Money in Political Campaigns

Any individual who has poked even a finger into the current of campaign politics has discovered an inundation of fund-raising emails, letters and phone calls from the NATIONAL COMMITTEE (RNC, DNC) of each party. One assumes that this cash contribution is a voter’s right. However, the real campaign cash balance is maintained by special interests like corporations and investors who are the real source of hundreds of millions in donations to campaign financing.

One of the more benign exposures of this plutocracy is when the email says, “We’ve found a 600 percent match for your donation!” Who among us can match six times a national fund-raising effort? To mariner, this is just a way for candidates to hide big money that otherwise would be openly contributed from Political Action Committees (PACs) and corporations – in other words, a favor or policy expectation is the real purpose – not just a citizen vote.

Mariner has challenged the concept of national fund-raising many times on the blog. Consequently, he will not go into elaborate philosophical and pragmatic explanations of why special interest fund raising is destructive to democracy. Simply, this is what must be done to improve democracy as a tool to manage the peoples’ governments:

  • Federal, nationwide election campaigns are funded only by Federal tax dollars; the Federal Government pays for all Federal election campaigns. This includes constraints on private and local fund-raising for nationwide offices.
  • State, district, county and local campaigns may be funded only by entities within the jurisdiction of the specific office to be elected.
  • All elections, Federal, state and local, are limited to a six month time limit. Except within this time limit, no funds may be used for any purpose associated with elections including television, postal mail, shipping, telephone or any other source of communication.
  • Voting should allow electronic voting authorized by an algorithm based on identifiers within driver’s license, passport and personal banking. While this may seem unfair to those who live on the bottom fringe of society, their abuse is a separate issue that would be addressed in an effort for everyone to participate equally in today’s Internet world – including electronic voting.

So, if the reader is of like mind, send donations to . . .

Ancient Mariner

 

Faith is a necessary life tool for everyone

Read these words from this old hymnbook favorite – sing along if you know the melody:

Life is like a mountain railway

With an engineer that’s brave

We must make this run successful

From the cradle to the grave

Watch the curves, the fills, and tunnels

Never falter, never fail

Keep your hand upon the throttle

And your eyes upon the rail

The verse asks for a commitment to an ideal, a belief that the run must be successful. A belief in what? It could be any religion’s doctrine; it could be any political vision; it could be a personal life or a person’s sustained commitment against fatal disease.

The point is that all thoughts and behavior of any merit require belief in a valued objective. The only instruction in the verse is completing the run and keeping one’s hand upon the throttle. Could this verse be applicable to Blackbeard the pirate’s belief in his role on the high seas? (Yes, mixed metaphor)

What is missing today is context. At the beginning of the verse, what does ‘Life’ imply? As an ethical compass, what is the world supposed to believe in – not just the United States but the entire world? The confrontation is universal: what is a gibbon to trust in a disappearing habitat; what is a fish living on a dying coral reef to accept as normal; what is the dictator of Kazakhstan to believe about his uncertain future; what about the broken and abused family in Nicaragua; what about the preacher in Kansas or the steel worker in Detroit; what about the billionaire CEO. With our hand on the throttle, where is the rail taking us?

More than at any time since nations have existed, we live in a time of social disruption and turmoil. The job of Homo sapiens is to decide where the rail will take us. Holding on to broken, outdated, even useless railways doesn’t help. The job of everyone around the world today is to build a new destination for our railway.

The hymn cited at the beginning was written in 1890 by gospel songwriter Charles Davis Tillman. He styled it for the repertoire of white southerners, whose music was derived from Gospel. Further verses reference the Bible as a source of context. Life in 1890 was from another time, another reality. Where is Life headed today?

[For several renditions of the hymn see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDrFJ7k9jOA ]

Ancient Mariner

Humans face Many Problems

In 2015 mariner wrote a post that attempted to distract readers from the campaigns of the last Presidential election. He focused on several natural phenomena that make human problems small and irrelevant. One topic was that the North and South poles switch places every so often. He wrote:

Every 200,000 years or so, the magnetosphere switches poles, that is, the North Pole becomes the South Pole and vice versa. Presently, we are experiencing the very early phases of a polar switch. Scientists have determined that the strength of the magnetosphere has dropped 15% since 1840. There is nothing cataclysmic about the switch. The North and South magnetic waves push through each other around the globe. For example, today the South Atlantic and the Bering Sea have very weak magnetic spots such that a compass can be seen to vacillate as North and South magnetic waves move back and forth. “It may take another 2,000 years,” said physicist Phil Scherrer of Stanford University.

