Current Events

In the nation of Norway is an archipelago called Svalbard, the home of the village of Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world. Longyearbyen is notable for two things. First, temperatures are below 32° year round; second, the Global Seed Vault is buried in Svalbard on a nearby island called Spitsbergen. It is the security vault holding important seeds from all over the planet just in case there is a terrible disruption to the climate that kills all plant life. Name any crop you can think of; its seeds are in the vault. The Global Seed Vault was buried deep in the permafrost to assure seeds will remain frozen virtually forever.

Recently the permafrost began to melt. Permafrost is mostly water and some dirt mixed with mulch. When it melts, long held methane is released which exacerbates Global Warming – which caused the permafrost to melt in the first place. The melting has reached the seed vault; further, the deceased buried around Longyearbyen have started to pop up here and there. Actually, the corpses look pretty good because the cold has kept them frozen.

So we don’t need to measure the weather. We don’t need to measure carbon dioxide. We don’t need to measure ocean temperature. We know climate change exists because the Svalbard archipelago is melting and the dead have risen.

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Here are a couple of questions to test one’s news knowledge: What is the name of the farthest planet from our Sun? And second, how many planets are in the solar system?

The farthest planet’s name is ‘Farout’. It was discovered recently and has been confirmed as an ice-covered planet about 310 miles in diameter orbiting the Sun. The distance between The Sun and Earth is one Astronomical Unit (93 million miles); Farout’s orbit is 120 AU from the Sun, hence its name.

There are thirteen planets or dwarf planets orbiting our Sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, The Goblin, Sedna, Eris, and the aforementioned Farout. True, some are quite dwarf but they are part of the family of orbs that have stable orbits around the Sun. These new planets are part of a search for gravitational influence by a theorized super-Earth-size Planet Nine, also called Planet X, which researchers have proposed orbits in the extreme reaches of the solar system. The movements of several distant bodies have suggested the existence of this planet, which would be extremely faint and hard to locate.

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An article on www.livescience.com is interesting. Meteorologist Jana Houser argued that of four tornadoes observed in enough detail with a rapid radar technique, not a single one started its rotation in the sky. Instead, Houser and her team found, the tornado rotation began rapidly near the ground. “Tornadoes do not appear to form from the traditional, top-down mechanism,” Houser told reporters at a news briefing. Traditional meteorological technology checks for tornado development every 5 minutes; Houser’s equipment checked every thirty seconds.

All four tornadoes formed from supercell storms. Otherwise, they were very different in strength and impact, Houser said. None, however, formed from the top down. In the case of the El Reno tornado [wide damage, killed 8], a storm chaser actually snapped a picture of the funnel cloud on the ground minutes before the mobile radar detected the tornado about 50 to 100 feet above the ground.

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About a quarter of American households own a “smart speaker” like the Amazon Echo or Google Home, and in the not-too-distant future, a whole host of devices and appliances—from coffee makers to doorbells to toasters—could be connected to the internet. The Atlantic staff writer Joe Pinsker questions what could happen to all the data that companies will accumulate about domestic life, and how these devices ultimately shape people’s behavior.[1] A small teaser:

“I’ve just asked Lowenthal what he, as an advertiser, would be able to do with data transmitted from an internet-connected appliance, and I happened to mention a toaster. He thought through the possibility of an appliance that can detect what it’s being asked to brown: “If I’m toasting rye bread, a bagel company might be interested in knowing that, because they can re-target that household with bagel advertising because they already know it’s a household that eats bread, toasts bread, is open to carbs. Maybe they would also be open to bagels. And then they can probably cross that with credit-card data and know that this is a household that hasn’t bought bagels in the last year. I mean, it’s going to be amazing, from a targeting perspective.”

