeptic may scoff, “So what? This is hardball politics. Grow some calluses!”

With a tear in his eye, mariner turns away. Democracy is based on the primary, mandatory, not to be compromised idea that for every one person, that person has a say in government. One person, one vote is the first, ultimate, one unmodifiable principle that makes democracy work. Democratic power begins with the vote, not with muscled intrusions.

Or mariner can adjust his principles: A hog must live in the sty it’s in – regardless of conditions. The implication here is that democracy may be going the way of other political theories that no longer can handle the size of government, economics and a nonexistent horizon, a perpetual existentialism not rooted in the five senses, truth no longer is hands on. Farewell, Roman Church; farewell plains Indian socialism; farewell, Queen Elizabeth; farewell Neolithic tribes; farewell Anabaptist communism; farewell democracy.

Ancient Mariner

Happy Compassion Day aka Mothers Day

This from Scott Simon at NPR:

A video for you: Derek Rodriguez, a 9-year-old Yankees fan, went to a game in Toronto’s Rogers Centre (yes, that’s how they spell it), where his hero Aaron Judge stroked a homer into the left-centre seats. It was caught by Blue Jay’s fan Mike Lanzillotta — who gave the ball to the visiting little boy. Canadian grace exemplified. See Derek’s thanks.

https://www.thestar.com/sports/bluejays/2022/05/03/watch-young-yankees-fan-in-tears-after-blue-jays-fan-gifts-him-aaron-judge-home-run-ball.html?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20220508&utm_term=6675026&utm_campaign=best-of-npr&utm_id=39748169&orgid=445&utm_att1=

And each Mother’s Day, I am reminded of the wise advice that my own late mother passed on by example: Write “thank you” notes. Tip well. Sing. Drink responsibly. Remember that good manners cost nothing, and open doors. Reach out to someone who is lonely. Make them laugh. Help people smile.

If everyone, rich, poor, young, old, politician, citizen, conservative, and liberal could bring themselves to just follow this simple advice as an ongoing habit, as Louis Armstrong would say, what a wonderful world.

– – – –

Thank goodness for mothers. It is a great advantage for every mammalian species. Mothers civilize; Mothers have empathy and compassion; Mothers sustain everyone through the travails of life. It has been a speculation through the ages that if ever humanity loses its bisexuality, it is the mother who will survive.

Happy Mothers Day.

Ancient Mariner

Birth events have shifted

The AP news service published an article today that is fascinating to think about. AP pointed to statistics that show women in their twenties have put off having children. Instead the average time for having children has crept into the late thirties and forties. In the grand scheme of things, why is this happening?

Wouldn’t our evolutionary processes prevail, that is, becoming pregnant as hormones and independence from parents become active? Mariner’s mother, certainly poor by any comparison, gave birth to him at the age of sixteen and his brother at age twenty. What has caused this move to not have children until the thirties and forties?

The statistics from AP: Fertility rates declined by almost 43% for women between ages 20 and 24 and by more than 22% for women between 25 and 29. At the same time, they increased by more than 67% for women between 35 and 39, and by more than 132% for women between 40 and 44, according to the Census Bureau analysis based on National Center for Health Statistics data.

Direct influences are related to finances. The importance of careers for women as security against uncertain times is obvious. In a related statistic, there is pressure for a financially stable household to be a two-income family. Who pays for childcare and related overhead for children while both parents work? Young families are forced to be practical and wait for more secure times before having a family. Yet, in mariner’s mind, his mother had no financial security but was not influenced to wait for better times; he wonders what is different today?

Another direct influence is pharmaceutical advances in birth control, something that was not available to his mother. Even with the advantage of birth control, why has the shift been so absolute? The statistics suggest that birth control made it easier to pursue a general conclusion to have children later.

Is the shift because Homo sapiens has become a four generation creature? Does this extra generation, largely not financially self-sufficient, add to the intuitive burden of their children?

Is this shift because Homo sapiens no longer has direct habitat-dependent requirements that lend themselves to tribal (extended family) society?

Is it because farming economy no longer is a slow, multi-generational experience that launches the process of gross domestic product?

