What can we do about the Base?

The concept of a political whole has existed since Thucydides described the Peloponnesian War. In those days, a political whole was necessary to provide armies for war. Today, a political whole is the same as flour in a bread recipe: it holds a nation together despite endless differences in politics, society, technology, religion, economics, international treaties and the state of the planet itself – all part of the same recipe.

A way to feel the presence of a unified political whole, or unified nation, is to feel national pride. Remember in the old days when the phrase ‘I am an American’ was spoken with sincerity? An obligated feeling is to believe that each individual is America. America is each individual. Joined at the hip to use an old phrase. Alas, today the recipe isn’t working; the bread collapses into useless crumbs and bad tasting pieces.

Throughout history when change was in the air, in fact overdue, the idea of a unified nation no longer sufficed. Populist groups rose in rebellion; today we call it ‘identity politics’ and there are fractious campaigns across the board involving abusive class practices, abusive racial practices, abusive sexual practices, abusive economic practices, abusive corporate practices, political party elitism, and too frequently, a relapse into less than moral respect for the nation itself. The Base is among this list of entities. Why?

Mariner points to the over-capitalization of the US given that its resources have shrunk over time – from that time when an entire virgin continent was at hand to let capitalism generate the profits that it can generate so quickly. But in this century especially, there isn’t enough continent to go around and capitalism still reigns as the economic philosophy. Given less resources, those who garner wealth continue to maintain profits while the common citizen collects less and less over time until things obviously are unbalanced and unfair. The time has come that the common citizen knows their children will be economically disadvantaged.

The common citizen points their finger at Federal and state governments that have let this happen. It is a serious issue; savoir faire does not apply. The election of Donald, a pompous bully who is destructive, is not an issue with the Base. His job is to bring down an unsympathetic government – no love lost.

There are just a few ways a citizen can share profits derived from the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP):

Investment – For those citizens and corporations that have ‘extra’ cash above normal living and operating expenses, the cash is invested in things like stocks and bonds and various funds or it is invested in business expansion. Today there are some new wrinkles in capitalization; antitrust laws are ignored so very large companies can supersize themselves to sustain market value and increase profits; investment has become an international reality and significant percentages of money are not reinvested in US interests but invested overseas. Having little or no extra cash, the Base does not participate in profit by investment.

Wage and benefit negotiation – At the beginning of the 1900s, there were some bloody clashes and major destruction as laborers fought to unionize. Today, at the beginning of the 2000s, unions have been outlawed to the point of not being a significant influence in corporate decisions about wages and benefits. Employers can now treat wages as a static overhead regardless of profits. Consequently, the Base is shut out from GDP profits with a net effect of underfinanced retirement. Another side effect is minimum wage; plutocratic influence in governments has pushed against increases even to levels of viability.

Taxation – It is common knowledge today that the tax tables are upside down. As a percentage of income, low income citizens are taxed at severe percentages while wealth in all its forms is virtually tax free. Further, corporations no longer are bound to one government’s tax laws and are able to avoid taxes of any kind. The Base feels it is paying an unfair share of taxes for a government that caters to the plutocracy instead of the tax-paying workers.

Discretionary Programs – Programs in the government’s budget that are beneficial to citizens in general, e.g., health, welfare, social security, worker’s compensation, support for the indigent, and equal treatment programs; add in public education. The Affordable Care Act is the first major program to be added since the Civil Rights Act in 1957 and Medicare/Medicaid in 1965. In the 1990s, the health industry became a profit taking industry; the cost of health services was no longer based on cost plus a margin, it became based on what the market would bear. This increased health insurance significantly; copays increased and many health services opted out of Medicaid and Medicare, forcing citizens to pay huge bills for special services and prescriptions. Major detractors of discretionary programs are Libertarians and conservative parts of the Republican Party. The Base feels that governments are ignoring their needs.

