Our Democracy at Work

AT&T maintains a formidable presence in Washington. The company spent more than $15.8 million on Washington lobbying last year, and its lobbying spending in the first quarter of 2019 put it among the top two dozen companies, according to a POLITICO analysis of disclosure filings. AT&T has 17 in-house lobbyists and also retains nearly 30 outside lobbying firms, according to disclosure reports.

Readers need to know that AT&T owns:

•HBO and Cinemax, as part of Home Box Office Inc.

•TBS, truTV, TNT, Studio T, and TCM, as part of Turner Entertainment Networks

•Adult Swim and Cartoon Network, as part of the TBS, Inc. Animation, Young Adults & Kids Media (AYAKM) division

•CNN and HLN, as part of CNN News Group

•The websites Super Deluxe, Beme Inc., and CallToons

•DC Entertainment

•DC Films, including all of the “Batman” movies

•Turner Broadcasting International

•Turner Sports, including the website Bleacher Report and the rights to March Madness and NBA playoffs

•The CW (50%)

•Warner Bros. Animation

•Hanna-Barbera Cartoons

•Fandango Media (30%)

•Warner Bros. Consumer Products

•Warner Bros. Digital Networks

•Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures

•Warner Bros. Pictures International

•Warner Bros. Museum

•Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank

•Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden

•Warner Bros. Studio Tours

•Warner Bros. Pictures

•Warner Animation Group

•Warner Bros. Family Entertainment

•NonStop Television

•New Line Cinema

•Turner Entertainment Co.

•WaterTower Music

•Castle Rock Entertainment

•The Wolper Organization

•HOOQ

•Blue Ribbon Content

•Warner Bros. Television

•Warner Horizon Television

•Warner Bros. Television Distribution

•Warner Bros. International Television Production

•Telepictures

•Alloy Entertainment

•eleveneleven

•Warner Bros

Is democracy threatened by this? What happened to antitrust regulations?

 It is an age of corporatism unbridled by a government that still thinks only in terms of the printed page. How will AT&T influence our opinions not just for entertainment but for news and an understanding of reality? This is too much control over a public’s perception of the issues of daily life.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

New Stuff

֎ Beginning next year, FedEx will deliver seven rather than six days a week, to accommodate our insatiable online shopping habits. “Online shopping is seven days a week,” the company’s COO told the Wall Street Journal. The company expects that the number of package deliveries in the U.S. will double by 2026. [The Wall Street Journal]

Mariner’s wife, and a zillion other inveterate shoppers, is dismayed at this kind of news. Box stores of every ilk are disappearing on a daily basis. Where will folks shop? Online doesn’t count; one must arrive and walk the aisles, touching and musing about every item then going to a competitive store to start all over again walking the aisles. Mariner’s wife confesses that often nothing is actually bought – unless there is probability that it will be returned anyway. Online stores try to emulate shopping by sending several examples from which to choose but it isn’t the same. Where is the parking lot? Where are the automatic doors? What’s down this aisle? Where is the checkout line?

֎ Billionaire inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk wants to transport you from Los Angeles to San Francisco at a speed of 600 miles per hour. To do this, he is proposing to create a high speed train system called the Hyperloop that will cut travel time between the two cities to just 30 minutes! [Inhabitat.com]

When mariner was young, he remembers reading an account of a person riding in an early version of an automobile before they were a common sight. The person feared for his life as the automobile approached 30 miles per hour. “Humans aren’t made to move this fast,” he said. Young mariner remembers urging a friend of his father, who was taking them for a ride on a new, unopened airport runway, to go faster – go 60 miles per hour! It was exhilarating! Bon voyage, travelers – and don’t pull the emergency stop cord.

֎ Daniel Neiditch is seeking $85 million for a 15,000 square foot space located at 42nd St. and 12th Ave. in Manhattan. He is offering a list of perks to go along with the property to justify the high price:

– A pair of seats on an upcoming Virgin Galactic space flight (retail price: $250,000).

– Two Rolls-Royce Phantoms and a Lamborghini Aventador roadster.

– A $1 million, 75-foot yacht that’s included (along with five years of docking fees on the Hudson).

– A summer stay in a mansion in the Hamptons that typically rents for $350,000 a season.

– Courtside seats to the Brooklyn Nets (worth $225,000),

– A live-in butler, private chef, and a year’s worth of weekly dinners for two at the flagship restaurant of Michelin star chef Daniel Boulud.

– $15 million to pay for renovation. The condo has been on the market for five years, in large part because of its exorbitant price, but also because it requires renovation and the new buyer will need to displace current residents. (The ‘penthouse’ is actually 13 separate units on one floor which are filled with month-to-month renters.)

