The Facts, Ma’am

Mariner would like to contribute to the effort to defeat Covid-19. There are three valuable, fact driven sources for information on the virus: for fiscal procedures, enforcement policies and other actions taken by governments. for medical and descriptive information. for factual information on statistics and newsworthy activity. On DISH, see channel 283 or on ROKU, see NEWSY. Of specific importance are the factual presentations of New York Governor Cuomo, usually in late morning hours.

Also as a contribution to the effort against Covid-19, DO NOT ACCEPT INFORMATION OFFERED BY DONALD TRUMP’S PRESS BRIEFING! Largely, it is defensive crybaby arguments, campaign snippets, and undependable ‘facts’ that may be offered one day and retracted the next. The overall effect of this source is agitation, a tone that separates the public rather than unifying it, and a blatant cry for approval of Donald.

By the way, mariner’s Non Sequitur desk calendar is a fine source of wisdom:

Ancient Mariner


Being a viable shut-in is a skill. Mariner has counted his toes, his nose, his hose and his clothes. He would count the blades of grass but they have six inches of snow on them. Mariner even has cleaned his study, discovering long lost papers, photographs and memorabilia from childhood.

Sad to say, television is inadequate as a source of entertainment. Mariner is certain DISH is charging too much for reruns, reruns of reruns, product shows and B-grade new stuff when something new occurs. Donald is not allowed on Mariner’s TV. He has turned to Netflix, primarily watching hobby shows and game shows – which have run their course. One must exclude PBS from the rest; shows like Nova and Frontline often have excellent content.

Being shut in without even one arcane sports event should be the subject of a lawsuit. There is one Spanish language station that shows soccer twenty-four hours a day. ¡Ay caramba! It is a form of torture after ten hours.

The world experience today is in such disarray that mariner finds himself being redundant in his subject matter and often deriding his mortal enemy, the electorate. He grows tired of spitting into an indifferent ocean. This circumstance, along with same-ol same-ol news leaves little to say.

Mariner, in a problem solving session with his alter egos, has decided to write a book as a curative to being pissed off at the world. He still will write posts that may be a bit more prospective and hopefully insightful. When one writes a book, one is always right.

It doesn’t matter if it’s never finished or ever published. It’s a better pastime than counting toes.

Ancient Mariner


Alas, Poor Uncle Sam


. . . I knew him, Horacio — a fellow of infinite jest… Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs?

– – – –

Mariner has become frayed and disillusioned wandering the foxholes and ditches of daily politics, economics and social conflict. It reminds him of those old news videos of doughboys running in the trenches of World War I. Mariner searches desperately for reason, cohesiveness and purpose.

Alas, the trenches of Somme are the nation’s reality. Cash replaces tear gas; international trade replaces cannon fodder; political dialogue replaces machine guns; technology replaces bombs and strafing. And now an accelerant, Covid-19, has introduced the urgency of a raging forest fire.

Not only is shelter-in-place an urgent pragmatism, it is a metaphor for our times; it is our trench.

Meanwhile, out on the battlefield, Covid-19 has expedited cultural change. It has made space for artificial intelligence to rush in and set new standards. It has disrupted political change from an incompetent form of democracy to one that relates to the battlefield. It has destroyed the nation’s economy.

More than a million soldiers were killed or wounded on the fields of Somme representing seven nations. It was brutally personal. Currently in the United States 23,000 citizens have died and the plague is still progressing. It is brutally personal.

Subtly, a new force has joined the war: global warming. As today’s global war of change fights its way into the future, as small steps of stability are put in place, global warming will attack across all fronts – politics, economics and society. Global warming will introduce a new dimension of destruction just as the atomic bomb did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the United States today, political smoke fills the air, explosions erupt in the halls of government and reason dies under attack from greed, prejudice and moral decline. Yet, no different than the Battle of Somme, this time of great, historical change must continue to be fought. It is not nation against nation so much as it is faction against faction. It is the wealthy against the poor, the average, the good of all; it is the plutocracy of government fatally infected with cash and privilege; it is corporate America flushed with opportunity to monopolize society; it is data technology that will erase the idiosyncrasy of each citizen while all around this war the biosphere dies more rapidly every day.

Will reason, cohesiveness and purpose ever again exist? Will humanity survive? Is all this commotion part of the Sixth Extinction?

