Classic American Soup: Election with Recession and a side of Pandemic

Yesterday during South Carolina primary coverage, Tom Steyer closed his campaign for president. Two billionaires to go. (Mariner recognizes Donald as a billionaire for the amount of debt Russia is covering through Deutsch Bank. Okay, he’s a negative billionaire)

The United States elections, federal, state and local, are very much like the wild west: no rules, no law and order and money will win. The delegate method doesn’t eliminate candidates, lack of money does. Until this very day and forthwith, those without enough matching wealth will run out of financial support to sustain a competitive campaign across fifty states. The fact that three billionaires plus endless PAC support for them have so much money, they in effect are able to buy each and every vote to the tune of thousands of dollars each.

In the old days on many occasions, votes actually were bought for cash; now the television stations get the cash; the electorate, bless their soul, does what the television tells them to do.

Tom was the one billionaire who could feel empathy. He actually wants to make things better for the struggling masses yearning to survive. He is as classy as any of the candidates – but he is a billionaire. If the US is to sustain its great experiment as a nation, the citizens must play the role of the Board of Directors of the country – not allow the elite class to control things. That kind of government is called a plutocracy not a democracy.

So on to Super Tuesday. This round, like Steyer in South Carolina, has been targeted by Billionaire Bloomberg. It will be obvious on March third that commoners like Buttigieg and Klobuchar will have inadequate offenses to compete with Bloomberg. On the other hand, enough voters are involved that perhaps the role of Citizen Board of Directors may influence the contests. Let’s hope so – it’s time to settle the Bernie/Joe issue.

It is the democratic religion that whomever is nominated, be it human or a dead fish, every living democrat will appear at the voting booth to cast a vote against Donald. Mariner still contends that by the end of voting in Virgin Islands, Joe will draw more votes than Bernie. And to remind readers, Wisconsin plays a unique role in this election: the next President cannot win except that they carry Wisconsin.

As the title of the post suggests, this will be a one-of-a-kind election. Russia is helping; no one may be allowed to vote because of the pandemic and maybe can’t afford to anyway because of the recession.

Nevertheless, remember to vote on Tuesday, November third. Wear a mask.

Ancient Mariner


Of the Moment

It is amazing how fast the economy slows down. The stock market drop is in the news, of course, but it is the retail industries that will take damaging if not fatal blows if the coronavirus spreads into communities. Restaurants, malls, movie houses, bars, big box stores, etc. all will suffer a drop in income as customers begin to curtail public exposure.

Miami public schools are investing in 200,000 tablets so that schools can switch to online classes. Mike Allan, a journalist at Axios, reminds us that children who depend on school meal programs will be vulnerable if schools close.

The virus is the headline story but it has added more burden to the world economic situation. For example, Japan and the European Union each had only one percent growth in 2019. The G20 now has a compounded issue because the virus will interfere with international manufacturing. Television news noted that Apple, maker of the iPhone, already is behind in production because China has shut down factories.

And, on a long term economic issue, as salaries remain flat housing and rental prices continue to climb and many utilities are increasing the price of service by 20-25 percent. There are very few programs that support those who can no longer afford to pay water, electric and fuel bills. Only a handful of local jurisdictions have legislation that prevents utilities from stopping services on delinquent customers.

Mariner takes note that lack of confidence in Donald’s decision-making process was a concern should he start a war. It turns out he is just as incompetent managing a pandemic. Mariner has suggested in past posts that those running for public office must pass a psychological profile exam. Dictators and narcissists need not apply.

For the few among us who have play money, the cash pouring into our ‘democratic’ political system grows astronomically as three billionaires compete for the presidency. Citizens may have noticed that the candidates with more or less normal wealth are being squeezed out of the race. Mariner sees no candidate capable of tackling the immense issues of today’s world. The choice is which one will do the least damage. Unfortunately, no matter who wins it won’t make any difference if last-century republicans still hold the Senate.

At least issues of the moment have given everyone a break from thinking about global warming, artificial intelligence and government corruption.

Cheer up, in mariner’s town this Sunday it will be 65 degrees and sunny. Spring is nigh, folks.

