A Look from Space

Having Donald in one’s life is like having fleas. Donald is similar to fleas because he is everywhere, in everything, constantly irritating, and a handheld disinfectant is too little too late – that is, erase one flea and two dozen take its place. Consider the content of national news . . .

Also similar to fleas, Donald is a carrier of serious disease. At the moment, a sign of a worldwide contamination is visible. Unfortunately, Donald is like the boy in the plastic bubble, a movie made in the 1970’s about a boy with no immune defenses. Donald’s damaged psyche, racist proclivity and his propensity for immoral behavior are protected from outside criticism by a steel ego and, importantly, by any need for compassion.

Also unfortunate, Donald has become President at a moment when the entire world’s politics, economies, international ethics and order of national prominence all are at a crossroad. Donald, with immense damage to the United States across the board, has pulled the nation out of the world contest and back into an era of nationalism and racism reminiscent of colonialism if not the Civil War itself – in less than 200 days in office.

The effect of Donald for those who want broad perspective on the state of nations and economies is a disabling storm cloud that prevents a view of the horizon. Mariner has commissioned Guru[1] to hire a U2 spy plane to fly at altitudes where fleas cannot survive. What is the state of world humanity vis-á-vis politics and economy? Future posts may dabble . . .

Ancient Mariner

[1] To new viewers, mariner is a composite of three alter egos – Chicken Little, who is frightened by everything; Amos, a permanent critic of everything; and Guru, a futurist and generalist of immensely broad interpretations of everything.

US Isolationism is Suicide for the US – Soon!

A tip from fivethirtyeight’s (Nate Silver) website:

$31.4 million – – Russian trade with North Korea doubled to $31.4 million in the first quarter of 2017. Reuters found eight North Korean fuel ships that left Russia ostensibly in route to China or South Korea only to change their final destination to North Korea. [Reuters]

It appears sanctions against North Korea are an iffy tactic. North Korea can be held together by Russia and China alone plus their dependent satellite countries.

Mariner does not believe China and Russia will allow Kim Jung Un to fire a nuclear weapon (under normal circumstances, both Kim and Donald are capable of the most impulsive and most disastrous decision at any time). Mariner thinks, however, that Russia can manipulate Donald enough to prevent Donald from picking up the red phone and launching nuclear war.

The ulterior motive of North Korea and its allies is to further diminish the prestige of the US around the world, advance their own agenda of trade and political dominance, and make the Korean Peninsula unified under China’s influence. In this regard, Kim is just a pawn – similar to Donald’s relationship to Russia. Any military action between the US and North Korea will be devastating to South Korea. Geographically, South Korea will be destroyed before the US can launch any preventive strike. Nuclear weapons, in the big picture, would not benefit Asian plans to control Asia and the Pacific all the way to Australia. Having posited this view, never say never.

Donald’s empty bully rhetoric and his foolish go it alone isolationism leave the US standing at the gate as other nations and international groups are off to the races to reorder power structure for the new global society, global economics, and global prestige.

Here at home, several polls show the Democratic Party has lost support from several liberal organizations. One would expect that 2018 would be a windfall election for the democrats. Better pundits and journalists believe the cause is the party’s inability to paint a picture of the immediate future that its followers can follow. Bernie almost pulled off a third party run; will a liberal third party arise in 2018?

Ancient Mariner

Let’s Visit Economics

The intense distraction swirling around Donald masks economic reality. Mariner has gathered some insights from expert observers of the economy who pretty much are not swayed by the soap opera involving Donald and Congress, Donald and Russia, Donald’s cabinet secretaries, Donald’s White House staff, Donald’s racism, and Donald’s petty tweets.

To provide some parameters, what is important over the next ten years is growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the dollar value of all US production. Also important is the 19 trillion dollar national debt – especially as it relates to growth in GDP. The third parameter is government income, that is, the tax structure and whether it is fair and sufficient.

Finally, as an indicator, the trade balance between nations is changing. We are accustomed to measuring plus and minus trade balances between each nation. For example, Donald cites trade balances between the US and Mexico or Canada or China. The future will be driven by global economics instead of national economics. This means that trade balances will be relative to global markets and how the trade balance is distributed among nations participating in a given global market. In principle, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between nine nations is an example of how trade agreements will be developed in a world of global markets; one of the key negotiations is how to distribute each nation’s role among other participating nations to assure a viable trade balance for each nation.

