Health Care – Captive of Capitalism


Mariner wrote a post recently that said the first thing to fix in health care is its costs. In the nineties, administrators and a new breed of eager MBAs decided to change how health care was billed. Instead of the old-fashioned idea of billing based on cost, health services henceforth will bill what the market will bear.

Mariner visited a health care person (doctor) who prescribed a medicine (pharmaceutical industry) that costs $10,000 each month. Health insurance companies don’t cover this medicine – even they recognize fraud when they see it. Mariner does not intend to accept a health care policy that says, for all intents and purposes, “Wait. Don’t die yet; let us take your assets first – then you can die.” Mariner has no intention of following this advice.

Nevertheless, Chicken Little is pacing about. The destructive President, GOP controlled Congress, state governments, and a conservative Supreme Court bode disregard for common class quality of life in the future. The primary advisors to Congress are the health insurance companies who desire only to maximize profits with no regard for social responsibility – after all, it’s a health service… Of course, all US governments are not interested in social responsibility either – only profit. Obama took the leash off Big Pharma in order to pass the Affordable Care Act; someone must catch them soon and put them back on the inadequate leash they had.

Health insurer CEOs made big bucks in 2016:

Michael Neidorff     $32,161,754

Centene Corp.

Bruce Broussard    $17,019,300


Mark Bertolini        $41,676,887


Stephen Hemsley  $33,368,652

UnitedHealth Group

Joseph Swedish      $17,057,940


David Cordani        $21,990,392

Cigna Corp.

Dr. J. Mario Molina  $3,816,395

Molina Healthcare

Kenneth Burdick      $4,687,059                             Source: U.S. Securities and

WellCare Health Plans                                            Exchange Commission documents

Ancient Mariner

Drive On.

For several reasons including fuel efficiency, more electric vehicles, and the degradation of tax value because of inflation, the fuel tax at the pump may be on its way out. Ready to pay by the mile? Below is an excerpt from Atlantic Magazine’s ‘city scape’ section.

“The national gas tax has been, for many years, a “third rail” for tax-averse Republicans and Democrats alike. Americans pay Uncle Sam 18.4 cents per gallon at the pump, a number that hasn’t budged since 1993 as lawmakers are loathe to levy what many view as a regressive fee.

Every year the Highway Tax Fund drags with it a multi-billion dollar shortfall. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it’ll be up to $18 billion from 2021 through 2026.

Taxing miles instead of fuel better matches the current transportation landscape: This is, after all, an era where technology is rewriting the rules on how people move, and how they relate to transportation.

The mileage fee, or VMT tax—seems to be one whose time has come. The tax reorients the transportation “product” that users are paying for with a philosophy more in step with how people travel now. Simply put, drivers pay for their travel based on a per-mile rate. It’s almost like slapping a toll on every road, except that mileage could be measured and billed based on a low-fi transponder, or a high-tech piece of cellphone gadgetry. Drivers could alternatively pay through a one-time annual fee, if they hate the feeling of being “tracked.”

Mileage fees would still need to be kept up with inflation, but they wouldn’t be sensitive to gains in fuel efficiency. They could also be adjusted to reward environmentally sensitive vehicle choices, and policymakers could send chunks of VMT tax revenues towards transit investments, so the fees needn’t be punitive or regressive.”

– – – –

Hope Exists!

Sometimes, when things are at their darkest, something will occur that renews our hope. Hope is a critical survival tool; without it, life fails, if not ends. Michael Bloomberg (NY ex-Mayor) and Carl Pope (a former executive director of the Sierra Club) bring us a book full of hope. Despite the ravaging of the EPA, the abusive priority for fossil fuels, the cutting of funding for all things reasonable and humane, progress continues to be made. Even the natural forces of supply and demand ignore the Administration’s policy abuses.

The book: Climate of Hope, How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, Bloomberg and Pope,

ISBN: 9781250142078

ISBN-10: 1250142075

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: April 18th, 2017

Pages: 272

“We are writing this book because we believe that it’s time for a new type of conversation about climate change.”

The premise throughout is that businesses, cities and market forces are operating independently of the Federal Government. Mayors, in particular, see cost saving technology beyond coal and other fossil fuel solutions; there is more to be gained in local economies if renewable fuels are used – in some cases at near zero cost.

The book documents the surprising use of renewable energy that already exists. All electricity generating plants have converted or plan to convert from coal to natural gas – a program pushed by Barack Obama.

