The Fullness of Time

The phrase, Fullness of Time, is an official term among historians depicting great expectancy in history that goes beyond the norm. Sometimes one waited hundreds of years with expectation as in the 600 years describing the plight of Israel as it waited for the fullness of time when God would send a mighty king to save the citizens of Jerusalem.

We don’t have to wait 600 years this time. Unfortunately, God isn’t the Great Decider – it is Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, two egomaniacal leaders who cannot prevent the demise of civilization. With regard to the Korean Peninsula, China has a block of influential politicians very similar to the GOP Congress in the United States: they are from another time; they remember the brutality of the Korean War and the threat to their homeland if MacArthur had had his way and bombed across the Yangtze River. This time, it isn’t Harry holding the reins, its Donald.

Mariner is reminded of Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist who walked a high-wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. This time, it is civilization walking the high-wire with Donald and Kim each holding an end.

An intervention that would eliminate the bravado between the dysfunctional leaders is hard to imagine. It would require Xi Jinping, President of the Communist Party, to imagine and execute an intervention that could literally take Kim’s finger off the button for good. The same is true of the US Congress and the Department of Defense, which must literally remove Donald’s authority and ignore his command to attack or retaliate.

Many would think retaliation is justified. It would be the end of mankind. This is a nuclear war, not Syria. Every human being would be affected whether they wanted to be or not.

Of all the nonsense our President causes, the North Korean issue is one he should not have the authority to engage. It is up to China to save civilization with the full acquiescence of the US. Making that possible requires China overcoming something similar to Congress resistance to immigration, racism and voter suppression in the US.

It is the fullness of time…

Ancient Mariner


A Better Reality

It is important to keep the mind flexible – especially as one grows older. The best way to keep the mind flexible is to have an interest that provides continuous learning and insights. It has been said all along that being fluent in more than one language freshens one’s perspective about life and keeps the brain working with a bit more empathy than would otherwise be the case. One has a different opinion of folks like Bush 43 and other public figures when they can converse comfortably in another language. “What experiences have they had that aren’t part of everyday American?” one may ponder.

Mariner spent some time in Taiwan. The language was Mandarin with a heavy draw – similar to the Deep South, New England, and the ‘Valley’ in California. While he was there, he learned to order a meal awkwardly and perform simple protocols. A year afterward the words had disappeared. For this reason, that is, the difficulty of learning a language and sustaining a lexicon and grammar, mariner suggests immersing oneself in a different culture. Our brains aren’t the same brains that learned language as a two and three year old.

There are as many cultures as there are nations (195). Many have similar cultures influenced by larger nations and surrounding geography. Here are two or three that definitely have preeminent cultures that will never run out of insights, surprises, and intriguing behaviors:

China – a totally different cultural history. One will learn tidbits (China had the first movable type printing press in 1040 during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) and cultural differences (public urinals next to sidewalks in remote regions; China and India are competing with one another over who has the most flush toilets – a sign of modernity).

India – again a different culture – perhaps even more intriguing than China. Did you know that the North Eastern Region (NER 101,248 square miles), did not have a government until it was incorporated into India’s central government in sections from 1947 through 1972? What was daily life like without a government? We can only dream… India has six distinct religions (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism). Imagine the daily conflicts between protocol and belief and the hierarchy of animals some of whom may be your relatives! The US can’t handle one of the six.

Most have heard of Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. All are early civilizations in Central and South America. But what about Caral-Supe? Caral-Supe is the earliest civilization in the region existing from 3000-2500BC. There are many more before the Maya and the Inca. The Aztecs, at their peak when the Spaniards came, weren’t around until 1430-1521AD.

The wonder of the Internet is that it is an endless encyclopedia. Using search engines like Google and Bing among many, name a subject, it’s on the Internet – especially in Wikipedia. Even richer resources are on web sites supported by nations, universities, governments and retailers of books, artifacts, furniture, clothes, jewelry, video and anything else that may expand one’s awareness of a different culture. The peak experience is taking a vacation trip to the culture of choice.