This is a classic example of corporations shaping a human’s life decisions and curtailing independent thought. While this may not matter in toaster negotiations, its impact on political control, economic knowledge and other thought-based activities also will be shaped and curtailed such that a human being will not be in control of his or her own destiny – just ask the Russians.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] full article at https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/12/smart-home-devices-data-privacy/578425/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=family-weekly-newsletter&utm_content=20181222&silverid-ref=NDkwMjIzMjA1Mjg2S0

On The Atlantic and other Things

Regular readers will know that mariner’s favorite magazine is The Atlantic (TA). He has added a few to his personal library. There are several other magazines in its class that provide cogent insights in the social sciences and can be trusted to deliver balanced reality based on studied facts. TA often approaches scholarly levels in its presentation of the human experience.

Not everyone would want to spend the time and focus required to read TA. When TA focuses on an issue, it is a 3-credit course on the subject. An excellent example of this pattern is the October 2018 issue. The cover headline asks, “Is Democracy Dying?” Nine articles are referenced right on the cover that provides an excellent base for understanding the turmoil of contemporary society, politics and governance.

Reading TA cover to cover in one sitting is not recommended. Mariner keeps copies of recent magazines on his dining room table to be perused an article at a time. When the October issue is completely read, one is knowledgeable, capable of thematic reasoning about democracy, and aware of the human experience dependent on democracy.[1]

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Writing about life experiences often drops to melodramatic levels which  certainly are valid but limit the reader’s ability to contemplate broader views. One magazine that is unique in presenting holistic articles about reality that give a reader room to ponder is Smithsonian Magazine (SM).

Like TA, SM often promotes a theme for its articles but SM also includes articles about the world, interesting individuals, nature, and often, articles based on the Smithsonian Museum collection in Washington D.C. SM is a pleasant read.

The September 2018 edition focuses on moments in American history that have been forgotten or that provide insight into unknown situations. The issue also includes articles about Rhinos in Washington and a toy school bus.[2]

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There are several magazines about science. Most are focused on one kind of science like astronomy or health or agriculture. Three magazines, Science, Nature and Scientific American, are widely read. Over time mariner has chosen Scientific American Magazine (SA) because it is totally comprehensive in its range of science and technology and at the same time provides reader-friendly articles and references. Every edition has an endless insight into diverse – and often surprisingly humanistic – branches of science that enrich the reader’s familiarity with science.

Like other recommendations, SA often sets a theme for an issue. In the October 2018 copy, the theme is “How to fix Science” It covers funding, enforcing the ability to reproduce research claims, dealing with government denial, and increasing interdisciplinary research. There is an article preparing us for fake videotape and fake audio.[3]

– – – –

Each of the above magazines has a strong Internet presence. Mariner and his wife enjoy reading books and magazines in print form but for many who are too busy or who prefer to pick and choose what to read, mariner recommends both the official websites and subscribing to their newsletters that arrive in your email.

Another source for intelligent, dependable dialog is the collection of National Public Radio (NPR) products and broadcasts. If one is more interested in good fiction than nonfiction, there is no better place to look for a good book than NPR’s Book Concierge at https://apps.npr.org/best-books-2018/ . On the other hand, the NPR news page avoids the hysterical advocacy of TV news; see https://www.npr.org/ . This home page will lead you to broadcasts, podcasts and other entertaining – and rational – information.

Remaining informed is similar to keeping fit. It requires commitment.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] Fortunately, TA has an excellent archive. To read the articles in the October 2018 issue, see:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/toc/2018/10/

[2] Find SM archives at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/issue/archive/

[3] Find archive issues at https://www.scientificamerican.com/store/archive/?magazineFilterID=Scientific%20American%20Magazine

How to know how much is Actual News

Mariner finds it difficult to ascertain actual news from ramblings, speculations and gossip on all the 24 hour news channels. He has borrowed a formula from geometry to help identify the true news content from the smoke and mirrors of news broadcasting. Where are Huntley, Brinkley and Walter Cronkite when we need them?

