Pick a Degree

One thing about which every one of every political persuasion can agree is that the United States of America is dysfunctional. Even more critical is the slow but obvious move toward authoritarianism. Today, Sessions introduced procedures whereby the press can be sued – no longer a free press. Whether a Donald Drumpf follower, or Bernie the revolutionary, or Mitch the turtle, or Paul the vampire, or Jeff the leprechaun, or out in the oceans saving whales, one can agree that the US culture, its governments, and its economy are similar to a herd of horses that have escaped from a corral – running willy-nilly and snorting gleefully at their independence from accountability.

Mariner has written numerous times about the plight of our ethics, economics, and the tsunami future we face no matter what one believes. He will not iterate these circumstances here. If the reader wants detail, feel free to roam the library in the sections at the top of the screen.

The topic today is to explore to what degree you can, or are willing to, bring the horses back to the corral.

Mariner is reminded (from another time) of the chore of shining his shoes. It was not something he enjoyed. Shining shoes had nothing to do with the day’s reality. Shining shoes was tedious; it was messy and never failed to get shoe polish on his dress pants and shirt sleeves if he made the mistake of dressing first. Fortunately, general dress codes have shifted away from sharp looking leather. Make note, however, he still shines the few pairs he has when a shine is needed. He is blessed that he doesn’t wear them very often.

Do you have a chore you don’t like? Perhaps it’s a bothersome detail like balancing checkbooks or washing the dog; maybe finally raking the leaves out from the garage. There are more such meaningless chores – as many as can be imagined.

Well, imagine one more: cleaning out and fixing your nation. Not something one thinks about on a daily basis but wow does it have a lot to do with reality. The chore of cleaning out and fixing the government can be done with varying degrees of participation.

Before we start defining degrees of participation, let’s consider an overarching strategy: Bring ‘nice’ back. And ‘fair’. In other words, rebuild the center – both in legislation and with elected officials. Fixing the government will require cleaning out bad influences that over time destroy our centrist democracy: gerrymandering – a terrible malpractice. Redistricting committees should be made up of common citizens like a jury in a trial. Money – it has been analyzed many times and it always is the same: Congressmen and other Federal and State elected folks spend five hours a day soliciting lobbyists for donations so the officials can run in the next election. There are two things wrong with this: (1) lobbyists own our legislators; our laws have overwhelming phrases, words, regulations, etc. that make corporate interests happy – to our disadvantage. (2) Maybe if the elected officials could spend that five hours working in committees, something may get done! Further on the money issue, the communications industry makes a killing during elections. Sure it’s a business working to optimize profit but ads are the other side of why so much money is needed to run. What if contributions could come only from the district in question?

Finally, the Federal Election Commission needs some teeth so they can restrict folks like the Koch brothers from deliberately swamping a local election with endless money. This is a practice of the political parties as well.

Then there’s the whole blocking freedom to vote issue. Those who practice eliminating votes are prejudiced by race, class and power.

So that’s the strategy – eliminate practices that are bad for centrist democracy. Further, elect candidates that are nice and seem fair and intelligent. If a campaigner spends too much time talking about one-sided, special interest issues, be wary.

— Degrees of Participation.

Personal opinion – Not every person is an extrovert or has intense opinions. This degree asks only that you telephone your appropriate representative and express your personal opinion whenever you learn of a public issue about which you have a preference. This is not a bad experience; officials and their staff are always nice – after all, you are a vote. A good example is the mariner’s town: loose dogs were a nuisance. Townspeople called their town council members. This provoked a planned approach for dog ordinances.

Citizen Representative – You may feel that a group has more influence than one person. Besides calling your representative, you regularly attend meetings of local issue groups or a political party. Further, you may have a cause like clean water or a common cause group that expresses your views. Donate a stipend – even a dollar or two helps. Become active during election season; campaign for a candidate, vote in primaries and again, if you can, contribute a stipend.

Citizen advocate – besides calling your representative and becoming active during the election season, participate in ad hoc groups advocating a common cause. Visit elected official offices in Washington, DC, perform sit-ins, and attend rallies.

These are varying degrees of engaging in the task of fixing our democracy. The situation is so dire as to take the nation down dark roads if we don’t fix it now. Remember: rebuild the center.