A paragraph must be dedicated to the screwy results of the 2016 election. When surveying Republicans, Donald has 70% of the GOP. When surveying the general population, Donald has 40%. The 40% represents Donald’s Base; the other 30% is the GOP faithful. Unfortunately, Hillary was in the crosshairs of history: the whole Bill thing, the Whitewater thing, the female thing, the Establishment thing – the crossover to vote republican was just enough for the Base to switch to Donald. The irrational Electoral College didn’t help either. Ironically, Hillary won by 4 million votes and in 2018 the Democratic Party rose like a tsunami to take control of the House of Representatives. But Donald, running republican, took the day. Mariner feels sorry for the Base in that they elected the personality they wanted but not the party they wanted.

So what can we do about the Base? Fear feeds populism. The Base feels threatened on every side. Salaries are inadequate; retirement is uncertain; automation eliminates jobs every day; upward mobility is denied (college costs, forced layoff around the age of 50, rising house prices, etc.), governments are awash in plutocracy, children can’t afford to move out and on and on.
Mariner isn’t touting either party these days; government is totally dysfunctional whether Democrat or Republican. Still, the Green New Deal may expand the necessary workforce – especially for the working class; retooled discretionary programs, including the expense of college, may help around the edges of life; the idea of a dole to every citizen may rebalance income conditions especially for the poor and elderly; universal medical coverage may ease the life of just about everyone. It seems that the Democrats need specifically to invite the Base back to their party for 2020. A lot hangs on who the presidential nominee will be.

Ancient Mariner

Being Real

[“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit.]

From the Atlantic:

 Can We Touch?

Physical contact remains vital to health, even as we do less of it. The rules of engagement aren’t necessarily changing—they’re just starting to be heard.

James Hamlin, April 10, 2019

֎  Today’s post largely is a number of excerpts from James Hamlin’s article. Regular readers know that mariner is skeptical about modern technology, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is cleaving human behavior away from interpersonal touching, hugging, conversation, and deliberate sharing of the intimate space – a column of space that extends about a foot from the body. Several studies are presented that show a human is dependent on touching and hugging not only for social acceptance but for healthy bodies and emotional development. Brackets [ ] encompass quoted material.

[ Tiffany Field has spent decades trying to get people to touch one another more.

Her efforts started with premature babies, when she found that basic human touch led them to quickly gain weight. An initial small study, published in the journal Pediatrics in 1986, showed that just 10 days of “body stroking and passive movements of the limbs” for less than an hour led babies to grow 47 percent faster. They averaged fewer days in the hospital and accrued $3,000 less in medical bills. The effect has been replicated multiple times.

Field, a developmental psychologist by training, went on to found the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. She was a pioneer in highlighting the effects of “touch deprivation” among kids, famously those in orphanages. She explained to me that the effects are pervasive, influencing so many bodily systems that kids are diagnosed with “failure to thrive,” resulting in permanent physical and cognitive impairment, smaller stature, and social withdrawal later in life—which often includes aversion to physical contact. ]




֎ It is beyond question that hugging, touching, kissing, caressing, and many other intimate reinforcements are a biological requirement in primates – in fact all mammals require to some degree feelings of value, justification, affection, friendship, bonding, celebration and love.

[ Physical touch doesn’t make adults larger, but its effects are still coming to light. Field has published similar findings about the benefits of touch in full-term infants, and then children and pregnant women, adults with chronic pain, and people in retirement homes. Studies that involved as little as 15 daily minutes found that touch alone, even devoid of the other supportive qualities it usually signifies, seems to have myriad benefits.

The hug, specifically, has been repeatedly linked to good health. In a more recent study that made headlines about hugs helping the immune system, researchers led by the psychologist Sheldon Cohen at Carnegie Mellon University isolated 400 people in a hotel and exposed them to a cold virus. People who had supportive social interactions had fewer and less severe symptoms. Physical touch (specifically hugging) seemed to account for about a third of that effect. (The researchers conclude: “These data suggest that hugging may act as an effective means of conveying support.”) Cohen and his colleagues continued to show other health benefits of physical contact, such as a 2018 reveal in the journal PLOS titled “Receiving a Hug Is Associated With the Attenuation of Negative Mood That Occurs on Days With Interpersonal Conflict.” ]

֎ Everything mentioned to this point is critical to a healthy, mature sense of self. But there is another level of reality. Culture comes from human interaction; who we are among ourselves in a world of 7.7 billion people is reality. There is no way to identify and manage reality except through human interaction. Smartphones and iPads and computers are not reality. Let them take control and there will be no reality save ‘the cloud.’ Shades of “The Matrix”. We should have learned this on television: the fun parties in beer commercials are not real.