Is it because modern technology has expanded the awareness of young people to a larger, more complex world?

How is this delay in building families related to falling populations in every industrialized nation? Is industrialized life too rapid and short-funded to allow for a society based on family-centric value?

From a broader perspective, do the planet’s rapidly shrinking resources cause an unconscious awareness that there isn’t enough to go around anymore?

Give this subject some thought. It’s certainly better than the general angst provided by cable news.

Ancient Mariner

Follow up to Vladimir

Mariner was asked what he meant by ‘gunslinger’ capitalism.

RENO – In late 2016, an out-of-state casino owner, Jeffrey Jacobs, started buying up property surrounding Nystrom House, a large old hotel for low income families, vacant land, derelict houses, historic mansions, a car repair shop, a dry cleaner, a wedding chapel, a neighborhood bar, a gas station. And motels, lots of motels. Within months, Jacobs owned Nystrom House,

Jacobs began demolishing the motels. First the Carriage Inn and Donner Inn Motel. Then the Stardust Lodge. Next, the Keno, El Ray and Star of Reno fell. The motels, decades past their prime, had served as housing of last resort for hundreds of people with extremely low incomes and few other options. Jacobs was clearing the way for what he said will be a $1.8 billion entertainment district anchored by his two casinos.

The exact same thing is happening in Miami, Florida.

Given a national crisis in low income housing, that’s gunslinger capitalism.

Elon Musk buying Twitter is gunslinger capitalism.

Venture capitalists buying small newspaper publishers, stripping away the ability to cover news and turning them into low-staffed rags for profit is gunslinger capitalism. Unfortunately, venture capitalists are invading medical centers and hospitals with the same intention by limiting or outsourcing services and requiring patient quotas. That’s gunslinger capitalism.

Lumber companies trying to cut down the most ancient trees on Earth within a nature preserve is gunslinger capitalism.

Buying small banks and foreclosing on every single mortgage is gunslinger capitalism.

A very painful fact is that the Federal Government doesn’t even ask them to pay taxes.

Ancient Mariner

Vladimir

Mariner often has made the argument that older politicians cannot properly interpret the broad picture of a world in which they did not grow up. It occurs to mariner that Vladimir Putin is a classic example.  Putin is seventy years old.  He grew up in the cold war years, was an intelligence officer and was stationed in an office in sight of the Berlin Wall when it fell.

He briefly served as director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and secretary of the Security Council, before being appointed as prime minister in August 1999. After the resignation of Yeltsin, Putin became acting president and, less than four months later, was elected outright to his first term as president.

It is Putin who spearheaded the war against Georgia and the takeover of Crimea. Putin obviously understands the power of old fashioned war as a political force. It is Putin who developed his understanding of Russian myth during its expansionist years after World War II when Russia acquired much of Eastern Europe.

Putin perceives Russia as a dominant force in today’s European reality when, in fact, because of the nation’s tsarist history, has never been a politically dominant nation except as a player in the Paris Peace Conference that ended the war.

In today’s world, large nations understand the cost of an old fashioned bullet war and have moved on to sophisticated economic machinations including the power of computer-driven conflict. Major influences in whether there is a bullet war are organizations like the G7, G20 and the World Monetary Fund – economic organizations with powerful economic influence in international monetary affairs. In short, bullet wars are too destructive, too expensive and do not serve as resolution to a competitive situation.

But Putin grew up in the era of bullet wars; his judgment is warped by his intrinsic values. Even if he intellectually understood the supply chain battles going on between China and the United States, he would feel no satisfaction in such a conflict.

In the US today, mariner carries anxiety that too many important politicians are even older than Putin. While bullet wars aren’t the primary concern, it is an interpretation of last-century capitalism that has too much sway in a century where there are not enough resources for gunslinger capitalism.

Land is disappearing. Water is disappearing. 300 million people may not leave room for ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ for everyone. Tax policy does not speak to modern technical opportunities or a growing imbalance between rich and poor.

The leaders in the US government who still espouse unbridled capitalism are, for the most part, older than Vladimir Putin.

Ancient Mariner