Ancient Mariner


Business and cultural survival

Mariner has highlighted a broad concern about the virus spinoff of big data corporations to use their endless clouds of tracking, identifying and profiling individuals to diminish privacy and security. Willingly, as ‘good fellows,’ they have offered their immense, person-identified databases to government agencies to help track the virus. Many editors and journalists have said, in so many words, ‘we will never get this snake back in the bag.’

This same phenomenon applies to the economy. Private equity firms, corporations, banks and investment firms will benefit from government handouts because the emergency legislation has profit loopholes in its wording. The Economist Magazine made this issue their lead story in this week’s addition. Mariner quotes the relevant section below:

“Don’t go from crisis to stasis

The last long-term shift is less certain and more unwelcome: a further rise in corporate concentration and cronyism, as government cash floods the private sector and big firms grow even more dominant. Already, two-thirds of American industries have become more concentrated since the 1990s, sapping the economy’s vitality. Now some powerful bosses are heralding a new era of co-operation between politicians and big businesses—especially those on the ever-expanding list of firms that are considered “strategic”. Voters, consumers and investors should fight this idea since it will mean more graft, less competition and slower economic growth. Like all crises the covid-19 calamity will pass and in time a fresh wave of business energy will be unleashed. Far better if this is not muffled by permanently supersized government and a new oligarchy of well-connected firms.”

Referencing mariner’s last post, corporatism is a form of authoritarianism.

Ancient Mariner

Welcome to the underbelly

Speaking quite generally but based on intrinsic differences, a direction of cash flow can be determined for each economic philosophy. In times of duress, for example Covid-19, the Great Depression and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the direction of cash flow is clearly visible.

Capitalism. The cash flow is always upward toward the core wealth of the economy. If suddenly cash flow ceases, it will not deter the upward flow – it simply will slow down. The end result is those at the bottom have little if any cash because what’s left of the flow is always toward the core wealth of the economy. In other words, if a citizen has no means to generate cash, that person is dispensable; nothing is owed to them.

Socialism. The cash flow is circular. The core wealth of the economy is always in flux. The end result is that no one can truly tilt the flow toward them so they can be unendingly wealthy. On the other hand, the extraordinary political power that can emerge from the inordinately wealthy is not available in a socialist economy. As well, no citizen is limited in his worth because he does not contribute to the flow of cash.

Communism. The cash flow is similar to the ocean tide. It moves in and out according to the overall moment in history. Ebb and flow is not a good way to run an economy; it is difficult to generate economic flow to purposefully produce economic leverage. Everyone suffers the moment together – good or bad. A common repair is to move toward authoritarianism. Note China in the last century.

Authoritarianism. This includes any form of dictatorship, monarchy or its clubby version, plutocracy of which corporatism is a subset. Cash flow is not toward the core wealth as it is in capitalism; it is an extraction of wealth from the economy altogether. Eventually, there is not enough cash flow across the economy as a whole and national bankruptcy ensues. Note the state of oil-rich Venezuela.

The way to test which direction cash flows is to introduce a great calamity, for example, a worldwide pandemic. In the US, public sources of cash flow have stopped. No rent, no restaurant, no transportation, no mortgage, no factories, etc. The reader should note that the relative impact between holders of labor income and those holding the core wealth is not a similar experience. Hence, cash flow moves upward. The US must be a capitalist nation.

Ancient Mariner


To be honest

Mariner is depressed. He is on the verge of tears. He is angry. He is distraught. He casts out those who hold in trust the governments of this and many other nations.

He no longer can listen to political discourse that denies the existence of humanism and compassion. He can no longer tolerate the role of wealth and station as it rapidly rots society. He can no longer abide the greed of corporatism and plutocracy.

Mariner casts out all political parties. He casts out social class prejudices.

Mariner abhors the role of dollars as the foundation and measure of common good.

Mariner believes big data is criminal to the core, sucking human diversity out of every person without constraint, ethic or recompense.

Mariner stands with those who believe the planet already has been irreversibly compromised by the human species.

Mariner believes in unbiased goodness. He believes in caring, sharing and compassion for all living things, for all that exists.

There is not even a trace of these beliefs today.