Studying a different culture will open the mind to the fact that not everything has to do with Donald or his id, the Mooche. Not everything has to do with the United States – in its own right a distinct culture.

The trick is to immerse one’s awareness completely into the chosen culture. Mariner is intrigued by a simple reality that doors are too short for modern folks when historic homes are visited in England. What other idiosyncrasies will broaden our reality?

Ancient Mariner

Cultural Resistance

Having presented Gar Alperovitz’s idea that if a democracy is to sustain itself in the future, citizens must become personally and physically active in supporting their policy issues – whether local or national. Mariner feels this is a tall order for today’s common culture. There was a time in the past when a telephone line was the only door to the outside world. In rural and exurb areas, a caller shared one line with four or five neighbors. Individuals could learn a bit about what was going on by listening to the radio and reading newspapers but to communicate with one another was more difficult than we may remember.

Consequently, “clubs” were common. Churches, too, played a role as a central location where neighbors could gather and talk to one another. When mariner moved to a small Iowa town in the 1960’s, he had a choice of a stamp club, coin club, VFW, Masons, Eastern Star, Lions, garden club, American Legion, playing card club(s), Rotary, sewing club, bars (where everybody knows your name) and informal groups that met regularly in hardware stores, gas stations and morning coffee shops. Outside activities were frequent and included ice cream socials, dinners, corn festivals, lunches, baseball, a larger county fair (larger inclusion than today because of the farming community and forgotten homemaking skills along with as many local booths on the midway as professionals). Size of the town? Nine hundred, tops.

Television was new. Areas contiguous to the town didn’t have electricity until after the war (1946-54). Television provided something to do at home besides darning socks, sewing buttons, crocheting, canning, playing cards and working jigsaw puzzles… and going to meetings.

The Internet and powerful multipurpose telephones that need no wires have crushed face-to-face group participation. The closest thing to a club is a special link of users many of whom have never met one another and frequently don’t share a common neighborhood or state.

The reader gets the point. Today’s culture is fast; it is comprehensive in content; it is dismantling not only human contact in neighborhoods but even the need to visit a retail outlet where humans used to gather – Amazon takes care of that.

Alperovitz suggests our survival requires us to reverse this trend. Civility, fairness, honesty and all the other virtues unattended by corporations et al, are in our hands. However, culturally today’s folks are unaccustomed to physically leaving home to have discussions with other humans. That requires a lot more overhead than watching CBS News. Has the reader ever accompanied a group to visit their state legislator’s office? Governor? US Senator?

It is refreshing to see organized groups who fight for ownership of their policies. Can we turn the cultural norm? Even if wildly successful, it will take time – maybe even a new generation.

Ancient Mariner

Phoenix in the China Shop

Forgive the mixed metaphor but it seems appropriate. The phoenix, burned to an ash, arises to live yet again. In the process, the current status quo will undergo a bit of thrashing about and much will be broken.

Mariner has been in a quandary for some months about the approaching tsunami of economic failure. He is one of the tiniest voices expressing concern as giant corporations, think tanks, the United Nations and many global prognosticators share the mariner’s concern. In recent days mariner has been blessed with two very cogent and focused sources that have resolved his quandary. The sources don’t have all the answers but importantly, they are wise and have promoted new concepts of government beyond capitalist piracy and socialist complacency.

The first, a book brought from the local library by his ever vigilant wife[1], describes the current status quo as one caused by shifting demography mixed with competition for a positive trade balance – a strategy put in place at the end of the Second World War[2]. Zeihan blames this economic philosophy, among other things, for stagnant wages and higher prices. Zeihan suggests that the American economic crisis is accelerated by the retirement of baby boomers that largely stop generating products and marketplace cash flow upon retirement and instead draw down on savings. The imminent retirement of the boomers (and the same in other nations) has led to one of the highest savings percentages in history. Recognizing only current economic practices, that is, sustaining positive trade in a fading world market, spending is more important than saving – even for indebted governments. But one cannot blame those nearing retirement for self-protection in a roiling capitalist environment as the world moves to global economics.

