One for Many but Many for One, too

Mariner was a young lad, well, not really young, he had progressed a bit in his career and was working as a staff consultant assisting all state law enforcement agencies in complying with new Federal regulations about reporting law enforcement activities to a State database. Let’s just say he had a full head of hair with a flat top.

The work was both tedious and fraught with conflicts about changing behaviors that had long existed in local police agencies. After a hard Friday, we all stopped after work to enjoy a happy hour at a local pub. It was a good release from a difficult day and, after a couple of hours, mariner had had an uncounted number of half-priced gin and tonics. Needless to say, as he left for home, he had an accident on the interstate. One is supposed to slow a bit when taking a tight exit ramp, which mariner failed to do.

But the accident is only a set-up for a genuine insight that has stayed with mariner throughout his life and sets his belief in what democracy is all about.

Mariner rolled his jeep-like vehicle and totaled it. He crawled out the back window virtually unhurt. The first person to be there as he crawled out of the vehicle was a nurse who checked him for critical injuries, determined he would survive and left. The second person to greet mariner simultaneous to the nurse fed him two breath mints to help ward off law enforcement analysis of his inebriation and left. The third person redirected traffic. There was no judgment of mariner’s behavior; there was no judgment of inconvenience; there was no judgment of moral principles. Mariner was a fellow interstate traveler. Further, because he was in law enforcement and reported to the Secretary of Public Safety, police officers saw to it that there were no ticketing or other law enforcement transactions as a result of the accident.

This tale has nothing to do with regulatory justice, alcohol, or nuisance among interstate travelers. What mariner learned is that he belonged. He was a fellow interstate traveler; he was a fellow law enforcement employee; he was a fellow human being. He belonged. Not only that, he was accountable to other travelers for the same concern about wellbeing. He learned that judgment and prejudice are not the rules for living together. Just the opposite, it is compassion and understanding that hold us together.

At this time we are confronted in our nation with a despot president, an unjust economic system and many citizens suffering from innumerable injustices in daily life. Democracy is at risk. Our nation is not so far from the cliff not to be concerned about abject collapse into a so-so nation that will be left behind in the artificial intelligence age. Already our allies are drifting away.

The solution is to feel that we belong. We are one of many. Also, we are among the many that care for the one. Democracy requires unity and mutual participation without judgment.

Ignore the fake news concerned about prejudice and malfeasance. Go outside and look for someone who needs to belong. While you’re at it, let yourself belong to the nation as well – without judgment.

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

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

Merger of CVS and Aetna

In what was a disturbing interview on PBS NewsHour between Judy Woodruff and Larry Merlo (CVS CEO), Judy pressed Merlo several times about how the merger will benefit individuals. Continually, Merlo ducked that specific question by advocating better procedures, better integration of services and a number of platitudes all of which reflect a larger corporate-driven control of market, profits by collusion and most disturbingly, the point Merlo ducked, was quality control of corporate costs by managing patients directly.

This is an article/video that is very important for the reader to read/watch. It speaks clearly to the control factor that large data clouds and massive records of daily life are being integrated for corporate benefit, not for personal benefit. Go to:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/what-the-cvs-aetna-merger-could-mean-for-you

The reader may recall a recent post in which mariner mentioned John Hancock converting it policies to a program called “interactive policies” where insured will be screened and if selected, must participate in the interactive program.

John Hancock, one of the oldest and largest North American life insurers, will stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones, the company said on Wednesday.

 The move by the 156-year-old insurer, owned by Canada’s Manulife Financial, marks a major shift for the company, which unveiled its first interactive life insurance policy in 2015. It is now applying the model across all of it’s life coverage.

It works like this:

Policyholders score premium discounts for hitting exercise targets tracked on wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch and get gift cards for retail stores and other perks by logging their workouts and healthy food purchases in an app. In theory, everybody wins, as policyholders are incentivized to adopt healthy habits and insurance companies collect more premiums and pay less in claims if customers live longer.

Privacy and consumer advocates have raised questions about whether insurers may eventually use data to select the most profitable customers, while hiking rates or not accepting those who do not participate.

Hancock says customers do not have to log their activities to get coverage even though their policies are packaged with the Vitality program. The insurer will begin converting existing life insurance policies to Vitality in 2019, it said.

