Corporatism – the Overlooked Enemy

PBS news covered a story today about the National Football League setting rules for how football players must behave, the issue being whether the players can kneel in protest of racial and law enforcement abuse during the National Anthem. This may or may not be challenged in court (mariner has little confidence in US citizens being concerned about freedom, rights, ethics and morality) even though the act clearly is protected by the First Amendment.

This NFL mandate is so simple, so clear, so unobstructed and so much an example of how corporations increasingly are setting the nation’s moral standards. The protectors of our rights and the interpreters of our cultural image are supposed to be our legislators, our religious leaders and our independent court system. Woefully, all our protectors are easily swayed by corporate influence. It is more important for the NFL to sustain profit levels than to honor an individual’s rights under the Constitution.

The takeover of American justice by corporations is accepted as the norm. Consider the following cultural v. business situations:

Net Neutrality – the right of all individuals to share equally in public speech and information. Communication Corporations want to destroy this ethic in order to increase profits by charging individuals for faster access. To add insult to injury, these corporations intend to block an individual’s access to sources that may be detrimental to the corporation’s control and profit.

The Facebook fiasco is typical of Silicon Valley shaping cultural behavior and leveraging innocent participation as a source for additional profit – at the cost of privacy and security.

Mariner was opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership not because it was a new approach to international trade but because it was rife with rules about how nations should treat employees, the rights of employees and governments and other cultural impositions – under the guise that these rules would balance participation among disparate nations. It should be noted that corporate teams wrote TPP while national representatives provided signoff. When does a corporate platform have the right to dictate culture and ethics to any country, let alone 12 or 16?

Labor unions have many faults and are subject to abuse. Still, unions are a mechanism representing employees (AKA citizens just like football players) when a corporation imposes on fair practices similar to income, working conditions, and other behaviors that affect the cultural presence of employees in the society.

We all know US governments have failed and are the direct cause for the malignant populism that has delivered Donald. The governments have failed because they take their cue from corporations rather than the electorate.

US corporate taxes would be funny if the issue wasn’t so important. Corporations pretty much can handle profits any way they wish – even to the extent of hiding profit in blind banks. Is this behavior ethical? Is it a freedom? Is it the primary cause of an oligarchical government?

Mariner must remind himself not to watch the news.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

In Irons

Mariner knew the whole of US reality is a circus when the press made fun of how Donald held his water bottle. Funny thing, mariner holds his water bottle exactly the same way. The reason is familial palsy.

Donald is the ringmaster. Worse is that the entire news industry has joined the circus. So has Congress. So has forty percent of the electorate. The President’s cabinet is a group of foolish clowns worthy of eighteenth century British cartoonists. If Donald actually had the powers of a Roman Emperor, he would be Nero fiddling while Rome burned. As it is, he is Don Quixote fighting with windmills. Meanwhile, the United States dwindles in morality, international power and cultural meaning – noticeable on a daily basis.

The nation is a ship in irons. Its sails flap uselessly while the future blows by. Meanwhile, China has a global effort fully active on every continent and in every important nation – including our neighbors; China soon will be the international force that defines world markets – including the US role in those markets. But Donald Q is chasing the windmill of isolationism.

Night after night, news media focuses on Donald’s affair with a whore. That the viewers of news accept both the behavior and the coverage as de rigueur is frightening; morality has become a rubber band stretched by entertainment value. Can the reader hear the calliope?

Racism has been welcomed back to the circus by Donald. Immigration is a global issue as economies, cultural abuse and war force human families to leave what they know, what they own, and likely, what they love. In Donald’s US circus, add religious intolerance to the show. Quietly, the Attorney General removes laws protecting any disadvantaged person regardless of their plight.

There are some good acts; the Me Too movement, California’s defiance of many of Donald’s efforts at disassembling the fabric of American ethics. But it is a disrespectful circus we watch. There are menacing shadows.

Mariner has decided to leave the circus tent. There is solace in silence. Mariner retrieves news from foreign press and other websites that are not taken in by the music. This savage time will pass as it always has throughout history – but at what cost?