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

Generalisms

Mariner has been writing often about myths. Myths are a legitimate, indeed critical part of religious understanding; without myths, the indescribable spirituality we draw from our faith would not be possible. From the same box of tools for explanation is the generalism.

Everyone uses generalisms every day. We use generalisms to express opinion without having to give a lecture and in the context that offering the generalism does not mean it is absolute. A simple and innocuous example is:

Larry says, “Hello, Tom. I plan to have a Thanksgiving dinner this year. What do I need?” One knows instinctively that Larry does not want a half-dozen recipes dictated or directions to the library or a show and tell about Tom’s last four Thanksgiving dinners. Tom uses a general statement to offer Larry an opinion: “Oh, maybe the common items are a turkey, potatoes and gravy, some vegetables and desert, like a pumpkin pie.” A generalism is an excellent means for expressing a large, unofficial collection of information. It should be noted that a generalism is not an idea; it is an assimilation.

Like myths, while absolutely critical to insightful communication, generalisms can be abused:

One can adopt a literal value for a general statement. This is called prejudice. Good or bad in intention, a generalism is not a specific, formulated entity; making a general statement innately means there are many exceptions and diverse perspectives included – one cannot legislate by means of generalism. It is this error that confronts Donald at every turn. Further, one cannot live a healthy and insightful life trying to act according to a set of prejudices.

One cannot infer a further generalism from an existing generalism. That is the same as executing a split-middle in a syllogism: All cats are four-legged animals; all horses have four legs; therefore all horses are four-legged animals. The derived generalism: all animals have four legs; ducks are animals; therefore ducks have four legs.

However, it is this abuse, building a generalism referencing another generalism that is the foundation of racial prejudice in the US: Whites are successful; blacks are less successful; therefore blacks are not the same as whites. The derived generalism: Successful whites are ambitious; blacks are not as successful; therefore blacks are not as ambitious. One can imagine the multiplicity of prejudice by those who believe generalisms to be literally true.

Broadcast news has drifted from investigative reporting to information of viewer interest, that is, generalisms and placating viewers. This weakness has allowed Donald, among many other misrepresented issues, capable of running an entire campaign and Presidency leveraging generalisms. Donald’s flamboyant pontifications were the news – invalidated by facts. News organizations have lost credibility as a consequence; individuals and legislation hurtful to our culture succeed without scrutiny or public awareness. Generalisms are not always the proper form of communication for the task at hand.

Three cheers and a gold plaque for NBC White House press reporter Peter Alexander when he corrected Donald’s claim to have the Electoral College’s highest win votes in history since Ronald. Peter had done his investigative homework and called out Donald on his blatantly touted falsehood; Donald wasn’t even fourth. Asked how the public could have faith in him if he lies, Donald said someone else gave him the information. Except for Peter, would the public have accepted the generalism not knowing the facts that make the generalism false and self-serving?

Generalisms are not facts, they are presumptions.

Yet, because the public prefers not to spend time postulating and judging facts, generalisms are more entertaining therefore draw a larger viewer share. As the official prevaricator of information, broadcast news owes the public more than entertaining generalisms. A condition lasting several generations, the public will require therapy to restore the requirement for facts.

[The first news center was converted from a public service to a profit center in 1977 (20/20). By the late 80’s all news was competing for profit rather than better news based on facts.]

The public has become lax about being correctly informed – paradoxically, during an era when more facts are free, more information is quickly accessible and more available than ever. If the news won’t investigate, the viewer is vulnerable unless the viewer decomposes news generalisms into the ‘facts’ that may or may not support them.

Ancient Mariner

 

Do we at least still love our mothers?

In one way or another, the past three posts deal with H. sapiens’ relationship with the physical world. Other post series deal with H. sapiens’ treatment of fellow humans and some deal with how H. sapiens has allowed the machine ethic to take over theology, government, economic priority over life, and morality.

Just to highlight each subject:

Humans have started the sixth major extinction of life in the history of the planet.

Humans have destroyed the orderliness of the planet’s biosphere to the point humans will join other creatures in unnecessarily becoming extinct with them.

Humans have chemically altered the chemistry of the planet sufficiently to receive their own geologic epoch – the Anthropocene Epoch; Geologic epochs usually last two or three million years but humans ended the Holocene Epoch after just 11,500 years.

