Update on the Democratic Hoard

One of the hoard (Elizabeth Warren) caught mariner’s attention when she announced an overhaul of the money issue in Washington:

“The goal of these measures is straightforward: To take power away from the wealthy and the well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs — in the hands of the people.”

It strikes down the whole lobby relationship and puts constraints on legislators who mix with private consortiums to discuss legislation. There is no doubt she will restore the Consumer Protection Agency to its role as a watchdog over bank behavior before Donald castrated it.

Mariner has not found a preferred candidate among the hoard but Warren’s direct style of planning separates her from Biden and Bernie, one a traditionalist and the other an ideologue. At least one can picture the legislation in her descriptions.

Another interesting comparison will be between Buttigieg and Steyer, both scholars of notable degree (Tom Steyer has qualified for the October debate). While Warren has taken on the plutocratic issue, Steyer is targeting term limits, the Electoral College and other structural issues.

The military is behind Tulsi Gabbard; she is a classic progressive and distinct from other candidates in her Hindu religion. Like Warren, big banks must be dismantled.

Beto O’rourke would make a great preacher. His appeals to moral integrity are meaningful.

It’s probably mariner’s old ears but Cory Booker never targets his motives; a master of rhetoric.

Kamala Harris is a forthright candidate and would “set things right” at the White House but many men may not like her style.

Conversely, Bill Maher may have said it best that Amy Klobuchar may be the sole survivor in a conflicted and destructive battle. Amy has firm views but a smooth manner.

Andrew Yang and Julian Castro would make excellent cabinet secretaries. Marianne Williamson must be a truly interesting candidate to talk to but her spiritualist manner won’t control the gang in Congress.

The rest should run for other federal offices or cash out.

Ancient Mariner

 

Planet One

Neil deGrasse Tyson classified a unified world where everyone was content with society and all its iterations as “Planet One”. There would be no desire for war or one-upmanship of any kind; as Elvis said, there will be peace in the valley. Utopian visions are comforting, even occasionally sustaining a purpose for one’s life.

One should not scoff at utopias and discard them as fantasy although a reality check quickly discounts that a utopian state will ever occur. Utopian visions are useful for identifying current issues that prevent a utopian experience. At a general level, how would religion perform in order to promote a utopian concept? Politics? Neighborhoods? Businesses?

At the individual level, could ambition exist? Pride? Judgment? What about any comparative rationale? Dare one have any kind of prejudice? In a favorable environment, moss exists in a utopian state although the need to reproduce in some fashion still exists, implying that things aren’t as utopian for moss as one would think.

A new vision of utopia has emerged because of the advancement in electronic technology. Is it possible to achieve a utopian state with a comprehensive support system provided by electronics? This may not be achievable for humans because they would have to turn over moral issues and definitions of utopia to the computers. Mariner has seen The Matrix and is not confident that this kind of utopia would exist for humans – although it may exist for the electronics.

So why does the idea of utopia hang around? It hangs around for the same reason as aspirin; thinking about a moment when one’s problems disappear, life is beautiful and the birds are singing, and that maybe, just maybe, things will feel better – just like taking aspirin.

Instead of envisioning utopia, reverse engineer utopia back to the present and ask, “By any definition, what is preventing utopia?” An example follows that is a large issue and certainly stands in the way of utopia.

The idea that racism is an endemic conflagration full of politics and skin color has begun to step into a broader plain that makes the point that racism is a weakness in the power structure of nations. A nation cannot exercise its full potential because racial prejudice eliminates the potential that may be had if all races were included. Taking this perspective, Donald and the white supremacists clearly would diminish the potential of the nation by eliminating the nonwhite population.

Simply by shifting one’s mindset from exclusionary awareness to a mindset of personal concern that one’s personal wellbeing is constrained suggests an entirely different set of resolutions promoting national potential, therefore assuring an individual will have improved finances and security.