For many reasons – from a better demographic spread of young people to the fact that our trade economy is spread across the continent because of eleven navigable rivers (far more than any other country) to the fact that the continental trade picture already is in place (Central America [CAFTA], Mexico, US and Canada [NAFTA]) – free trade AKA Bretton Woods already is fading. As the rest of the world’s nations scramble to seek stability within the old economic order, America, that is, a united trade market covering North and Central America, is set to emerge as the leading economic power by 2030.

A good example of the plight of stand-alone trading nations is Germany: Germany has a large trade surplus making it the prominent economy in Europe. However, the side effects of maintaining a strong free trade position keep paychecks low, leading to a declining domestic economy and therefore less imports. Free trade is a two-way game.

Peter Zeihan’s book falls short of describing a new economic philosophy. His content covers the broad world of economy and suggests that economic power alone will solve America’s problems. There is a human side to economics that must change significantly. For that information, mariner turns to Gar Alperovitz and his online organization, TheNextSystemProject[3].

In the introduction (see footnote) Alperovitz suggests not only is the political system failing but the capitalist economy is collapsing as well. Evidence is the expanding gap between wealthy and poor; it breeds pain, decay, disillusionment and discontent that call for a new form of government. Alperovitz suggests that already the transition to new systemic processes has begun in spite of the presence of Donald.

To keep this post from becoming a book, mariner will reduce a large amount of data to a paragraph or two. If the reader is interested in more clarity or connectivity, see the footnote below, go to the website and enjoy. The scope of Gar Alperovitz’s future is comprehensive. Mariner will mention a word or two about each area. Each area is available on the website in the footnote.

“If the design of corporate capitalism is unable to sustain values of equality, genuine democracy, liberty, and ecological sustainability as a matter of inherent systemic architecture, what systemic ‘design’ might ultimately achieve and sustain these values?”

“Further, how specifically might it be possible to move forward, especially in difficult political times, to lay foundations for a transformation in the direction of a serious new systemic answer?”

It is suggested that change already is happening. New institutions, that is, officially formed groups that are part of the political landscape, have begun to form. Alperovitz mentions Black Lives Matter, the women’s movement, global warming, and other special cause organizations. The term ‘institution’ implies more than just incorporation; it means a group of citizens who own political policy on the political scene. One can only affect change through membership in an institution. At the turn of the twentieth century, organizations such as Grange and trade unions ‘owned’ their politics rather than being controlled by traditional government parties. Consequently, elected officials had to consult these institutions when creating legislation that affected them.

Alperovitz suggests that the current institutions, corporate policy, wealth management and banking, do not feel obligated to represent the ideas of democracy, life, liberty and equality. The underlying point is if democracy is to flourish, citizens must belong to meaningful institutions with sway. Democracy does not take care of itself. One immediately thinks of the rebellion to changes in health care. Incumbent officials don’t know how to deal with an active electorate and struggle with allegiance to their party at the peril of losing their next election. At the moment, the rebellion owns its politics.

Mariner opines that local institutions may be diverse and influential enough to overcome gerrymandering whether that practice is eliminated officially or not. District majorities may have to be formed by coalitions of institutions – very much like parliamentary majorities.

Mariner will stop at this point to avoid ideological drowning. He will draw from Alperovitz’s book over several interspersed posts.
Ancient Mariner

[1] The Accidental Superpower – The next generation of American preeminence and the coming global disorder, Peter Zeihan; published 2014 by Twelve Hachette BookGroup; ISBN 978-1-4555-8366-9.

[2] The chief features of the Bretton Woods system were an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained the exchange rate (± 1 percent) by tying its currency to gold and the ability of the IMF to bridge temporary imbalances of payments. Also, there was a need to address the lack of cooperation among other countries and to prevent competitive devaluation of the currencies as well.(Wikipedia)

[3] Principals of a Pluralistic Commonwealth, Gar Alperovitz. See: Also use search engine to find other sources on CSPAN, YouTube, video and lectures.

