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.

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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

 

Immigration and the Church

In the days when Jesus was around, Israel was a theocracy. A theocracy is a nation run largely under the control of religion. The same was true in western culture when the Holy Roman Catholic Church dominated political entities and nations in Europe.

In Matthew 12, there is a confrontation between Pharisees and Jesus because he and his disciples are picking grain and eating on the Sabbath:

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

It wasn’t until the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 that state was declared independent of church and had rights beyond the King (titular head of the nation who endorsed the idea of a state church). In its Constitution, the United States took the idea of separating state from church as a mandate. Today, church and state still are separated by legal and ideological arguments but few lawmakers and citizens are able to properly separate the two. Admittedly, there is conflict in interpretation not only between the US Government and the several religions but also between the religions themselves.

Trumpian religious groups (largely evangelical) have the attitude of the Pharisees claiming that religious principles trump state principles (enjoyed the pun). It is easily seen that Trumpians would prefer a theocratic rule of law.

Other religious institutions support humanistic and compassionate ideals as the higher ethic. Jesus’s rebuke of the Pharisees is right on the mark for today’s immigration debate:

“…If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”

The separation of church and state works best when the state manages state responsibilities and the church manages spiritual and ethical responsibilities. It is a tough choice for conflicted citizens: should we sacrifice immigrant’s lives because they violate state law or should we seek compassion and mercy as a separate influence on the matter.

Trumpians are Pharisees.

Ancient Mariner

 

Corporatism – the Overlooked Enemy

PBS news covered a story today about the National Football League setting rules for how football players must behave, the issue being whether the players can kneel in protest of racial and law enforcement abuse during the National Anthem. This may or may not be challenged in court (mariner has little confidence in US citizens being concerned about freedom, rights, ethics and morality) even though the act clearly is protected by the First Amendment.

This NFL mandate is so simple, so clear, so unobstructed and so much an example of how corporations increasingly are setting the nation’s moral standards. The protectors of our rights and the interpreters of our cultural image are supposed to be our legislators, our religious leaders and our independent court system. Woefully, all our protectors are easily swayed by corporate influence. It is more important for the NFL to sustain profit levels than to honor an individual’s rights under the Constitution.

The takeover of American justice by corporations is accepted as the norm. Consider the following cultural v. business situations:

Net Neutrality – the right of all individuals to share equally in public speech and information. Communication Corporations want to destroy this ethic in order to increase profits by charging individuals for faster access. To add insult to injury, these corporations intend to block an individual’s access to sources that may be detrimental to the corporation’s control and profit.

The Facebook fiasco is typical of Silicon Valley shaping cultural behavior and leveraging innocent participation as a source for additional profit – at the cost of privacy and security.

Mariner was opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership not because it was a new approach to international trade but because it was rife with rules about how nations should treat employees, the rights of employees and governments and other cultural impositions – under the guise that these rules would balance participation among disparate nations. It should be noted that corporate teams wrote TPP while national representatives provided signoff. When does a corporate platform have the right to dictate culture and ethics to any country, let alone 12 or 16?

Labor unions have many faults and are subject to abuse. Still, unions are a mechanism representing employees (AKA citizens just like football players) when a corporation imposes on fair practices similar to income, working conditions, and other behaviors that affect the cultural presence of employees in the society.

We all know US governments have failed and are the direct cause for the malignant populism that has delivered Donald. The governments have failed because they take their cue from corporations rather than the electorate.

US corporate taxes would be funny if the issue wasn’t so important. Corporations pretty much can handle profits any way they wish – even to the extent of hiding profit in blind banks. Is this behavior ethical? Is it a freedom? Is it the primary cause of an oligarchical government?

Mariner must remind himself not to watch the news.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

In Irons

Mariner knew the whole of US reality is a circus when the press made fun of how Donald held his water bottle. Funny thing, mariner holds his water bottle exactly the same way. The reason is familial palsy.