So we know the ways to measure US economic health going forward: Establish policies that encourage growth in US production, establish policies that constrain further indebtedness as a ratio to the growth of GDP, restructure taxes to underwrite the costs of future growth, and restructure US trade agreements to accommodate global participation.

What are the issues that interfere with the goals implied above?

The single largest block to improving GDP is the US demographic profile. Like Europe and Canada, the US population is aging rapidly. 60 percent of the workforce will be retired by 2030. Retirees do not contribute to GDP; rather, they become a drain on resources needed to grow GDP. The solution is an aggressive immigration policy. As long as our government pursues a nationalist policy of racial isolationism, we are cutting off our nose to spite our face.

Next in importance is something called monetary policy. Basically, this means we allow the Federal Reserve to control interest rates and the cost to banks for borrowing money. This practice protects the US economy from recessions but it also limits the amount of money available to encourage growth in GDP. If the US is to underwrite an improvement in infrastructure, Congress must set legislation in place to allow private industry to borrow against future growth. The political issue is on whom tax increases will be imposed to create the funds.

Associated with the tax issue is to find a way to increase profit margins in small businesses. The problem now is that large corporate entities want in on this deal. Hence the desire of the GOP to impose massive tax cuts to the most profitable sector of the US. Also associated is a need to close tax loopholes and offshore avoidance of taxes.

Easily addressed in this post, the politics of achieving economic goals is massive. The importance of the 2018 election cannot be overstated. Our antiquated Congress is not prepared for economic success.

Ancient Mariner

Heaven is Taking a Beating

Way back in time, before mariner was a grandfather, he worked for a living. He had an interesting job as a consultant who designed computer system upgrades for large corporations then developed the project parameters for accomplishing that upgrade.

It was a busy job that had a lot to do with stress, timelines and budgets. Consequently, for a number of years in January, mariner would take the family sailing in the Caribbean Sea – specifically up and down the Lesser Antilles. Mariner often has said that the Lesser Antilles is where Heaven touches the Earth.

But storms have taken a devastating toll on the northern group of islands, the Leeward Islands. Most of us know about major islands like the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands but there are many dozens of smaller islands that virtually are uninhabitable at this point. Populations on these small islands always have been fragile and originally consisted of Arawak and Carib Indians who migrated from South America. During the period 1990-2000, there was fascination and joy in sailing to various islands to discover differences in dialect, cuisine, and subtle, unsophisticated economies. The islanders mariner met then were survivors of centuries of brutal colonialism beginning with Columbus and the Spanish invasion in the early 1500’s. Even today, most islands are protectorates of many European nations and the United States.

Sadly, at least to mariner, a new age of colonialism has invaded the Antilles from Puerto Rico to Granada: tourism. Over the past twenty years wealthy folks have purchased whole islands, destroying the cultural uniqueness of those islands. Further and even more damaging to uniqueness, large tourism corporations like cruise ships and spas (one example is Sandals) buy up habitable portions of islands thereby completely wiping out Carib culture.

When mariner sailed the Lesser Antilles, there was a sense of experiencing a natural bond between nature and humanity. Though meager, the islands were balanced in the needs both of humans and the island ecology.

Mariner finds it painful to watch the cruise ship and spa advertisements on television. It is profane. It is an artificial and ecologically expensive reality that humans continually create. It is arrogance and disrespect.

The new rule is, whether technologically or economically, just because you can do it, you must do it.

It’s not mariner’s rule but he’s a grandfather now; He isn’t in the game anymore.

Ancient Mariner

Mariner became a Grandfather today

Her name is Nova. It is a celebration by the family, definitely a high point of the year. Many acts of recognition and admiration will occur this year and many years to come.

Mariner has mixed feelings about the term ‘grandfather.’ In Japan there is a practice wherein old, wise men – elderly judges, politicians, heroes and the like – are recognized, indeed revered for their wisdom and leadership. With great ceremony they are elevated to special stature where their wisdom can be available to the society when needed. Trouble is, no one ever asks them anything. In reality, they are removed from participation in daily life. Perhaps too much wisdom spoils the pot…

The US has a term ‘grandfathered in’ originally used to exempt poor voters from new restrictions on voting during Reconstruction (still occurring). The term is used when something is out of date but because it is difficult to ignore or dismiss, it is included with a newer topic that really is about something else. So it is that mariner has been grandfathered in.

Readers are familiar with the sport equivalent called the Hall of Fame. Very much like the Japanese version, outstanding athletes are given a high court send-off to revered photograph galleries – implying if not actually saying, “You can’t play well anymore but we remember when you could.” No one ever drafts these sport heroes for a current game.