The Art of Giving – III

The Art of Giving – I defined the key emotional verbs that underlie gifting[1] as a part of one’s life: sacrifice, sharing and compassion. The Art of Giving – II identified how difficult it is to deploy gifting into one’s lifestyle because of prejudice and an ingrained sense of self. Nevertheless, the future will require sacrifice, sharing and compassion if humanity is to remain civil.

The Art of Giving – III will examine sample practices that can be used as models to emulate in one’s personal effort to participate in the art of giving.

Many efforts at gifting fail because the individual does not consider the skills and resources that are available to them. Bill Gates, for example, has wealth; it is obvious that his personal success in sustained gifting is financing the efforts of others. Further, gifting is supposed to make one feel happy and content; an outstanding accountant may find it difficult to incorporate Habitat for Humanity construction into his lifestyle, even increasing his frustration instead of finding satisfaction and happiness.

Another misconception is to join a gifting organization without first finding in one’s self something that is meaningful and raises personal feelings because something is missing the quality of life it should have. For example, many people are concerned about the hardships and abuse of pets. They find reward in doing whatever they can to improve the situation dog by dog, cat by cat; it is an emotional commitment. If that person had joined the Lion’s Club to participate in the organization’s gifting programs, a sense of gratification may not be present – similar to the minimized reward many parishioners feel about their worship contributions.

There is a woman who is skilled at baking bread. She takes pride in providing the bread for meals at a soup kitchen and a shelter. One can see her gift is not taken lightly. Sacrifice, sharing and compassion all are present. And, by the way, she is very happy with her life. Similarly, many hobby gardeners would feel remiss if their vegetables didn’t find their way to free outlets for those who need food. A hobby furniture maker contributes all his projects to gifting outlets supporting the indigent.

For the exceptionally altruistic, usually younger folk and retirees, one can uproot one’s life and join AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, several United Nations programs, and religious missions around the world.

Often understated or ignored is the need for leadership. In small town and neighborhood gifting, the good intent frequently is overwhelmed by organizational disarray. Skilled managers are always needed –especially those managers who have a moral commitment involving sacrifice, sharing and compassion.

Having reviewed the above examples, one can understand that the art of giving must be expressed in very personal terms. Gifting must be a one-to-one involvement. One must ‘get their hands dirty’ to quote an old phrase. To most who are engaged in gifting, gifting becomes a primary motivator because it engages very personal emotions. One is willing to sacrifice to sustain giving; one is willing to share in an attitude of full teamsmanship with recipients; one has an active and motivating compassion that sustains gifting.

Be vigilant about prejudice constraining your giving.

End of series.

Ancient Mariner

[1] The reader may notice the use of ‘giving’ and ‘gifting.’ Giving implies a broad approach to the subject. Gifting is the actual act of presenting a personal contribution.

The Art of Giving – II

The last post, The Art of Giving, introduced the key elements of giving: sacrifice, sharing and compassion. It is not enough to understand the definition of the three words; the words must be integrated into one’s code of living; the experience represented by the words must become an objective that pays a conscious reward. In other words, giving must become a priority experience beyond prejudice.

This sounds irrational but in practice it is more like a commitment similar to healthful practices: committing to walking every day, dieting – even commitment to going to work every day. The responsibility to sustain a viable lifestyle is not set aside. Rather, it is more like adding flavor to a recipe. If one can interpolate adding flavor to a recipe to adding happiness and fulfilment to one’s life, then one understands how the three words function.

However, interpolation is not easy. Consider the following:

Most US citizens decry taxation. Taxes are an imposition. Taxes are misspent by idiot legislators. Taxes do not do anything for one’s immediate situation. How difficult it is to switch one’s attitude from decrying taxation to one of personal satisfaction gained by sharing the load of national need. The three words must be deployed in order to change one’s attitude. To be sure, sacrifice is personal in nature but it also is collective. Democracy, in the hands of idiot legislators (prejudice), is an overhead that must be sacrificed as well. No act in any endeavor is free of inefficiency and inadequacy. But the key is to capture the personal satisfaction gained from sharing instead of paying – belonging to the team rather than being a victim. Compassion is the elixir that drives toxins from one’s spirit.