Economics continually grows more abusive to the planet population as international scope and computerization focus on an intense gathering of wealth for the few and in addition, without conscience increase the hardship on the quality of life for the rest.

Similarly, governments support corporate interests and refuse to openly and fairly care for all their citizens equally.

The measure of human worth and virtue is measured in dollars.

In sociology, a machine is any entity that is used to more easily achieve a goal. Machines can be a hammer, sunglasses, nuclear weapons, governments, organizations and prejudices. Humans have replaced religion with machines. Life according to a higher plane of existence and transcendent ethos is disappearing very rapidly. Today, it’s the machines that dictate morality.

Mariner believes this is overwhelming evidence that religion has been obliterated in the West; the East is catching up quickly. People today have lost faith in themselves which is what religion is all about. People chase the machines. It is a plastic world with no ethos, no reward for life, and no intrinsic value for achievement.

Consequently, the mariner will offer a generic religion starter kit for those who feel the absence of spiritual happiness.

 

RELIGION STARTER KIT

First, you need a god. How you envision god is very, very important. Many of you are aware that several practicing religions forbid any image of god – not even writing a name for god. There are two reasons for this: first, god has no shape; god is not a thing. God is a state of perfect being. Second, you can’t worship images, not even presumptions of images. The Jews call this Baal worship. The Christian Bible cites god in several places saying “you will have no other gods before me.” That includes pictures and words of god; they truly don’t look like god at all[1]. God is a singularity. This will have meaning in a moment.

Many religions have the same creation story where god creates a perfect world in a special location. God puts a male and most often a female at the location and they do something they aren’t supposed to do. This creation story is very important to the manner in which we utilize god in our lives. The story establishes something called ‘duality.’

Duality is a condition of existence. Everything – everything – has two or more sides or values. Examples: start and stop; top and bottom; light and dark; far and near; man and woman; good and evil, and so on. Do not try to find an exception. There is only one exception: god. In perfection, god cannot have more than one state of being. God by definition is a singularity.

Duality is our opportunity to sense more than one value for something. To move through life, we are constantly bombarded with things which require us to judge the correct value. In the area of religion, this judgment is about good or evil values; whether something is right or wrong in merit. There is an affinity between singularity and good judgments; there is a rejection of singularity when judgments are bad.

Now you must add an item to the starter kit: faith that a state of perfect being exists. You should seek feelings of perfection and what that does to your feelings of self. A hint about what perfection feels like is a transcendent sensation that lifts you above duality and is very, very peaceful. It isn’t so important that you imagine some literal moment; remember god isn’t a thing; god is a state of perfection. Further, your human desires likely do not reflect perfection – you exist in a dualistic reality. Speaking anthropomorphically, god draws you to be like god – to exist in a state of singularity. But first you need a god.

In the starter kit is a set of measuring devices which you use to measure the amount of perfection in an event, thought or motive in your life. These measuring tools are sort of like handy decision aids like a pregnancy stick or a ruler to measure legal fish or the air pressure in your tires. The scale on each of these tools has words to help with measuring:

Is this event, thought or motive good duality or bad duality? How much of god’s singularity is present? How much beauty? How much love? How much order? How much truth? How much empathy? How much compassion? This set of words determines the quality of an event that is created by humans. It is not advised that you invent your own sticks. Usually they measure bad duality. For example, common measuring sticks of bad duality are opportunism, prejudice, pride, greed and avarice. When you think about it, a state of perfection doesn’t have much that can be measured. However, all of dual reality can be measured for compliance with a state of perfection.

When you have this much of the kit assembled, it is time to practice your religion. Always carry your measuring sticks with you; your measurements will help you focus on god’s singularity and to live a happier and more satisfying life. The remaining parts of the starter kit require some seasoning on your part before you can assemble them.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] Religion is about answering ‘why’ we exist and ‘what’ provides goodness in our lives. The mariner references old religions to help with understanding; the starter kit is quite transparent when it comes to sanctification, ritual, interpretation of goodness and what a transcendent being looks like or how it is identified. The generic identification of god is up to you. Joseph Campbell suggested that the term ‘myth’ always gets in trouble because people place their faith in the myth rather than in what the myth represents (Baal worship). Campbell said, “A myth is a metaphor for things we cannot easily explain or articulate.” So it is with the term ‘god.’ A common metaphor is “Goodness is godliness.”