The real danger in a magnetosphere shift is twofold: First, the magnetic waves shield us from strong radiation from the Sun that is capable of causing cancer and other radiation ills; the Earth’s magnetosphere is weakened considerably during a shift and the Sun’s radiation can reach the surface of the Earth. At some point, all satellite communications will be interrupted.

Second, every creature that depends on a compass to get around will experience a topsy-turvy effect that turns everything backwards. Many creatures may be disoriented: Monarch butterflies, geese, whales – anything that migrates great distances without mapping terrain.

– – – –

Mariner’s question today in 2020 is, “Will humans suffer topsy-turvy effects because all the maps and street signs will be backwards? What about life without GPS? Will self-driving cars just wander aimlessly? Will Google Earth even know?”

Ancient Mariner

Democracy is like the game of Jenga

Jenga is the name of that game where wooden blocks are stacked one by one to build a narrow tower that grows very high then each player must remove one block at a time without the tower collapsing into a pile of rubble.
Running a democracy is similar. The tower represents the power of a collective effort, the power of vision, cohesiveness, unity of purpose, and power among nations. The tower generates gross national product, human services and military defense. Being a democracy, like Jenga, it is a fragile compilation.
The analogy must be stretched a bit to understand the game of democracy. Unlike Jenga, democracy adds blocks and takes blocks away simultaneously. That is the purpose of democracy: everyone can draw benefits from the tower but in turn must at the same time add a new block to keep the tower strong. Like Jenga, democracy is a fragile construction but is not limited to one architectural vision; democracy is many towers, many broad, low lying configurations and spreads in every direction.
The skill is the ability for citizens to draw a beneficial block from the unity of the tower but to give a personal block back for the good of the tower. For example, the tower provides freedom of speech but in turn requires that a citizen must return that right to the tower for others to use as well. To press the analogy one step further, unity of purpose is the antigravity magic that keeps the democracy tower from collapsing.
– – – –
It is obvious, of course, that today the democracy tower is in disarray. It seems there are many citizens who take a block only and do not add one back to the tower. Many of these citizens are billionaire oligarchs, extremist groups, career-obsessed politicians, oppressed classes and racists. The reader may note the inclusion of the oppressed. Citizens without the benefit of democratic unity often rebel by debunking unity and will refuse to cooperate in any effort to build unity. Currently, they are called Trump’s Base.
Again unlike Jenga, the rulebook is humongous and, in fact, never ends. The rulebook covers subjects like taxes, economy, safety and health regulations, education, rules for corporations and religions, rules for individuals, and on and on. It is a difficult read as well. All of this diversity is held together by that magical antigravity – national unity.
– – – –
Not all the threats to the tower of democracy come from individual greed or misunderstanding. A major threat to the tower is the design of the tower itself. In the game of Jenga, imagine if one player wanted a tower that looked like a Saguaro cactus, another wanted a tower that looked like a Prickly Pear cactus and a third wanted a tower that looked like a Bishop’s Hat cactus.

                   

To make it seem more relevant, instead of cacti, substitute capitalism, socialism, communism, authoritarianism, plutocracy, or likely in the future, hegemony. In practice, a citizen may take a block from democracy but does not put a block back that provides the same function; the citizen replaces it with something different. For example, a citizen may benefit from a change in tax benefits but in return insists on compensating for the benefit by reducing the payout to Social Security – two different images of the tower!
– – – –
This treatise is running long. Take a breath and dive into another Jenga analogy: Suppose everyone is playing Jenga and understands the usefulness of the building squares. Suddenly, as the players draw more blocks, they begin to take on weird shapes like pyramids, octagons, spheres and ellipses. Trying to build the tower – let alone trying to benefit from it – becomes a virtual impossibility. Welcome to Artificial Intelligence (AI).
We must have compassion for our democracy tower. It is faced with AI, climate change, global pandemic, global migration, rapid polarization of human resources, massive economic shifts both in production and in consumption; the Gross Domestic Product has come loose from its leash, and instant global data knowledge from the Internet has the effect of a power hose washing away antigravity.
Democracy needs more than money and politics in November. It needs unity. Vote accordingly.
Ancient Mariner.