One conjures that in earlier civilizations where an extended family of several generations constituted a tribe or band, the older wiser men were revered and central to the function of the organization. Alas, this is not the case. Note this quote from the Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College:

“… Band leaders generally have temporary political power at best, and they do not have any significant authority relative to other adults. They can give advice and propose action, but they do not have the formal authority to require others to accept their decisions.”

So mariner is a grandfather. He needs to find an acceptable photograph for the family Hall of Fame.

That is as it should be. The most important item is Nova – the new generation, the new hope, the new future participant in human society – Nova, mariner’s new granddaughter.

Mariner advises his son – one day he will be a grandfather.

Ancient Mariner

Mississippi River – An Insight into Harvey and Global Warming

 

A past post spoke of the Mississippi River in natural terms. The River is a vast flood plain worthy of an unrestrained course without canyons, gorges, and other constraints. Typical of many rivers in the Midwest, it is a mud-bottom river that ebbs and flows, expands and contracts, floods and runs low. Its job is to be the drain for excess water from sixteen US States; its main tributaries are great rivers in their own right: The Wisconsin River, Minnesota River, Iowa River, Des Moines River, Illinois River, Missouri/North Platte Rivers, Arkansas River, and Ohio/Tennessee Rivers – among many other secondary tributaries that would add another dozen states to the Mississippi’s flood plain.

If one has the opportunity to visit the River, or better, live near it, one cannot escape an awareness of something that transcends humankind. It is the byproduct of a two million year ice age that ended ten thousand years ago. Even the least interested person readily sees flood plains that reach for miles on both sides. Wildlife depends on the River as much as humans and suffers – if not becomes extinct – when dams, levies, eliminated estuaries and chemicals are forced upon the River. Piling on is the massive abuse by real estate development within the River’s flood plain.

The human violation of a sacrosanct member of the biosphere has a price: the river floods every year, some years more than others. Yet humans are allowed to build homes, factories, roads and estuary-destroying flood walls at great expense to themselves while the River regularly ignores this folly and destroys most of it at great cost to industry, economics, and the private lives of thousands of families. At the delta of the River where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana fights an ongoing war with the River from massive fossil fuel plants to the fact that one cannot bury loved ones in the ground – the caskets have a way of rising to the surface in flood conditions.

– – – –

The Mississippi River is an excellent example of how nature ignores the ambitions of Homo sapiens sapiens. True, the River suffers ignoble abuse but continues with its job of draining flood waters from half of the contiguous United States. The River is an example of how nature will have its way regardless of human disrespect. Now Harvey has visited the coast of Texas. The loss of life, industry, possessions, and survival for years to come is on a scale of 10,000 times the conflict along the Mississippi River.

That hurricanes are an expected imposition on life and human ambition is not the issue; the storms are growing larger and stronger according to NOAA statistics. Several storms have set new records in the past three years. Mariner will not engage in the argument about global warming. Science has proven time and again in overwhelming ways that the Earth is warming. Of importance to humans and many other species, are two factors: the temperature of air and water on the planet is rising – the result is increased energy in weather systems – enough to permanently alter jet streams. Secondly, one of the major causes of warming is excessive carbon, which acidifies oceans and retains heat in the atmosphere. Both factors cause the melting of ice and permafrost in the Polar Regions which will raise ocean levels as much as nine feet in this century at a rate of 1-3 inches per year.

Now one can see the similarities between the Mississippi River and ocean fronts: flooding, irrecoverable cost, and humans, being as belligerent and persistent as they are, losing any battle when the biosphere decides to ignore human hubris. Living along the Mississippi, we have experience dealing with the biosphere. It foretells future life along the coasts of the world’s oceans. A future life that will submerge masses of land similar to Florida and includes the two dozen largest cities near ocean fronts, including New York City, Miami and Los Angeles. One can argue that New Orleans has been flooded for some time.

Will our governments respond properly with regulations and zoning? Will capitalism be set aside to accommodate the enormity of the situation?

Ancient Mariner

 

Populism – a Grist Mill for Change

The United States is not the only nation suffering an interruption caused by populism. Remember Brexit? And Greece, France, Italy, and just about everyone in South America? Don’t forget Ukraine, thrown into civil war by nationalist intentions.