Reality comes from interaction with other people. The degree to which data mining distracts us from reality is damaging. Stop just to reinforce a friendship and hug them will enforce cultural reality. Giving the thumb a workout is time away from reality.

Ancient Mariner


Why Migration

Mariner had a closed door conversation with Guru. Amos wasn’t invited because he is deeply affected by the Donald reality. Mariner doesn’t know where Chicken Little is hiding due to the Russian military arriving in Venezuela.

Guru and mariner delved into the broader ramifications of the migration issue. They had to have some distance from the ravaging of the issue by Donald; his leadership is inadequate and he cannot process socio-political evolution.

As always in a discussion with Guru, the question of ‘why’ had to be answered first. Mariner started with some statistics to determine the scope of the issue:

  • Worldwide, there is an estimated 191 million immigrants;
  • The last 50 years has seen an almost doubling of immigration;
  • 115 million immigrants live in developed countries;
  • 20% (approximately 38 million) live in the US alone, making up 13% of its population;
  • 33% of all immigrants live in Europe;
  • 75% live in just 28 countries;
  • Women constitute approximately half of all migrants at around 95 million;

Between 1990 and 2005 ◦There were 36 million migrations (an average of approximately 2.4 million per year);
◦33 million wound up in industrialized countries;
◦75% of the increases occurred in just 17 countries;
◦Immigration decreased in 72 countries in the same period;[1]

An interesting factoid from PewResearch.org is that the Mexico-to-U.S. link is the most popular bilateral migration path in the world. As of 2013, more Mexican immigrants (13 million) were living in the U.S. than all immigrants to Russia combined (11 million). Russia has the second largest number of total foreign-born residents, after the United States, which has a total foreign-born population of about 46 million.

Also from Pew Research, Countries with the fewest resources send lower shares of migrants. Although international migration is intrinsically tied with the search for jobs, people in the most impoverished countries may not have the money to finance a trip. The Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger – countries with some of the lowest U.N. Human Development Index ratings and GDP per capita – all have less than 3% of their population living outside their borders.

Then mariner and Guru focused on why migration happens. The first notable migration was the one 80-100 thousand years ago from Africa into the Middle East and Europe. A popular theory among paleontologists is simply that Homo sapiens, like any species, migrated because it could. Mariner is reminded of the French who have a larger percentage of citizens living around the world than any other nation. There must be a statistic somewhere that describes the high rate of citizen relocation within the US – just because they can. Some years ago, there was a statistic that said Americans move an average of every five years – for various reasons of course – but the bottom line is because they can. The first reason migration occurs: because it can.

Competing for the second reason for migration are economic hardship/opportunity, religious freedom, education, family ties, tyranny and war, famine and disease, and whimsy. All these reasons, save whimsy, can be listed in two groups of migrants: political reasons and economic reasons; the overlap is significant.

Lest one dismiss whimsy lightly, the migrations to the Caribbean, Central America and the South Pacific affect local political and economic circumstances in those regions. Years ago mariner sailed the islands of the Caribbean when virtually every island had a unique culture and distinctive value. In less than ten years, big time commercialism wiped out the colorful, fragile and balanced nature of these islands.

Another top-down migration occurred in Puerto Rico in the early 2000s when billionaires seeking to reduce taxes bought all the good shoreline and built magnificent castles they called ‘resorts.’ This in no way benefited the Puerto Rican economy and put out of reach the better shorelines that Puerto Rico could have leveraged.

Corporations migrate as well and are pushing the world economies into a new age of international finance. And, oddly, the Internet allows migration without ever leaving in the first place but, as the 2018 US election proved, Russian political influence affected US politics as much as a cruise ship docking at a small island in the Caribbean – without ever leaving Russia.