As mariner understands it, your insurance company knows if you eat three strips of bacon instead of one or skip a morning run when Grandma visits and will have the right to raise your premium or even drop you for someone else who helps the company’s profit margin. As regular readers know, mariner is extremely sensitive to corporations telling him what to eat, know, or do with his life – especially if it is for the benefit of the corporation.

– – – –

To wax philosophically for a moment and promising not to be verbose, we are watching capitalism leverage a changing technological society for profit. The way to tell the difference between capitalism and other isms is that the wellbeing and advantage in other isms is driven by the individual or by government in the individual’s behalf – not using the individual foremost as a controlled instrument for profit. If there is no profit in an individual, buzz off. Who cares?

The beginning of this post mentioned the merger of CVS and Aetna. Leverage gained will be through combined databases about customers. Then, just like the book 1984, the customer will have to do what the corporation says to do – which cuts overhead and locks in pharmacy prices based on each individual’s profit value instead of what the market in general will bear.

And to top it off, one’s life is not managed by one’s own decisions.

More disturbingly, these corporate controls smell of Harari Yuval’s belief that in the future unwanted humans will not be cared for by society. Is the future now?

Ancient Mariner

 

The United States Senate

Virtually everyone in the US agrees that things are not what they should be for the common citizen. First glance criticism points at inbred party politics; others are concerned about the shifting economy that takes growth and reward from working classes and feathers the nests of capitalistic oligarchs; others worry that the cash-rich special interests own Congress through donations, favors and intense lobbying.

All these issues are real and burdensome. But they are political in nature, that is, these issues affect the rituals of governance. There are larger issues that affect the doctrine of our nation, its Constitution, its court systems and the relationship between State governments and the Federal government. Some doctrinaire issues are:

֎The US Supreme Court is the only ‘appointed for life’ court among other nations with similar high courts. When times change slowly, as they did before the telegraph, telephone, television, and computerized decision making, perhaps life time appointments were satisfactory. Today, as everyone is aware, culture, science, technology and economics are changing at lightning speed. Given the constraints of knowing most about one’s own developmental years and less about current society as one grows older, is it relevant that lifetime, politically anointed appointments degrade the decision quality of the Supreme Court? Thinking differently, should judges be rotated?

֎Gerrymandering and a politically controlled census process seem to be just political at first glance but coupled with voter suppression not only at the polls but not allowing voting via modern techniques e.g., mail-in and email ballots, party or government manipulation of voter registration records and the idea of an Electoral College – together permit a virtual plutocracy to exist hidden beneath a plethora of manipulative laws and regulations. Mariner need only point out that he and his wife were not allowed to vote for their candidate in the last Presidential primary. One person, one vote has not existed for a century or more.

֎The United States Senate is an old fix to encourage the original States to go along with new Federal powers that impinged on the independence of states at the time. In fact, voters did not have a say in their Senator’s appointment until 1913 when the 17th amendment was ratified. Still, the representation stayed at two senators per State rather than integrating their election into a population-based representation. As a consequence, today, 12% of the US population elects 60% of the Senate. Ironically, the fewer citizens a State has, the more powerful is their voice in the Senate. Politically this means that farm states, low population states like Idaho, Montana and North Dakota – all typically conservative because of the lack of industrial cities and population density – are able to sway the Senate voting power in a way that does not genuinely represent the common US voter.

One wonders why the gun issue cannot be resolved – could it be the Senate with 60 % of the vote coming from rural and underpopulated states that do not have inner city gun murders on a daily basis, does not care so much? Mariner suspects hot issues like guns, prioritized education and comprehensive discretionary funding similar to welfare, health and career opportunity will remain unresolved because the Senate is intrinsically biased.

It was a man in West Virginia recently who said to a reporter that it was time the Senate was eliminated. Perhaps he is right.

Ancient Mariner

Central and South America are Different

Mariner promised many posts ago that Guru would investigate Central and South America, which seem to have a separate world history from North America, the West and even an Asian influence. Understand that Guru is quite theoretical in nature and does not always have documentation. This liberty, however, enables Guru to visualize history in very broad sweeps of insight. Having said that, Guru does his homework by searching for thematic truths that together encompass history, geography, environment, culture and politics.