Normally, the formula is used to determine the radius of a true circle when only the chord length and distance from the chord to the arc are known. What is intriguing about this formula is that it is totally relative in its solution; it makes no difference what the values of the chord and arc are, a correct radius always will be defined. The formula:

Radius = 4h2 +l2
                8h

Redefining variables for our purposes,

Radius = Total News broadcast which is a constant of 100
Height = Actual News
Length = Number of Pundits

Solving for unknown height instead of unknown radius, the formula becomes:

h = r – √r2 – l2

Assume 4 pundits

h = 100 – √ (10,000 – 16)
h = 100 – √ 9984
h = 100 – 99.92
h = .08   In other words, Actual News is 8/100ths of Total News when there are 4 pundits – less than five minutes of an hour-long broadcast.

What’s important is that actual news takes so little time.

Ancient Mariner

 

Travel isn’t Broadening – It’s Frightening

Mariner grows disinterested after hearing hour after hour day and night the same statistics, speculations and campaign ads intent on assassinating the character of the other candidate. Today he focused on the rest of the world. He should have stayed home.

We live in an age of rapidly growing nationalism. Most countries have had a form of nationalism but today it is the democratic nations that are switching rapidly. To name just ‘a few’: every member of the European Union (EU), most dramatic are England (Brexit), Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Turkey, Greece and Germany – just a quick list. South America is awash in nationalism with Brazil and Venezuela in great disarray. Central America has long had several abusive, crooked governments but even there dictatorship is on the rise.

Drivers of nationalism include a slow economic recovery, an increase in people displaced across borders, and anxiety about terrorism, according to Harun Onder, an economist at the World Bank. Another factor, which perhaps is not as appreciated, is age. Many rich nations are in the grips of a big demographic shift toward older populations, and aging populations experience economic pressures that can lead to more nationalistic tendencies. Most frightening is that the newly elected nationalists in these democracies act and sound exactly like Donald! Racism and religious oppression are rampant around the world and are used to incite even more fear in stressed populations.

Median Age [qz.com]

On a more theoretical level, our global economy is 170 years old and shows signs of wear as oligarchical practices gather more and more wealth to fewer and fewer people. In the US, despite apparently good unemployment statistics, general wage levels are half of what they would be if wages kept up with inflation. Corporate power expands ever more rapidly as new digital technologies emerge.

Regarding migrations, mariner has noted that major migrations occur periodically throughout history. Humans moved out of Africa because food was becoming scarce; two very long droughts drove large numbers of humans further into Europe and Asia. Today, the reasons are war, violence and abject poverty. Ironically, the human population is growing to such an extent that soon there will be no room to migrate.

Global culture is in a state of severe turbulence. Change is everywhere and in everything. Is nationalism a solution? Is nationalism similar to a storm cellar during a tornado? Can democracy survive during hard times; during times of uprooted society and morality? Coming back to the US this evening, mariner is concerned about the state of western society. China may not know what it is getting into.

Ancient Mariner

On Being Manic/Depressive

According to mariner’s favorite bookie Nate Silver, “Republican chances of holding the House are only about 1 in 1,000.” He is not as kind to Democrats taking the Senate: only 1 in 6 (16%)

The imminent election induces one to be manic/depressive. If you’re a Donald advocate, you revel in Donald’s pompous attacks on the establishment and in the process seemingly untouchable by anyone. Conversely, it’s the invasion of the nonwhites who will rob, rape and take jobs – oh, and eliminate white people.

If you’re a Donald critic, the anticipated change in Congress, especially the House, provides a sense of relief and joy that US governments will become functional. Conversely, the lame duck Congress, especially McConnell, will ingrain Republicanism in the courts and agencies regardless of the election. Then there’s Donald playing dirty tricks with the Department of Justice to trash the Mueller investigation.