Given the discourse above, whether hardship or whimsy, migration happens because it can. The next post will look at migration from the opposite side, immigration.

Ancient Mariner


[1] http://www.globalissues.org/article/537/immigration#Whydopeopleemigrate

Can’t we all just do things right?

[The Guardian] More than $300,000

Last week, there was the news that Stephen Moore, the author of “Trumponomics” and President Trump’s nominee for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, was being pursued by the IRS for more than $75,000 in back taxes from 2014. (Moore has said that it’s not true that he owes the IRS that amount.) And, according to records obtained by The Guardian, Moore was held in contempt of court in 2012 for failing to pay more than $300,000 in spousal support, child support and other money owed to his ex-wife in their divorce settlement. (Moore declined to comment on the report to the news outlet.)

– – – –

[The Atlantic] The tax-collection system as we know it is the outcome of three forces: corporate lobbying, a stubborn resistance to borrowing good ideas from other Western nations, and the Republican Party’s decades-long campaign against taxation itself.

In the Netherlands, the procedure is simple. First, you look over the form the government sends you with your taxes already calculated, and you check it. Second, you sign it and send it back. Third—well, there is no third. That’s the entire process. Dutch citizens can file their taxes in minutes.

This is the case in country after country. In Japan, Sweden, Estonia, and Great Britain, people don’t have to file their taxes. They are spared the high-stress homework assignment that Americans face every year. Citizens of these countries do get the opportunity to check the government’s arithmetic if they like, but in most cases, taxpayers seem to think the calculations are reasonable…

Nothing is keeping the United States from copying these countries. The article is entertaining. See:


– – – –

–> Now it’s Herman Cain for Federal Reserve. Donald cannot deal with (a) a virtuous man (b) an honest man (c) a mature man (d) a competent man. Mariner wonders why. . .

– – – –

The Quiz

There was an erroneous question that slipped through as mariner was editing questions. It was the question about the wings of a dove and asked a bonus question which should not have been there.

Mariner hopes readers toyed with it a bit. Everyone has tidbits of memory that hang with them for their entire lives. Problem is, it’s not a complete set of information – a line here, a first name there, perhaps a vision of a scene but which movie?

Yes, ten planets. If the reader did not violate the rule about using search engines, they would not know that astronomers have changed their tune about Pluto and other stable objects because of the role they play in balancing the Solar System in general. By the way, the tenth planet is named ‘Far Out’ because it really, really is far out.

Ancient Mariner

Primer for the Electorate in 2020


In the 1980s Reagan proposed a four-pronged economic policy that was intended to reduce inflation and stimulate the economy and job growth:

1) reduce government spending on domestic programs;

2) reduce taxes for individuals, businesses and investments;

3) reduce the burden of regulations on business; and

4) support slower money growth in the economy.

If the reader recognizes these policies, it’s because today’s Republican Party still believes in the sanctity of these four policies. However, the issues that confronted Reagan (high inflation and high unemployment) do not exist today. Deregulating industry was so prevalent that during Reagan’s Presidency, businesses were allowed to use assets locked in retirement funds as a source for new venture capital. Unions have been decimated by Reaganomics; Reaganomics is a ‘supply-side’ policy, that is, provide products and people will buy them, raising employment as a factor of profit. However, the net result in today’s economic environment encourages capital investment rather than manufacturing.

By reducing or eliminating decades-long social programs, while at the same time lowering taxes and marginal tax rates, Reagan’s approach to handling the economy marked a significant departure from that of many of Jimmy Carter’s policies. The results spread the gap between the wealthy and working classes versus poverty levels. The number of children, ages 18 years and younger, below the poverty level increased from 11.543 million in 1980, 18.3% of children, to 12.455, 19.5%, in 1988. Also, the situation of low income groups was affected by the reduction of social spending, and inequality increased. Hence GOP resistance to universal health strategies and discretionary spending.

Today, the advantage granted to business and wealth has grown to the point of imbalance. The government is close to becoming a plutocracy as the wealthy, large corporations and lobby support for legislators have grown into disruptive proportions.