– – – –


The mariner’s curiosity noticed that we have created variations of facts. In the past, a fact was a fact, that is, something that physically occurred at a given point in time. Recently, more than one interpretation of fact has become common usage. Why is that?

Of course, the primary reason is that the current administration manages circumstances by lying. That’s a fact. The President will change a lie to fit the situation; Kellyanne Conway is famous for creating “alternative” facts. But it can’t all be blamed on the current administration.

Even before the President campaigned and took office, news programs – all news programs – added pundits and arbitrary experts to their programs. Older folk will remember that Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite didn’t have guests; they just gave the facts as they occurred. The facts were the news. Today, the news can’t be broadcast without panels, experts, even other news anchors that work for the same broadcaster. More often than not, it’s a newspaper’s interpretation of events that becomes the version of facts broadcast as ‘facts.’

The public has become accustomed, if not irritated, by politicians who, without difficulty, can create alternative facts about a fact to the degree everyone isn’t sure what the original fact is. Just ask a democrat and a republican to describe the new health bill pushed through the House. At the end of it all, does any voter know the facts? The facts about what?

Somewhat arbitrarily, the mariner submits a handbook with the different kinds of facts and how to spot them.

FACT. What really happened – no more, no less, no value judgments. More often than one may think, the original fact is difficult to identify. The best way to know a fact is to know the true source and the actual witnesses or creators of the fact. Too quickly, however, the trail cools as pundits, experts and politicians add their interpretations of what the original fact is.

ALTERNATIVE FACT. The interpretations of a fact provided by second and third sources. Commonly in broadcast news, this is everyone who did not have direct involvement when the fact occurred. In the day-to-day world, we call this gossip. An alternative fact is used by anyone with time to kill and someone to listen to their stories – especially if the story teller didn’t like the original fact. Rush Limbaugh actually makes his living this way; Saturday Night Live does, too.

FAKE NEWS (Fake Facts).

This isn’t about the fact itself. This is a term used by an individual to describe facts that are not beneficial to that individual. The administration’s cabinet has been using this phrase to disavow the information gathered by the Departments they intend to eliminate, for example, the EPA information about climate change is fake.

Ancient Mariner


The Rise of Authoritarianism.

Chicken Little is whimpering in the henhouse. He whimpers more loudly when another indication of encroaching authoritarianism occurs. Online access to the press already is shut down. Now it’s the knowledge, documentation and historical application of policies that are being selectively destroyed – especially in the EPA and Banking Secretariats as well as Health and Human Services – in all areas of government that do not agree with the new administration and eliminated at the hands of its Secretariat henchmen. One thinks of the valuable statuary, temples, mosques, and ancient documentation destroyed by the several wars in the Middle East. Is Donald no better?

What is global warming? Look it up on government EPA websites; it has been summarily erased on order of the Secretary, an oil advocate of ill repute as States Attorney of Oklahoma. Scientists in every discipline are rushing to replicate and distribute scientific information so it can’t be completely destroyed. Even NASA and NOAA are losing data and functionality. At this point, Donald has unleashed the Four Horsemen to wreak their havoc on anything unacceptable to the administration.

The nation waits apprehensively as destruction of a political culture is dismantled day by day. Citizens expected a repair to the phenomenon called Donald, a socially misfit King; citizens expected it would take some time. It has been long enough; destruction of knowledge, Constitutional rights, and under-the-table shenanigans with US banking and international money payoffs already occurs.

One would think every elected politician would be committed to shutting down the authoritarian attack on our nation. Instead the republican Congress tries to tear apart the one success of civil legislation by removing the financial underpinnings of the Affordable Care Act while at the same time dragging its feet on anything smelling of removing Donald.

The mariner has had much grief over the decades with an electorate that fails him. He has no confidence in the electorate now. He would be glad to say, “You voted for it. You deserve it.” But not everyone deserves this. Will the 2018 election be any different? Lord bless us if Donald and the four henchmen aren’t out of office by then. If they aren’t, blame the Republican Party – if it’s still allowed.

Ancient Mariner


Here and There

The mariner attended his county’s off-year caucus a few days ago. There were about 80 or so in attendance. As he told a friend, the room was full of millennials – from the last millennium. If the Democratic Party is to “capture” the Bernie crowd, the union crowd and the under thirty-five crowd, they have a long way to go in 20 months.

Credit is due the 20th century centenarians. They came from all over the county and the dialogue included fixing the election process across the state. A few comments focused on how to increase party voters but the insights were curtailed by the attendee’s ages and the chasm between 1940’s culture and that of 2017. In a letter to his Congressman a few weeks ago, mariner suggested organizing the party not from the core members but from the groups of advocates who already are vocal and active about important party centric issues.