Do readers feel as mariner does that this offer is too surreal? It just doesn’t seem to have any excited expectation about it. Perhaps one would be more interested if one had a billion or two and could take on the property just for something different to do. But mariner likes the new idea of packaging goodies with a home for sale. How would that alter market pricing? One could sell a junk house for a lot of money by including some neat stuff.

Ancient Mariner

 

Pastimes

Mariner’s back yard, typically a number of gardens surrounding a large circular lawn, has been for the last week or so an archipelago – a series of random islands amid a large body of water. The rain is relentless and endless. It is difficult to weed or otherwise work with plants while standing in several inches of water; cutting a lawn beneath standing water is comparable to one of Las Vegas’s water displays. The cattail ditch has become the deepest part of a large pond preventing mariner from reaching his compost bin.

So outdoor work is unavailable. There are endless projects in mariner’s workshop but they don’t spark any interest. Workshop projects are of three types: timeline projects which must be finished sooner than later (too much like work), waiting projects which are on hold for some reason (reasons which may become infinite), and big task projects usually involving furniture, shelves, repairing equipment or welding.

Another pastime is cooking. Something mariner hasn’t done for a while is bake. That’s because mariner is on a low carb diet – sort of.

To pass some time, today mariner will make English muffins Alton Brown style. Alton must have difficulty keeping interest, too. He invented a way to make English muffins using 3-inch tin cans sitting in an electric frying pan. Mariner has made these muffins before and it is fun to tinker with tin cans rather than to sit by the oven waiting for the timer.

Mariner also has some 4-inch tin cans to experiment with baking cake rolls in a similar fashion.

Mariner also has mail to process.

Finally, his last available pastime is to write a blog post.

Ancient Mariner

 

Will the shoe ever drop?

There is a term that describes a period of Hebrew history leading up to the birth of Jesus – ‘the fullness of time.’ It refers to a promise made by God to the people of Israel that peace and happiness would return and everyone would be blessed. God didn’t exactly say when that would be; he just said, “In the fullness of time.” Habakkuk 2:3:

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

It took centuries before Jesus was born.

Do the citizens of today have to wait centuries before this difficult time passes? Will the people of the world feel great relief and blessing – or as alter ego Amos would suggest, Armageddon? Religious faith provides hope and fulfilled expectation but today fullness lies in the hands of the three branches of the US government. Perhaps Amos knows something.

If one listens to environmentalists, the shoe will not drop – it will float away. If one listens to Congress, and listens, and listens, they say in the end, “What shoe?” If one listens to the Courts, they care very much about the shoe – should the shoe be made of horsehide and thong? Perhaps it would be more meaningful if it were a wooden sandal . . .

If, on the other hand, we turn to today’s version of the Pharisees, that is, the corporations and banks – the shoe definitely will not drop. Fullness of time is already here.

Yes, mariner knows he did not characterize the Executive Branch. It is just too painful.

To take another lesson from the New Testament, this cup will not be taken from us.

Our times are too painful to wait centuries.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

The Word is God

Regular readers are aware that mariner is a fan of haiku. Indeed, he enjoys any short, insightful phrase that takes the mindset to another focus – a small stretch from habitual awareness. Unfortunately, mariner is too pragmatic for many of the ‘Zen’ sayings found on calendars and in greeting cards. But there are many other sources, particularly in literature and poetry that are rich and insightful for anyone. For example:

֎ Louise Glück’s “Field Flowers,” spoken from a flower’s point of view:

Your poor idea of heaven: absence of change.
Better than earth?
How would you know, who are neither
here nor there

. . A thought that leaves one hanging in purgatory without residence before or after. The following is a quickie from mariner’s wife:

The ground is flat
The Earth is round
The truth is never plain, I’ve found
The plane is never true.

Here’s a haiku:

The rain falls heavy
It soaks, it cleans, it feeds life
Rain is Earth’s gardener.

֎ Mahatma Gandhi said this one:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

֎ And Elie Wiesel:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

 Don’t give up on literature and reading despite the onslaught of thumb technology. The best of life is in the written word.

Ancient Mariner

Just so you know . . .

֎ 415 parts per million

At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, carbon dioxide levels were recorded at 415 parts per million last week. That is the highest level recorded there since it began such analyses in 1958. It’s also 100 parts per million higher than any point in the roughly 800,000 years for which scientists have data on global CO2. In other words, “levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are now nearly 40 percent higher than ever in human history.” [Popular Science]

֎ Utah recently passed a law that requires doctors to give anesthesia to a fetus prior to performing an abortion that occurs at 20 weeks of gestation or later. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said it considers the case to be closed as to whether a fetus can feel pain at that stage in development.