The mariner has been looking into the phenomenon of populism, drawing from several websites on the subject, respected magazines and journals, and a book or two, particularly David Goodheart, a Brit who has received notable accolades for his book, The Road to Somewhere – the populist Revolt and the Future of politics. One may also want to read Ivan Krastev’s Democracy Disrupted: The Global Politics of Protest.

Any reader who has studied history knows that politics, economics and status quo do not want change, e.g., fossil fuel; there is comfort in a well-rooted establishment that provides a modicum of security with some guarantee of regularity. It is inevitable that folks are pushed aside to sustain the status quo. Eventually, enough citizens are dissatisfied with the growing imbalance between the benefactors of the establishment and themselves that what results is an uprising, certainly rowdy and disrespectful in nature. In fact, conflicts have often become wars and on occasion restart the entire culture, noting Denmark’s citizen rebellion that tossed out capitalism and created a socialist state.

Americans are well aware of the populist movement in the United States. Accustomed to a two party political system, a progressive, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, an advocate of change with no political experience, became the leaders of the populist movement. In the wake of the 2016 election which Donald won, the conservative populists have settled into a conservative group generally referred to as ‘the base.’

Nevertheless, many more citizens still with rebellion in their hearts remain a grumbling presence. Signs suggest there will be another storming of the Bastille in 2018.

Populist response to inequities is more common in democratic societies than in authoritative ones although authoritarian societies have more violent rebellions. The United States, known for its ‘experiment’ of self-governance and citizen freedom, has frequent populist uprisings. The first of significant note – aside from the Revolutionary War – was the Boston Tea Party. Every thirty or forty years since, populist uprisings have been the gearbox to keep governance in line. Within the experience of citizens alive today is the suffragette movement, the labor rebellion, the Great Depression, the Viet Nam war resistance, Civil Rights, and, in real time experience, the job rebellion happening today.

Populist uprisings have a singular purpose: disrupt the establishment. There is no other purpose. The present and future be damned; they are of no consequence. Logic and reason are irrelevant; populism is a battle between emotions and authority. Within a family, populism is a teenager’s rebellion against parental authority. Despite the belligerence, the crassness, the destructiveness, populism is good. It is good because it makes the establishment listen. Petty accommodation, persuasion and doubletalk will not suffice. New definitions of the social order must emerge.

The establishment will defend itself – especially in matters of money and elitism. This may go on for years; the common classes still are rebelling against monetary policies put in place in the 1980’s. Only now have a significant number of citizens felt enough is enough. Sharing wealth, having job security, feeling opportunity, and a sense of a better life ahead are disappearing at an alarming rate – all to sustain the establishment to the exclusion of the greater citizenry. The 2016 election was one of many breaking points; there are many more to come that will, sooner or later, tackle social issues, the definition of citizen rights and a settlement of economic policy in manners of governance; for example, the cost and process of campaigns and elections, minimum wage and redefinition of the term ‘job.’

Back to the populist phenomenon, it evolves from the liberal side of voters. Over decades the working class was the heart of the Democratic Party in the United States and of the Labour Party in Great Britain. In both countries, liberal party workers slowly evolved into successful groups still loyal to the liberal side but slowly became a minority to fellow party members who stayed at lower class labor jobs. It is this lower class of liberals that abandons the ‘elitist’ membership and in the midst of foment becomes populist. An example of this abandonment clearly was present in Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President; Hillary represented the Establishment – the enemy – to the disdain of her own party. The majority, still left of center, flocked to a fellow revolutionary, Bernie Sanders, and left the Democratic Party quite diminished. In a populist mood, many voted for the Republican anti-establishment candidate rather than support their party – the beginning of ‘the base.’

The conservative government clings to the awkward election of Donald Trump. He is their windbreak from populists but his inadequacies are weakening his hold and may serve to lay exposed the wealth-centric philosophy of the Republican Party as the 2018 election approaches.

In Great Britain, populist surge led to a defeat of British participation in the European Union. This is a glaring, visible setback to the strength of Great Britain as a nation. The same disaffection occurred in the US and similarly has damaged the status and leadership of the nation. It is not as visible as the cleaving of Britain from the EU but the US has lost leverage in several international arenas of immediate importance.

This time around, however, populism has become international. Virtually every democratic country around the world is suffering from the same dilemma: struggling economic systems that facilitate the centralization of wealth in a few at the cost of supporting the common citizen.

Donald Trump recognized, in a simple way, that trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and TPP had something to do with job distribution but failed in recognizing that trade agreements are the vehicles through which populism may have a voice in international change and further, trade agreements are the conveyance that will define the global future, whatever it may be.