Ancient Mariner

On Being Lost

Have you ever been lost? It’s a sense that one has lost touch with the perimeter or edge that provides definition to a person’s situation. One feels adrift and even afraid because there is no meaningful ‘here’ or ‘there;’ there is no ‘over there.’ It is then that we realize how important it is to know where we’ve been, where we’re going, and where we are relative to our start and finish.

This sensation of being lost can be induced in many different situations. For example, trying to solve a puzzle with too many variables like the ones that offer “Jane is 4 years old; John is 12 years old and their brother is 20 years younger than Aunt Joy who is six years younger than their mother. . .” Another example is the experience that college freshmen have when trying to identify one’s proper role in a completely unknown environment. Sometimes the unknowns are so vast and complex, we don’t realize we’re lost!

That brings us to today’s example of being lost. Who is lost? The entire world of people is lost. The world’s cultures are eroding like sand blown by the desert wind. Mariner can provide indicators that suggest we don’t know where we are or where we’re going in the future:

֎ Authoritarian governments are increasing while democratic countries are decreasing. The imbalance has accelerated since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The latest example is China which voted only a day or two ago to grant President Xi Jinping the status of President for Life. Even old standbys like Turkey, Greece, and the Balkan nations are struggling and show signs of increasing authoritarianism. The map shows where authoritarianism has emerged (the orange and yellow states – apologies for the blurred image).

Since the early 1500’s the bluer nations have ruled the world. It is likely that blue rule will fade in the 2000’s. In its third iteration since the 1940’s, China has grown up economically and has improved culturally. It is so huge in national presence that it is likely to dominate world economy and culture much as the United States has since the 1800’s.

Typically, authoritarianism evolves in nations with failed economies or oligarchical cultures. In the case of China, a nation with an average ten percent growth for decades, it will become authoritarian. The question with China is whether one man’s vision will comprehend change well enough to sustain global leadership as the world changes dramatically over the next 50 years. While authoritarian governments can take charge of confusion more quickly than messy democracies, their weakness is the inability to manage cultural change.

֎ If authoritarianism is at one end of the spectrum, the United States (and the less influential Nordic States) is at the other end. Unfortunately, the founding fathers wanted a nation ruled by the people – no monarchy here – but also wanted government to control the economy and the military. Hence, a democratic republic; something like a duckbilled platypus. While touting democracy as the guiding force, the republic side has dominated society and is no better at managing culture than authoritarianism (current studies show that over time the voting public has influenced one percent of legislation while moneyed sources have influenced ninety-nine percent, which explains the growing problem of oligarchy and corporatism in the US since the 1850’s). It is the case with any government philosophy that a hot, expanding economy forgives many sins but the US economy isn’t ‘hot’ anymore.

The US culture has become ragged without good social leadership. As the 1990’s rolled into the 2000’s, fringe conservatism and shifting liberalism crumbled national unity. Further, every country in the world is exposed to lightning-speed changes in culture because of the Internet and Artificial Intelligence. Who knew the morning coffee-klatch would meet on Facebook?

Global economics is changing as well. Old natural resources, old technologies and old political liaisons are up in the air at the moment and do not fit the new world economy in a technology-led world.

֎ Technology has been a puzzle piece for decades. Remember when a generation quietly passed on as it handed the torch to the next generation? Now folks have to live through the next generation as well and maybe the one after that. Never mind that joblessness, financial security, really old parents and feelings of uselessness are left to you to manage. Does that obnoxious voice box in the living room (Alexa or Google Assistant) look like its growing arms and legs? Even today, it knows you’re pregnant before you do; be careful if it starts to rearrange your investments and insurance – it knows when it’s your time to go. If you thought your spouse nags all the time, wait until the voice box follows you around giving you advice about everything and, dangerously, not telling you things you should know. Further, lawyers beware; there are legal bots online that can provide legal services for any need a client may have including the forms to process the issue.

֎ The environment, the puzzle piece still run by the planet whether we acknowledge that or not, already has plans to change the weather, coastlines, atmosphere, food resources and the diversity of nature itself. Did you know that when the last great ice age melted it created the Great Lakes? The water level of the oceans rose 300 feet. Today, if you live on the seashore, a long term mortgage may not be a good idea. You may want to sell soon – just ask folks who live in Bali, Miami or New Orleans.