“The science shows that based on gestational age, the fetus is not capable of feeling pain until the third trimester,” said Kate Connors, a spokesperson for ACOG. The third trimester begins at about 27 weeks of pregnancy.

To find out more, see: https://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-anesthesia.html?utm_source=ls-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190518-ls

֎ Can students’ life circumstances be quantified alongside their SAT score? The College Board’s new “disadvantage” score attempts to add a measurable layer of context to each student’s test score, taking in environmental factors such as crime rates and housing values where the student lives. Test-taking students won’t see their score, but 150 participating colleges will begin evaluating applicants on this metric in the fall. Notably, the score doesn’t look at race, so it can still be used in states that have banned racial preferences in public-college admissions. [The Atlantic]

֎ The United States is facing an affordable housing crisis.

Nearly two-thirds of renters nationwide say they can’t afford to buy a home, and saving for that down payment isn’t going to get easier anytime soon: Home prices are rising at twice the rate of wage growth. According to research from the advocacy group Home1, 11 million Americans (roughly the population of New York City and Chicago combined) spend more than half their paycheck on rent. Harvard researchers found that in 2016, nearly half of renters were cost-burdened (defined as spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent), compared with 20 percent in 1960. [More at Curbed.com]

Now is the time to tour one’s favorite botanical garden. Make an outing of it with an outdoor lunch. This time of bountiful blossoms lasts only a week or two. Peace of mind may be discovered amid the tumultuous moment in history that everyone is experiencing.

Ancient Mariner

Illicit Conversion

This isn’t about religion. Illicit conversion is a class of fallacy in reasoning which, it turns out, is Donald’s favorite form of argument. Retrieved from one of mariner’s ancient college textbooks on logic, it is nonetheless recognizable today:

Donald would reason that criminals are Hispanics; therefore all Hispanics are criminals. Or, another reasoning, Donald likes rich white people and doesn’t like poor nonwhite people; therefore, what Donald likes is acceptable and what he doesn’t like is unacceptable.

Donald may assume crimes are synonymous with collusion; therefore no collusion means no crimes.

Obviously for Donald, all friends are useful; therefore all those not useful are not friends.

In simple terms, one assumes a premise then uses that premise in an inaccurate way to propose a second premise. A syllogism with a split middle is a specific construct within illicit conversion.

What makes Donald confusing is that he illicitly converts illicit conversions at the drop of a hat. His reporting on the North Korean issue is an example.

Certainly Donald is not the only person who uses illicit conversion. It just may be that everyone is guilty of the practice when it provides an easy answer to a complex situation. How many conservatives or conversely how many liberals must confess to using ‘what one likes is legitimate; therefore what one doesn’t like is illegitimate’? How many think the brand of car they purchased is a superior choice therefore all other brands are somehow inferior?

The loosely defined truths (or untruths) contained in illicit conversions inevitably lead to flawed judgment, prejudice, exclusivity, meaningless pride and in some conditions lead to violence and abuse. Even in strict scientific research, what may be construed as a valid assumption often turns out to be an illicit conversion.

Has one ever used an illicit conversion to justify procrastination or scheduling preferences or which school is best for the children?

Illicit Conversion is a practice that is a bad personal habit until it becomes common enough to influence society. Without illicit conversion, populism cannot exist; identity politics cannot exist; prejudice cannot exist, etc.

The best antidote is curiosity along with engagement. Why does one want to procrastinate? Why do the various financial classes discriminate and isolate? Why is government split between capitalism and socialism? Why does one like their neighbor from the other political party but dislikes everyone else in that party?

One for all and all for one dispels socially assumed illicit conversion – plus add some rational education. Yet, many in the electorate prefer to be guided by illicit conversions for every aspect of life.

Ancient Mariner

 

Finally

Winter seems at last to have given in regarding its long battle to deter Spring. An unexpected late frost damaged tomatoes and impatiens enough to delay blooming but all survived even if near the ground level. During the exceptionally cold Winter, the Azaleas planted in the front a year ago were frozen completely except for a few shoots coming from the roots. Only a handful of blossoms appeared. Needless to say, Spring planting of flowers and vegetables is behind schedule.

As headlines in the news report, this area and the entire Midwest has suffered record rainfall throughout the Winter and early Spring. Flooding is everywhere and the major rivers are setting record flood stages; many very large crop fields look like lakes. Instead of an emerging Spring, mariner’s home town suffered endless weeks of a weather pattern that hung around the freezing point, snowing at night and turning to rain during the day.

Mariner is old enough that reengaging the labors of gardening after Winter layoff takes a while. Between the rain, grass growing like there’s no tomorrow and a water table high enough that one’s boots splash when walking on the lawn, it will be awhile before the grounds look kempt.

