Interesting Notes about Wall Street and Your Street

In the October 5 issue of Economics Magazine, an article claims that the role of automation and now Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken over Wall Street. Note the following excerpts:

  • Funds run by computers that follow rules set by humans account for 35% of America’s stock market, 60% of institutional equity assets and 60% of trading activity. New AI programs also are writing their own investing rules, in ways their human masters only partly understand.
  • A final concern is corporate governance. For decades company boards have been voted in and out of office by fund managers on behalf of their clients. What if these shares are run by agnostic computers or worse have narrow objectives such as paying high dividends at any cost?
  • Hey Siri, can you invest my life savings?

In the eighteenth century, one showed superiority by wearing machine made, unfitted, uncomfortable shoes made in Europe instead of the commoner’s choice of a locally made, measured and fitted, comfortable shoe from solid, inexpensive materials which were easily reparable. While this seems incredulous, this practice dominates all retail today. Given the turn in international economics, ‘made in America’ AKA ‘Made by me’ as a personal experience doesn’t mean much anymore. Try to find a shoe repair store today. Try to have a shoe repair store make the reader a pair of personally fitted shoes. Alas, past his time, mariner remembers a local shoemaker who made shoes.

Mariner is old enough to remember the old days when Mothers, Aunts, Grandmothers and even Great Grandmothers made, knitted, repurposed, patched and otherwise sustained the family wardrobe. That was before inexpensive replacements could be bought from some Asian country or replaced by cheap but irreparable rayon and other -ons. Similar observations are visible in other disciplines: appliances for task-based jobs, automobiles instead of public transportation, accepting uncertain information from TV and YouTube instead of reading fact-checked and vetted newspapers and books – not to mention the greedy, life-controlling munchkins hiding in the smartphone.

Before the non-romantics rise up about preferring to not darn socks and make clothes, shoes, chop wood or make pasta from scratch or canning apples or other day-to-day self-rewarding activities, mariner understands the role and benefit of progress. He doesn’t want to darn socks either. But. But. How does an individual sustain personal value and satisfaction? How does an individual feel personal competency and life achievement within one’s daily life? How does an individual sustain an ethic centered on one’s psyche?

The most common metaphor from mariner’s posts is, “How does an individual feel about achieving intimacy and bonding with a spouse offered up by a corporation?” A whole segment of life experience and the exercise of emotional discipline are traded for spouse shopping with a spouse-salesman. Are trade-ins next? Mariner’s mind leaps to the phrase, “She’ll make a good first wife”, or “He’ll make a good first investment.” What happened to investing one’s libido and aptitude? As a realistic metaphor, many retirees develop hobbies that reflect personal achievement – perhaps for the first time in their lives. Mariner knew a judge from Baltimore who retired and learned to weld and repair trucks. Many folks actually drop a career to pick one that provides personal value, e.g., charity work, community leadership and the arts.

Individually, mariner understands the desire to improve the time/work/result ratio. What comes to mind, however, is how eager humans are to trade for the easy life by surrendering personal accomplishment at the existential level.

With AI, there is a new relationship: just as humans defer to corporate perceptions about life, humans don’t set the rules for computers anymore either. It may be that the only color available for clothes will be unbleached fiber – whatever color that is – because AI says it’s the cheapest solution for corporate profit.

As to Wall Street, J.G. Wentworth may become the largest lender in the nation if Siri won’t allow a withdrawal from the savings account to pay for a vacation in Acapulco.

Another down home decision that’s disappearing: personally meaningful, moralistic voting.[1]

Ancient Mariner


[1] In case the reader doesn’t notice commercials, J.G Wentworth will buy an individual’s structured accounts, e.g., insurance policies, so one can say, “It’s my money! I want it now.” Of course, one takes a financial hit when the smoke clears.

Planet One

Neil deGrasse Tyson classified a unified world where everyone was content with society and all its iterations as “Planet One”. There would be no desire for war or one-upmanship of any kind; as Elvis said, there will be peace in the valley. Utopian visions are comforting, even occasionally sustaining a purpose for one’s life.