Ancient Mariner


About Fingers

When mariner was a small boy, he had a conversation with his father. Mariner asked him how evolution worked. His father said that evolution was slow and that Nature had a way of always trying to make the body work better. He suggested that, in a zillion years, humans would have only three fingers on each hand because the ring and little finger weren’t used very often. Humans pick up things only with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger. He said that even when we grab something like a jar to open its lid, it’s the middle finger and thumb that do all the work.

Ever since, mariner has watched his fingers work with that thought in mind. It is true that in most circumstances we use only the thumb and two fingers. Of course there are many functions that use the entire hand – typing for example, or making a fist, or holding a wet, wriggly fish. Statistically though, the three fingers get the most action.

Mariner was reminded of this conversation recently when he watched a documentary about the many different cousins humans have in the primate branch of evolution. The Aye-Aye, a small nocturnal creature, has a middle finger that looks like a stick; it is much longer than the other fingers. It is a specialized trick of evolution that gave the Aye-Aye a tool to reach small insects under tree bark.

Mariner is sorry that his father didn’t live long enough to experience smartphones. There’s a good chance in the future that the human hand will merge together the last three fingers into one large pad-like finger. Only the thumb and forefinger will keep knuckles.

Ancient Mariner



Gathering meaningful, real, honest information via Trump television is virtually impossible. A few news outlets, most are on the Internet, go to great lengths to report untainted news and news that is actually important; the only two television news outlets mariner can recommend are NEWSY and BBC, found on cable and Roku among several other sources.

Nevertheless, the world marches on and important trends are at stake in the coming months. Here are just a few:

֎ Roe v. Wade may be nearing the end of its influence. Justice Kennedy has retired and Justice Kavanaugh has replaced him. A significant abortion challenge will be heard by the court in a few weeks (June Medical Services v. Russo). Further, 39 senators and 168 representatives from 38 states are represented by counsel at Americans United for Life, a “life-affirming” law and policy nonprofit. They think the high court should overrule the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade.

֎ Global recession is imminent in 2020. The potential for a recession is the main topic at a forthcoming G20 meeting. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) which is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organizations has cut its global growth forecast from 2.5 to 2.3. Further, MIT says a major downturn could be only six months away. That means it could hit before the U.S. presidential election.

֎ As important as defeating Donald may be, the nation can’t begin repairing itself until the republican Senate is overturned. In the coming election, 22 republican senators must run for reelection. At the moment, the following States have republican US Senate seats open:

Tom Cotton of Arkansas

Cory Gardner of Colorado

David Perdue of Georgia

James Risch of Idaho

Joni Ernst of Iowa

Pat Roberts of Kansas

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky

Bill Cassidy of Louisiana

Susan Collins of Maine

Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi

Steve Daines of Montana

Ben Sasse of Nebraska

Thom Tillis of North Carolina

James Inhofe of Oklahoma

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina

Mike Rounds of South Dakota

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee

John Cornyn of Texas

Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia

Michael Enzi of Wyoming

If the reader lives in a state on this list, that is important news to follow – almost as important as the Presidential election! Check local news outlets, communicate with party representatives.

֎ Another nation in South America joins violent rebellion along with Venezuela, Columbia and Brazil: Chile. Mariner has mentioned concern about losing South America as a grand, joint economic future for North and South America. In fact, economically the two continents could outperform China’s Belt and Road plan. However, Russia has a quasi-permanent toehold in Venezuela and China is an active Free Trade partner with Chile. While South America may not be a domestic headline, its future is linked to the future of the United States. Foreign policy with the Caribbean (even Puerto Rico) and South America has been dismal and self-serving. At the least, the US should be nice to avoid Russian nuclear weapons on the continent. Does the reader remember the Cuban missile crisis during the Kennedy administration? Well, they’re back . . . in Venezuela.

Ancient Mariner



Is the nuclear family an ideal culture?

“If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.” [Excerpt from David Brooks article, The Atlantic Magazine, March 2020]

When mariner worked in Taiwan he noticed that a large number of businesses were run by families. In fact, the government encouraged single tier businesses – the opposite of American mergers and vertical expansion. It was not an issue when a cousin or other relative was accepted into the family business.