The Real News

Tom Friedman, a prolific writer of politics and economy, has a favorite phrase to describe the behavior of human society. In regards to our attention to really important issues like global warming, environmental destruction, over population and critical resources like water, he says, “Humans are really enjoying the golden age of doing anything we want to the Earth to indulge our overconsumption and indifference about the planet’s resources. It’s like jumping off a tall skyscraper and saying, ‘Look, I’m flying!’ which is enjoyable until the first floor where everything goes splat.”

From the Earth’s perspective, we are easily distracted by bright lights and noise – things like war, Donald, flagrant disregard for the side effects of mass destruction of irretrievable habitat and disruption to the Earth’s sensitive balance of our biosphere. Despite severe warnings from our birth mother, we are trashing ourselves into extinction. “Yes, old news – I’ve heard all this before.” That indifference is the very issue!

We are no more sensitive to the finer threads of existence than our brother monkeys, who in ignorance at least follow the rules. Lust and primitive satisfaction are all we can handle. The dollar bill, an ignorant interpretation of intrinsic value, dominates our self-control. We have no feeling of debt to our planet and in Trumpian fashion, don’t hear what we don’t want to hear.

Our planet is in charge, however, and will tolerate only so much obnoxious abuse and destruction. It will have the last say.

So the primitive and simplistic economy of capitalism – a mistake sanctified only by the industrial age near the end of the 1800’s because it was easy and self-serving – will permit the dollar wealthy to fly in first class to the first floor.

Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation in 1517. It wasn’t the first attempt but this time it succeeded. For the first time in western civilization, man’s spiritual core was no longer bound to theological virtue. Western Christianity hadn’t always been the wisest ethical guide, what with wars, murder and intense judgmental abuse but still, it was theological and as such had a place for planet stewardship – if only by reference and not by obligation; Adam and Eve had to alight somewhere.

If one thinks about the entire history of religion and faith covering 12,000 years, one is aware in the beginning that the faith part was more the guide to our ethical lives than mortal achievement. Of course it wasn’t perfect but religion played the role of managing our morals from beyond our petty perimeter of day to day life. Then, it still was God’s world; we had an obligation of some sort to planet stewardship and the living environment on it.

Then steam and oil were discovered and new ways through chemistry and engineering were found to increase the cost to the planet for each human. But the big deal was the discovery of the Americas. Humans had their own brand new planet – a blank canvas that God hadn’t mentioned. Western civilization needed a new bible for this opportunity. In 1904, Max Weber wrote the new bible: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and in 1915 the new testament, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Max Weber was no intellectual slouch; he was well educated and has an impressive bibliography. Max, along with Karl Marx and a few others, emulated Martin Luther in that they opened a new era of human-managed ethics called ‘sociology.’ In very broad terms, according to Guru, ‘sociology’ is a term that implies that human behavior is human-managed behavior.

At that moment in western history, we became our own god. “Why do we behave this way?” Just ask Freud or Yung or Max or Karl – our new set of apostles. What little obligation we had to care for God’s world was replaced by a profit spirited pocketbook in a godless world. It was a Trump moment.

Today, despite many different theologies, disciplines and practices, there is no way for us to reach beyond our belief in our own social behavior. We are our destiny; we need no validation at the Holy Gate.

It was Madeleine Albright who commented, “You can’t expect Congressmen to tackle global issues; they were elected to bring home the goods today.”

The mariner has mentioned in the past many, many times that we are in the midst of great universal change – greater even than just the Earth’s biosphere. We are on increasingly stormy seas. Where is our compass? Is it whatever provides us the most dollars? Is it even more humans? Is it war? What device among us is not tarnished by us? What will give us guidance to focus on issues of humanity and not on issues of our ego? Dare we restore discarded religious virtues cast in a modern perspective? Where is our compass to show us the way to care beyond our simian prerogative?

ADDENDUM – Mariner received an email from his advocacy organization, Food and Water Watch.; a very above board, independent and serious group that looks out for our wellbeing:

Food & Water Watch

Everett,

We just got our hands on Trump's to-do 
list for the EPA - and as expected, it's 
horrifying. Starting today, the Trump 
administration will start trying to methodically 
gut the Environmental Protection Agency.