One should not scoff at utopias and discard them as fantasy although a reality check quickly discounts that a utopian state will ever occur. Utopian visions are useful for identifying current issues that prevent a utopian experience. At a general level, how would religion perform in order to promote a utopian concept? Politics? Neighborhoods? Businesses?

At the individual level, could ambition exist? Pride? Judgment? What about any comparative rationale? Dare one have any kind of prejudice? In a favorable environment, moss exists in a utopian state although the need to reproduce in some fashion still exists, implying that things aren’t as utopian for moss as one would think.

A new vision of utopia has emerged because of the advancement in electronic technology. Is it possible to achieve a utopian state with a comprehensive support system provided by electronics? This may not be achievable for humans because they would have to turn over moral issues and definitions of utopia to the computers. Mariner has seen The Matrix and is not confident that this kind of utopia would exist for humans – although it may exist for the electronics.

So why does the idea of utopia hang around? It hangs around for the same reason as aspirin; thinking about a moment when one’s problems disappear, life is beautiful and the birds are singing, and that maybe, just maybe, things will feel better – just like taking aspirin.

Instead of envisioning utopia, reverse engineer utopia back to the present and ask, “By any definition, what is preventing utopia?” An example follows that is a large issue and certainly stands in the way of utopia.

The idea that racism is an endemic conflagration full of politics and skin color has begun to step into a broader plain that makes the point that racism is a weakness in the power structure of nations. A nation cannot exercise its full potential because racial prejudice eliminates the potential that may be had if all races were included. Taking this perspective, Donald and the white supremacists clearly would diminish the potential of the nation by eliminating the nonwhite population.

Simply by shifting one’s mindset from exclusionary awareness to a mindset of personal concern that one’s personal wellbeing is constrained suggests an entirely different set of resolutions promoting national potential, therefore assuring an individual will have improved finances and security.

The race issue is becoming more than a learned prejudice. The “Z” generation (born after 2007) is a white minority. For the first time since the Census Bureau has released annual statistics, they show an absolute decline in the nation’s white non-Hispanic population. Note the word ‘decline’; the drop has nothing to do with immigration. White citizens are producing children at the rate of 1.78 per woman. Not enough to sustain population.[1]

As long as the word ‘race’ is required to discuss black population, racism will not disappear according to Ibram X Kendi in his new book, “How to be an Antiracist.” A good example of not identifying race is the new awareness by corporate America; they already feel the fact that nonwhites don’t produce enough GDP and in many subtle ways are trying to integrate nonwhites into the economy. Mariner has noticed that television commercials with increasing frequency use mixed couples and mixed marriages.

Mariner is envious of the wonderful skin tone of Halle Berry. It’s too late for him; maybe his great, great grandchildren will be lucky.

Ancient Mariner

[1] For additional, dependable statistics and dialogue, see William H. Frey’s latest book, “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America,”

Did You Catch This?

[Newsy] An appeals court ruled on Friday that survivors and family members of people killed in a mass shooting in South Carolina are allowed to sue the federal government for negligence.

In June 2015, a white supremacist entered an African-American church in Charleston and opened fire on a Bible study group. Nine people were killed. The shooter was convicted on federal murder and hate crime charges and now awaits the death penalty.

After the shooting, then-FBI Director James Comey said the gunman was federally prohibited from owning a firearm when he bought the weapon used in the attack, and that he was able to buy it due to failures in the FBI’s background check system.

Cases brought by survivors and family members intended to hold the government accountable for allowing the shooter to buy the gun. They were consolidated and dismissed by a lower court, which ruled the federal government was protected from lawsuits under two provisions.

But the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Friday that judge was wrong. It ruled that the laws protect the government employee who performed the background check, but not the government itself. The dismissal was reversed.

Wow! This will provide impetus for gun legislation. Hit’em in the pocketbook.