So – if Jane is 4 years old, China is the new global power, your great-great grandparents live in the basement, you meet for coffee on Facebook, your job is gone or your boss is a nagging robot, giraffes and tigers are gone, the ocean creeps under the door twice each day, where are we going?

Ancient Mariner

Fruited Plains

Guru is with us today to consider international roles, political leadership and global cultural influence in the 21st century. Guru, you may recall, is the futurist among mariner’s alter egos; very much a theorist, his conclusions often have no traceable documentation and often depend solely on logic and the limitations of reality.

– – – –

All Americans know the mantra about the new nation called the United States: Freedom, liberty, equality, justice for all, one person, one vote. Stated in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, this was in 1776 to 1791 – 227 years ago. The United States rapidly became a nation among nations; indeed, the United States became the nation around the world. The United States was unbelievably blessed: an entire continent to itself with two vast, profitable and protective oceans on its borders; fruited plains, temperate weather, majestic purple mountains, multinational migrations to energize its culture and economy, and a philosophy of government belonging to its citizens. No aristocracy, monarchs or dictators here – the nation belonged to its citizens. It was a democracy.

The nation is to be lauded for its ability to keep the ship of state on course despite wars (Revolutionary, American Indian, Mexican, Spanish-American, Civil, WW I and II, Korean, Vietnamese, and in recent years a multitude of incursions to protect the world and its capitalist economy, five major economic depressions and 13 notable recessions, two economically devastating droughts in the 1930’s and 50’s, cultural erosion caused by the industrial revolution, technical revolution and information revolution, and last but not least, the birth of investment capitalism in the mid nineteenth century.

Now, as the Nation finds itself in the midst of global changes in economics, environment, computerization, shifting populations, and international transition, the ship of state sails on uncharted seas. The ship of state, like all ships, must endure active wear and tear and eventually take its place in its era to be replaced by newer versions and newer purposes. There are signs this moment approaches. It is time to stop looking backward to the way it was and longing for that time; it is time to reset the sails to fresh winds that will bring a new era.

– – – –

Always wealth has brought change. It was so in prehistoric times when the invention of the spear or mastering fire provided new levels of economic superiority over those without. On the first farm, the first field was planted with a crop that extended momentary security into future security; new wealth in agriculture created a massive change in human population and raised the need for a new polity to manage the wealth. It was the politics of nationalism. Speeding through the history of dynasties and empires, the Roman Empire often is used as a model that contemporary society can understand. The power to pursue more wealth came with a very important but subtle authority: the authority to change culture. Enough wealth existed that some could be spent on ancillary subjects like art, music, science, running water and sewer systems, religion, health, technical research from better Roman cement to American trips to the Moon. The ancillary subjects continue today to rewrite cultural understanding and expectation. But always, change rides on the back of wealth.

Wealth, despite its powers, is not well organized. Wealth has no bully pulpit, no respected military, and no ability to organize human motivation. Wealth is motivated only by profit, both real and perceived. Below is a list of nations ranked by their current gross domestic product (GDP) in millions of dollars – a measure of their ability to affect change:

1 United States                    18,624,450

— European Union                16,408,364

2 China                                11,232,108

3 Japan                                 4,936,543

4 Germany                            3,479,232

5 United Kingdom                  2,629,188

6 France                               2,466,472

7 India                                  2,263,792

8 Italy                                   1,850,735

9 Brazil                                  1,798,622

10 Canada                              1,529,760

11 South Korea                       1,411,042

12 Russia                                1,283,162

13 Australia                             1,261,645

14 Spain                                  1,232,597

15 Mexico                                1,046,925

16 Indonesia                               932,448

17 Turkey                                   863,390

18 Netherlands                            777,548

19   Switzerland                          669,038

20 Saudi Arabia                           646,438

Quick assumptions would suggest that the top five or six are the key players in how the future will be shaped economically and culturally. However, due to advances in computerization and telecommunications, wealth is no longer constrained by geography or nationalism. Members of this list are inclined to pursue consortiums of nations that will multiply their ability to pursue greater wealth. Further, a new phenomenon made available by instantaneous telecommunications allows corporations to pursue wealth independent of national influence – at least under current legislative policies. Will the independent wealth of corporations, many of which rank high in the above list, control political issues related to human rights, support of indigent populations and leveraging wars to their advantage? Will corporations even be interested in human issues beyond labor profitability? These questions are at hand today as corporations garner wealth at amazing speeds nations cannot match or control.