A New Form of Popular Government

A new methodology for electing government representatives is emerging. Eighteen states already have some form of ‘ranked choice voting’ in place. Instead of using ballots that pit party against party, the ballot will elect the most popular candidate, party notwithstanding. It works exactly like the TV show ‘America’s Got Talent’. Perhaps for elections it should be renamed as ‘American Politicians Got Talent’. Politico.com has the most succinct description:

“Ranked-choice voting allows citizens to rank their candidate preferences on an election ballot instead of voting for a single candidate. If one candidate does not initially win a majority, competitors with the fewest votes are eliminated from the race and their voters’ second choices are applied to the tallies of the remaining candidates until one candidate achieves a majority.”

The process asks the voter to rank all the candidates rather than selecting just one. Then, exactly like voting on ‘America’s Got Talent’, less popular candidates are eliminated to identify the candidate with the highest ranked votes.

So what does the reader think about this?

Dominated by political party machinery, the election environment has become both complex and expensive. For the 2020 primary, mariner’s own state, Iowa, collapsed under burdensome procedures of trying to determine who would be on the Democratic Party’s ticket. Bean counting became an art form involving many qualifiers that confused voters at the precinct level; it grew worse as tallies were transferred up the chain to State headquarters.

Hand in hand with complexity was the amount of cash required to sustain elaborate party machinations and local campaigning. For years at the national level, all political parties continuously have been increasing fund raising to the point that one had to be a billionaire (Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg) to run independent of party machinery. It is conceivable, one hopes, that funding will become a local sport rather than a national one.

Besides the overly complex and expensive processes the parties have created, the party system became competitive in its own right for its own purposes – subverting the idea that it was the voter who was most important. Many pundits identify Newt Gingrich as the politician who made winning as a party more important than winning as a nation. This has grown intense over the decades to the point today where party victory counts far more than compromise in behalf of the electorate. Note only the shenanigans of Federal and Supreme Court nominations in recent years. Today the Senate Majority Leader (McConnell) controls every aspect of business in the Senate; in the House the Speaker has the same role (Pelosi) – the Party comes first.

Lastly, because the founding fathers left voting procedures to the States, there are many different election procedures for each state, each city, each county and each Representative district. In this age of cultural change at the speed of light, even the ballot is under pressure to change for the twenty-first century. The familiar list includes government supported elections without private funding; eliminate the Electoral College; reallocate the Senate to represent the population; allow referendums at the Federal level. Now add ranked choice ballots.

Ancient Mariner

 

On Aging

When mariner was very young, he remembers lots of men had a perpetual toothpick in their mouths. No point to be made; just that he remembers – isn’t that enough for an old man?

This post may read like self pity but it is just another pondering from his file on this planet’s biomass. Mariner is provoked, however, to write this post in behalf of his elder friends who sustain their lives in spite of greater challenges than youngsters and society may notice.

But before we start on aging, in a related socio-psychological subject it has been proven economically and socially that breaking down the extended family to a nuclear family has not been a good thing. For the Matrix-sensitive folks, do you think the new isolationist teaching method in schools combined with cloud control of our lives is preparing our species to live in coffins?

– – – –

Back to aging and speaking as an ancient member of Homo sapiens, a branch of the hominid family, mariner is taking science to task – especially the study of anatomy and medicine. Scientists laud their achievements in extending the human life span more than twenty years beyond the norm for hominids. What the scientists forgot was to include normal functionality along with the additional years.

For example: sex. If the reader thinks Jeff Bezos is rich, think how rich the scientist would be who discovered a way for guys over 60 to continue having an active sex life. And dementia – what good is living if a person doesn’t know they’re living? And Parkinson’s, heart disease, arthritis and palsy. How about incontinence and disappearing bone mass? Making hominids live longer without simultaneously extending functionality doesn’t improve anything except more opportunity to be depressed, in pain, isolated and ill.

Old folks’ skin looks like lizard skin because muscles and their inherent potential energy simply are vanishing. Case in point: can mariner still play football? Not.

Anthropologists suggest that evolution cares only about procreation, i.e. sustaining the species. While scientists were extending lifespan, why not extend fecundity? It boils down to this: living longer may avoid facing the end of life for a while but for a majority of folks it is a life of depression, pain, dysfunction, despair and medical bankruptcy. The best to be had simply may be a feeling of irrelevance.

Some youngsters may think old people are useless and in the way – especially when it comes to government support. But the elders are monuments to strength and perseverance despite the meddling of medical science. Let’s see what trouble will be stirred by tinkering with the genome.