The race issue is becoming more than a learned prejudice. The “Z” generation (born after 2007) is a white minority. For the first time since the Census Bureau has released annual statistics, they show an absolute decline in the nation’s white non-Hispanic population. Note the word ‘decline’; the drop has nothing to do with immigration. White citizens are producing children at the rate of 1.78 per woman. Not enough to sustain population.[1]

As long as the word ‘race’ is required to discuss black population, racism will not disappear according to Ibram X Kendi in his new book, “How to be an Antiracist.” A good example of not identifying race is the new awareness by corporate America; they already feel the fact that nonwhites don’t produce enough GDP and in many subtle ways are trying to integrate nonwhites into the economy. Mariner has noticed that television commercials with increasing frequency use mixed couples and mixed marriages.

Mariner is envious of the wonderful skin tone of Halle Berry. It’s too late for him; maybe his great, great grandchildren will be lucky.

Ancient Mariner

[1] For additional, dependable statistics and dialogue, see William H. Frey’s latest book, “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America,”

How Herding Cats has Changed

This is the last in a series focused on herding cats (AKA managing democracy). As the last one hundred years have passed, socialization has dwindled. The district concept of local government was a natural fit to a society that required a high degree of comingling to maintain an awareness of local activity, business interests, and the latest tidbits of political and educational interest.

Today, in stark contrast, comingling is a disappearing behavior. Mariner’s metaphor is that society has moved from baking cakes from scratch to using box mixes. Similarly, comingling among peers takes lots of time and effort that isn’t easily available anymore; the pace of society has pushed into the background what was once a natural balance between citizens and political districts. Local and Congressional representatives had no choice but to comingle as much as possible to maintain their popularity and relevance.

Technology has changed this, of course. Everything from Interstates to television to business expansion to the Internet and computer-telephones enables a solitary individual to be in a state of continuous processing without input from real humans. Conversely, the solitary individual has no influence on other humans.

Just as box mixes made baking cakes a less involved process, so too has the election process, sans comingling, become a matter of who can muster the most money to campaign on television and, surreptitiously, use the organizational influence of their political party rather than acquiring influence among constituents. To push the metaphor, using a box mix means one can make only one kind of cake regardless of the occasion. Today, the box mix doesn’t taste so good.

As unnatural as it feels, as inconvenient as it seems, as awkward as it may be to comingle, it may be time to rediscover the joy of making cakes from scratch.

There are many TV series about house renovation. The same holds for what the voter must do to the house of government. A side effect of streamlining any process is that it concentrates function in a smaller space needing fewer people. Some functions that need to be re-democratized:

Gerrymandering
Proportional representation
Term limits
Open access to money from any source
Voter suppression
Access to voting days, times, methods
Lack of referendum in federal and state governments

There are many other issues. One that is troublesome is the lack of voting by citizens. In parts of India, voters dip a finger in ink and don’t have to worry about participation which is high. In the US, voting may have to be forcibly required through cash or denial of governmental benefits. Americans are a tough, basically capitalistic bunch. Mandating an individual’s behavior seems so, well, socialist.

Day in and day out, herding cats seems a bother. Yet, because of indifference, US democracy has become a plutocracy. The rich call the shots and take all the profits.

Get off the smartphone, turn off the TV and talk to some human beings about restoring democracy.

Ancient Mariner

 

How to Herd Cats

In lieu of civics not being taught in public school systems, and in light of the immeasurable importance of a presidential election at this point of social and political change, mariner will remind readers of the ease and indeed the right for them to communicate their opinions to their elected representatives – state as well as federal.

Expressing one’s opinion to a representative is as simple as using a telephone, email and text or more deliberately, a face-to-face at a town hall event or visiting the representative’s office. And always there is a handwritten or typed letter, seemingly old fashioned but surprisingly influential. Do not be intimidated; these folks are sensitive to a voter’s influence on their job security – a voter is a member of the Board of Directors.

Aside from the vote a citizen has, communication directly with their representative is a very important activity. It is how a citizen manages their democratic government.