What needs to happen in 2020:

It’s time for Reaganomics to end. For both houses of Congress, this is done by replacing the old GOP with young centrist republicans and by increasing the number of democrats.

Lack of collaboration and compromise in Congress.

Newt Gingrich is considered the House Speaker who changed a more or less collaborative legislative process into a contest for party dominance. The old days of party leaders negotiating balanced compromises was replaced by a ‘my party first, the Nation second’ attitude in the 1990s (just like Mitch). The Democrats responded in kind, replacing statesmanship with gamesmanship. This situation has grown worse as big money and gerrymandering have become the tools of political power – causing significant damage to the classic strengths of one person, one vote and the democratic engine perceived by the Founders. Part of the reason for Donald’s success is that the electorate has grown tired of a do-nothing Congress.

What needs to happen in 2020:

The electorate always will be influenced by personality first but add a second awareness in 2020: Does the candidate talk about new solutions for current issues or repairing old ones? Pick the one with new solutions.


Corporatism is multifaceted. What will replace Reaganomics is an economy that engages several nations at once. Think of a strip mall with many storefronts and a couple of large box stores at each end. Each store contributes to the overall GDP of the mall. Different stores sell and buy different things but all the stores are dependent on the mall as a whole.

A couple of years ago a consortium of 12 nations participated in designing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)[1], a classic example of international economics. Sadly, it failed muster in the US because of a rift between Republican Congress and a Democrat in the Whitehouse. There were some rough spots where the corporate authors ignored human rights and economic obligations but the attempt was headed in the right direction to launch a new and different economy.

Another facet of corporatism is taxes. Very large corporations virtually are not taxed; they live in several nations at once so they aren’t really controlled by any given nation. The solution is something similar to the European Union or TPP where economic policy is centralized across all member nations.

A third facet (there are more but these three desperately need electorate assistance) is the issue of human rights, privacy and security. Today, giant multinational corporations have no obligation to provide living wages, decent benefits or working conditions. Further, they totally disregard privacy and security. The old Reaganites are afraid to tax corporations because they will locate in another country – which is true because the countries have not banded together to formulate common taxes. Not taxing is not a solution.

What needs to happen in 2020:

Economically speaking, what needs to happen is expressed in the first issue – it’s time for Reaganomics to end. Consider giving the vote to a candidate that doesn’t spout the four policies of Reaganomics.

Further, take notice of candidates that talk about information security (see the recent post, How someone can live your life for you to understand privacy). The security side has to do with national security and high-tech industries that would prefer not to worry about the expense of national security on a nation-by-nation level. If the electorate can fix one security item, let it be US election security.


A Chinese Corporation won the bid to build Chicago’s new rail system. Electronic manufacturing for US products largely is performed everywhere but in the US. The US is falling behind other nations in knowledge-based industries. Historically speaking, the US doesn’t make things anymore. Even armchair doilies are made overseas.

This is so obvious that it’s Democrats who know how to fix manufacturing! Their proposal is called the Green New Deal (a reference to FDR’s New Deal). The democrats combined the requirements to meet climate change, improve transportation in all its forms and create new industries for a new era driven by Artificial Intelligence into one sweeping manufacturing economy. Generally, the Green New Deal will turn the US into a nation that builds stuff again.

What needs to happen in 2020:

The Green New Deal is the opposite of supply-side Reaganomics; it’s Keynesian demand-side economics. It’s a Democratic Party program that needs a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress.

Cabinet-Based programs

A citizen is familiar with these issues: health, education, housing, equal rights, immigration, environmental protection, agriculture, and several other state and Federal policies – all managed by cabinet secretaries of one kind or another. Desperately needed immediately is a functioning State Department to restore US leadership in the world and to lead the US into a new economic and social age.

What needs to happen in 2020:

Get rid of Donald.

Ancient Mariner

[1] The TPP was between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. The countries involved produce 40 percent of the world’s total gross domestic product of $107.5 trillion.