Voting on Tuesday will be like taking an analgesic for pain but the headache, AKA Donald et al, will return. As long as the Senate exists, especially if it is controlled by the GOP, the big issues of our time will continue to go unresolved. Speaking in manic voice, we may expand and secure ‘Obamacare’ and even expand Medicaid with the help of a democratic House but still, speaking in depressive voice, guns, taxes, modern constraints for runaway corporatism, and a new vision for international economics and cooperation will not be resolved.

Mariner doubts Donald will be impeached because of the Senate. Mariner doubts Donald will face criminal charges while in office.

There’s another election in 2020 . . . .

REFERENCE SECTION

Although many kids’ apps may seem innocuous, filled with bright colors and loud noises, they actually contain loads of advertising targeted at children ages 5 and under, writes the Atlantic staff writer Joe Pinsker. Researchers characterized the methods that advertisers and app makers use to influence young children as “manipulative and disruptive,” with one scholar even calling the practices “abominable.” For full article see:

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/11/kids-apps-ads-smartphones/574588/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=family-weekly-newsletter&utm_content=20181103&silverid-ref=NDkwMjIzMjA1Mjg2S0

National Public Radio is touting the country western song “Will the Circle be Unbroken” as the new national anthem. The lyrics allude to the importance of continuity and generational bonding. For a Grand Old Opry rendition, see:

https://www.npr.org/2018/10/30/662203468/will-the-circle-be-unbroken-connects-musicians-generation-american-anthem?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20181103&utm_campaign=music&utm_term=#

Ancient Mariner

News of the Day

National Public Radio (NPR) is launching a new newsletter all about China. When reading the first reports, it became blatantly obvious to mariner that China, while a communist state, also is an aggressive capitalistic state. Not having to mess with sloppy democracy, China’s leadership (Xi Jinping, elected for life) can dictate the priorities of its economy, its culture, its international behavior and its ethics. One example of China’s aggressiveness is its invasion of other nation’s economies; the old idea of international trade is not the major strategy. China simply joins the target nation’s production economy – starting businesses without mentioning the link to China and hiring away the best and brightest from that nation’s existing workforce. Mariner highly recommends the NPR series especially because US TV news media is useless.[1]

– – – –

Yesterday, mariner returned to watching TV news broadcasts after a four-month self-imposed hiatus. If reality is anything like the content of news programs, our nation is doomed to the trash heap. Mariner felt he needed to track more closely the coming election next week so he watched a full day accessing every broadcasting source. As they say today, OMG.

Watching the various broadcasts, mariner felt he was watching an Asian table tennis tournament. No, perhaps it was more like whack-a-mole. In any case, in four months, broadcast news has begun to ignore ideological differences and simply engage in discounting competitors’ news stories. It is a blood battle for market share. Mariner blames broadcasting corporations for making news a profit center.

Add to this a President intent on destroying the unity of the United States, its culture, its democratic ethos and its sense of fair play and equality of life. Mariner now knows firsthand the feelings of an individual trapped in a horror film.

His advice to his readers is to join the growing number of newsletters that pride themselves on quality research, unbiased reporting and covering news worldwide in every subject. Augment digital sources with a few quality magazines that provide in-depth articles about reality.

If there is even a remote chance of returning to civility and international leadership, and mariner must be honest and repeat ‘remote’, that chance hangs on whether the reader will vote on November 6.

VOTE

Ancient Mariner

[1] To receive NPR newsletter, see:

https://www.npr.org/newsletter/best-of-npr

FYI

Tidbits from mariner’s email:

֎60 percent of vertebrate species

According to a new report from the World Wide Fund For Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Fund), there has been an average 60 percent decline in vertebrate animal species population — you know, like mammals, fish, birds, etc. — between 1970 and 2014. “Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions,” the report reads. The cause? “Exploding human consumption.” [BBC]

֎2,681 planets

The Kepler Space Telescope is dead. Long live the Kepler Space Telescope. The NASA craft discovered 2,681 planets since its launch in 2009, along with many more promising outer space “blips.” Kepler ran out of fuel. It will be missed. [The Verge]

֎1 million lost users

Facebook saw zero growth in the U.S. and Canada and lost 1 million users in Europe last quarter. God bless you brave million. Go outside. Dance. Sing. Frolic. Be free. [TechCrunch]

֎The Democratic Divide:

New York progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did better in gentrifying precincts than she did in working-class neighborhoods. Do blue-collar Democrats really want what the far left is offering? [David Freedlander, Politico Magazine]

֎How much will summer temperatures in US cities change by 2050?

