Update on the Democratic Hoard

One of the hoard (Elizabeth Warren) caught mariner’s attention when she announced an overhaul of the money issue in Washington:

“The goal of these measures is straightforward: To take power away from the wealthy and the well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs — in the hands of the people.”

It strikes down the whole lobby relationship and puts constraints on legislators who mix with private consortiums to discuss legislation. There is no doubt she will restore the Consumer Protection Agency to its role as a watchdog over bank behavior before Donald castrated it.

Mariner has not found a preferred candidate among the hoard but Warren’s direct style of planning separates her from Biden and Bernie, one a traditionalist and the other an ideologue. At least one can picture the legislation in her descriptions.

Another interesting comparison will be between Buttigieg and Steyer, both scholars of notable degree (Tom Steyer has qualified for the October debate). While Warren has taken on the plutocratic issue, Steyer is targeting term limits, the Electoral College and other structural issues.

The military is behind Tulsi Gabbard; she is a classic progressive and distinct from other candidates in her Hindu religion. Like Warren, big banks must be dismantled.

Beto O’rourke would make a great preacher. His appeals to moral integrity are meaningful.

It’s probably mariner’s old ears but Cory Booker never targets his motives; a master of rhetoric.

Kamala Harris is a forthright candidate and would “set things right” at the White House but many men may not like her style.

Conversely, Bill Maher may have said it best that Amy Klobuchar may be the sole survivor in a conflicted and destructive battle. Amy has firm views but a smooth manner.

Andrew Yang and Julian Castro would make excellent cabinet secretaries. Marianne Williamson must be a truly interesting candidate to talk to but her spiritualist manner won’t control the gang in Congress.

The rest should run for other federal offices or cash out.

Ancient Mariner

 

How to Herd Cats

In lieu of civics not being taught in public school systems, and in light of the immeasurable importance of a presidential election at this point of social and political change, mariner will remind readers of the ease and indeed the right for them to communicate their opinions to their elected representatives – state as well as federal.

Expressing one’s opinion to a representative is as simple as using a telephone, email and text or more deliberately, a face-to-face at a town hall event or visiting the representative’s office. And always there is a handwritten or typed letter, seemingly old fashioned but surprisingly influential. Do not be intimidated; these folks are sensitive to a voter’s influence on their job security – a voter is a member of the Board of Directors.

Aside from the vote a citizen has, communication directly with their representative is a very important activity. It is how a citizen manages their democratic government.

A voter can communicate indirectly with their representatives by attending legislative hearings, attending political party meetings, and in Iowa, at least, attend the caucuses. See to it that one’s name is on the mailing list of all direct representatives and the mailing list of one’s preferred local party committee. Always vote at every chance for everything from dog catcher to school board to primaries and elections. Even vote for the judges.

Be aware of and participate in current petitions, referendums and activities by related unions, education, housing, seminars and social presentations of cultural or political issues.

All this sounds like a second job. It is. Certainly one’s own career and life experience comes first but herding political cats is as important as going to the grocery store. Make time!!

A warning: social media and television news are as convoluted as walking through an endless swamp of alligators. It is very, very important for a voter to have a personal compass that reads motive. These sources, every one, have ulterior motives. The activity isn’t herding cats, its hunting cougars.

As to donating money, contain it to causes as much as possible. Donating to one’s specific jurisdictional campaigns is okay but put one’s money where it will do the most to promote the voter’s opinions – typically large organizations promoting the voter’s perspective.

Every citizen must realize that they are as much a part of a democratic government as any elected official. There are four branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial – all who work for the fourth: the citizen.

Ancient Mariner

 

Herding Cats

That’s what it is like for voters trying to manage the activities of government. Three examples follow that on an ordinary day would not be part of the news and would not be a conscious issue of any importance.

Here’s one from left field (terrible pun for sure):

[USA Today] California college athletes looking to make some money from their hard work may be allowed. California’s State Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill that will allow college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness. The bill will head to Gov. Gavin Newsom, and, if signed, would take effect Jan. 1, 2023. The new measure will be in conflict with the NCAA’s amateurism rules that restrict compensation for athletes.

 Mariner has always wondered why everyone in college sports makes tons of money except the actual athletes and cheerleaders who do the work aren’t allowed income. A sign of the times, perhaps.