The State of Things

6 days

Just six days after the attacks on two mosques that killed 50 people, New Zealand’s prime minister announced that the country had banned military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles. The country will oversee a buyback program for the guns, and owners who don’t get rid of theirs will be subject to fines. [The Washington Post]

–> Now if the US had a functioning government, it could do the same thing. . .

– – – –

2,500,000 miles per hour

Livescience.com has an article today about a pulsar (spinning sun) traveling through space at 2.5 million mph! Fortunately, it isn’t heading toward Earth but will leave the Milky Way Galaxy soon. How about ten minutes from now?

– – – –

Our Ozian future

The plot of the movie ‘The wizard of Oz’ comes to mind. Our nation (in fact many nations) are skipping along on the Yellow Brick Road. Like the characters, the US citizenry has deep-seated issues, e.g., a missing heart, no courage, and no brain. So off to the Ozian world of the future. No one knows what’s behind the curtain. Can Future Oz give us a heart, courage and a brain – or – will Oz simply ignore the nation’s plight and impose an Orwellian future upon the citizenry?

There are many futures: the Artificial Intelligence future, largely still behind the curtain but bits and pieces escape. Will the citizens be nothing more than tools to sustain an economy, buying what they’re told, doing what they’re told, living where they’re told?

What has caught international attention in economic sectors is that a deep recession is bound to happen soon. The first absolute indicator comes from Europe where bond sale prices are dropping.

There is a growing rift of reality between those over 55 years of age and those less than 55; the rift grows larger as the age drops – especially to those under 30. Why are young people not having children at a rate that will replace the population? Why is the new democratic surge using the word ‘socialistic’?

The Planet Earth is fed up with humans. Scientists predict that sea levels, strong weather, droughts and flooding will increase to levels that will bankrupt human economies.

Let’s just pray that Oz gives the citizenry a heart, courage and a brain. We’re going to need them.

Ancient Mariner

Leash Laws for America

Mariner lives in a small town. There are many children and many senior citizens. There is a fear that dogs on the loose will run in packs, defecate everywhere, bite everyone, destroy gardens and otherwise frighten the populace. Hence there are dog leash laws. Having lived in the town for years, mariner has noticed that there are very few dogs that weigh more than their leash. If one is to fear anything, it may be that feral shih tzu will roam the vastness of the town’s back yards competing with squirrels, chipmunks and birds for meager garbage. Rabbits need not be afraid.

However, when it comes to American society, our corporations, our governments and our moral liberties, nothing seems to be restrained, fair, compassionate or rational. This is because very little is on a leash. It is not dogs that are the issue; it is humans who should be on a leash. Humans quickly can pillage nature, greedily destroy balanced economies, and form angry packs not to bite but to kill and all the while, piss on everything.

Just like dogs, humans have special breeds. The Government Breed has two classes: elected and professional; the Corporate Breed also has two classes: small business and profiteer; The Intellectual Breed has two classes: ideological and technical; then there is the Mongrel Breed divided into four unequal classes: conservative-poor, conservative-rich, liberal-poor and liberal-rich. While dogs are not concerned with coloration, humans are not as mature as dogs and tend to flaunt color. As a last description, all human classes bite, form packs at the slightest provocation and are absolutely territorial.

Those who manage the leashes are called ‘the electorate’. It is the electorate’s job to attach or remove leashes to the Government, Corporate, Intellectual and Mongrel Breeds. Attaching leashes is difficult because the spirit of the founding Constitution says, in a phrase, “There are no leashes – freedom for all; guns for all; pursuit of wealth for all – oh, and women can’t vote and it takes five blacks to equal 3 blacks for the purposes of counting population to be represented in Congress.” Fortunately, the last limitations have been unleashed – not including guns which never have been on a leash.

Because the electorate has been derelict in its duties, the Breeds have decided for themselves whether to be leashed or not – in almost all cases, not. What meat is to a dog, money is to human Breeds. The Breeds have become voracious ‘carnivores,’ garnering more and more money and not letting disadvantaged Mongrels have any and just as importantly, not taking care of the human park.

It is past time for the electorate to get off its derriere and rearrange leash laws. It also is time for every government entity that has dog leash laws to provide a good dog park as well.