On inauguration day, the Trump 
Administration took all references to climate 
change off of the White House website. Now, 
they're beginning a months-long rollout of 
budget cuts and roll backs of key regulations 
designed to protect our air, water and climate 
from corporate polluters.
The leaked to-do list makes it clear that 
Trump will follow through on promises to gut 
the agency.
*  The document identifies opportunities to 
cut programs, including $513 million from 
"state and tribal assistance grants," $193 
million from ending climate programs and 
$109 million from "environmental programs 
and management."
*  The administration outlines initiatives 
they want to stop, including "Clean Air Act 
greenhouse gas regulations," clean car 
standards and clean water protections.
*  The to-do list also includes a plan to 
permanently change how the EPA uses 
science to prevent the agency from returning 
to "its bad old ways as soon as an 
establishment administration takes office."

Ancient Mariner

 

The Wind Is Changing

The mariner does not make predictions or propose a direction at this time but feels the wind differently. Just a small whiff that may mean nothing.

Donald sees himself as king of the world, not just the United States.

Four larger democracies are suffering from authoritative would-be kings who hold no allegiance to human rights and intend to “fix things” and not be wrong about it. (US, Russia, Greece and Turkey) The fuse is the Middle East.

Donald already has infringed on freedom of the press telling it when and where it can receive canned news releases. Individual threats have been made at several specific news agencies. Where is enforcement of the First Amendment?

Donald already has made it clear that his judgment is not to be fair but rather never to be wrong and he will visit his wrath on those who may insist he is wrong. (Sounds exactly like Kim jong il).

It is obvious his scope of importance does not separate the opportunity for profit at the expense of human welfare – wherever profit may take him internationally.

The mariner can go on endlessly with these thoughts but two cultural indicators are emerging that hold his attention: too many crooners and incidents of swing music are popping up on entertainment media and too many Father Knows Best shows are popping up – signs of transition in pop music and entertainment suggest instability in cultural values – couldn’t ask for a better barometer.

Our last chance to avoid war is to stop Donald absolutely without fail at the emolument clause with an impeachment. A bleak future with the US Congress is far better than a world with Dictator King Donald.

Ancient Mariner

Loyalty is Everyone’s Mandate.

During the holiday season many, many charity organizations are working at maximum speed to spread the cheer that someone cares for the wellbeing of another. The reader should become aware of the many efforts at feeding, gifting, paying for, providing shelter, providing warmth, and providing other critical support to the growing number of those left bereft and friendless by our abusive society.

Do you attend religious services? Your place of worship inevitably supports several charity projects – probably even sponsors volunteer activities in house to distribute evidence of care and concern but even more, befriending those who can’t afford friends. That includes more often than not families with children.

The best gift is you. That is hard for many people to do. But once one gives with personal effort and time, once one shares with another face-to-face, hand-to-hand, there are two gifts: You receive one, too, and it will be the best gift to you for the whole holiday season!

Our national culture slowly has worn thin. Citizens relate combatively. All the circus acts in politics, all the pretending that when whole industries have discarded wage earners, there is no human impact and that their futures are chopped off – leaving them homeless and penniless with families to support – these are not bad people; these are not failed people; these are not to be scorned; at least not yesterday why today? The US was founded on a new philosophy among nations that every citizen is responsible for every other citizen.

We have forgotten that in the US, we aren’t loyal to a regime or an ideologue. In the US, the strength of our society is not loyalty to the flag. No, it isn’t. We are loyal to each other. Not just in political rituals or paying taxes; each of us has a bonded responsibility to look after our fellow citizens and they must look out for us.

Loyalty to one another is a political mandate to keep the US together and strong. It is not a game for soft-hearts or ‘liberals.’ It is a hard game to be played every day, in every moment. Eric Metaxas said the US is founded on freedom. Freedom requires belief in freedom; freedom requires loyalty; loyalty requires virtue.

Now show your freedom, loyalty, virtue and wisdom: get out there and create some truly precious and needed holiday spirit!

REFERENCE SECTION

ERRATA

In a recent post lamenting mariner’s fortunes at the voting box, there was a poorly phrased sentence about the Presidential terms of Lyndon B. Johnson. To clarify, LBJ finished JFK’s term when Jack was assassinated; Lyndon won his own term in the next election but declined to run for a second elected term.