Another one coming out of the woods:

[NPR] The U.S. military court and prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have cost more than $6 billion to operate since opening nearly 18 years ago and still churn through more than $380 million a year despite housing only 40 prisoners today.

“It’s a horrible waste of money. It’s a catastrophic waste of money,” said Michel Paradis, a Guantánamo defense attorney for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole naval warship. “No matter if you want to see all of these guys shot in the street or whether or not you think Guantánamo itself is an aberration that should have closed yesterday — whatever your goal is, the military commissions have failed to achieve that goal.”

 Voters trying to manage their representatives – budget, policy, ideals – have more than they can handle. It reminds mariner of the tale of the woman who had so many children she didn’t know what to do.

The high prices paid to overseas specialists are de rigueur. Mariner was a consultant to a foreign nation for a while. He received high pay, paid taxes, first class travel, free housing and 100% living expenses. In more peaceful times, US workers could sign up for jobs in Saudi Arabia at three times the salary tax free for the same job in the US. This happens because within the foreign nation urgently needed expertise is not available; further, the commute is extraordinary and forex is arbitrary.

Technically, although Guantánamo is located on the island of Cuba, it is an American military base. Over time, specialist support like lawyers, computer technicians and specialists in government security and foreign relations, evidently have been allowed to charge their own nation exorbitant fees not because the specialization is unavailable as in other nations, but because the lax administration of Guantánamo became a wall bank for military contractors.

It is time to close Guantánamo – a duckbilled platypus under any rule of law. Tell your representatives.

Tidal waves aren’t made just of water:

[538.com] . . . Technically, in the context of legal and political systems, climate refugees don’t exist. There’s no space for them in international law and no special plans for how to treat them in the United States when they arrive. Here and around the world, fleeing climate change means running to bureaucracies as inhospitable to your survival as the places you left behind.

 Warnings about massive, worldwide human displacement due to climate change have been heard from the scientific community for more than a decade. Governments have not made note of this with any vigor; processes don’t exist to handle this special kind of refugee – not only procedurally but in the volumes that will occur. Of many buried issues, this one definitely will affect every voter – another cat to herd but a critical one. Remind your representatives to get on it.

Ancient Mariner

 

Care and Feeding of a Democracy

I ask the help of readers to distribute this open letter to education bureaucrats at every level from the Federal Cabinet Secretary to each District Superintendent.

Dear Educationist:

We live in a democracy. It is not in good shape today and it shows the characteristics of a plutocracy more than a democracy. Ranking last among the twenty-eight developed democracies, only forty-seven percent of eligible voters actually vote; fifty-three percent, a majority, feel the government doesn’t listen to them or involve itself in their day-to-day lives.

Why is that? The current parties don’t help; they are awash in career protection, political gaming, and allow money to control the perspective of legislation. Nondemocratic processes like gerrymandering and tilting the judicial branch to be politically opinionated doesn’t help either.

This abusive behavior is allowed because many, perhaps a majority of citizens, don’t know how to manage a democracy. Yet the government is owned by the citizens. Imagine the impact of an election where one hundred percent – not forty-seven percent – voted. Imagine if voters knew how to promote referendums. Imagine if more citizens understood the importance of attending local political events – even a school board meeting!

Citizens feel the indifference but don’t know how to change the situation.

It is strongly suggested, indeed intensely advocated, that Civics be taught in every primary and secondary school; a required part of the curriculum. The program should not be based on history as much as how to manage a democracy. True, in the United States the Constitution is important but how does a student work through church versus state, civil liberties, Roe v Wade, the impact of simple tax effects, precedent law, etc. It may be better to have lab projects as the major part of the subject; this would allow actual human impact as part of the learning experience.

Your advocacy and implementation of civics classes is greatly needed to restore our democracy to a healthy state.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Resistance

Mariner receives correspondence from a number of readers. It is obvious that mariner is not an instrument of change, entertainment perhaps, even a puzzle; but not an instrument of change. Readers, indeed all people without exception, except perhaps easily led nonthinkers, have their opinion, whatever its logical or illogical constructs, and will stick to it. Having principles is a good thing.