Addressing the US perspective, its old Democratic wealth and its culture have waned as corporate wealth drains the natural wealth of the nation, its fruited plains, etc. That Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from its privileged role as world cultural leader is detrimental to the US position among other nations already responding to the new economic game – and the right to lead cultural change in the future.

– – – –

Moving quickly down the GDP list, The United States still is the largest economy in the world but it is not growing very fast. Laxity in cultural discipline has led to business practices that are not beneficial to the US. Many tout the stock market as a sign of a robust economy but significant portions are owned by overseas interests. Further, very large corporations have expanded beyond the nation’s shores not only to pursue profits but to avoid taxes – not only in the US but in any nation around the world. Inside the US, the nation suffers from increasing inefficiency as Federal and state legislatures linger in economic perceptions designed in the 1980’s. These old perceptions do not work in a world of international consortiums, artificial intelligence and instant global markets.

After dozens of international agreements beginning in 1909, the European Union created a visionary, international powerhouse in 1992 when 28 European nations combined their markets and cultural practices, military obligations and political clout. Unfortunately, the EU was not able to unify its economics. Individual nations did not benefit from a combined marketplace and several nations like Greece and Great Britain suffered recessions alone. The fragmented economy cannot respond easily to modern trends in global economics. Like the US, the EU economy is not growing at competitive speeds; individual nations like Germany have had growth but their association with the cultural commitments of the EU will interfere with Germany’s economic future. Germany is taking steps to seek new consortiums to sustain future growth – excluding the Trump-led US.

Similar to the United States in the 1700’s, fate has delivered to China a global advantage in today’s economic world. China has human resources of immense magnitude, a large land mass, the focus of a communist state, and a geographic archipelago of small contiguous nations with which to launch the world’s largest economy. Even at today’s level of wealth, China is investing significant amounts in the aforementioned areas of cultural growth. China likely will be the largest provider of infrastructure services in the world (mariner mentioned in a previous post that China is building Chicago’s new subway system) and has the labor force to build super highways and rapid transit as a means of linking China to Eastern nations including Russia. (China’s Belt and Road plan is a multi-billion initiative aimed at linking Asia with Europe and Africa, and the countries in between.) China is moving rapidly to the top of high tech markets, e.g., the nation already is the largest exporter of drones and competes aggressively for each airline contract. Finally, China is a sophisticated player in world politics. In today’s news, North and South Korea are willing to try peace talks without the United States – something North Korea would not do except with China’s urging.

India is a sleeping giant but is so far behind in culture, infrastructure and government sophistication that it will take time to become a top international player. Some futurists calculate that as India grows in economic power, it may be the nation that unifies nations like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia but that consortium is highly speculative. India also has interests in Africa.

Japan, long dependent on its relationship with the US, must seek an economic relationship with a major consortium in order to spread its productivity across other markets. The US remains the primary nation if a rewrite of the twelve-member Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) can be reintroduced successfully.

Russia pretends to be a world player but it lost the ability to play with super nations when the USSR collapsed and some key nations affiliated with Europe. Still, fate has cursed Russia with troublesome leadership for centuries. The economy in Russia today is thwarted by oligarchic domination led by Vladimir Putin. Without true economic power, Russia can only meddle in the success of other nations. Russia has agreed to participate in China’s Belt and Road initiative which may benefit Russia in the short term but long term Russia increasingly will be dependent on the Chinese economy.

Aside from Australia, South Africa and a few lesser nations, the Southern Hemisphere did not live the history of the Northern Hemisphere. It benefited from early contributions during and after the exploration age during the 14th-18th centuries but seems not to have escaped Colonialism. Southern Hemisphere countries soon will benefit from consortium relationships – which may be similar to colonial times.