As to Donald, his libertine and selfish lifestyle is beginning to weaken his command of the netherworld. Amos believes, though, the art of the deal will allow him to abscond without persecution.

Mariner can think only of Yuval Noah Harari’s philosophy[1] when he listens to Paul Ryan expound on the virtues of the new health bill replacing the Affordable Care Act. Paul was pleased that the funding scheme slowly squeezed out the poorer half of the citizenry and the elderly. As Seth Meyers asked, “Doesn’t he understand how insurance works?”

Still, as other nations can attest, an unbalanced population, whether economically or actuarially, is dangerous to a nation’s wellbeing. The US must identify the correct solution. Mariner believes the oligarchy must be disassembled. Harari would think the gesture hopeless.



Mariner encourages the reader to develop a daily route of web sites that are useful, entertaining, informative, and feed the spirit. On the mariner’s route is an entertaining and sometimes whimsical stop called “Arts and Letters Daily.” The web site offers several articles in an email distribution once each week. Subscriptions are free.[2] This week’s list is replicated below:


Of Ice and Art

From Burke’s sublime to Freud’s unconscious to Hemingway’s theory of artistic ingenuity, the iceberg has come to represent the creative process. Why?


Against Everything

Professions colonize our imaginations. So thought Ivan Illich, who was against schools, medicine, transportation, law, psychotherapy, and the media.


In Praise of ‘Useless’ Knowledge

The best scientific minds — Einstein, Faraday, Planck — have been driven by curiosity and intellectual challenge, not practical applications.


Gender Matters

Think of a powerful person. You probably pictured a man. To empower women, a different way of thinking about power is called for. Mary Beard explains.


The Impediments of Style

Terry Eagleton’s writing proceeds by jokey elaboration, winking asides, and absurdist flights of fancy. It’s fun, but frustrating.

Copyright © 2017 Arts and Letters Daily, All rights reserved.


Ancient Mariner

[1] See recent posts, Samples that confirm Harari 3-9-17 and Yuval Noah Harari talks about the Future 2-22-17.

[2] See:


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


Election Postscript

The 2016 election has left the nation deflated. A citizen, no matter their ilk, can take only so much wear immersed in politics, morality, philosophy, culture and other esoteric, massless issues none of which ever produce absolutes a citizen can count on. Alas, the wear has only begun. One segment of the nation’s politic, a narrow one, will feel positive about the outcome of the election: the upper and middle class far right. One pundit on CBS television said “We have a President with no ideological direction appointing intense ideologues as Secretaries, supported by the most conservative and dominant Republican Congress since before the Great Depression.”

The largest losers are the faithful who voted for Donald. There’s an old saw that goes, ‘Why would a working class person ever vote Republican’? Fareed Zakaria had it right before the holidays: the electorate votes for the personality most like themselves; policy is not a factor. It is normal for voters to select preferable bits of gossip and campaign noise to support their opinion; 2016 saw uncontrolled abuse from the social media – Donald among them.

A tonic for the general public – and an important lesson in civics – is an interview of Jon Stewart by Charlie Rose that ran last November and was rerun on Bloomberg channel last week. Jon is no one’s court jester. His wit made him a leading personality in serious politics. Jon has a no-nonsense attitude about politics and feels all’s fair in love and war as the spirit and purpose of our democratic republic is hammered out by the electorate. “It’s a messy business,” he said, “but it’s our job to keep this country free rather than let it slip into something else.” He commented on his intense campaigning for the passage of a bill that would pay the medical bills of first responders on 9/11 by saying that if the government is doing something immoral or abusive, it’s everybody’s job to take action to set things right.

Mariner suspects not every political activist has the loyalty to the nation that Jon has. Typically, political activists are warriors for a cause; anyone with another opinion is a dangerous enemy. Once a voter absorbs his personal opinion, not even ISIL can change that opinion. Jon said this firm attitude is what it takes to run this country. However, it isn’t very intellectual. Donald said he could shoot someone down in the middle of Broadway, NY and not lose a vote. So it seems….

What our country is left with in the game of nations is a jump ball. Fortunately or unfortunately each nation has its own ball. The nation with the best overall game will win. Trouble is, our team just drafted teammates of Jerry West.[1]

Jon also said the democrats no longer represent the hometown citizen, the people each of us know next door or in our family. Every time a labor union is busted or a right to work law is passed by state and local governments, it continues to weaken an already bad situation for the working class. The only solution is to strengthen the local democratic presence in order to elect democratic candidates who will support labor friendly legislation; in other words remove redistricting completely from party-sensitive control. Accomplish that and the rest will be easy.