[CityLab] Between crushing student debt, skyrocketing rents, and underemployment, more college graduates are crashing with mom and dad until they can find financial stability. A study using 2016 Census data, from the real estate site Zillow, found that overall, the share of young college graduates moving back home jumped from 19 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2016. Miami and New York had the highest shares—45 percent and 42 percent, respectively. For some Millennials, according to MarketWatch, that means they’re skipping starter homes and going for larger houses as their first purchase.

In his small home town, mariner has a related statistic. Many older families are now parking a third car in their two-car driveway.

[Propublica] Everything You Need to Play Baseball Is Made in China — and Getting Hit by Trump’s Tariffs.

Baseball is America’s pastime, but prices on its China-made gear are about to rise as the trade war escalates. Golf, lacrosse, basketball and other sports will feel the pinch, too.

It’s not hard to think of the future being made in a blender. Will the Minuteman Statue sport a Mongolian deel? will the Statue of Liberty wear tight Yoga pants? Will hamburgers be served at a Japanese tea ceremony? Will Afghanistani women wear stringy short-shorts? Will Donald attend his Alabama rally wearing a tilted bérét, a pencil mustache and twirling a Bat Masterson cane?

Mariner prognosticates that global politics, society and economy will all be in a blender until sometime after 2040 – a lot like living in the Bahamas with Dorian hanging around.

Ancient Mariner

News of the Moment

֎ Did the reader see Apple’s new ad selling an Apple credit card that “doesn’t need a bank”? Cryptocurrency is here to stay.

֎ Did the reader read that Jakarta, a city larger than New York by 2 million residents and is the capital of Indonesia, is sinking into the Java Sea? So they are building a brand new city from scratch on the island of Borneo. The downside is that it will house only 1.5 million residents – mostly government workers. Other nations should watch and learn how to do this so that when their home town sinks below the waves, they’ll know what to do.

֎ Mariner surmises that PBS news must read his blog. On Wednesday night’s broadcast they covered a children’s program in Oakland, California where a group of children are taken to a nature park on a regular basis. The program leaders believe that being outside (and not on a sidewalk leashed to a parent’s hand, is good for the general health of the children. One of the leaders had a good tag line: “You can’t click anything in nature.” (see mariner’s “The Child Park” published August 19)

֎ From Dave Chappell’s new Netflix show: “I want to see if you can guess who it is I’m doing an impression of.” He adopts a Homer Simpson–like tone and flails his arms: “Uh, duh. Hey! Durr! If you do anything wrong in your life—duh!—and I find out about it, I’m gonna try to take everything away from you!” Chappelle whines. “And I don’t care what I find out! Could be today, tomorrow, 15, 20 years from now. If I find out, you’re fucking—duh!—finished.” The audience doesn’t have much time to guess which dullard Chappelle is imitating, as he reveals the answer almost immediately: “That’s you!”

֎ Hazrat Inayat Khan appeared on the Zen daily calendar today saying “There can be no rebirth without a dark night of the soul. A total annihilation of all that you believed in and thought that you were.” He died in 1927. How did he know what it would be like in 2019?

֎ The Tongass National Forest in Alaska spans nearly 17 million acres, and its wilderness of old-growth cedar, spruce and hemlock trees makes up the world’s largest temperate rainforest. President Trump is pushing his agriculture secretary to lift logging restrictions in this cool-temperature preserve.

Ancient Mariner




On Reading

When mariner was just beginning his elementary school years, he began reading the family library. It consisted of about ten or twelve popular novels and a 1939 Book of Knowledge encyclopedia; the encyclopedia still is in his possession. The novels were best sellers and classics of their time but alas, over the years mariner has forgotten the titles. He does remember not having the patience, and perhaps the maturity, to finish the novels. However, he did, believe it or not, read page by page all nineteen volumes of the encyclopedia (the twentieth volume is an appendix).

Mariner more or less avoided reading fiction until high school – except for the beloved Sunday comic strips and comic books. In high school there were classes that existed only to read fiction. Books like Old Man and the Sea and (horrors) Heart of Darkness. In college mariner discovered fiction ponies called Cliff’s Notes; these helped his experience in those ‘fiction’ classes.