The common class in Taiwan at the time did not present to mariner a class that had extra cash. Owning an automobile was exceptional; with very few exceptions, restaurants were simple storefronts with a few tables put on the sidewalk each day; the buildings themselves were minimal, hardly more than a car garage. Major shopping areas crowded under large, open-sided roofs. Mariner once shopped for houseplants from an older couple set up under a larger building’s Sun canopy; their merchandise was very nice specimens that numbered less than two dozen pots.

Having read David Brooks’ article, mariner has a new insight why the culture, the neighborhoods, the businesses appeared almost cash starved. In hindsight, the culture seemed stable, even content; large families were often seen crowding the narrow residential side streets in Tainan, one of Taiwan’s larger cities. The payoff to Taiwan families was that a family business was able to support three generations, often laterally across family branches. Mariner doesn’t remember seeing any nursing homes or retirement homes. The family provided these services.

Interestingly, Taiwan at the time had the seventh largest investment holdings among the world’s nations. These investments, at the root, were the savings of the family businesses. Insurance was too expensive; flamboyant entertainment (for citizens) was too expensive. The happiness of life existed within the large families.

David points to virtually the same cultural picture in the United States in the early 1800s. 75 percent of work was on farms; it took large families to run a small farm efficiently. In both situations, Taiwan and the US in 1800, cash was not a central device for local commerce; it was labor, trade and self-sustained security against life’s surprises.

The history of the US moving forward from 1800 is one of increasing cash as a way to leverage relatively expensive needs in the marketplace. Vertical corporate models easily monopolize cash flow over large segments of life. Large corporations capture more and more control of public life requiring more and more cash to be available for a small family to guarantee functions like schooling, health and retirement. In the US culture, trading for services is virtually unheard of.

Is the nuclear family, locked into a cash for services economy, beneficial?

Ancient Mariner

Nationalism under 5G


Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. With 5G, data transmitted over wireless broadband connections can travel at multigigabit speeds, with potential peak speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second (Gbps) by some estimates. These speeds exceed wireline network speeds and offer latency of 1 millisecond (ms) or lower for uses that require real-time feedback. 5G will also enable a sharp increase in the amount of data transmitted over wireless systems due to more available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology.

– – – –

A big conference will be held in Germany soon. Its primary speakers are the foreign ministers of China, Japan, India and South Korea. There is concern in Europe that the nations of Europe will never have 5G independence. Germany’s cybersecurity chief struck a pessimistic tone at a pre-Munich cyber conference: “If you talk about digital sovereignty, we don’t have it. And we’ll never have it.” There will be presentations by Pelosi, Pompeo and Zuckerberg as well. [Politico]

The idea of sovereignty may undergo significant political transformation if, as feared, whole nations are just uplinks to a few communication systems owned and operated by a few nations like China and the US. National privacy, very much like personal privacy, may not be available. In the old days the spy business used to be a face-to-face transaction but with China manufacturing its technical equipment and the US eavesdropping, no nation will have secrets.

The US already is pushing back on China for a number of manufactured items used in smartphones and cloud-based games. The US asked the European Union not to install Huawei hardware but, said the EU, what else is there? The US is behind China in 5G development.

Nations, just as with a person’s decision making, will be influenced by 5G operators who already know what the target nation is thinking, what its economic conditions are and where its vulnerabilities lie. What will this do to traditional diplomatic relationships? Will a robot wearing suit and tie replace Pompeo?

A current model may provide insight. At the turn of the millennium there were 12 significant stock exchanges around the world. The differences in time zone meant that transactional business for a given stock exchange was local and finished before other stock exchanges opened. Today, that is not the case. An investor can issue trades to any exchange in the world at any time of day. An investor doesn’t have to miss daily opportunities that would be gone had the investor had to wait until the exchange opened for business the next day.

Continuous access has the effect of leveling the monetary value of daily interactions between exchanges. It also reduces the range of highs and lows relative to other exchanges.

Applying these causes and effects to nations using 5G, the positive side may be the prevention of surprises that lead to political or military conflict. The downside may be a new form of authoritarianism – similar to the direction AI is taking with US citizens.

Ancient Mariner

Ways to Improve the Political Campaign

Give Bernie a puppet for his right hand.

Only allow Donald to talk while he’s chewing a cheeseburger.

Insist that Pete wear shorts.