Mary Noble interviews Arlie Russell Hochschild

THE MORNING AFTER Trump’s victory, The New York Times recommended “6 Books to Help Understand Trump’s Win.” Number two on the list was Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild. The book takes us to Louisiana, where Hochschild spent five years among Tea Party voters who have suffered at the hands of the oil industry. It’s people like these that have become Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters. Hochschild explores the emotional logic behind what she calls their “deep story”: they believe that the government helps minorities “cut ahead of them in line,” while liberal America mocks their values[2]

This book and the interview are a humanistic and thought provoking look at the intimate experiences of those citizens who have nowhere to turn for a future. We may think of them as misguided or uneducated. But the truth is, the truth is, they have come to us and discovered there is nowhere to turn. If Donald can rock the boat and make a crack in the vast unresponsive firmament, maybe there will be a place to go. It was their last hope.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Jerry West played basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1950’s and 60’s – the implication being the new nation’s leaders still abide by political philosophies and problem recognition that existed over sixty years ago.

[2] Quote from Los Angeles Review of Books,

Everyone should have a Financial Bomb Shelter

Things are getting a little too uneasy. It’s one thing to read about a war zone and another to be in one. Donald is showing his real persona: He is a sleazy con-man with no morality. He has abandoned his base lock, stock and barrel. All he wanted were their votes. Now he doesn’t care. His cabinet and staff picks are fellow selfish autocrats with whom he has dealt for decades. Mariner hears echoes of Reagan appointments when the Secretaries did not believe in the virtues of the Secretariats they were appointed to and brought an end to a democratic foundation fostered since FDR.

This is worse. There is a foul smell about. The mariner fears that the Republic itself is at risk. No one has hit Donald between the eyes with a steel bar to tell him he can’t mix personal business with public trust. He will find a way. In fact, if he brings a few more plutocrats and generals aboard, Donald can meld the Republic and his business empire into one objective: make money for the team. Screw the public trust.

Meanwhile Paul Ryan and Mitch the Turtle are unencumbered in their plans to disassemble the remnants of the whole concept of discretionary spending.

Will it become so distressful that truly in fact the US will have a problem with emigration as citizens follow their jobs into other countries? If we are incapable of managing our own freedom because an international mafia has taken the country, what else are we to do? There’s one option: turn the second amendment militia loose.

Mariner suspects Donald is having difficulty appointing a Secretary of State because of two circumstances: first, Donald is in up to his armpits with shady deals worse than he accused Clinton of during the campaign; the Secretary of State will be exposed to Donald’s illegalities and un-American financial ties with adversaries to the US. Second, there is no doubt that his ‘friends’ overseas are hardnosed friends just as he is and should things not go as expected, the result won’t be sharing ice cream cones. US military will be put into action for less than scrupulous causes.

Out of harm’s way as change slowly approaches us, Amos[1] has casually warned about increasing tension and feelings of imminent risk. Amos has warned about the confusion and turmoil of the moment of chaos. Similar to global warming, change is here – now.

Donald et al will cause great damage to us. Think North Korea. How can this be stopped?

Ancient Mariner

[1] One of mariner’s 3 alter egos; fashioned after Prophet Amos in the Old Testament. Amos is always complaining about the quality of our behavior.

How High the Moon?

Who among us remembers this song when it was popular? Les Paul and Mary Ford made a hit of it and the Beatles covered it in their era.[1]

We on Earth, for the most part, pay little attention to the Moon except as an ornament in the sky. Many are educated in a general way about the Moon’s role in the creation of the Earth – an unimaginable clash of two giant spheres colliding head-on thereby creating an Earth-sized piece and a Moon-sized piece; The Moon ended in orbit around the Earth and set the Earth on an angle that created Earth’s seasons and continues to affect tides not only in water but in Earth itself.

Here is an intriguing update on Moon stuff: The Moon is drifting away from Earth each year by the same distance as our fingernails grow in a year, about 2½ inches. Balanced in a strange pirouette (both spin), the two bodies are held in place by gravity and pulled apart by centrifugal force. Evidently but very slowly, centrifugal force is stronger and eventually will pull the Moon out of its Earth orbit. What will happen next is not agreed upon by astronomers and astrophysicists. Will the Moon simply fly away into space, leaving the Earth an unrestrained pirouette wobbling uncontrollably around the Sun? At some distance will the Moon find neutrality and settle into a new orbit? As the Moon lessens the balance held today, will polar wobbling on Earth become an issue? Stay tuned.