A voter can communicate indirectly with their representatives by attending legislative hearings, attending political party meetings, and in Iowa, at least, attend the caucuses. See to it that one’s name is on the mailing list of all direct representatives and the mailing list of one’s preferred local party committee. Always vote at every chance for everything from dog catcher to school board to primaries and elections. Even vote for the judges.

Be aware of and participate in current petitions, referendums and activities by related unions, education, housing, seminars and social presentations of cultural or political issues.

All this sounds like a second job. It is. Certainly one’s own career and life experience comes first but herding political cats is as important as going to the grocery store. Make time!!

A warning: social media and television news are as convoluted as walking through an endless swamp of alligators. It is very, very important for a voter to have a personal compass that reads motive. These sources, every one, have ulterior motives. The activity isn’t herding cats, its hunting cougars.

As to donating money, contain it to causes as much as possible. Donating to one’s specific jurisdictional campaigns is okay but put one’s money where it will do the most to promote the voter’s opinions – typically large organizations promoting the voter’s perspective.

Every citizen must realize that they are as much a part of a democratic government as any elected official. There are four branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial – all who work for the fourth: the citizen.

Ancient Mariner

 

Herding Cats

That’s what it is like for voters trying to manage the activities of government. Three examples follow that on an ordinary day would not be part of the news and would not be a conscious issue of any importance.

Here’s one from left field (terrible pun for sure):

[USA Today] California college athletes looking to make some money from their hard work may be allowed. California’s State Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill that will allow college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness. The bill will head to Gov. Gavin Newsom, and, if signed, would take effect Jan. 1, 2023. The new measure will be in conflict with the NCAA’s amateurism rules that restrict compensation for athletes.

 Mariner has always wondered why everyone in college sports makes tons of money except the actual athletes and cheerleaders who do the work aren’t allowed income. A sign of the times, perhaps.

Another one coming out of the woods:

[NPR] The U.S. military court and prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have cost more than $6 billion to operate since opening nearly 18 years ago and still churn through more than $380 million a year despite housing only 40 prisoners today.

“It’s a horrible waste of money. It’s a catastrophic waste of money,” said Michel Paradis, a Guantánamo defense attorney for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole naval warship. “No matter if you want to see all of these guys shot in the street or whether or not you think Guantánamo itself is an aberration that should have closed yesterday — whatever your goal is, the military commissions have failed to achieve that goal.”

 Voters trying to manage their representatives – budget, policy, ideals – have more than they can handle. It reminds mariner of the tale of the woman who had so many children she didn’t know what to do.

The high prices paid to overseas specialists are de rigueur. Mariner was a consultant to a foreign nation for a while. He received high pay, paid taxes, first class travel, free housing and 100% living expenses. In more peaceful times, US workers could sign up for jobs in Saudi Arabia at three times the salary tax free for the same job in the US. This happens because within the foreign nation urgently needed expertise is not available; further, the commute is extraordinary and forex is arbitrary.

Technically, although Guantánamo is located on the island of Cuba, it is an American military base. Over time, specialist support like lawyers, computer technicians and specialists in government security and foreign relations, evidently have been allowed to charge their own nation exorbitant fees not because the specialization is unavailable as in other nations, but because the lax administration of Guantánamo became a wall bank for military contractors.

It is time to close Guantánamo – a duckbilled platypus under any rule of law. Tell your representatives.

Tidal waves aren’t made just of water:

[538.com] . . . Technically, in the context of legal and political systems, climate refugees don’t exist. There’s no space for them in international law and no special plans for how to treat them in the United States when they arrive. Here and around the world, fleeing climate change means running to bureaucracies as inhospitable to your survival as the places you left behind.

 Warnings about massive, worldwide human displacement due to climate change have been heard from the scientific community for more than a decade. Governments have not made note of this with any vigor; processes don’t exist to handle this special kind of refugee – not only procedurally but in the volumes that will occur. Of many buried issues, this one definitely will affect every voter – another cat to herd but a critical one. Remind your representatives to get on it.