The future cannot change too much from what populism provokes today. The chasm between have and have not, skilled and unskilled, opportunity and oppressed, will remain and likely increase. Populism can only interfere; it cannot dictate. Especially in an international marketplace, populism will be fragmented. The best populism can do is draw our attention to the misbehavior of power. It is only the gristmill, not the wheat.

Ancient Mariner

Donald has been Busy

Today’s post is a copy of the Washington Post article about what Donald has undone. The press has under-reported this activity which is as damaging as the absence of legislative progress. It is recommended that the reader not skip through the list; each one has seriously damaging intent and reeks of special interests that intentionally expose risk to US citizens.

—-

President Trump has repeatedly argued that he’s done more than any other recent president. That’s not true, as measured by the amount of legislation he’s been able to sign. It is true, though, that Trump has undone a lot of things that were put into place by his predecessors, including President Barack Obama.

Since Jan. 20, Trump’s administration has enthusiastically and systematically undone or uprooted rules, policies and tools that predated his time in office. Below, a list of those changes, roughly organized by subject area.

The economy

Withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The trade deal would have established a trade partnership between the United States and countries on the Pacific Rim.

Revoked a rule that expanded the number of people who could earn overtime pay.

Reversal of a rule that would mandate that oil and gas companies report payments to foreign governments. The Securities and Exchange Commission will no longer receive this information.

Ended limits on the ability of states to drug test those seeking unemployment benefits.

Revoked an executive order that mandated compliance by contractors with laws protecting women in the workplace. Prior to the 2014 order, a report found that companies with federal contracts worth millions of dollars had scores of violations of labor and civil rights laws.

Repeal of a rule allowing states to create retirement savings plans for private-sector workers.

Cancelled a rule mandating that financial advisers act in the best interests of their clients.

Repeal of a bill that mandated that employers maintain records of workplace injuries.

Killed a rule mandating that government contractors disclose past violations of labor law.

The justice system

Rescinded an Obama effort to reduce mandatory sentences. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered that prosecutors seek the most stringent penalties possible in criminal cases.

Cancelled a phase-out of the use of private prisons.

Reversed a ban on civil forfeiture. Law enforcement officials are now once again able to seize assets from suspects who haven’t been convicted of any crime.

—-

When will he be gone?

Ancient Mariner

The Times They are a-changin

The mariner’s wife was listening to an old CD today. The CD had a number of old favorites including Bob Dylan’s The Times They are a-changin’ published in 1964 in the midst of the civil rights rebellion and the era of folk music. The lyrics are eerily prophetic for our ‘times’ today:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

For a video-recorded rendition by Bob Dylan, see:

http://www.metrolyrics.com/times-they-are-a-changing-lyrics-bob-dylan.html

Ancient Mariner

Uncle Sam needs YOU

Here is some encouraging news: in the 2018 elections, 209 democrats are registered to run for the House of Representatives. This is quite a phenomenon. See past elections in the following chart provided by the Campaign Finance Institute:
Democrats Republicans
2004 22 – 29
2006 48 – 24
2008 57 – 49
2010 40 – 78
2012 42 – 40
2014 45 – 52
2016 44 – 28
2018 209 – 28
The desire to rid our governments of fleas (earlier post) has taken hold. This is a welcome army for reconstruction of failed governments – especially the failed Federal Government. But the party is short on Generals – especially Generals who will articulate the goals, who can instill unity, who can arm the campaigners with the words and common cause that at the moment are missing weapons.
The republicans know they are in a fight in the 2018 elections. However, it is not a level playing field. Gerrymandering alone will defeat democratic campaigns; as will the money, indeed the wealth in many republican coffers. Those of us who consider ourselves unattached to electoral activity must now help our enlisted activists and campaigners. Mariner is reminded of the many efforts by common citizens who supported WWII by collecting string, metal, and gave up many food items in the household; even gasoline was available to civilians only in limited amounts. But American spirit was high – it was the least they could do and do willingly.
Can we raise our spirits to help the political troops? Enthusiasm is contagious. Since Kennedy, there has not been a natural democratic advantage of this magnitude. Perhaps it is the eclipse…
The least we can do is nag fleas with letters and telephone calls. Let them know what legislation is not allowable and what they are bound to do to serve their constituency first – even before their lobbyist managers. Remember the Civilian Defense Corps? It is your time to do what you can do and do it willingly.
Ancient Mariner