Ancient Mariner

Important but Unheralded News

2 times as often

[Wall Street Journal] Philadelphia has become the first major U.S. city to ban cashless stores, which have become a mini-retail fad in recent years. Stores say it saves them time; the city says it locks out poorer residents. The poorest Americans are nearly twice as likely to use cash as the richest ones.

Keep the change: Uber. Sweetgreen. Amazon Go. More businesses are opting to go cashless, and trends show Americans are hopping on board: In 2017, debit and credit card payments made up 48 percent of all transactions. Even more conventional restaurant and retail establishments have cut cash, citing increased efficiency and safety. But lawmakers at the local level are concerned that the cash-free economy will discriminate against low-income people. Philadelphia recently became the first city to ban cashless businesses, and San Francisco and D.C. are eyeing similar measures.

New York City is the latest to consider such a bill. With nearly 12 percent of its residents living unbanked—often people of color and undocumented immigrants—the policy brings a bigger question to life: Is refusing to accept cash a form of racial discrimination? “In the end, I think the need for equity outweighs the efficiency gains of a cashless business model,” says the city councilmember sponsoring New York’s legislation. “Human rights takes precedence over efficiency gains.” [1]

– – – –

27 universities

[The Wall Street Journal] At least 27 universities — including MIT, the University of Washington and the University of Hawaii, according to cybersecurity intelligence group — have been targeted by Chinese hackers on the hunt for research “about maritime technology being developed for military use.” The hacking group may be the same one that hacked Navy contractors last year, stealing submarine missile plans and other data.

– – – –

Cars are killing us. Within 10 years, we must phase them out.

[The Guardian] Let’s abandon this disastrous experiment, recognise that this 19th-century technology is now doing more harm than good, and plan our way out of it. Let’s set a target to cut the use of cars by 90% over the next decade.

Yes, the car is still useful – for a few people it’s essential. It would make a good servant. But it has become our master, and it spoils everything it touches. It now presents us with a series of emergencies that demand an emergency response.[2]

– – – –

40 Years After The Vietnam War, Some Refugees Face Deportation Under Trump

The Trump administration is trying to convince Vietnam to repatriate some 7,000 Vietnamese immigrants with criminal convictions who have been in the United States for more than 30 years.[3]

[1] For full article see: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/03/cashless-cash-free-ban-bill-new-york-retail-discrimination/584203/?utm_campaign=citylab-daily-newsletter&utm_medium=email&silverid=%25%25RECIPIENT_ID%25%25&utm_source=newsletter

[2] For full article, see: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/07/cars-killing-us-driving-environment-phase-out?utm_campaign=citylab-daily-newsletter&utm_medium=email&silverid=%25%25RECIPIENT_ID%25%25&utm_source=newsletter

[3] For full article see: https://www.npr.org/2019/03/04/699177071/40-years-after-the-vietnam-war-some-refugees-face-deportation-under-trump?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20190304&utm_campaign=breakingnews&utm_term=nprnews

Age of Corporatism

Everyone is aware that corporate money saturates the purpose of government – not the spirit of statesmanship or doing one’s share for liberty and justice for all. Al Franken, a popular Senator representing Minnesota who had to step down because of poor taste in humor about women, likely could win if he ran again. Franken said it was not worth it because the first five hours of every day were spent hustling donations from lobbyists, corporations and private donors. Party politics are tightly locked into the amount of money an elected official can raise. If a Senator or Representative can raise a goodly sum, he or she likely will be assigned to choice committees and even chairmanships. Part of the collapse of statesmanship is caused right up front by political parties operated to sustain party dominance and participation in plutocratic government, not ideological convictions.

When the Trans Pacific Partnership was promoted in 2016, mariner found himself juxtaposed. He believed in the future potential of the international consortium as a sign of the new international economy but could not support the fine print. Corporate trade representatives actually wrote the treaty; it was written so corporations did not necessarily have to abide by each nation’s civil rights, regulations or what was best for a nation’s economy. In other words, the TPP was written for the benefit of corporate trade and allowed modifications solely to maximize profit – the niceties of equality and cultural obligation are not part of the corporate ethos.