Ancient Mariner

 

Care and Feeding of a Democracy

I ask the help of readers to distribute this open letter to education bureaucrats at every level from the Federal Cabinet Secretary to each District Superintendent.

Dear Educationist:

We live in a democracy. It is not in good shape today and it shows the characteristics of a plutocracy more than a democracy. Ranking last among the twenty-eight developed democracies, only forty-seven percent of eligible voters actually vote; fifty-three percent, a majority, feel the government doesn’t listen to them or involve itself in their day-to-day lives.

Why is that? The current parties don’t help; they are awash in career protection, political gaming, and allow money to control the perspective of legislation. Nondemocratic processes like gerrymandering and tilting the judicial branch to be politically opinionated doesn’t help either.

This abusive behavior is allowed because many, perhaps a majority of citizens, don’t know how to manage a democracy. Yet the government is owned by the citizens. Imagine the impact of an election where one hundred percent – not forty-seven percent – voted. Imagine if voters knew how to promote referendums. Imagine if more citizens understood the importance of attending local political events – even a school board meeting!

Citizens feel the indifference but don’t know how to change the situation.

It is strongly suggested, indeed intensely advocated, that Civics be taught in every primary and secondary school; a required part of the curriculum. The program should not be based on history as much as how to manage a democracy. True, in the United States the Constitution is important but how does a student work through church versus state, civil liberties, Roe v Wade, the impact of simple tax effects, precedent law, etc. It may be better to have lab projects as the major part of the subject; this would allow actual human impact as part of the learning experience.

Your advocacy and implementation of civics classes is greatly needed to restore our democracy to a healthy state.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Resistance

Mariner receives correspondence from a number of readers. It is obvious that mariner is not an instrument of change, entertainment perhaps, even a puzzle; but not an instrument of change. Readers, indeed all people without exception, except perhaps easily led nonthinkers, have their opinion, whatever its logical or illogical constructs, and will stick to it. Having principles is a good thing.

What drives mariner to frustration is the incongruity of it all. A few examples:

The US is the strongest and purest version of democracy among all nations. Oddly, it ranks last among the 28 democratic nations with only 47% voting. More than half of the electorate (mariner should stop aggrandizing citizens with that term) does not vote.

Oh, but they carry guns in fear of the government invading their homes and stripping them of security and worth. If one thinks about it correctly, the citizens own the government; the government doesn’t own them. Paranoid bullets won’t even be noticed when confronted by the largest, best trained, highly equipped army in the world. But think what an additional 53% of votes would do to an election. If one doesn’t vote, one can’t bitch. The subset of the paranoid citizens that do vote, vote for an Antichrist just to cause trouble for the establishment.

Mariner understands that the heavily capitalist plutocracy that exists today has screwed the labor class and most of the middle class. But causing lasting pain between US allies and disrupting trade and commerce with an incompetent, uneducated president does not help. Building an irrational and largely useless wall may appeal to a dissident’s paranoia but it comes at an even higher price on civility, equality, and freedom – to say nothing about misspent taxes. This is no time for a king, though it must be entertaining for dissidents to watch the conflagration.

Just as horses and much earlier spears became useless because of advances in technology, bullets are on their way out. Even today new technical processes armed with a dissident’s private information can strip them of everything – who needs the government? Most citizens haven’t had time to contemplate about the new world offered by automation and access to universal information. It is time to evaluate what will change. The change will be the greatest shift in human history.

How can Joe Citizen protect himself from the tech/data giants? (This is a magnitude more likely than the government barging in.) Keep the gun as a souvenir but cherish one’s voting registration – and vote, goddammit!

Ancient Mariner.