Donald is the ringmaster. Worse is that the entire news industry has joined the circus. So has Congress. So has forty percent of the electorate. The President’s cabinet is a group of foolish clowns worthy of eighteenth century British cartoonists. If Donald actually had the powers of a Roman Emperor, he would be Nero fiddling while Rome burned. As it is, he is Don Quixote fighting with windmills. Meanwhile, the United States dwindles in morality, international power and cultural meaning – noticeable on a daily basis.

The nation is a ship in irons. Its sails flap uselessly while the future blows by. Meanwhile, China has a global effort fully active on every continent and in every important nation – including our neighbors; China soon will be the international force that defines world markets – including the US role in those markets. But Donald Q is chasing the windmill of isolationism.

Night after night, news media focuses on Donald’s affair with a whore. That the viewers of news accept both the behavior and the coverage as de rigueur is frightening; morality has become a rubber band stretched by entertainment value. Can the reader hear the calliope?

Racism has been welcomed back to the circus by Donald. Immigration is a global issue as economies, cultural abuse and war force human families to leave what they know, what they own, and likely, what they love. In Donald’s US circus, add religious intolerance to the show. Quietly, the Attorney General removes laws protecting any disadvantaged person regardless of their plight.

There are some good acts; the Me Too movement, California’s defiance of many of Donald’s efforts at disassembling the fabric of American ethics. But it is a disrespectful circus we watch. There are menacing shadows.

Mariner has decided to leave the circus tent. There is solace in silence. Mariner retrieves news from foreign press and other websites that are not taken in by the music. This savage time will pass as it always has throughout history – but at what cost?

Ancient Mariner

Deep State

Mariner bought a black jacket recently and had the words ‘Deep State’ painted in large black letters across the back. The effect was an appropriately discreet appearance which would be apropos for a hidden operation within a government bureaucracy. With anticipation, mariner wore the jacket to a family dinner last night only to be disillusioned because the family did not know what ‘Deep State’ meant. Mariner determined immediately to write a post about Deep State.

Generally, the term deep state is defined as a government within a government – an unofficial and discreet operation that defies the overt policies and operations of elected leaders who attempt to derail traditional government functions. Mariner learned of the term reading news articles about the Turkey situation where a fascist is attempting to dismember the democratically functioning government.

Then, here in the United States of all places, Donald raised the specter of a Deep State run by Barack Obama using the intelligence agencies to spy on him with the intent of removing him from the campaign and then from his Presidency. Donald still claims that a Deep State operation is causing him problems, blaming it for everything from White House leaks to the information obtained by Robert Mueller.

It is a conspiracy theory, of course. During the campaign, Obama (who read his intelligence briefings) learned that the Russians were attempting to interfere with the US election. Barack ordered the FBI to open an investigation. As we have learned in endless news broadcasts, the investigation began to discover links between Russians, WikiLeaks, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, which Donald hired to influence voters. Many of Donald’s coterie were communicating with Russian operatives. Consequently, what began as a legitimate investigation into Russian tampering eventually involved Donald.

We shan’t engage in an analysis of Donald’s ineptitude but to him, the world is either trustworthy lieutenants or a conspiracy against him. Add this to his permanent vendetta to erase anything barackian, and he believes there is a Deep State operating within government intelligence perhaps still run by Barack.

Mariner enjoys wearing his jacket.

Ancient Mariner

 

Migration – the Great Culture Changer

Mariner was watching the weekend television information shows, which are informative shows, not news shows. He noticed a comment, just one sentence on GPS, the Global Public Square with Fareed Zakaria, that today virtually the entire planet suffers the pressure of large migrations of humans.

The comment prompted mariner to remember migration as a major culture changer. Humans have had major migrations since prehistoric times. 60 thousand years ago a great migration of early humans left Africa likely due to a major climate shift. It was responsible for starting populations in every direction in Europe, the Middle East, and east into India and Southern Asia. That migration certainly brought change to Europe as immigrants overwhelmed the resident Neanderthal population and essentially replaced them. In the process, newer hunting methods and different social capabilities brought a different culture to Europe.