– – – –

The silent partner in all this is artificial intelligence (AI). AI will change current perceptions of assets, national intelligence, description of work, and the ways of daily life – but that’s another post.

Ancient Mariner

Governance in Flux

Like many, many folks around the world today, mariner notices not just a few but a majority of nations suffering from disruptions to their cultural and national ideology. Examples of disruption are environment, technology, computerization, population, globalization, shifts in energy sources, and other international product markets affected by political and entrepreneurial winds.

Mariner asks the reader to indulge the following description of nations and their status in the world of nations.

With 197 nations in the world, government concepts could be a real jigsaw puzzle. But it isn’t. If the nations can be categorized only by overall philosophies of government, there are not too many concepts. Consider:

Democracies – United States and many other nations. Mariner found that democracies in general are struggling with competing philosophies of governance. In the US, the nation is very close to being a cross between democracy and corporatocracy wherein a republic form of government exists with legislators and judges but the direction of policy is controlled by corporate interests. Further, many democracies struggle with succession, for example the collaboration of democracies called the European Union, independents like Syria, Turkey, and Iraq in the Middle East, and all the sub-Saharan nations of Africa.

Dictatorships, including variations on the theme such as totalitarianism, Plutocracies, autocracies, and Anarcho-capitalists (Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan). Africa is overrun with dictatorships preventing affected nations from stabilizing and establishing institutional functions.

Stratocracies (ruled by military) – As one would expect, nations under severe duress often are taken over by military juntas. Recently, a duly elected government in Egypt was thrown out by a military coup. It ruled until another election could be held. Myanmar (Burma) has become a stratocracy where the military has taken control of a powerless government still in place.

Communist Republics – Like democracies, the few communist nations that remain (primarily China) are experiencing philosophical changes in governance. China, while still ruled by one party and one very powerful president, struggles with socialist policies in an effort to improve society enough to compete in the new age of the 21st century.

Socialist Republics – Socialism was a common philosophy at the turn of the 20th century but today only a few socialist governments remain among the Nordic nations. Otherwise, the criterion for being a socialist nation is self-determined. Virtually all active socialist countries actually are variations on communism (Russia and China) or awkward descriptions claiming the rights of citizens as the primary goal of government (Albania, Viet Nam, Laos, Afghanistan and other –stans.

Theocracies – The Holy See or Vatican City is not the only theocracy. Also governed strictly by religious doctrine are Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. In a muted way, religious influence exists in most nations and frequently can cause difficulty in governance. The United States has an active minority hardening against the secularist nature that pulls the nation into the 21st century. Islamic nations suffer even more difficulty as 8th century dogma fails to fit modern cultural demands.

Aristocracies and monarchies – Great Britain is a democracy that retains a very weak role for a national monarchy. Monaco is free of French control as long as the royal family in Monaco can produce a male heir. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy but the monarchy has little authority in legislative processes. There are several other nations that have this pattern.

Corporatocracies and oligarchies – In every case where this category has a presence, it is conjoined with another philosophy of government; it doesn’t stand alone because it needs an organized source of cash. Nevertheless, Corporatocracies and oligarchies have a growing advantage as global markets emerge. The new world economy can easily lose nationalist authority as traditional rules of commerce and outdated concepts associated with Gross National Product lose meaning.

Beyond this list, one wanders into heavily crossbred variations.

– – – –

Mariner thanks readers who suffered reading this litany about the changing philosophy of most governments in the world. It is a necessary task to grasp the unbelievably large phenomenon that is washing away old standards of authority in governance and, amid unending change in technology, international relations, free range economies and shifting populations, there are neither precedents to follow nor a part of the world stable enough to be an example for troubled nations.

Always through the history of nations, destabilizing change was local. Even the Roman Empire and the Ming Dynasty were local compared to today’s universal, planet-wide upheaval.

Add to the high storm waves that wash over a nation’s culture the battle for supremacy among the giant nations, e.g., Russia, United States, European Union, China and, in the near future, continental consortiums like Mexico, Canada and the US, or China, South America and the Pacific Rim, or Russia, Brazil and Eastern Europe, or India and Africa.