As Pogo Possum once said, “We have met the enemy and it is us.” The abuse is racism. From the beginning, it is part of our genetic heritage as tribal apes living 100,000 years ago in Africa. Homo sapiens is a tribal ape; there is nothing we can do about that. A point of reference most folks know is how H. Neanderthal was overrun in Europe by H. sapiens. Common reasons for this fratricide were differences in appearance, physical and mental composition, the withdrawal of an ice age, the changing environment, etc. Today, all of us have a few genes that originally belonged to the Neanderthal; rape and pillaging exists in H. sapiens just as it does among indigenous chimpanzees, another brother ape. Ironically, the original H. sapiens was a black skinned variety living in Africa. Today, a late ice age variety with white skin has turned against its black ancestors.

If a phrase may be proposed for the American racial experience, it would be ‘urbanized racism.’ Guru will not digress into the North American experience because it is heavily and continually documented. The focus is Central and South America. Brazil is examining racism in a proactive way. For example, they consider affirmative action an extension of racism. Universities in Brazil are looking for national equalization solutions that are not available except through socialism – a long reach for the plutocracies today.

We must remember that the American continents for eons were not populated by European or modern Asian varieties of H. sapiens. Long, long ago, in the midst of the ice age, the original inhabitants migrated from the Asian continent up through Russia to the Bering Strait, bringing with them not only a different appearance but a different perception of theology and social justice. In North America, these original inhabitants were dealt with in the tradition of the Neanderthal elimination – genocide. In the southern continents, these original inhabitants still exist in enough numbers that an active subculture is a visible part of the society – consider the Amish in the US as an example. Many readers have knowledge of the spiritualist religions remaining in the Caribbean which originally came over with slaves.

The Spanish conquistadors inadvertently cut off the southern continents from North America. Native tribes and cultures were disrupted enough that the Aztec civilization in the southwest lasted only 200 years; trade with North American natives disappeared.

Because the southern continents were isolated from western history for an extended time and because the huge forests of the Brazilian catchment and the foreboding mountains to the west made it difficult to experience North America’s western expansion, South America remained largely undeveloped until the age of fossil fuel early in the twentieth century. The nations of South America remained poor, ill-managed governments that survived primarily on International Monetary Funds (IMF) until the middle of the century. To this day, the southern continents are underdeveloped and suffer the pains of political growth the rest of the western world experienced in earlier times.

The political history often is jaded by economic abuse and class discrimination. Even in today’s news cycles, most of the nations are in financial difficulty and suffer governmental mismanagement.

But a new day is coming for the southern continents. Several minerals that are becoming harder to find around the world lie in wait – especially in South America where beryllium, thorium, lithium, rare-earth metals, and mica are in abundance. Chile, for example, sits on the world’s largest source of Lithium.

Further, the undeveloped nature of southern continent economies is a plum for economic expansion by larger industrial nations. China spends more development money than any other nation – ranging from Mexico to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego. The coming age of internationalism may be good for the southern continents if colonialism can be kept under control.

There is much more to write about southern continents with regard to environment, culture, social structure and ethics. But that is another post.

Ancient Mariner

 

Watch the European Union

The European Union (EU) is having a more intense disruption with populism, nationalism and a drift toward totalitarianism. We in North America – particularly the US – should pay attention to what’s happening across the pond because the causes of disruption are quite similar.

IMMIGRATION – Donald has heightened the reactions of his base by taking the side of racist politics and exacerbating border issues with his fence initiatives; along with Jeff Sessions (lest we forget Jeff took Strom Thurman’s place as the leader of racist policy in the Senate), has eliminated sympathy, empathy, fairness and every other human instinct from ICE, tearing families apart not only in the Southwest but across the country. Further, Donald is defunding several assistance programs for immigrants, for example, DACA and aid programs for newly arrived legal immigrants. This legislative turmoil is magnified in the EU by confrontation in 28 member nations.