Ancient Mariner


Gnats from the Gnews

֎ Who needs China? The US has Google:

Google used the location data it collects from Android phones to build global indices of how much people have stopped moving around, for every country and major city.

֎ A study identified 12,706 Android apps that “contained a variety of backdoors such as secret access keys, master passwords, and secret commands.” They could allow developers, hackers and others access to user accounts.

֎ Business executives and small business owners fear a destructive collapse of the economy if shutdowns extend past May. Executives want a plan in place in April regardless of virus status.

֎ The battle is on in Wisconsin. The democratic Governor wanted to extend the primaries and introduced a plan to vote by mail in November. The republican legislature quickly shot down those suggestions. Wisconsin would have had its primaries this Tuesday but the Governor overrode the rejection. The action will go to the courts. Remember that Wisconsin is an exceptionally important state for Donald. Statistics say he must win Wisconsin to win reelection.

֎ Mariner’s family has been using the following website to track the virus state by state. Check it out:

֎ Although no one is asking, Joe is ahead of Bernie in national polls 51.6 to 32.

֎ According to Nate Silver at 538, Donald’s approval rating stands at 50.5 disapproval to 45.2 approval. If Donald knows anything, he knows how important exposure on television is – hence his unnecessary and undependable appearance at the virus briefings. It’s the only opportunity he has; the virus is the only news game in town.

Ancient Mariner


A nation divided . . .

A bill has been introduced in Congress to make Chicago the 51st state. Illinois is one of many states where one or more very large cities, like Chicago, dominate state politics. Mariner lives near the Illinois line and he knows downstate Illinois is no Chicago! It is classic conservative versus liberal, rural versus urban, agriculture versus manufacturing, republican versus democrat. The situation in Illinois is how Donald can brag he won Illinois because he won 90 counties out of 102. Donald does not mention that he lost Illinois to Hillary 5 to 3 in the popular vote.

By party affiliation Illinois is the third most democratic state in the Union behind New York and California. Converting the state from counties to districts which directly affects representation to the Electoral College, there are 18 congressional districts plus two at large for a total of 20. As it turned out, Hillary took all 20 because Illinois is one of those states that require all Electoral College representatives to represent the popular vote. However, seven of those districts were won by Donald. Many states do not follow Illinois’ interpretation and allow each district to represent its own vote. This is how Donald won the Electoral College in 2016.

So much for statistics. The real issue is a split society. These circumstances remind mariner of Ancient Greece during the era of city-states; it reminds him of the south versus the north in 1860; it reminds him of the generational dichotomy during the 1960’s. Now, it is conflict between thinly populated, monolithic agricultural regions versus crowded, high tech, internet-linked, culturally diverse cities.

The latest news demonstrates the defensiveness between rural and city in that nine states refuse to participate in Covid-19 recommendations. Defiance in either culture is a dangerous sign.

The US, among many nations around the world, is confronted by the Big Four: Economy, Global Warming, Artificial Intelligence and Role of Government. But now for the US, there is a fifth: cultural bifurcation.

This situation literally forces the Republic’s governments and its citizens to take control of dysfunctional relationships between the cultures. Specifically, the relationships in disarray are:

Taxes, Senate representation of population, gerrymandering, term limits, Electoral College and plutocracy (money runs the government).

Coronavirus certainly picked a terrible time to join the battle.

Ancient Mariner

The Great Tool of Survival in Crisis: Displacement of Self

Oh-oh – mariner feels a sermon coming on. He’ll keep it short.

All the western religions except for a few voodoo and cult variations have a common core of belief. It is to love whatever is real, however it is defined, and to love other humans first before self. Love is at the core; one must interpret many extrapolations in religious literature only in strict contrast to love – not in terms of one’s preferences, biases or self-reasoned values.

Mariner will reference only one scripture: Matthew 19:16 ff.

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Mariner uses this particular scripture because it pits engrained capitalism in its greedy context against salvation. Of all nations, the United States lives by capitalistic principles – religious and otherwise. And rich means everyone; one is always better off than someone else.

Salvation means displacing self in favor of others. This is the hardest, most awkward, most irritating rule for religious followers. “Isn’t it enough that I have sympathy?” “Isn’t it enough that I give money?” “Isn’t it enough that I’m not a racist?” “Isn’t it enough that I keep a job when others don’t?”