Ancient Mariner

Crumbs

Here are a few news clips that have larger implications than one would expect.

֎ From Nate Silver’s website the following quote suggests that the economy will rebound to a lower standard of living than before the virus:

“The surprisingly large drop in last month’s unemployment rate is seen by our survey as not being a temporary blip, but as reflecting a more permanent decline,” said Allan Timmermann, an economist at the University of California, San Diego who has been consulting with FiveThirtyEight on the survey.”

֎ Already a widespread issue across the planet, the use of facial recognition presents a serious confrontation to personal freedoms and abuse by governments, commerce and politically charged private interests. China already uses facial recognition in an oppressive manner to control freedom of speech, including religious affiliation. US governments have done nothing as yet to deal with this culture-changing technology until recently. Newsy reports:

“The City Council in Portland, Oregon, has voted in favor of banning the use of facial recognition technology — both by private citizens and city departments. That includes the police. Other cities, such as Boston, San Francisco and Oakland, California, have also passed facial recognition regulations, but this one is the first to ban it for private users. Facial recognition software has been criticized for being racially biased.”

֎ Recent news has revealed China’s aggressive behavior in militarizing the South China Sea. Once a neutral fishing zone, China has frightened sharing nations away – including Taiwan and Viet Nam among several Asian nations. This report from Politico suggests escalation is imminent – including the United States:

“There could be major movement re: Taiwan or the South China Sea. Asia Society’s Orville Schell tells China Watcher “what I fear in the next two months is a ‘Gulf of Tonkin’ like incident — trumped up or real — in the South, East China Sea or Taiwan Straits that leads to a military clash and enables Trump to declare a national emergency.” Evan Medeiros of Georgetown University says to look for “a naval clash in the South China Sea” while Gordon G. Chang of Stanford University votes for Trump making “a dramatic move to highlight his support for Taiwan.””

֎ WEIRD (“Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic”) The non-western world has reduced the West to an acronym. Ironically, ‘weird’ is the enemy of Trumpers as well.

Ancient Mariner

It’s all about Sixty Year Cycles

Mariner and his wife were having a discussion about the socio-economic cycles of a town. When mariner was in college, he read a book about the relationship between generational lifespan, economic growth and consumption, and group dynamics. He has long forgotten the author and title but has been fascinated since how perceptive the author was when he stated that the life cycle of any town or defined group was approximately 60 years.

Throughout life mariner has found case after case that adheres to this author’s premise. The sixty-year cycle, as one might imagine, has a lot to do with each generation as it passes through similar learning, socializing and aging. In mariner’s town, there are clear 60-year cycles. The town began in the 1880’s. One can imagine that virtually all the settlers were in their productive years and relatively close in age. This generation lived through the boom decades when the internal combustion engine launched a new technological age. This small town hosted four major implement dealers, a motel, four churches, two hardware stores, three grocery stores and a railroad.

Like the corona virus today, in the 1940’s (60 years after the town was founded) World War II forced an unusually rapid change from the previous 60 years to the second 60-year cycle. Overnight, the Baby Boomer generation took the lead away from the Silent Generation. The Boomers dominated a socially active era when there were clubs for every interest, and an active restaurant, tavern and movie society. The Civil Rights Act was one of several social modifications during the Boomer years.

As the Boomers passed into retirement age, generation X slowly took the reins and shifted the culture to a more conservative, economically aggressive society. By the turn of the century (60 years later), a new technology based on computers had evolved which began to push the X generation out of the way. Clearly, as the new century began, a new generation began to influence society – the Millennials.

It was hard to displace the X generation because science had found ways for humans to live beyond the lifespan of an evolved hominid: three generations or sixty years, more or less. Now hominids were living close to 80 years and were still meddling in the affairs of the next generation.

This extra-long lifespan has led to an intransigence of old people still involved in the society of the next age. This conflict between life in the twentieth century and life in the twenty-first century would still be dragging on except that the corona virus has put its foot down. With lightning speed our society, its technology and its economics will leap into the deep waters of the next sixty years. Welcome aboard, Centennials.