Prejudice is the worst sin. Prejudice is disruptive to the art of giving more than any other act or opinion. To focus the discussion of prejudice a bit, two of the common prejudices in the US are race and laggardness. Racial prejudice is easily defined; laggardness is widespread but ill-defined. Laggardness can be interpreted as someone who doesn’t appear to want work hard, doesn’t have a job but accepts ‘handouts’, or simply has a lax attitude about cultural worth. It is debatable that the working class has a more intense prejudice against laggards than they do against skin color. The darkest African American can gain respect through hard work; a laggard will never be respected.

If someone has a desire to recognize a need and provide a gift to that need, in many people an unconscious prejudice steers the individual away from nonwhite charity or providing aid to the unemployed. Many will give to abstract charities similar to wounded veterans, orphans, animals, diseases, and other charities that do not focus on race or laggards.

It must be said that in Africa alone 20 million humans are bereft of health and face death by starvation and common disease but are disregarded by those who are better off. This prejudice is associated with economic class. In the US, the world’s most intensely capitalistic nation, this prejudice is the most irrational and most dehumanizing of all prejudices: The successful deserve to be successful; the unsuccessful deserve to be unsuccessful. In other words, if one is lucky, that is their role; if one is unlucky, that is their role. Tough luck, kid.

Sadly, in the US it is this class that is opposed to government providing discretionary funding to their fellow citizens or even providing health care regardless of social circumstances. In other words, government is for the lucky. Otherwise, tough luck, kid.

Having defined these three common prejudices, one realizes how difficult it is to implement the three words sacrifice, sharing and compassion. One would have to suffer a massive change in their attitude and social identity. We can’t all walk the road to Damascus with Saul.

What can we do? What act will help the most? Where do I sacrifice and share to provide a meaningful gift?

It takes a godly intervention to change deeply rooted definitions of self. Fortunately, humans are of different social persuasions. If one were to elect to government candidates that first accepted the role of government to emulate intervention above espousing a commitment to serve your best interests and instead of being an economic hawk, you may have an amazing influence in promoting sacrifice, sharing and compassion as an element in the government’s gestalt.

Hints about a candidate’s understanding of the art of giving are reflected in the candidate’s lifestyle. Is the candidate a racist? Is the candidate an elitist? Is the candidate one who can afford to campaign but otherwise has no redeeming social qualities? Unfortunately, the common answer to all these characteristics is yes. The best gift will be to find a candidate that understands the art of giving.

Ancient Mariner

The Art of Giving

Giving is indeed an art. Few of us cover the art form in its entirety. Each art form, however, provides a different gift to those who give and to those who receive. More often than not, our greatest gift goes unnoticed over a lifetime.

One form of giving is associated with our culture. In the United States, we pay taxes, which is a form of giving – more at sharing – to support millions of people in need; we share roads and infrastructure in general; we help assure that civility and unity prevail. Too often, giving to our cultural norms is the subject of derision and dissatisfaction. Those who dislike taxes do not experience the gratification that comes from sharing. The art of giving is absent and their lives seem diminished – certainly no personal gift is experienced. Hence the word ‘tax’ instead of ‘gift’. Is our culture missing an aspect of humanity?

Another art form is giving without sacrifice. Bill Gates and others in similar financial circumstances give substantial amounts to quality of life programs around the world. There is no question that recipients immensely enjoy the gift. Giving full credit to Bill for his largesse, his own experience likely has little feeling of sacrifice and more a sense of moral responsibility fulfilled. This is very common in gift giving, that is, giving without sacrifice. Knock off a dozen zeroes or so from Bill’s income and assets and the gift is common to most of us – no sacrifice required. True, in form one has given a gift but the experience is light on a feeling of sharing.

There are two circumstances each of which almost qualifies as an oxymoron:

Military basic training inculcates a feeling of intense bonding between recruits. The experience of sharing (bonded commitment) is tantamount to self-preservation.