Did the reader notice the subject, “I”? That is the flaw. There is no “I”. There is only “them” and “they”.

When there are hard times religion’s core principle of love becomes an important factor at the center of society. Continuing to promote self first will make the hard times worse. Hoarding, price gouging, buying and selling stock and property for gain only for selfish reasons not helpful to the greater good, taking opportunity away from others, leaving hardship at the foot of others, all fit the ethics of greed. Society will pay a harder price for these tactics. It may be in these times of pandemic that fatalities may be part of that price. It may be that the entire economy will collapse. It may be the United States may survive only as a second class nation among nations.

It is time to displace one’s self interest and ask, “What do they need?” Do they need money and resources?” “Do they need comfort and healing?” “How can they be helped?” and the hardest, “Do they need me?”

Ancient Mariner



At the kitchen table

Remember the old days, the really old days when the Sunday paper was a heavy, three-inch edition with pages and pages of funnies, all the news to be had and life sections that were novella length? Mariner’s family would sit around the kitchen table and spend hours consuming the Sunday edition. Well, that tradition hasn’t disappeared in mariner’s family but the Sunday edition is gone.

The 3-inch tome has been replaced by social media, by emails from news agencies, by magazines, by online websites for comics, recipes, by electronic versions of Dear Abby and the latest Hollywood gossip. Mariner’s kitchen table is littered with computers, print-outs and magazines.

The biggest difference is the introduction of fake news and irresponsible commentary. Now, anyone with Internet access can be a publisher without the discipline to affirm facts and to represent society’s perspective.

This memory of olden days was raised by a 3-inch stack of news from today’s multitude of sources.

֎ We can’t let coronavirus make us accept a surveillance state, Amnesty International’s Rasha Abdul Rahim cautioned:

“Technology can play an important role in the global effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic; however, this does not give governments carte blanche to expand digital surveillance. The recent past has shown governments are reluctant to relinquish temporary surveillance powers. We must not sleepwalk into a permanently expanded surveillance state now.”

Also, from The New Statesman:

Even so, Xi Jinping’s regime looks to have benefited from the pandemic. The virus has provided a rationale for expanding the surveillance state and introducing even stronger political control. Instead of wasting the crisis, Xi is using it to expand the country’s influence. China is inserting itself in place of the EU by assisting distressed national governments, such as Italy. Many of the masks and testing kits it has supplied have proved to be faulty, but the fact seems not to have dented Beijing’s propaganda campaign.

֎ New data provided to Axios spells out just how outsized a role immigrants play in the high- and low-skilled ends of the economy to keep Americans alive and fed during the coronavirus crisis, Axios’ Stef Kight writes.

Immigrants make up an estimated 17% of the overall U.S. workforce. But an analysis by New American Economy shows they’re more than one in four doctors, nearly half of the nation’s taxi drivers and chauffeurs and a clear majority of farm workers.

Reporting to work in hospitals, restaurant kitchens, cabs or the fields — for jobs deemed “essential” by the government — many documented and undocumented workers are putting themselves at higher risk of COVID-19.

֎ From Politico’s Huddle, one of mariner’s arguments for aged-based term limits:

Congress’ struggle to get tech savvy has frustrated some members. “Leadership from both parties has been very resistant to the use of technology,” said freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.). “We have to do better than this.” And other lawmakers have been annoyed by the challenges of going digital. After technical difficulties on a GOP conference call with reporters yesterday, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) sarcastically chimed in: “Love conference calls. Let’s do more of them.” [The dispatch from Heather, Sarah and your Huddle host.]

֎ And back to the New Statesman:

Unlike the British program, Trump’s $2trn stimulus plan is mostly another corporate bailout. Yet if polls are to be believed increasing numbers of Americans approve of his handling of the epidemic. What if Trump emerges from this catastrophe with the support of an American majority?

Whether or not he retains his hold on power, the US’s position in the world has changed irreversibly. What is fast unravelling is not only the hyperglobalization of recent decades but the global order set in place at the end of the Second World War. Puncturing an imaginary equilibrium, the virus has hastened a process of disintegration that has been under way for many years.

֎ As to the comics section, mariner offers a note from Non Sequitur:

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

Ancient Mariner