Des Moines, Iowa:             2018 – 85.4° ….. 2050 – 91.1°

Los Angeles, California:    2018 – 83.5 ….. 2050 – 87.1°

Baltimore, Maryland:         2018 – 82.6° ….. 2050 – 92.3°

Denver, Colorado:             2018 – 86.4° ….. 2050 – 91.7°

New York City, New York: 2018 – 83.1° ….. 2050 – 87.9°

Billings, Montana:              2018 – 85.4° ….. 2050 – 90.7°

Miami, Florida:                   2018 – 89.9° ….. 2050 – 93.4°

Phoenix, Arizona:              2018 – 104.7° ….. 2050 – 109.2°

[VOX]

֎Worried about voting? Here’s what to know before you go:

Double Check Your Registration

Know Your State’s ID Requirements

Know Where You’re Going

Beware of Misinformation

Find Out What’s on Your Ballot Right Now

Access to the Ballot if You’re Disabled

Vote Provisionally if You Must

If All Else Fails, Call For Help [ProPublica]

Ancient Mariner

 

Notes from the Alter Egos

Guru speculated about China’s Belt and Road Initiative (in China more often referred to as One Belt One Road or OBOR). Very generally, Belt and Road is China’s plan to be the most powerful economic engine in history. This is not simply bravura but a scale of economic activity necessary to accommodate China’s very large population and its stressed economy. It is a huge goal costing more dollars than anyone can begin to estimate but at the same time creating economic opportunities for about 60 percent of the developed nations in the world today.

Guru noted two things:

  • OBOR sounds aggressive and immediately brings to mind an automated form of colonialism. In truth, to use a mariner metaphor, China needs more stoves to burn its wood. Think of a family with twenty children trying to establish a rotation of food, clothing and household goods without being overcome by storage and process – it is easier to send out for pizza than having to make it at home. Investment opportunities seem to abound both for China and nations on the OBOR. However, economists are less than enthusiastic about using geopolitical solutions to solve internal economic issues.
  • Today, at least until Donald was elected, there was no question that the western nations, especially the US, were at the center of global economics and political influence. Guru proffers that if OBOR is successful, the center of global economy will drift back to the centuries where Sino-Eurasian economy prevailed (The original Silk Road). Still, guru ponders whether nations on the sea route in particular will be susceptible to economic bondage.

Amos has had it with the US citizen. The harsh combination of identity politics, populism, incompetent, party-zealotist and opportunistic Congressmen, news programming required to make a profit, predator corporations, a horrific, selfish, hoodlum-like Whitehouse, and more, all virtually have eliminated the American ethos. Acknowledging activist interest, albeit it often a part of the list above, common citizens don’t care about ethos as long as they have their Facebook, smartphone, Echo, and Netflix. Putin is right – Americans have irretrievably trashed their respected role among nations. And the beat goes on . . .

Meanwhile, Chicken Little is fearful that he may be deported because his grandmother at age nine arrived in the US as an immigrant.

Mariner agrees with dissenters of Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be a Native American. Mariner’s Aunt Mary married a full-blooded Cherokee and had a son that looked more native than the man on the nickel. But that heritage was never used to differentiate their family. Elizabeth should be ashamed for practicing identity politics.

ELECTION DAY: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6. BE THERE AND DO IT – VOTE!