The second is the offering taken in religious services. One feels little sacrifice and at best that a moral responsibility has been fulfilled. Many congregations will not even commit to a pledge – how dare God impose sharing on a follower. What is this, a tax?

An important art form that, in the midst of great sacrifice and sharing, often is overlooked; the giver doesn’t perceive that they have given a gift over a lifetime. There are many circumstances where lifetime gifting is involved; two are selected:

Parenthood. It is the nature of all mammals and many other species to protect the next generation. In humans, this nature is most complex and requires many years of commitment. Parents, if they are in the range of normal, will sacrifice a great deal to sustain their children in life. This sharing experience is so strong that it continues throughout life even after the children have established their independence. Parents never deny sacrifice. Empathy and compassion are the art form.

Marriage. Perhaps marriage is even more complex than parenthood. A partnership begun in self-satisfaction over the years experiences times of tribulation. Often unspoken, both partners suffer the needs of their spouse. Both have shortcomings to be tolerated. In time, tolerance and mutual support becomes compassion and sharing. Each partner has gifted the other with a bond that goes unspoken, suffered silently and takes a lifetime.

The key words in the art of giving are sacrifice, sharing and compassion. The words together create a sense of sincere commitment and a unique feeling of deep joy – the quiet kind and the most healing for all parties concerned.

Ancient Mariner


A new culture for economy – what’s next? Redux

What follows is the very first post to The Blog of the Ancient Mariner. It was posted on April 5, 2013 at 2:AM. He could write the same post today. These thoughts seem more urgent, more dire than when this post was published.

The topic is what next? It’s mostly about us – the masses, the common citizens, the disenfranchised, the young who have no yardstick for the future because there is no means by which to measure the future; the jobless who have lost pride and station in life because automation and the global economy have dropped them by the wayside, the seniors who are hale, hearty, living extended lives but are pushed aside and left with little purpose. Wrapping all these demographics into a bundle, what is their purpose? What binds them? What makes them equal and whole individuals? What is the common social fabric?

The mariner is reminded of the Vietnamese immigration after the Viet Nam War. That was a set of people with no extra resources; all they had was hard work and imagination. Many had higher education, even postgraduate degrees that were of little use in the in the United States. The Vietnamese took labor jobs, families helped families, somehow saved a significant percentage of income, opened small, low overhead businesses like dry cleaning, beauty parlors, finger nail shops and small soup kitchens. Now, their children are going to college or growing the businesses of their parents.

What is the next purpose for the American masses? There must be one; there must be a value that is created by many millions of living people; There must be a unity – that is a natural law inherent in the homo sapiens species. The new hardship is that no one will invent it for us or do it for us; we have to invent it and do it ourselves.

The future is still in darkness but a light, a very, very, very faint light is sitting in the corner. It is, for want of a word unknown at this time, ‘sharing’. Sharing can be a purpose. Sharing can be an economy. Sharing has growth potential. Ah, but the light is so faint. What will common sharing look like? Can it draw from wasteful economies that no longer serve the masses efficiently? Can it invent new businesses – profitable businesses – that are based on sharing? Can local government become a protector of a sharing culture?  Does sharing mean we, the masses, must share ourselves in some way for the common good? The US citizen may be better off than the Vietnamese immigrant but the creativity they have for generating a small economy under the larger profit-intensive US economy seems a good model.

Can those who know share knowledge with those who don’t know without the overhead of educational corporations? Leading edge electronics and upstart businesses have no correlation to formal education. The same can be said for liberal arts, religion, and equal distribution of resources like food, water, manufactured goods – all of which possess extreme inefficiencies and waste when delivering a profit-only product.

Dare we dream that the cultural mandate for hoarding profit be converted to a cultural mandate for sharing profit? There are fragile signs: Habitat for Humanity; zero balance loans to indigent women in Africa; Americorps and the international version Peace Corps; Salman Khan (, Project Hope, the floating hospital, even the woman interviewed on CBS News who shares her sofa by leasing it overnight. All are based on sharing – surviving off the excesses of the profit-only model. Remember Victory Gardens?