Did you forget your reading assignment? It’s “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas, copyright 2016, Penguin Random House. ISBN 9781101979983 hardbound — ISBN 9781101980002 ebook. $26.00 hardbound. Or see your library.

Ancient Mariner

Democratic Debate in New Hampshire

The mariner is pleased with the debate between Bernie and Hillary. For the first time in any 2016 presidential debate, republican or democrat, the voter was given a clear view of the personality and talents each candidate will bring to the office of President in 2016.

The heart of each candidate, that is, their desire to deliver to the electorate what is most needed by that electorate, is identical. Both are champions of human need, economic reform, and what’s best for the forgotten majority.

For the first time, the agenda of each candidate became clear. Bernie intends to fix the systemic issues that have led to oligarchy. Banks, Corporations, tax reform, bribery and collusion in the election process, and a plan to attack gerrymandering, are at the top of Bernie’s list. By fixing the political abuses, proper legislation and discretionary funding will right themselves and deliver programs to the people. However, Bernie will be prone to compromise when it comes to program specifics.

Hillary intends to develop programs first. She will attack current legislation that defeats the spirit of discretionary funding. Hillary will prioritize human rights, expand education funding, and reduce medical costs – but not through single payer. By fixing specific programs, the Ship of State trims its sails more in line with public interest. However, Hillary will be prone to compromise when it comes to fixing the oligarchy.

If the voter is interested in the programs of government, then Hillary sounds more appealing. If the voter is interested in the policies of governance, then Bernie sounds more appealing. The mariner is reminded of one of his father’s pop psychology tools: Bernie is a why-how person while Hillary is a how-what person1. That being the case, there are far more how-what folks in the population than why-how. For no other reason than the difference between their personalities, Hillary may fare better once the primaries leave liberal states and head into the prairie.

On such subliminal attributes, political success rises and falls.

REFERENCE SECTION

1For more detail on Pop’s Psychology, see post from December 21, 2015.

The Congress has ninety days to vote for or against a fast track of the TPP trade agreement. Mariner is firmly opposed to fast track and prefers that the TPP be examined by Congress – that’s as close as citizen review is possible. Note that the majority of presidential candidates, including both democrats, are opposed to the trade agreement. For a good, clear, and easy read about the TPP, see:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/12/business/unpacking-the-trans-pacific-partnership-trade-deal.html?_r=0

President Obama is in favor of the TPP because, in his opinion, the TPP makes the United States a central player in future Asian economics, dampening the future influence of China. All well and good – but at what price to the common citizen? Corporations will have unfettered control of profits, taxes, human rights, and the future wellbeing of nine nations.

Ancient Mariner

 

At the Caucus

About 100 folks attended the Democratic Caucus in mariner’s home town. Two attendees stood in Martin O’Malley’s corner – mariner and his wife. It was only a few moments before we were asked to move to the ‘undecided’ table because Martin did not have enough votes to meet the minimum 15% required to be a sustainable candidate.

But we weren’t undecided. No matter, we had to abandon our candidate and choose another one. The Iowa Democratic Caucus, unlike the town republicans, and for that matter, the rest of the caucuses and primaries across the nation, has the right to deny one’s vote as valid. Clearly, this winnowing procedure is designed to glean “probable” winners from others who, at the first caucus, have yet to generate sufficient interest from the voters.

The mariner respects the interaction and debate fostered by the Iowa caucus process. Further, the caucus forces big-time candidates to meet local voters face to face, eat barbecued chicken, let the voters touch them and ask questions no politician will answer directly. In too many jurisdictions around the United States, the primary process is sterile, mechanical and allows no moment for the voter to see or listen to a real-life candidate.

The mariner has concern that the very first ‘democratic’ primary in the national election process tosses out legitimate candidates any of which may become a dark horse later in the season. He especially is concerned that the democratic party has the right to coerce a voter to cancel their preferred vote and select another candidate – shades of Boss Tweed! True, one could be obstinate and refuse to change their vote but one foregoes representation in the caucus process.