Not that mariner was illiterate or indifferent about knowledge and information. Mariner was the kid who would cut school and spend the day at the public library (not the fiction section). Later in life, after mariner was married, he decided to enroll in a Master Degree program. He knew his weakness for reading and his impatience while waiting for information to emerge. He asked his wife, an ardent reader, if she would read his textbooks for him. Succinctly, with a tone of disgust, she said, “No.”

So mariner had no choice but to learn to read very, very fast. He enrolled in Evelyn Woods’ speed reading program. Mariner must say up front it is a remarkable training program with excellent improvement in reading something extremely fast. Mariner’s words per minute tripled. The sensation of eliminating subvocalizing is a memorable experience. One feels as if they are in a plane lifting off the runway and soaring.

But mariner did not take Evelyn’s classes to read more fiction. In a manner of speaking, he wanted to avoid reading. The class he took to heart was the class about how to read nonfiction!

Mariner was able to dissect a textbook or treatise in a fraction of the time by not reading all the words! Specifically, one memorized the primary table of contents, skimmed through the preface, and then studied the author’s writing style. It turns out most writers habitually use one of three sentence locations within a paragraph to state the specific point or information for the whole paragraph. Most nonfiction writers use the first sentence of the paragraph to state the primary point. Second most popular is using the last sentence of the paragraph as a summation. A few writers set up the paragraph in the first sentence but don’t state the point until the second sentence. Combined with the top down thread of the table of contents, one can literally jump over chapters to sustain continuity. Don’t try this with math or engineering texts.

As the decades passed, mariner remained a reluctant reader unless there was a task at hand or a goal that required additional information or understanding. During his career, he often had to fly to different locations. Any traveler knows that hours in an airplane can be boring. One day mariner decided to try reading a novel.

At the airport bookstore he picked up Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger. On the plane, he started at the beginning. A story line developed and pieces of plot were linked around the person in the story. At the end of the first chapter, the novel started all over again with another person. The second chapter never referenced the first chapter! Hell, mariner doesn’t have time for this nonsense. He closed the book and has never looked at a novel since.

The same pattern emerges when mariner watches movies. His poor wife enjoys movies. Mariner notes the color schemes, the actors, the music and the pattern of camera shots. About fifteen minutes into the movie – to his wife’s chagrin – mariner says he has seen the movie.

Ancient Mariner


Contemporary References

Today’s post is all reference section. Mariner provides a list of intriguing and entertaining articles from various sources that help us interpret daily life in a modern and unconstrained world.


This first article from the Atlantic Magazine is about how the business world manipulates how users relate to their smartphones:

Copy website to reader’s browser

The linguist Gretchen McCulloch aims to clear some things up with her new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. The “new” rules, she says in an interview, are emergent. Basically, communicating requires more than just a factual statement pursuing clarity; it also must simultaneously convey a state of emotion associated with those facts. Provided by NPR:


Just so the reader knows, CRISPR is not something to keep lettuce fresh. “CRISPR = Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats are segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short repetitions of base sequences.” Basically, it is a sequence of DNA that has space at the end where specially contrived DNA can be affixed – thereby changing the genome of the creature at hand. Science Magazine shows us how Chinese Agronomists are changing food crop characteristics:

Puerto Rico isn’t the only troubled subculture within the United States. At the other end to the North is Alaska, with deep concerns about sexual abuse in communities that have no law enforcement. ProPublica offers this sobering account of life in the back country:

Ancient Mariner


Mariner advises readers that the women on television who wake up, sit up, smile a big grin and stretch their arms skyward is a myth fostered by mattress companies. Mariner does not have this experience upon wakening. When mariner wakes up it is like disinterring the dead.

Mariner’s wakefulness begins as virtually unnoticeable stirring for about fifteen minutes. Finally, he rises to sit on the side of his bed not with stomach muscles but with the counterbalance of his legs falling to the floor. He sits motionless. The brain does not function – his brain is mesmerized by the pattern in the carpet; his knees and back voice dissent at the idea of rising. Blood begins to flow through his muscles as though it were oatmeal; the cells pass the word cell-to-cell: “He’s awake; get ready.”