The mariner has a friend in Maryland who owns a 40 foot boat. He uses it occasionally but is concerned about the overhead. As a model for profit by sharing, he could lease the boat well below the rate of a profit-only charter service and still make enough to maintain the boat, keep a few dollars and share the rest of the income with another ‘share’ business that may provide a few jobs. The light is still too faint to imagine what an entire culture of sharing will look like but this seems a good example: use what you have to generate income.

The common citizens will have the burden of finding a way to survive financially. Giant corporations are just getting started as a global market emerges. The mariner suspects there will be economic room beneath the global markets. Twenty years ago an American steel manufacturer stayed in business by making specialty steel – something large volume steel corporations that moved overseas couldn’t afford to sustain. Genuinely organic farming still defies the ‘legislatively defined’ organic products produced by large scale producers. Organic growing is time and labor intensive – something that doesn’t fit the profit-only model.

Detroit, Michigan is about to go bankrupt. Population has dropped by a third and there are no jobs. A few years ago, the City had to come up with something to provide food for vast neighborhoods that had no grocery stores. Detroit leveraged the many vacant blocks by turning them into gardens and small livestock operations (sheep, goats). It is a fine effort but doesn’t generate the taxes the missing profit-only corporations provided before they left Detroit. Nevertheless, many common citizens have something to eat that otherwise would have nothing.

The profit-only culture has become so excessive that it can be undercut and still deliver services and provide jobs that profit-only business cannot afford. In Colorado, a one owner bakery thrives near a Dunkin Donuts shop.

For the conservatives among the readers, sharing is not socialism, it is personal profit by sharing what one can invest of his or her own resources; for the liberals, it is not communal living, it is profit through sharing outward – not dividing inward. The Vietnamese immigrants didn’t care what they were called; They were in the business of surviving.