15 thousand years ago, a short ice age caused another migration into Northern Asia and eventually across the Bering Strait to populate North and South America.

10 thousand years ago improved farming induced a population explosion that added more immigrants into Europe and Asia and down to Australia.

Migrations are launched because of imbalances in safety, food, disruptive weather and overcrowding. The Middle East has suffered two great droughts – suffering the latest one since 1998. Today’s drought in the region is 50% drier than the last drought 500 years ago and the driest in 900 years.

Today’s drought shows no signs of letting up and continues south into Northern Africa where government conflict and social unrest continue to grow.

As a result, migration continues to grow.

Given the patterns of migration in human history, natural drought patterns are the most common cause and likely are intensified by climate change. Cultural stress disrupts governments leading to revolution, terrorism and rampant populism. Unlike Sub-Saharan Africa where 20 million face starvation, the Middle East has oil. The vagaries of imbalance as seen in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and Iran have launched a migration from that region. Combine the Middle East migration with other migrant groups from South and Central America and cultural change seems a certain experience in our future – virtually guaranteed in Europe.

The US is experiencing homophobic behavior because Donald promotes it. His base, those who feel they are being pushed out, easily adopt homophobic behavior. However, immigration is not a bad thing. In fact, the US is far better off as “the great melting pot” than it would be otherwise. Besides, in a nation of 350 million, even a million immigrants will not have a disruptive effect but they may, as in past US history, contribute to positive change. If for no other reason than rebalancing the lopsided US demographic profile, they should be welcomed.

– – – –

Don’t blame the turmoil of cultural change just on immigration. Toss in computerization, the internet, and the devious smartphone. The smartphone is eliminating the rich culture based on human-to-human contact and virtually eliminates group processes like clubs, community service, a strong sense of self and an absence of accountability to one’s community. The net result is a culture of blasé. From whence do we derive our ethics, morals, compassion and empathy? These are the energies that make us human. A photograph on Facebook does not make one a living, incorporated human being.

Perhaps being responsible to care for our new immigrant citizens will reset our human values.

Blasé is bad.

Ancient Mariner

 

What is it?

You can feel it. Everyone can. It is similar to flying through the Universe faster than the speed of light. It feels like a tennis match using a dozen balls instead of one. It whirls you about like a carnival ride. It feels like you are crawling under barbed wire in the mud while bullets fly around you.

It is change. Change in religion; change in life style; change in deep-rooted national values; change in economic dependability; change in the Earth’s environment; change in self-confidence; change in the workplace. It is change. Change happening faster than ever before. Change so pervasive as to leave the entire world in disarray.

War is changing. Fresh water is disappearing. Work is changing. Seas are rising. Vital food chains are disappearing. Human life lives too long to be supported. Changing weather drives millions out of their habitat into starvation. The mammalian age is fragmenting. Sea life is dying.

If you are older than the Millennials, it feels like passing out in a spinning centrifuge. If you are a Millennial, reality is a hodge podge of artificial experiences that lead nowhere.

Change is so disruptive it begs the question, “How can we change change?” We can’t. Change is not arbitrary; change has no speed control; change cannot be reversed. And, to identify the cause of change, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Broadcast news services cannot bring us all the changes. There are too many changes from too many diverse sources. News agencies are busy chasing down nothing more than political frivolity and gossip. Most viewers aren’t interested in change; viewers are interested in viewing frivolity and gossip which require little thought and action. Yet change rumbles the ground beneath us. Rock solid virtuosity is changing to flowing currents of ineptitude. Human life is in the midst of the largest quake in human history.

Ancient Mariner

 

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

Humana

Mark Bertolini        $41,676,887

Aetna

Stephen Hemsley  $33,368,652

UnitedHealth Group

Joseph Swedish      $17,057,940

Anthem

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.”

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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.

– – – –

Facts.

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