– – – –

When mariner was a young rebellious teenager, his favorite comic book was Mad Magazine. Mad is a disrespectful, ill mannered publication that holds no restraints with its tasteless satire and mockery. Fortunately, Mad is still around[2]; there are times when only Mad’s commentary is equal to reality. In honor of Mad, here is the latest cover:


– – – –

Mariner hasn’t taken a tour of his Internet/magazine reading list for awhile. Every so often he offers a list of websites that constitute a decent review of most of the subjects that fill our lives. Here forthwith:

Politics, Economy and Public News  …….everything newsy and active in politics  and the paper edition…….mariner ranks Atlantic as a premier data source for today’s busy, changing world  …….a statistical look at many subjects by the numbers  (New York Times) and the paper edition…….world-encompassing coverage of news  …….At the website one feels they are in a library. True! Pick your subject  …….top notch cable series Reality, Big Problems, Big Thinkers and the paper edition…….best common sense reading about the state of economics  …….tens of thousands video clips, articles, and programs


Science, Technology and the Future  ……eclectic collection of information from scientific sources; written for light reading  and the paper edition…….serious articles about new positions taken on any scientific subject  and the paper edition…….many articles about science frontiers and how they affect humanity  numerous social, scientific and general interview shows of excellent quality


Literature and the Arts

Bloomberg Television   interviews and presentations of operas, artists, sculptors, etc.  (Arts and Letters Daily) source of URLs to numerous artists and other literary news …….can’t be beat for detailed review of language, arts, music, writing, philosophy and their histories


Health …….satisfying survey of current issues ……. catch some news and use their libraries to check on your symptoms


Social Sciences and History  and the paper edition, the best, most comprehensive data source on the Internet



Science TV Channel (Outrageous Acts of Science) …….even in these troubled times, a visit is comforting …….another rewarding stop

Mariner recommends making a quick stop at the list every week or so or when you have an interest in a specific issue.


Ancient Mariner


[1] To listen, see:



The mariner has not watched television one second since the announcement except for the weather ap. He has not listened to radio or even read the newspapers. He has not scoured the Internet for reactions – except for watching the stock market only long enough to know the daily values. He is lost in his gardens.

He is ashamed for that. Mariner considers himself a stalwart observer of gnashing reality – no matter the gnashing. Still, there is great apprehension over the state of affairs. Putting the power of a President in the hands of an insecure narcissist, totally ignorant of the required processes and nuances of the distribution of power except using it to get even with detractors (Donald will pull every string available to him to get the better of Barack Obama and Hillary because they belittled him; “Little” Marco already knows not to expect any favors for his “small hands” remark.)

Taken in a long, long perspective, Pence will be the most powerful Vice President in History – except when Donald wants to be in charge. That will occur at grossly inappropriate times and circumstances. Donald ignores timing, ignores advice taking longer than one minute, and will build that $@*&% wall just to prove he never loses.

But he is a loser. His base electorate, the wise, sophisticated and insightful among us, enjoyed the campaign season having the luxury of allowing anything he wanted to say as acceptable. But now he has won a term in the most visible, targeted job in the world. His base can’t help anymore. There is no shortage of bruised power brokers, politicians, NGOs and foreign nations eager to bring Donald down – and Donald has left a path littered with opportunities. Then there is the issue of Donald’s international policy fraught with shady relationships and profit schemes – profit schemes not for US citizens but for Donald.

However, the damage has been done. A devastating blow to a nation already fifty years behind global issues. An opportunity for advancement would have been to appoint two or three Supreme Court Justices. Deliberately appointing young conservatives will set the US back at least fifty years. Further, having the entire Congress in old fogey, irrelevant hands will stop progress dead in its tracks.

The mariner believes the first 100 days will not be easy for the nation. What lies beyond 100 days cannot be predicted. Say a prayer for members of his immediate staff.

Ancient Mariner


Follow the Money

This famous quote from the film Deep Throat about the Nixon Watergate Scandal holds truer today than ever. The danger is that we have become accustomed to it. We no longer take umbrage at the misuse of money – it’s how all the games are played. Worse, while inflation remains idle, the ante to play with real money rises rapidly. Thought about differently, real money (starting around one mil) is an artificial inflation: the rest of us don’t have ‘real’ money. Citizens United couldn’t exist in Nixon’s day. Which is worse, breaking a door lock to get some records or pulling billions of dollars out of the economy to be distributed to slush funds and kickbacks?