[Politico] How an EPA Official’s old firm earned millions fighting environmental rules:

“The nation’s biggest coal-burning power companies paid a top lobbying firm millions of dollars to fight a wide range of Obama-era environmental rules, documents obtained by POLITICO reveal — shortly before one of the firm’s partners became President Donald Trump’s top air pollution regulator,” POLITICO’s Zack Colman and Alex Guillén report. “Now that ex-partner, Bill Wehrum , is aggressively working to undo many of those same regulations at the EPA, where he is an assistant administrator in charge of issues including climate change, smog and power plants’ mercury pollution.”

“Wehrum’s past role as a utility lobbyist is well-known, but the documents reveal never-before-disclosed details of how extensively his old firm, formerly called Hunton & Williams, worked to coordinate the power industry’s strategy against the Obama administration’s regulations. Twenty-five power companies and six industry trade groups agreed to pay the firm a total of $8.2 million in 2017 alone, according to an internal summary prepared in June of that year — less than three months before Trump tapped Wehrum for his EPA post.”

–> Multiply this activity by thousands of lobbying firms spending billions to sway elected officials. Even worse, a large number of elected officials who leave office sign on with the same lobbying firms. One can make an assumption that there are three houses in Congress: The Senate, the House and the Lobby. This has led to an election process that allows only the most financially endowed individuals to campaign. Saying what sounds good to local voters, often these vows vanish immediately upon taking office.

There is an exceptional class of House representatives in the 2018 election. It will be interesting to see how they change under the pressures of fund raising as a first priority. Plutocracy is well-rooted today.

Another topic related to this post is the control of corporations over international investment, market and national solvency. Rational taxation of these multinational organizations does not exist.

Add corporatism to the pile of unsettling transitions in economics and cultural values that tumble around us.

  • If the percentage of citizens who vote regularly were 90% instead of 47%, corporatism would be controlled.

  • If a new set of legislative and election regulations were established to severely limit private donations, genuine community advocates could run for office; the House of Lobby would be limited to public debate instead of hidden pay-offs.

Ancient Mariner

Come to the Fair

As expected, the 2020 campaign rapidly is falling into bipolar disorder. It’s the capitalist Tea Party versus the socialist Democrats. Or, if you prefer, the fossil fuel industry versus the environmentalists. Or perhaps the humanists versus the evangelicals. Or banks and big money against regulations and fair taxes. Or data gathering corporations versus privacy advocates. Or racists versus immigrants. Or, Fox reality versus CNN reality. It feels like a race card at the Kentucky Derby. In a side tent, there is a cage boxing event with Donald versus government by law.

And this is just the Federal reality. Fifty states, each in their own accord, fall into the bipolar disorder as well. Mariner is reminded of the World Fairs over the years. 2020 seems very much like a World Fair for governing. Present in their own tents are the nations of the world suffering bipolar disorder as well.

Where is the tent for pragmatism versus foolishness? There must be one soon or the bipolar tents will collapse in dysfunction. Alas, mariner hasn’t found one. Perhaps the purpose of this world fair for governing is to look for pragmatism. One knows one is in the tent for pragmatism because there are no clowns; there are no Muppets; there are no carney shysters.

Unlike the bipolar tents which have biased products, potions and gimmicks on their shelves, the pragmatism shelves are covered with different kinds of scales, balancing boards and organic salves. A visitor to the pragmatism tent sees no fortunetellers, no snake oil salesmen, no fatalistic fear mongers. In fact, it is quiet in the pragmatism tent. There is a table in the middle where profiteering, prejudices, plights and prognostications are placed to be weighed, balanced and repackaged as pragmatic solutions.

Unfortunately, mariner can find no one to manage the pragmatism tent. Who will weigh issues correctly and fairly? Who will take charge of the broken helm of Congress? Who will be a curative president acknowledging the wisdom of pragmatism?

Mariner waits to hear the calliope launch its uplifting notes.

Ancient Mariner