Ancient Mariner

Cultural Gerrymandering

Before we get to mariner’s post, read the following statements:

From the Washington Post

By 2040, eight states will be home to nearly half (49.5 percent) of the country’s entire population. An implication of that bit of trivia: 30 percent of the American population will control 68 percent of the American Senate. “The House and the Senate will be weighted to two largely different Americas.”

Twitter From Norman Ornstein   @NormOrnstein

I want to repeat a statistic I use in every talk: by 2040 or so, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states. Meaning 30 percent will choose 70 senators. And the 30% will be older, whiter, more rural, more male than the 70 percent. Unsettling to say the least

Twitter from Paul Waldman @paulwaldman1

In the age of minority rule, a Supreme Court justice appointed by a president who got fewer votes is confirmed by a party in the Senate that got fewer votes, to validate policies opposed by most Americans.

– – – –

And we thought immigration was the largest political issue . . .

The imbalance of the two houses of Congress reminds mariner of the British system where the public elects the House of Commons but one must be appointed to the House of Lords. While the House of Lords does not carry nearly as much clout as the US Senate, it can slow down legislation by sending it back to the lower House.

If the United States is to remain a democracy in spirit, it may be that we face a whopping battle to rewrite the Constitution. Like the Second Amendment authorizing the right to bear arms for a good reason back in 1791, each state was granted two representatives as a demonstration by the Founding Fathers that the voice of state governments would have a direct role in the Federal government. Senators were appointed by state legislators until 1910.

At the moment, the issue of demographics may seem a fantasy game but, in fact, Paul Waldman is correct when he says the Federal Government is about to appoint a Supreme Court Justice while representing a minority of the general population – and 2040 is still 22 years away.

Regular readers know mariner is chary about social stratification whether they are super rich, giant corporations, doctrinaire religions, or undemocratic governments. A theme running through many nations’ cultures at the moment is decidedly not empathetic; populations are sensitive to financial insecurity. Nationalism, including the US and Europe, is a growing response that easily could prevail given the observations of the contributors about imbalanced voting. In other words, the 30% mentioned above may just leave things as they are: a minority ruling class.

This is the largest issue mariner has thought about recently. Fixing demographic imbalance will require a power-shaking war either by reconfiguring Congress or playing voting games with fractions to level the playing field. It is a conflagration that will include the super rich and the super powerful in our society; let’s hope it includes the common electorate as well.

Mariner hereby turns this issue over to his readers so they have something to ponder until 2040.

Ancient Mariner

 

Unplugged as Metaphor

There was discussion about mariner’s self-imposed ‘isolation.’ It was perceived that mariner had separated himself from society by blocking channels of communication and information. It was suggested that, while there may be abuse by communication corporations, the tradeoff is having access to more information and a better sense of what’s going on – a quid pro quo so to speak.

Mariner suggests the issue is not one of information but one of control. The insight he has while in communication isolation is a feeling that he is not dancing to an imposed melody. Mariner knows he is beating a tired horse in his posts but the issue of not having control of one’s life or personal values, and not being in a position to do a lot about it – and not being aware this is the situation – is no different than citizens in the book 1984 and in the movie Matrix (one was put into a coffin at birth and fed an artificial reality directly to the brain).

Recently mariner posted a short post saying privacy and choice were two sides of the same coin; can’t have one without the other. That relationship cannot be denied. Homo sapien history is full of continuous rebellion against someone else dictating one’s choices. Most often it has been countered by war. It can be countered by collective bargaining whether that means unions, voting, cultural separation, or individual isolation. Success in changing things, however, can’t be done in isolation; it takes a large representation of the affected society.

Mariner is concerned that populations around the world are not prepared for the control that can be had by governments and especially by corporations with the use of powerful computers and privacy-draining data collection. Somewhere along the way, society must develop a rule that says humans will approve modification to culture, law, economy, and quality of life. Otherwise, human life may not be worth more than an imaginary life in a coffin.

– – – –

On a distantly related note, the new European restrictions on international telecommunications has severed mariner from 40% of his readership.

Ancient Mariner