The mariner noticed the hubbub about “rigged” elections. Boy, are they ever! But not in the simple-minded manner trumped up by the Trump campaign. The pundits are correct (this time): the manner by which we engage both parties and today control sham voting with automation makes it very difficult to overtake a precinct election site…. if one has one, Alabama.[1]

In a post on February 10, 2016, mariner covered a lead article from the Atlantic magazine for that month. It is important to briefly review the article at this moment when vote rigging is in the limelight but hardly the true threat that a tide of cash infusion can be. The article was about a small group of billionaires taking over the election of Governor for a democratic state: Illinois.

“The richest man in Illinois does not often give speeches. But on a warm spring day two years ago, Kenneth C. Griffin, the billionaire founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, rose before a black-tie dinner of the Economic Club of Chicago to deliver an urgent plea to the city’s elite.

They had stood silently, Mr. Griffin told them, as politicians spent too much and drove businesses and jobs from the state. They had refused to help those who would take on the reigning powers in the Illinois Capitol. “It is time for us to do something,” he implored.

Their response came quickly. In the months since, Mr. Griffin and a small group of rich supporters — not just from Chicago, but also from New York City and Los Angeles, southern Florida and Texas — have poured tens of millions of dollars into the state, a concentration of political money without precedent in Illinois history.

Their wealth has forcefully shifted the state’s balance of power. Last year, the families helped elect as governor Bruce Rauner, a Griffin friend and former private equity executive from the Chicago suburbs, who estimates his own fortune at more than $500 million. Now they are rallying behind Mr. Rauner’s agenda: to cut spending and overhaul the state’s pension system, impose term limits and weaken public employee unions.”

If the reader follows Illinois news, they know Rauner has stalled passage of a democratic budget even to today. Schools and colleges across the state are laying off staff; public schools and private ones have begun shortening school years, some are forced to cut sports programs (a few are in violation of Title Nine). Public Works has dropped their state-wide schedule.

In particular, the Griffin group is after Unions; Rauner has pushed hard to eliminate them, prohibit participation in elections, and limit dues. The confrontation over schools and unions has soured Rauner’s Governorship. Illinois is too long a blue state, too many union members, too many city dwellers. The legislature is democratic in both houses. Even five determined billionaires can’t make a bought Governorship become permanent. It isn’t over yet; Rauner is contributing significant amounts to all Republican officeholders, including conservative democrats. Will money buy a more conservative government next election?

– – – –

There is a second source that rigs elections: the news media. News media really do know the truth of campaigns; they just avoid low viewership approaches to political coverage; dull stuff like facts, policy, government expense and specific changes to entitlement, insurance, taxes, and banking regulations – a simple example: do you know the minimum wage endorsed by any Presidential candidate?

Also avoided is unaltered factual analysis by experts (pundits specifically cannot be experts except on Fareed Zacharia’s Global Public Square, CSPAN, and a few Bloomberg and PBS specials). What makes a pundit an expert is the ability to simultaneously speak and comprehend four other pundits speaking at the same time to the dismay our comprehension. A viewer never heard two people talk at the same time on Bill Moyer’s show. But then you never watched, did you! It is best to subscribe to a few good printed sources like Atlantic, Economist, Washington Post, New York Times and other quality printed sources. Don’t try to cover the rainbow of opinions; you don’t have the intellectual stamina to read Mother Earth, The Washington Inquirer, The Nation, and the American Conservative in the same day. Choose quality, centrist sources.

Instead of providing good, balanced news and informational analysis, news media hired on as Donald’s campaign team. On the cable channels, it evolved into an 18 hour blitz of South Park.

The solution to this rip-off by the press is to relieve the news department of the responsibility to be a profit center (follow the money). Then newscasters won’t be forced to choose between news and entertainment (profit). Or you could get your news from elite sources that already exist and are mentioned above.

Ancient Mariner

[1] The last large scale vote intrusion may have been the Chicago Teamsters ‘assuring’ Joe Kennedy that Jack would win Chicago. Computers prevent bullish, physical intrusions. However, as evidenced in the hacking of the current election, computers have other weaknesses. One has often wondered whether the Teamsters were the original source for the assassinations of Jack and Bobby to pay back Joe for the boys coming after the Teamsters when they assumed office. What doesn’t fit this theory is the assassination of Martin Luther King. The common victim was progressivism.