Give Elizabeth a wampum necklace

Insist that Joe insert a black tooth

Give Tom a jacket made of solar cells.

Insist Mike wear a suit with a dollar bill pattern

Give Amy a whip.

Give McConnell a piece of lettuce.

Insist that Nancy wear a bill cap backwards.

Ancient Mariner

Dimes in the Mud

Has the reader ever had the experience while turning the vegetable garden in early spring when muck covers everything and sticks to shovels rendering them useless – and finds a dime in the mud? That’s how mariner perceives moments of progress in the nation’s culture.

֎ For example, after mariner blasted the human species in a couple of posts, news sources started mentioning a few dimes. The Economist cited statistics that said low wage workers, among all classes of workers, had the highest increase in wages in 2018-19. It is a dime found but not so shiny. The reason, says The Economist, is because many states have been increasing the minimum wage. If one’s income rises from $7.25 to $12.50, that’s a 38 percent increase. For higher wage groups, 38 percent would be astronomical; on a chart, then, as a percentage of income, the low wage track rises well above other tracks. It is a blessing for low wage workers to receive a nice boost in their income. The federal government remains at 7.25 percent.

In recent years some economists have begun to offer the idea that having too many poor people limits the growth potential for the nation’s economy. American society hasn’t dropped its belief that if one wants to have income, one must work harder but, on the other hand, if it constrains the income of other classes, let the poor have a few bucks.

Interestingly in the popular press and in the platform of Democratic candidate Andrew Yang, not only should minimum wage rise to $15, in addition every citizen should receive a $1,000 – $2,000 monthly disbursement from the government. Mariner advises readers not to hold their breath. Nevertheless, the idea is afloat.

֎ Another dime found is that the Earth’s output of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) did not increase from 2018 to 2019. The primary benefit came from industrial nations switching from coal to other sources, especially renewable power.

֎ Just as insurance companies were licking their lips by taking advantage of the possibility to collect genetic information with which to limit coverage and increase profit, the United States has a law called Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act – a dime for sure. One hopes that Donald doesn’t know about it.

֎ Here is a shiny dime: The US Federal Trade Commission announced they are requesting information from the data tech giants regarding the thousands of mergers and acquisitions that have occurred. Data tech giants (Google, Microsoft, Apple, communication corporations, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) already dominate the daily life of citizens and are creating virtual control over every citizen’s decisions in life. Most of the acquisitions were to buy niche tech companies before they became competitive – definitely antitrust activity. Along with big banks, big data needs to be divided.

֎ There is another democratic debate on Wednesday. Save your dime.

Ancient Mariner


Health Industry – Especially Pharmaceuticals

Why do Humans Organize? Because, as a species, they are too intelligent. Because, as a species, they are territorial. Because, as a species, they are assaultive. Because, as a species, they are an apex predator. Because, as a species, they are economic cannibals.

Pit bulls are more civil than human beings. Elk in rutting season are more civil than human beings. Bonobos, silverbacks and orangutans are more civil than human beings. Name any other mammal; they are more civil than human beings. Humans, because they are too intelligent, are capable of deliberate, unprovoked evil against their own kind.

Mariner speaks specifically of the health industry.

Among health services, the most cannibalistic are the pharmaceutical corporations. Some facts:

  • Xarelto, also known as Rivaroxaban, is manufactured by Bayer and a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
  • In US Xarelto without insurance, cash only, costs $16 for one pill. In India one pill costs $4. In Canada one pill costs $2.61.
  • Werner Baumann is the CEO of Bayer. His salary last year was $6.6 million.
  • Alex Gorsky is the CEO of Johnson & Johnson. His salary last year was $21.2 million.
  • Mariner’s prescription insurance pays for generic prescriptions; oddly, his deductible is the cost of one month of Xarelto, not a generic drug. An effort was made to explain donut holes but mariner couldn’t understand the irrationality of the phenomenon other than they are expensive.
  • Confronted by the embedded profit in Xarelto, mariner said never mind.