What drives mariner to frustration is the incongruity of it all. A few examples:

The US is the strongest and purest version of democracy among all nations. Oddly, it ranks last among the 28 democratic nations with only 47% voting. More than half of the electorate (mariner should stop aggrandizing citizens with that term) does not vote.

Oh, but they carry guns in fear of the government invading their homes and stripping them of security and worth. If one thinks about it correctly, the citizens own the government; the government doesn’t own them. Paranoid bullets won’t even be noticed when confronted by the largest, best trained, highly equipped army in the world. But think what an additional 53% of votes would do to an election. If one doesn’t vote, one can’t bitch. The subset of the paranoid citizens that do vote, vote for an Antichrist just to cause trouble for the establishment.

Mariner understands that the heavily capitalist plutocracy that exists today has screwed the labor class and most of the middle class. But causing lasting pain between US allies and disrupting trade and commerce with an incompetent, uneducated president does not help. Building an irrational and largely useless wall may appeal to a dissident’s paranoia but it comes at an even higher price on civility, equality, and freedom – to say nothing about misspent taxes. This is no time for a king, though it must be entertaining for dissidents to watch the conflagration.

Just as horses and much earlier spears became useless because of advances in technology, bullets are on their way out. Even today new technical processes armed with a dissident’s private information can strip them of everything – who needs the government? Most citizens haven’t had time to contemplate about the new world offered by automation and access to universal information. It is time to evaluate what will change. The change will be the greatest shift in human history.

How can Joe Citizen protect himself from the tech/data giants? (This is a magnitude more likely than the government barging in.) Keep the gun as a souvenir but cherish one’s voting registration – and vote, goddammit!

Ancient Mariner.

 

Big Brother has learned to walk – Don’t let him run

[NPR] Google and its YouTube subsidiary will pay $170 million to settle allegations that YouTube collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

The companies allegedly collected information of children viewing videos on YouTube by tracking users of channels that are directed at kids. YouTube allegedly failed to notify parents or get their consent, violating laws that protect children’s privacy, according to a complaint filed against the companies by the FTC and the New York attorney general.

YouTube earned millions of dollars by then using this information to target ads to the children, according to the complaint.

Amid the more urgent issues causing confusion in Congress (Donald isn’t confused nor does he care if ,in fact, he knows about the issue) is control over the tech/data industry, which while deeply impacting culture and freedom, gets back row to guns, walls, immigrants, Russian interference, noisy tweets, a herd of democrats and blatant racism. Granted, all these issues cause turbulence in the processes of Constitutional democracy. Still, the most influential issue that will really, really make a different society and is at the center of commerce, corporatism, political power, warfare, privacy and security, and even what a person will wear and eat, is the tech-based future.

The future is being transformed by buzzwords like 5G, cloud, Alexa, facial recognition, GPS, robotic consciousness, AI, super computers and smart phones. Of all the issues mentioned in the last paragraph, which can be compared to thunderstorms, Tech/data is comparable to Noah’s flood. Nothing is free of total redefinition when the buzzwords are in play.

As the campaign season begins, there are three issues that rise above the others:

  • Remove Donald from office.
  • Restructure the US economy to include manufacturing.
  • Establish control over the tech/data industry. The public understands clearly why there must be strict regulations about polluting rivers; the public must understand that strict regulations must keep tech/data from polluting the liberties and individuality of a healthy society.

Ancient Mariner

Of God and Country

It seems that an individual selects one’s God and one’s candidate in similar fashion. In these modern religious times, scriptures are less a source for describing god; most believers settle for a God that is very much like them but whose authority is absolute. The same is true with candidates for elected office. Study after study has shown that, in the final analysis, a voter selects the candidate with whom they are most comfortable – the candidate most like them.

A major issue is that the selection process has no absolute, agreed-to plan. One can’t plan God’s will; one can’t plan an elected official’s will. So there is no plan. There are whims and fancies, even a structured belief about what may happen but there is no agreed-to plan.

There never will be a plan. Authority is an individual vice, self-serving and even in its most gracious moments, self-directed. This is why most universal issues, e.g., the fossil fuel industry, discount what others may desire or have insight into – “it’s the money, stupid.”