Actually, US citizens statistically are not as upset about global migration as Donald and his followers are. The proportion of immigrants in the US is quite a bit less than the proportions in EU nations; as of 2015 immigrant population in the EU was 19.9 percent of total population (1 of every 5) while the US immigrant population is 14.3 percent (1 in 7). These numbers reflect all immigrants, not just the headline wave in the news. Unlike EU migrations from the Middle East and Africa, US migrations largely are from Central and South America and some from Asia.

Having made this case, it can be seen that Donald did not cause immigration woes; he is the result of a populist condition energized by several circumstances in the US having to do with economic imbalance, technology and cultural transition. Fortunately, the size and democratic philosophy of the US have not permitted totalitarian leaders as in Greece, Turkey and other small nations suffering from the same woes – though Donald wishes it were so.

ECONOMY – The following chart from The Economist magazine shows a relative comparison between the US, EU and other nations for the quality of life for the poorest 10% and the wealthiest 10% in each nation. Note not only the relative quality between nations also note the US has the greatest spread between the poor and wealthy groups.

 

 

The US does have the widest spread between rich and poor. Further, with middle class income stagnant for forty years and still not climbing today with record profits among the wealthier, it is no surprise that there is a populist reaction in the US. As a philosophical note, the three countries with higher quality for the poor (Canada, Sweden and Australia) have constraints on capitalistic abuse: Sweden has a socialist economy, Canada has socialist policies and, as an entertaining note, Australia keeps capitalism in check with a robust news media!

TECHNOLOGY – While for the moment the US is the leader in several technologies, Europe is no slouch. In fact, the European population is 196,734,765 people larger than the US and is second only to the US in GDP – United States 19,390,600 and EU 17,308,862. The point is, although the US perception is that all countries including the EU are tiny in comparison to ourselves, the EU is a global competitor not only in commerce generally but a competitor in technology and in some ways a leader in responding to the emerging AI global market (witness an EU trade agreement only days ago with Japan, usurping US economic influence (thanks, Donald).

Just as with the United States, EU is struggling with the definition and role of jobs in the future. Although not as thoroughly capitalistic as the US, taxation and industrial strength both are up for reinterpretation in the near future; EU is suffering the emergence of AI as is the US but even more so because of multinational issues among EU member states. An example is the push back on privacy usurpers like Google et al – something the US has not begun to do at Federal levels.

 CULTURAL TRANSITION – Many decades ago, perhaps in the late 80’s, Oldsmobile introduced the world to the slogan, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” No one denied it was a different vehicle with newer technology but many opined that the older versions had more power and comfort. Since then the phrase has become an icon for claiming significant changes in familiar objects and circumstances. We can safely say today a variation: “This is not your twentieth century!”

The millennial generation was the pivot generation to new behavioral forces that today continue to erode our 20th century religion, job security, Federal conservatism (AKA Establishment) and class/race relations. Each generation has put more pressure on social change that is long overdue.

Mariner burns leaves in the fall. The approaching age of artificial intelligence, perhaps only one more generation into the future, has an effect on culture change that pouring gasoline has on a leaf pile.

Perhaps by watching the European Union wander into this vortex, we may have a few weeks lead on what will happen on this side of the pond.

Ancient Mariner

 

VOTE with a new Feeling

Mariner’s last post was about an unusually good Global Public Square (GPS) hosted by Fareed Zakaria on Sundays on CNN. Fareed’s subject matter is typically international in nature, dealing with economics and culture. He addresses the US political scene with fairness. To borrow just one quote, Bono said, “Europe is a thought that needs to become a feeling.” Ironically, having feelings for a national ethos is not new. Rodney King said the same thing in 1992. The ‘spirit’ of unity is still around but buried beneath a burdensome amount of nationalism – a lot like mariner’s garden is hidden by humongous weeds.

But there are signs here and there that Homo sapiens has an internal nature that knows there is something important about belonging. It isn’t a feeling that requires one definition but is more like a membership among differently defined participants – differences that ironically contribute to a greater feeling of security and unity.

Mariner has a life example that speaks to Bono’s ‘feeling’. He knows two men who are close in their friendship. Conversation flows freely, events are shared, tools and physical support are shared, families participate in social events. It is clear that each man has the other man’s back. One would not believe this possible comparing the two biographic backgrounds.