Mariner looks out the bedroom window. Cat Stevens’ morning has broken; inside mariner’s morning is broken. After several minutes, thoughts begin to occur in the vacant brain: shave. Shave?! “What is this, a concentration camp?” It is the 995th day of the Trump Presidency. Oh no – mariner has been sent to hell! Mariner struggles to construct his day. This is an important moment. If mariner comprehends there is a schedule, he continues to sit a few moments then rises from the side of the bed. His muscles leap into action like first responders. On the other hand, if no schedule surfaces, mariner rolls back onto his bed, pulls his linen casket cover over him and retreats whence he came, perhaps to be disinterred later.

There is no alcohol in this scenario; no THC. (Though the mariner suspects the women in the mattress commercials are into crack and amphetamines.) Sleep deprivation isn’t an issue; during his life mariner typically averages 6-8 hours. So why does mariner greet the day with lethargy and the speed of a sloth?

There are two reasons: 1) Mariner pushes his day into the wee hours; this has been his style his entire life. 2) Mariner has no obligations that require precise scheduling or timely responsibility. In other words, mariner is retired. Somewhat responsible for himself, he tells friends he works an eight hour day – it just takes three days to do it.

Seriously, the lack of schedule is one element among many that leads to a degraded quality of life. On some occasions, it may cause depression and a tendency to become a recluse. It may contribute to earlier dementia. On the skill side, lack of participation in social groups, shared events and daily interaction with others diminishes the personality leading to shallow thinking and a reduced ability to solve problems.

At a more abstract level, one’s sense of self suffers from lack of a reason to be – a raison d’être. This, too, can lead to depression. It is important for retired folks, especially surviving spouses, to identify with a set of tasks that bolster one’s feelings of self-value. It may be an elaborate hobby, a responsible role in a club or church, volunteering in charitable organizations or finding a job. There are many mutual care opportunities where a couple of elderly retirees commit to supporting each other – an instant family!

Mariner’s death sleep aside, he keeps busy during the day on several fronts that engage him physically, mentally and socially.

Here’s to retirement – the good life!

Ancient Mariner



Fly By Subjects from Mariner’s Mail

֎ Astrophysicists have pursued dark matter for decades. It seems there is growing evidence for yet another kind of dark matter. The new dark matter is called ‘Chameleon Theory.’ It is so named because it can change its mass thereby ‘hiding’ among other objects. If the reader is interested, check out

֎ The US dominates international trade when it comes to services. The following statements are from a Politico podcast.

The national dialogue about trade has almost exclusively focused on hard goods, the things the US makes or grows. But if the tariff debate focuses only on goods, there is a risk of leaving out something crucial to our understanding of trade today. There’s been an equally stunning shift in a different segment of the economy. . . . In fact, when we look at the US, the US actually runs a trade surplus when it comes to the services component.

. . . . The hottest areas of the economy, consumer tech, software, retail, entertainment, and communications now account for the most number of jobs, and they’re becoming export industries.

– – – An educational podcast that looks at global trade from a fresh perspective. See the podcast at

֎ (Nate Silver’s website) has an article about the Democratic campaign for the presidency. A hidden influence is asking voters who their second choice would be. See:

֎ From The Atlantic: The age of TikTok begins.

If you didn’t know, now you know. The fun, jumpy, puppy-and-meme-laden video app is well on its way to becoming the next big social network. It’s already broken the 1-billion-monthly-users mark and ranks as the third-most installed app worldwide—just behind Facebook’s WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger—for the first quarter of 2019. TikTok overtook YouTube as the star of this year’s VidCon, an influential gathering of content creators in Anaheim, California. “The older generation doesn’t realize how important TikTok is yet,” one 21-year-old attendee told our Gen Z translator Taylor Lorenz. See:

Ancient Mariner

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


•Blue Ribbon Content

•Warner Bros. Television

•Warner Horizon Television

•Warner Bros. Television Distribution

•Warner Bros. International Television Production


•Alloy Entertainment


•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! []

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