Just as money yields to more money, power yields to more power. The advantage of God is that God already has all the power and in an orderly way distributes power to all existence – whether it is what voters choose or not – hence global warming. In today’s confusion corporations and technology, both unfettered by meaningful regulation or conscience, seem to have a power approximating God’s. The framework of morality, accountability, fairness and all the other words that constitute human wellbeing are not part of their plan. Like a kindergartener playing with blocks, the attitude is ‘if we can do it, do it’ without consideration to its ramifications.

Mariner, like everyone else in this new century, is caught in the maelstrom. His compass is tossed about by disruptions in his human magnetic field; his vision is blurred by the smoke of confusion and disorder; his personal hopes and dreams are stifled by interruptions and blockages of discord.

Mariner welcomes you to this century. Pick your candidate as carefully as you pick your God – there is no plan.

It is time for a haiku:

Haze rests on the grass.

Squirrels frolic in the trees.

Life starts a new day.

 

Ancient Mariner

 

 

About Labor Unions

Labor unions have been on the decline for several decades. Conservative politicians, businesses and lawsuits limiting union financing are the primary causes. Even more specific, the Internet and advancing technology have changed both the workplace and the treatment of payroll making it a finite overhead that does not flex with profit.

The union model, in place since the start of unions at the beginning of the twentieth century, is corporate-specific; the union is a unit of a specific business and is subject to the condition of that business. Some unions were able to merge with other unions in the same market, e.g., steel, carpentry, autoworkers, truckers, steamfitters, etc. Service unions, e.g., hotel workers and shipping also merged to be a generic force across several businesses. Government unions have survived in democratic states but have been throttled in republican states. A precedent was set at the Federal level when Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union. The following paragraphs succinctly describe the union situation:

[U.S. Labor Unions By Jordan Yadoo]

The Situation

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court found that states cannot require public employees who opt out of union membership to nonetheless help pay for collective bargaining undertaken on their behalf. The court had deadlocked over a similar case in 2016. The decision is expected to reduce the funds unions use to support their members and expand recruitment efforts. And it is likely to cut into their political power, since they’ll have less to spend supporting (mostly Democratic) candidates. The court’s decision was another blow to a system that’s been in decline for years. In 2017, just 10.7 percent of wage and salary workers in the U.S. belonged to a union; almost half the rate in 1983. So-called right-to-work laws, which ban any requirement for employees to pay union dues or fees, are already in place in more than half the states, including the traditional union strongholds of Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. In the public sector, where the membership rate has hovered at about 35 percent, unions were already feeling pressure to agree to pay, pension and health-care cuts. There have been a few bright spots: a string of recent successful unionization campaigns by journalists at the Los Angeles Times, Vox Media and MTV News, and a series of teacher strikes in states including West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Colorado that led to salary increases.

In 1935 the National Labor Relations Act codified workers’ rights to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. By the end of the Great Depression, unions grew in strength and number. When the AFL and CIO merged in 1955, more than 1 in 3 American workers had union jobs. But as the U.S. economy shifted from manufacturing to services, unions gradually lost ground. Workplace walkouts declined. From 1970 to 1980, there were an average of 280 work stoppages per year in the U.S. involving 1,000 workers or more; in 2017, there were 7.

Union workers earn about $200 more per week on average than non-union workers, and have better retirement pay and health insurance. Some economists link today’s wage stagnation, broadening income inequality and lack of economic mobility to the decline in unions.

As manufacturing dwindled, the economy depended more on the service industry (restaurants, hotels, transportation, white collar labor, government, etc.) as a significant working class contributor to GDP. The service business model was too eclectic to unionize easily. Most recently teachers and fast food workers have increased their political voices but legislation, business profit models and self-destructing ennui by workers make a recovery of unionization difficult.

Mariner often quotes Deming in his statement that a new paradigm cannot evolve from within the old paradigm. Boy, is that true today! The ‘Establishment’ has reached the end of the road as the entire world jumps into a different reality. This includes the union ‘Establishment.’

Guru suggests that the marriage between business and unions is over. The influence of the Internet and the ability to move whole companies from country to country without disruption eliminates the hold that a union may have on a stationary business operation – the business can just move elsewhere. What unions may evolve into is a guardian of worker wellbeing in general with no specific business relationship.

A good example that exists today is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The rights of free speech, among other Constitutional rights, is defended constantly not for just paying customers but for all citizens. Consider an American Worker Rights Union that is a constant presence between business practices and worker rights and wages. Another example is the National Organization for Women (NOW).