Man-A is an intense advocate of Donald Trump; He wants to put Hillary in jail; People without jobs are derelict; Federal discretionary spending is a violation of his rights and obligations. Man-A grew up on a farm and has been a laborer and career big-rig truck driver for 40 years.

Man-B is a liberal who begrudgingly voted for Hillary because she had no vision about the future; Man-B thought Donald would destroy democracy. Man-B grew up in Pennsylvania in a college community; his parents were white collar workers in education. Man-B went to college and earned two graduate degrees; he worked for several government agencies.

How, we may wonder, can these two men be fast friends? Bono the poet had the right word: feelings. Feelings about each other’s worth as a human being determines what is good, as opposed to what is discriminatory, about their relationship.

By its nature nationalism and similar identity postures demand institutional authority sealed in a monolithic block. There is no space for diversity; there is no use for feeling. But feeling is a survival feature for humans; we are tribal down to our genome. As creatures of evolution and as members of the mammalian class, we must belong to other humans, not to an emotionless monolithic block of absolute rules devoid of ‘feeling.’

On November 6 vote with an awareness that the United States has been and will be a leader in the world not because it spends 10 times any other country’s budget on the military but because there is freedom to belong, to participate, to share humanness among our fellow mammalian Homo sapiens friends. The American experiment is at stake. Vote to restore American ethos.

Ancient Mariner

 

What lies ahead

Mariner recently posted a metaphor relating the status of the United States, its culture and its economy at war with itself. This cultural war is the result of inadequate regulations on wealth. As if this were not enough, another war is horning in on the citizen’s awareness: Artificial Intelligence (AI) – but even more so the domination of daily, personal human life by computers.

Artificial Intelligence will displace our need to perform mundane tasks, even sophisticated tasks. The hidden agenda is that using AI, corporations will know so much about our daily activity, preferences, illnesses, and common daily behavior that computers will decide how much insurance will be available at what cost, how much salary will be permitted, what we can eat, buy or have access to. Where we are permitted to live, how much housing cost we will be allowed and what medical insurance we may have based on our daily behavior, all will be based on monitoring our lives in minute detail. In short, computers will control our choices in life and our routine behavior – the concept of privacy will disappear.

The simple conveniences of talking to ECHO or similar devices will do us in. The data tracking behind ECHO will capture every instruction, every activity, and every movement of daily activity into a complex database that will determine who you are – statistically. Not so much who you are as an individual but who you are compared to everyone else. You will be allowed behaviors commensurate with your statistical relationship with the population – statistically.

Perhaps younger generations see no problem being defined as a statistic somewhere in a database. Mariner is of an older generation, perhaps one that has lived too long given its genetic foundations. Mariner still has a unique persona with its own consciousness, intellectual awareness and the idea that he can be who he wants to be in society. While statistics may describe him, they do not create him; free will is still a dream with which he can build his life.

Ancient Mariner

 

Of Battlefronts

Mariner hopes dearly that most of his readers have not experienced a battlefront experience. The noise can be truly deafening; there are bombs, tanks, airplanes, field cannons, grenades, machine guns and incessant gunfire; acrid smoke clouds vision; soldiers screaming and dying – some by a soldier’s own hand; good friends are lost; anxiety reaches peaks destructive to the human psyche. It is no wonder survivors of a battlefront choose not to talk about the experience.

Not as life-threatening and not as explosive, the battlefront metaphor can be applied to the battlefront of the United States, its governments, its human values, its economy and the security of every individual citizen. All are at a point of open conflict. There are visible battles like the elections and the battle-hardened party war; there are regulatory battles that fall on industries and individuals alike as if they were hit by a grenade; there are battles involving humaneness and civil rights that are scarred by political strafing; dollars are the ammunition – oligarchs sending ammunition to preferred hot spots in the battle.

As in any war, it is the human casualty that remains afterward. We live today amid the rubble of an active battlefront. What will remain of trusted values, citizen rights and family security? From what values will we, the citizens, build a post-war peace? What new influences will be imposed in a new age?

We are the soldiers. We will suffer the confusion, the irrationalities, the false promises, and the politically motivated leaders who lead us into battle. We will suffer losses. When the smoke clears, what will we soldiers have accomplished?

Ancient Mariner