 

Big Brother has learned to walk – Don’t let him run

[NPR] Google and its YouTube subsidiary will pay $170 million to settle allegations that YouTube collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

The companies allegedly collected information of children viewing videos on YouTube by tracking users of channels that are directed at kids. YouTube allegedly failed to notify parents or get their consent, violating laws that protect children’s privacy, according to a complaint filed against the companies by the FTC and the New York attorney general.

YouTube earned millions of dollars by then using this information to target ads to the children, according to the complaint.

Amid the more urgent issues causing confusion in Congress (Donald isn’t confused nor does he care if ,in fact, he knows about the issue) is control over the tech/data industry, which while deeply impacting culture and freedom, gets back row to guns, walls, immigrants, Russian interference, noisy tweets, a herd of democrats and blatant racism. Granted, all these issues cause turbulence in the processes of Constitutional democracy. Still, the most influential issue that will really, really make a different society and is at the center of commerce, corporatism, political power, warfare, privacy and security, and even what a person will wear and eat, is the tech-based future.

The future is being transformed by buzzwords like 5G, cloud, Alexa, facial recognition, GPS, robotic consciousness, AI, super computers and smart phones. Of all the issues mentioned in the last paragraph, which can be compared to thunderstorms, Tech/data is comparable to Noah’s flood. Nothing is free of total redefinition when the buzzwords are in play.

As the campaign season begins, there are three issues that rise above the others:

  • Remove Donald from office.
  • Restructure the US economy to include manufacturing.
  • Establish control over the tech/data industry. The public understands clearly why there must be strict regulations about polluting rivers; the public must understand that strict regulations must keep tech/data from polluting the liberties and individuality of a healthy society.

Ancient Mariner

Did You Catch This?

[Newsy] An appeals court ruled on Friday that survivors and family members of people killed in a mass shooting in South Carolina are allowed to sue the federal government for negligence.

In June 2015, a white supremacist entered an African-American church in Charleston and opened fire on a Bible study group. Nine people were killed. The shooter was convicted on federal murder and hate crime charges and now awaits the death penalty.

After the shooting, then-FBI Director James Comey said the gunman was federally prohibited from owning a firearm when he bought the weapon used in the attack, and that he was able to buy it due to failures in the FBI’s background check system.

Cases brought by survivors and family members intended to hold the government accountable for allowing the shooter to buy the gun. They were consolidated and dismissed by a lower court, which ruled the federal government was protected from lawsuits under two provisions.

But the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Friday that judge was wrong. It ruled that the laws protect the government employee who performed the background check, but not the government itself. The dismissal was reversed.

Wow! This will provide impetus for gun legislation. Hit’em in the pocketbook.

[CityLab] Between crushing student debt, skyrocketing rents, and underemployment, more college graduates are crashing with mom and dad until they can find financial stability. A study using 2016 Census data, from the real estate site Zillow, found that overall, the share of young college graduates moving back home jumped from 19 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2016. Miami and New York had the highest shares—45 percent and 42 percent, respectively. For some Millennials, according to MarketWatch, that means they’re skipping starter homes and going for larger houses as their first purchase.

In his small home town, mariner has a related statistic. Many older families are now parking a third car in their two-car driveway.

[Propublica] Everything You Need to Play Baseball Is Made in China — and Getting Hit by Trump’s Tariffs.

Baseball is America’s pastime, but prices on its China-made gear are about to rise as the trade war escalates. Golf, lacrosse, basketball and other sports will feel the pinch, too.

It’s not hard to think of the future being made in a blender. Will the Minuteman Statue sport a Mongolian deel? will the Statue of Liberty wear tight Yoga pants? Will hamburgers be served at a Japanese tea ceremony? Will Afghanistani women wear stringy short-shorts? Will Donald attend his Alabama rally wearing a tilted bérét, a pencil mustache and twirling a Bat Masterson cane?

Mariner prognosticates that global politics, society and economy will all be in a blender until sometime after 2040 – a lot like living in the Bahamas with Dorian hanging around.

Ancient Mariner