Mariner’s daughter gifted him and his wife with a fancy Cherry tree. Sitting next to a large crabapple tree that blooms rambunctiously, that end of mariner’s home should be quite a display. Mariner also set out his potted Oleander, Amaryllis and the cactus collection from the Sonoran Dessert.

So, all is happy again in mariner’s hometown – especially for the lawn Nazis whose lawnmowers, blowers, lawn trimmers, tillers and power washers are incessant and drowned out only by the cars racing on the dirt track at the fairgrounds. When mariner first drove into his town in 1964, he said, ‘This is a town of lawns.’ And it is. The Town Council passed ordinances requiring lawns not to be too long and the property must appear well maintained.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to walk outside without bundling up and to hear a living world from hummingbirds to riding mowers to stock cars.

Ancient Mariner

 

Reality isn’t very large

Mariner was reminiscing the other day about his teen years. That was a time when weekend dances were common in high school gyms. Living on the East Coast, there were summer beach parties, water skiing, Limbo contests and in the midst of it all dating and beginning to learn ‘grownup’ social skills. Naturally, after a moment, realism set in and mariner realized that era didn’t last very long. Not only that, it doesn’t exist anymore. Everyone has memories, of course, visions stored in brain cells. There are accountings in history books, mementoes, even the old letter sweater. Still, that era doesn’t exist anymore in any form of reality. That chunk of time is gone. Time doesn’t flow; it breaks off in chunks just like a glacier.

Think about the lives of our elders in the year 1900. It was an era where the horse was front and center to virtually every human activity. One accepted without thought the smells, the chores, the care and feeding of horses. On farms, it was an unconscious chore to start the day harnessing old Dobbin. One couldn’t go to town or church or work or haul the product of one’s labor without engaging a horse.

By 1914 the internal combustion engine had replaced the horse – so rapidly and so completely that everything from commerce to politics was reinvented. By 1925, after World War I, the horse was no longer a centerpiece in society. The horse world disappeared. That time broke off as a chunk and was no more.

Reality, that is, an interacting phenomenon that creates new actions and results, is really only about 25 years long. In a Zen moment, one realizes that their own reality has disappeared, too. Having only a few moments that exist in memory, one’s old self is gone.

Similar to a glacier losing a chunk of ice into the sea, the actual chunking process takes a long time. A glacier may take a half century to slowly split and melt to the point that a chunk falls off. Mariner proposes that today, at the start of the twenty-first century, humanity is splitting and melting as it approaches a moment of chunk, when the time one is familiar with today will suddenly be gone. A new time is beginning.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

The Creative Brain . . .

Over the years mariner has noticed a preference, even a celebration of the human brain’s dexterity and inventiveness. Mariner first noticed this bias in scientists. Remember Carl Sagan? He was famous for saying “billions and billions of stars, galaxies”, etc. Outer space was tantamount to Heaven itself. More recently, Neil de Grasse Tyson had an astronomy series where he blatantly described the wonderful phenomenon of physics, science and the creative mind. Any number of science specials on television tout the glorious, unburdened reality and the never ending benefits to humankind by the creative three dimensional world.

The other day mariner watched a special on Netflix called ‘The Creative Brain’ hosted by David Eagleman. He spoke of the special tool of the human brain, the Prefrontal Cortex, which allows humans to combine old knowledge and experience with new ones to create the art, tools, machines, technology, and abstract reasoning. Every example was a contribution to business, a three dimensional, arts and crafts creation.

Mariner reacts to the glorification of ‘things’ and ‘processes’ by asking a probing question: Who is in charge of these new things? His traditional example is Alfred Nobel; he invented dynamite in 1867. A premature publication of his obituary led him to establish the Nobel prizes in retribution. The obituary stated, Le marchand de la mort est mort (“The merchant of death is dead”) and went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.) This motivated him to dedicate his estate to the Nobel Prizes in 1900.[1]

Of course Alfred did not mandate the killing of people faster than ever before. The question is who was in charge of Alfred’s scientific achievement?

The man credited with first having split the atom was Ernest Rutherford, who achieved the feat in 1917. Did he authorize the death of 280,000 Japanese in August, 1945? Who was in charge of this scientific achievement at that time?

Today, computer cloud technology receives similar praise as a wonderful invention. Who is in charge of this achievement? Business entrepreneurs and the military. Without his permission, the man on the street is creating billionaires by letting them steal his profile without remuneration.

The real point to this post is this: What good are all these advancements and business opportunities if the other part of the brain, the hypothalamus, hippocampus and amygdala are not capable of handling emotional judgment and ethics regarding the use of three dimensional inventions for human good? Perhaps a bit of wonderment should recognize human advancement in maturity and compassion, should it ever occur.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Detail by Wikipedia