Ancient Mariner

The Big Shift

One of Guru’s grand projections for the last half of this century is a shift from an European world (the West) as the prime influence in culture, economics and development, to one centered around the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Guru’s nickname for the new center is the Sumo League because it includes the three largest nations by size, population and economy (India, China, US representing 1 in 3 humans on Earth and 52 percent of the world’s GDP). Already there are fringe participants in this league in the name of Canada, Mexico, Australia, Peru, Brazil, Chile and several Pacific Rim Asian nations, e.g. Japan and Viet Nam. For the moment China is the most aggressive nation but expect India, often allied with the US, to jump in soon.

As a related side note, the fastest growing race in the US is Asian, not Hispanic.

With this grand projection in mind, mariner has been tracking news about the European Union (NATO). It seems there are rifts growing everywhere. To wit:

Greece and Turkey are at war’s edge over oil rights in the Eastern Mediterranean; Turkey has become a nation in the orbit of Russia as well; Turkey and France are having words over Libya. Regarding a gas pipeline currently under construction between Germany and Russia that serves the Kremlin’s financial and geopolitical interests and undermines NATO’s eastern members, the German government continues to stand by the project even though asked to abandon it. And then there’s Brexit. And everyone knows Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Union – all Eastern Block nations currently in NATO.

The common term in Europe is “cracks in the alliance.”

Just an added perspective into the future and how the Planet and its creatures are mulling about.

Ancient Mariner

The Frontal Lobe versus Planet Earth

The frontal lobe is responsible for abstract thinking. It is the youngest and largest region of the human brain located just behind the forehead. While the rest of the brain abides by the normal mammalian genome adapted to Earth’s biosphere, the frontal lobe of a human brain is not bound by such mundane relationships.

In an exercise to pass time while sheltered, mariner developed an analog which eliminated conflict between humans and the biosphere by stepping backward in history until the conflict had yet to occur. An example everyone is aware of is the fossil fuel conflict. By tracking backwards to the point where the cause (a frontal lobe invention) did not exist, one can deduce the lifestyle, politics and what at that point would be compatible with the biosphere.

Herewith is a summation of the results:

SOCIETY

  • THERE IS NO FREE WILL. HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND INTELLECT ARE TIGHTLY BOUND TO A GENOME THAT EVOLUTION TOOK 70 MILLION YEARS TO CREATE. IN THIS RESPECT, HUMANS ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN OPOSSUMS AND KING COBRAS.
  • THERE IS ONLY 2% DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GENOME OF A CHIMPANZEE AND THAT OF A HUMAN. THE DIFFERENCE IS THE FRONTAL LOBE.
  • ONE IN TEN HUMANS CAN THINK IN THE ABSTRACT. THE REST ARE SMART SIMIANS, ALSO KNOWN AS THE ELECTORATE.

HOMO SAPIENS

  • AS AN EVOLUTIONARY PHENOMENON, THE HUMAN BRAIN IS AN UNSTABLE ABERRATION. LIKE THE DINOSAURS, WHICH EVENTUALLY BECAME EXTINCT BECAUSE THEY WERE IN CONFLICT WITH THE BIOSPHERE, HUMANS HAVE AN END DATE FOR EXISTENCE.[1]

ECONOMY

  • CAPITALISM AND SOCIALISM ARE SOPHISTICATED ARGUMENTS FOR GREED.
  • COMMUNISM, SANS ALL THE AUTHORITARIAN INFLUENCES, IS THE NATURAL ECONOMY FOR THE HUMAN SPECIES. TODAY’S EXAMPLE IS OFF-THE-GRID HOMESTEADING – A NATURALLY COMPLIANT BEHAVIOR WITH THE BIOSPHERE. NOTE THAT THIS LIFESTYLE MATCHES THE REST OF THE SIMIAN GENOME WITHOUT THE IRRITATING INVENTIONS COMING FROM THE FRONTAL LOBE.

SCIENCE

  • CREATES INTELLECTUALISM AT THE COST OF DISRUPTING THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, E,G., LIFE SPAN OF A HUMAN BEING. RELEVANT HUMAN HISTORY IS SUPPOSED ONLY TO BE ABOUT 60 YEARS OR THREE GENERATIONS.

TECHNOLOGY

  • THE CENTER OF GROWTH FOR GREED-BASED ECONOMIES.

Well, there it is. Humans get in trouble when they let the frontal lobe do its thing without respecting the rest of the simian brain and its agreeable relationship with Planet Earth.

So much for shelter-in-place.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] The asteroid just hastened the end of a declining existence for the dinosaurs; Covid-19 tried hard to bring an end to humans but came up a little short. Humans will have to end it on their own.