Mariner remembers his father (Labor Chaplin of Maryland) visiting different unions. They weren’t too far removed from social clubs except that the issues were quite important. Today, this is inefficient. The enemy is a freewheeling corporatism and a plutocratic government. The union defense is in changing legislation and protecting everyone who suffers from illegitimate wages and benefits.

Ancient Mariner

 

Get Mr. Fixit

A few days ago, mariner was reading a piece by Clare Malone who writes for fivethirtyeight.com. She was trying to describe the subtleties of this modern era of politics. She cited statistics that suggested US citizens have doubled in number when it comes to those who pay attention to politics on a daily basis; yet the number of citizens that actually participate physically in some manner, even if attending a school board meeting, remained at the same low level (about 12%). Claire also cited statistics that show the citizenry has very low levels of trust toward their government and is unhappy with the whole phenomenon. She alluded to the separation of politics and morality.

Mariner uses an allegory of a beloved automobile that was bought many, many years ago and has performed through wind and rain, hail, children and dogs, long trips, over stuffed during a number of house moves, two accidents, and still plods on. Today it looks rusty here and there; there are scratches and a dent or two; the driver’s window doesn’t open, the gearshift isn’t trustworthy and the steering wheel is way too loose – turns are a gamble. The vehicle still moves and provides transportation but it is clear the automobile is on borrowed time. It is time to restore it.

The government is like this automobile. As a democracy, it has survived civil war, several depressions and recessions, backroom politics and today it suffers mightily from the influence of money in all its forms – from job security for elected officials, to bribery, to pay to play financing, to dollar-controlled campaigning. The dollar has replaced morality not only in government but in business, classism and day-to-day life. In other words, morality has fallen by the wayside and the wellbeing of the state and its citizens is irrelevant. As Cuba Gooding said, “Show me the money!”

Fortunately, the US Constitution has established democracy as the repair garage. In fact, as social issues get tough – slavery, women’s suffrage, international wars and political diseases like Joe McCarthy and Donald Trump – it is the vote of the citizenry that fixes things.

Consider the following repairs:

Term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court

Elimination of the Electoral College

Independent assignment of districts based on the census

Restructure the Senate to represent the population

Federally controlled/funding of US elections including caps and contributions only from related jurisdictions

Use technology to allow voting at convenient places and times

Automatic registration at age 18

Create a national referendum that, among many issues, will let the citizenry decide policy on guns

Is the voter’s mechanic (candidate) willing to fix these parts?

UNNOTICED NEWS

֎ [Science Magazine] The United States is experiencing a public health epidemic of mass shootings and other forms of gun violence. A convenient response seems to be blaming mental illness; after all, “who in their right mind would do this?” This is utterly wrong. Mental illnesses, certainly severe mental illnesses, are not the major cause of mass shootings. It also is dangerously stigmatizing to people who suffer from these devastating disorders and can subject them to inappropriate restrictions.

According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, the best estimates are that individuals with mental illnesses are responsible for less than 4% of all violent crimes in the United States, and less than a third of people who commit mass shootings are diagnosably mentally ill. Moreover, a large majority of individuals with mental illnesses are not at high risk for committing violent acts. Continuing to blame mental illness distracts from finding the real causes of mass shootings and addressing them directly.

 ֎ [Politico] RUSSIA SANCTION VOTE UNDER SCRUTINY — Earlier this year as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell helped kill an effort to keep painful U.S. sanctions on a Russian aluminum giant, a business deal was brewing in his home state that needed those sanctions gone. A key businessman in Kentucky was courting a Russian investor — Rusal, the Russian aluminum producer — at the same time McConnell was blocking a Democratic-led attempt to maintain those sanctions, the Washington Post reports. Three months later, Rusal and the Kentucky company unveiled plans for a major new partnership.

֎ [USA Today] 300 MILES AWAY – Following wildfires there last month, rare lightning has also recently struck the Arctic. Thunderstorms require air that’s, like, warm. Yet multiple lightning strikes were detected “within 300 miles of the North Pole,” according to the National Weather Service. “This is one of the furthest north lightning strikes in Alaska forecaster memory,” the NWS said.

Ancient Mariner