There are more tales to tell that may explain why mariner is sensitive about the cost of pharmaceuticals. Three years ago mariner was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disorder that leads to death in a number of years (Don’t worry, he was misdiagnosed but that’s another tale). His pulmonologist, without advising mariner of the details, issued a prescription to mariner’s pharmacy. On his way home, mariner stopped by the pharmacy to validate the call. His pharmacist advised that it would cost $10,000 each month. Mariner said at once that he would die first rather than pay that money to a CEO that makes more in six months than mariner has made in a lifetime.

Despite his rejection, he received his first month’s dosage and immediately tried to return it but the company said they could not accept return drugs. That box sits in his closet to this very day. Mariner cancelled the prescription a second time and hasn’t paid a penny.

Among the theories of economics, capitalism is the most efficient at cannibalistic behavior. Imagine the reader owns a very powerful vacuum cleaner. It does a fantastic job of sucking in dirt and debris from floors, carpets, curtains and furniture. This vacuum is just like the modern ones: it steers itself and covers the entire floor.

One day the reader turns it on and leaves to go shopping. What the reader didn’t know was that the vacuum is voracious. If there’s no dirt or debris, the vacuum must continue sucking; it must continue to collect stuff. When the reader returns home, there are no curtains, no carpets, even the kitchen garbage can is empty. The reader didn’t know the vacuum was a capitalist vacuum.

The state of economics around the world is like that vacuum. Once targeted natural resources are consumed, capitalism can’t stop consuming. It becomes cannibalistic just like a tadpole turns to eating other tadpoles when normal food is scarce. This characteristic is found worldwide. The street phrase is “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Today, in by far the wealthiest nation in history, the life of poor people has been sucked dry as if eaten by leeches. The poor die sooner, they can’t afford housing, they can’t eat well, they can’t afford children, they can’t afford spouses. They live the life of a dog on a short chain and die after an empty life.

But the oligarchs and wealthy still consume, eating the life out of everyone they can.

The US is the most capitalistic nation in the world but it isn’t alone. Virtually every nation around the world is turning cannibalistic. The resources of new continents, new frontiers, new space – all are gone. Mariner isn’t a trained economist but he knows something is broken and must be replaced.

One last fact: Hourly wages have remained flat for forty years adjusted for inflation; over the same forty years, the stock market has increased at a rate six and a half times inflation. Most of that increase came from denying workers a share to live on.

Ancient Mariner


Where Forth Labor Unions?

Nevada is one state where unions still play a significant role in political negotiations. A number of news outlets have published articles in lieu of the Nevada primary. The point was made that Mike Bloomberg has never publicly backed unions. It is true that as corporations gained political power during the end of the twentieth century, state governments in particular pushed hard to defund union membership, impose right-to-work legislation and otherwise paint bad images of unions.

Unions are no less saintly than politicians and corporate conservatives. All of them are aggressive in defending their perceptions of economic purpose. However, in this age where citizens no longer participate in the profits of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), where salaries linger at a small fraction of what they should be, where corporations are trying to drop benefits of any kind, having a union fight for a fair share for the workers may not be a bad idea. But unions represent only 1 in 10 hourly workers – down from 1 in 3 in 1955. State legislation in most states would have to go through a philosophical, highly opinionated and greatly resisted battle to reverse the disadvantages imposed over four decades.

Mariner wrote a post “About Labor Unions” (August 28 2019) that suggested the familiar union organization that has prevailed since the 1930s may not work in this new age of automation, rapid data learning and the ability for corporations to move operations anywhere in the world.

As corporations have become an economic force across governmental boundaries, it is difficult for unions to sustain equally flexible membership given location and nationality. Even more problematic, governments have difficulty managing corporations. In this campaign season where ‘socialistic’ ideas are being touted, union leaders may consider joining the national noise of the campaign to back a new national strategy for unionism.

Trying to maintain the traditional ‘local’ organization will not be influential enough to tackle market issues that cross national boundaries. In the recent post mariner suggested the ACLU organizational model. Further, mariner feels that a governmental agency (a new version of the Labor Department) could set regulatory policy similar to the Environmental Protection Agency today – Donald’s interference notwithstanding. The new labor department could negotiate treaties similar to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) except with a fair set of rules for workers.

In any case, righting the economic ship is more than just fixing taxes. It is setting new protective rules for workers in an age where moving from job to job may be the new norm and sustaining economic viability in unemployed neighborhoods may have to be part of the agreement language.

Ancient Mariner