Ancient Mariner

Health Care

Mariner has been pondering the health care issue. As someone once said, it is complex. It is complex because there are many facets to health care. For example, today health is managed as a marketplace rather than a healing place; a patient is a source of profit; medical practitioners no longer run hospitals, business specialists do. It has taken seventy-five years for this to happen. Mariner went back to the 1930’s and 40’s to track health care evolution.
In 1944, when the mariner went to the hospital with his ailing mother for a checkup, the hospital was not a fancy place. It looked more like an old high school with yellowed ceramic tile. The hall was the waiting room and patients sat along the walls on church pews. At night, the lighting was the same as in public schools, a depressing light not quite bright enough and intensifying the same worn, yellow shade.
When a patient was treated for a specific condition, the bill was one simple page. For example, going to the maternity ward to give birth to a child created a single line item: Maternity Care – $150.
Doctors were challenged to have the highest cure rate among patients. Further, doctors seemed to move about more slowly and seemed not jammed with appointments. It was all about the patients, not administrative efficiency.
Today in 2017, hospitals look fancier than many hotels. There are many more private and semiprivate rooms for patients; waiting rooms are expansive and off the halls. Billing for hospital services has become a hodge podge of line items worse than the various schedules of an income tax form. Doctors are encouraged to maximize income to the hospital. For example, tests are scheduled whether they are needed or not.
What happened?
In the mid 1900’s, health insurance was almost invisible. Most folks were covered by insurance paid for by their employers. The cost of services was related to real function and overhead – billed amounts had a close relationship to actual cost; in many ways, payment for services catered to the financial status of the patient. Eventually the mariner’s mother died after spending a year in the hospital. No one mentioned billing until after her death and payments were negotiated. Today, a patient risks being rejected at the door if a credit card can’t be presented.
The public experience was akin to free health: insurance coverage was virtually invisible to individuals. Further, health care was not a profit based market. It was all about patients and curability.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, business types discovered the lack of efficiency in health services. Further, all these MBAs saw a huge profit if health services were managed by what the market would bear rather than actual cost. As a consequence, maternity care today is $2,000 to $5,000 at a minimum.
Further, the one line item on the bill, called bundled billing, was replaced by unbundled billing: an aspirin, billed at $2 has its own line item. Further, a health service like maternity care is billed as a fixed set of services – whether they are used or not.
Health services also have different ways of taking profit from the system. Consider pharmacy markets, equipment markets, rehabilitation markets, specialist markets, insurance markets and many more. Each has their own profit earning model uncoordinated with other providers.
If a doctor thinks he has discovered an absolute cure for cancer, he will not be underwritten by any of the providers because, in effect, the cure will drive them out of business. This has led to a preference for continual care rather than cure.
Mariner could go on but the reader has the idea: health care, not a for-profit market, is treated as if it were. Naturally, over time lobbyists have tailored Federal and State legislation to protect this irrational alliance. Did you know hospital services, clinics and providers do not have to provide their cost for a given procedure or product? For the same procedures, one hospital may charge $1000 while another may charge $400 but you will not be able to acquire this information. It is almost as hard to acquire information about success rates. In general, this block also applies to the various providers; for example, one needs a go-between like a pharmacy to find out price differences in drug and insurance coverage for the same drug.
In government, there are no rational plans for correcting the US health delivery system. Conservatives want to cut cost by (a) cutting coverage and (b) issuing finite amounts of funding to States (block grants) requiring States to cover inevitable shortfalls in health coverage. States will have the authority to cut coverage to save cost, e.g., pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies will participate by requiring huge deductibles.
What goes unmentioned is the power of the State Health Commissioner and/or State Insurance Commissioner. These positions oversee health and insurance regulations, practices and rates. Theoretically, the Commissioner could, for a given state, slowly correct the delivery of health services by setting price limits for services that in turn would push profit market practices out of health delivery. The fatal flaw at this time is that the Commissioner is appointed making it a politically bound position – to say nothing of massive lobbyist interference.
Nevertheless, the best approach is to reduce the cost of health care without reducing health coverage. It is a mistake to assume today’s prices will always be the case making them too expensive to cover for a nation that has debt problems. Restructuring the health market, one-sixth of the nation’s economy, is a tall task. Tying adjustment to a big tax cut for oligarchs does not help.
Ancient Mariner


The Forgotten

The mariner deliberately has avoided most of the televised Donald show. One cannot avoid all of it, of course. It has given mariner time to reflect on causes and entropy – the unavoidable erosion of all things as they age. The Constitution has aged; its grand theories of democracy and self-government are romantic but inadequate today. The founding fathers had just emerged from war with Great Britain. They wanted a nation that would be difficult to overturn by a foreign nation. But today, the great difficulties lie in international sharing and global problem solving. Self-government may slow the resolution of international and global issues.

What brought Donald to the Presidency is a base of working class people. Despite the tweets, illegal business maneuvers, petty personality disorders, lies and lack of knowledge, one in three voters stand by Donald. Mariner in no way sanctions their tolerance; he feels the lack of electoral wisdom has brought angst to every citizen. Still, their persistence arises from a truth: they are the forgotten. Sadly, this will not change soon – and they feel this in their bosoms – no wisdom needed.

The truth is ninety percent of US citizens will feel forgotten during the rest of this century. Whether that can be remedied is a long shot. The line in the sand is between profit and sustainability. As long as profit is the reward both economically and personally, the forgotten will not prevail – perhaps not even survive.

Mariner has written previous posts about the philosophy of Will Rogers. His income was distributed among his family, professional staff, farm workers and the cost of maintaining his farm. There was no profit; there was sustaining the wellbeing of every individual. Everyone participated in the benefits of his career.

Can we imagine corporations and businesses reinterpreting profit for the wellbeing of the owners to that of seeing after the wellbeing of common folk – whether they work or not, whether they contribute to the wellbeing of our nation or not. That is the great cultural shift. Forget computer invasion of jobs; it is inevitable. What is the obligation of our culture to assume a responsibility to care for everyone?

The machinations of capitalism ensure “profit.” What is to be done with that profit?

The answer will make or break civilization.

Ancient Mariner