Despite the romantic grandeur cast over Iowa’s unique primary process, the process is outdated. For months ahead, sophomoric news media derails any legitimate attempt to compare candidates on a level playing field. Consider the dominance of Donald on news broadcasts, gleaning more than 100 minutes of free air time compared to virtually none for any of a half-dozen legitimate politicians. Further, so much money is available to candidates that they can continue to campaign despite their irrelevance. Consider Jeb – then consider O’Malley who had to suspend his campaign with only $175,000 left in campaign funds. Yet, Jeb has spent and still has coffers that will carry him to the Convention with half the voter percentage that O’Malley has.

Seasoned attendees to the Iowa Caucus have stories to tell about the dissolution of friendships because open debate among voters is allowed and, if nothing else, one can see who chose which candidate. Even at this caucus, the mariner must patch the hard feelings of a good friend because he did not stand for the appropriate candidate.

All things considered, mariner is most troubled that one person, one vote does not prevail. What makes the Iowa democratic party any different than race discrimination in Alabama and Mississippi? They, too, prevent one from having one’s voice heard at the ballot box; those states just do it differently.

Ancient Mariner

Signs of Citizen Rebellion

The mariner is challenged about the dark side of plutocracy suggesting that the citizen and labor rebellions described in history do not exist today – a challenge that has merit. First, Mariner wrote a recent post that said watching culture change was too slow, unfocused, and too broad to watch closely. What everyone notices, however, are incidents that seem unusual; incidents are signs of cultural shift but one must step back to measure broad circumstances, that is, to observe cultural shift.

Second, here using extremes to demonstrate differences, the wave of bankruptcy that occurred in Massachusetts in 1786 was caused by the same manipulation of mortgages that caused the recession in 2008. Yet, times were greatly different in a cultural sense. One doesn’t have to grab the shotgun in the corner and march down to the bank offices and blow the door off or threaten the courts with physical harm if they didn’t clear the docket and get out – though this older behavior seems more gratifying. Note that the age of one corner, one gun has returned; is that an indicator of dissatisfaction with government, concern with exposure to physical harm and mistrust on a grand scale? Today, is this is a form of rebellion framed in a more mature culture with millions of citizens?

Continuing in today’s “mature” culture, has society allowed law enforcement to deal with the underclass just as the sheriffs in 1920 that shot first and shot again to keep dissidents in line? Has one noticed the relative innocence of the victims and the number of bullets used in today’s shootings? Were the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore not a replication of labor riots in 1920?

Is denying a share of the “company’s” profits to the workers who were virtual slaves in 1885 the same as denying worker raises in line with inflation and productivity since 1980 – yet raising prices at what constitutes modern Company stores so much that the husband and the wife have to work?

Today, using collusion between government and corporations permits blatant destruction of unions by using the “right to work” law. (This is bordering on short-fuse behavior in some industries)

Has one noticed, in a more mature culture, that the “Company” (corporations) has the same resistance to regulations and imposed responsibility for citizens?

Has one noticed the war-mongering bully who leads the republican party in the 2016 Presidential campaign? His followers certainly are in a rebellious mood – particularly toward a do nothing government fully owned by corporations.

Has one noticed the history-making difference between fat cat wealth and flaunted waste compared to public wages that oppress sharing success with the disappearing middle class? Does one remember the “Occupy” movement that protested abuses in Wall Street? Mariner suspects that when the middle class becomes sufficiently abused, there will be more outbreaks over the cost of living and the loss of a great democratic dream.

The mariner makes the case that we live in different times than we did 100 years ago. Still, even in today’s litigious culture, the issues are simmering and rebellion grows more and more obvious.

A lot hangs on changes in Congress, state legislators, Governors and especially who the next President will be.

REFERENCE SECTION

Regarding the puzzle from the previous post: The question was posited “How was the conman able to correctly project whether stocks would go up or down ten weeks in a row?”

The conman started with a large mailing list, perhaps 1,500 recipients. To one half he sent a flyer saying the price would go down; to the other half he sent a flyer saying the price would go up. The next day, he discarded the half that was wrong; to the half that was right, a week later he repeated the process with half saying “up” and half saying “down.” Again, the next day he discarded the half that was wrong; a week later, he divided the correct remainder in half sending half with an “up” prediction, the other half a prediction that was “down.” This continued for ten weeks. Eventually, a mark would respond willing to make a large investment through the broker – an amount that never reaches the stock market because the conman absconds with the cash. From How Not to Be Wrong: the Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordon Ellenberger.

Ancient Mariner.