Then add economic wars like oil versus alternative energy, international control of information, and dozens of money versus culture conflicts (Greece et al). Finally, add the gross changes in jobs and family sustenance affected by artificial intelligence and the control of thought represented by the novel 1984 and the movie, Matrix – already beginning to control our personal decision-making. Beware that piece of candy called a smartphone – it’s the Matrix connection to your life. Yes, mariner is old fashioned but he is intellectually independent.

Well. Don’t expect a solution from mariner. This conundrum reminds him of a gift he received during Christmas. It’s a nine-piece puzzle with imagery so highly redundant that there are over 50 million possible placements for each piece – but only one solution for all nine pieces.

As Roy used to say, “Happy Trails…..”

Ancient Mariner

The Great Experiment in Peril

In 2016, Eric Metaxas published a book called “If They can Keep it.[1]” In a post, mariner reviewed it at the time. Metaxas took the title from a phrase Benjamin Franklin spoke upon leaving a meeting of the founding fathers. The great experiment was to let citizens run the nation. Citizens would select fellow citizens to represent them in a Federal Republic that spread the agenda of managing the goals and processes of government across three representative levels – Federal, State and Local governments.

In other words, you, mariner, and every other US citizen have a daily chore of looking after the philosophy of government, the guaranteed equality of freedom, the mores of economy and culture, and the quality of representation in government. Together, citizens comprised a central power that controlled the nobler objectives of political science.

Metaxas described the daily chore as three elements of human character: The first is loyalty. We have forgotten that in the US, we aren’t loyal to a regime or an ideologue. In the US, the strength of our society is not loyalty to the flag. No, it isn’t. We are loyal to each other. Not just in political rituals or paying taxes; each of us has a bonded responsibility to look after our fellow citizens and they must look out for us. Eric Metaxas said the US is founded on freedom. Freedom requires belief in freedom; freedom requires loyalty; loyalty requires virtue.

The romantic element in this new philosophy of government was similar to a citizen’s commitment to their spouse and children: a DAILY act of responsibility with family and with affairs of state. In effect, citizens comprised a massive Board of Directors. However, mix this with the other part of the great experiment, the right of freedom to be whoever a citizen chooses to be, the guarantee to believe in any manner, and the minimal intervention of government imposing on one’s freedom raised a deep-rooted flaw. The two elements were and are in conflict: one espousing national unity and responsibility for the quality of government countermanded by guaranteeing a life of individual freedom to be what one chose to be. Benjamin was astute in his comprehension of a direct conflict between responsibility to a unified society supporting the rights of everyone and at the same time supporting the right of everyone to be individualistic.

What held the great experiment together for one hundred years was a common philosophy that commerce was obligated to perform in behalf of the citizenry. Commerce was measured first not by profit but by quality of support to the citizenry. However, the guaranteed freedoms of the constitution led to the opportunity to be as wealthy as one could possibly be – the obligation to citizen wellbeing fell by the wayside. During the last half of the nineteenth century (1850 – 1900), capitalism emerged. A socially aware economy partnered with the government rapidly became an economy of financial opportunity without accountability to the citizen “Board of Directors”.

The cultural conflict is clear: How does one look after the wellbeing of everyone else yet sustain independence to further one’s own wellbeing?

Recently, mariner’s wife listened to a podcast featuring Princeton University economist Uwe Reinhardt, one of the nation’s leading health care economists. On the matter of health care, he said the US will never solve the issue until all Americans on all sides come together as one nation to decide a common tax or fee that will enable comprehensive, government-paid healthcare. The hard part is bringing together a defunct Board of Directors. Since the Viet Nam war, the nation steadily has fallen deeper into the natural human grouping of tribes. Even the “two party system” in Congress splinters into more and more ‘tribes’ as new issues arise. Congress is not designed to be a parliamentary system. Nor, it seems, an authoritarian oligarchy – no matter how hard Donald tries.

Over time, every political system suffers entropy and new challenges. It has been 250 years, more or less, since the great experiment was launched and many changes in economics, technology and industrialism warrant some jostling of the political structure and goals of any nation during that era. But these are not normal times for change.

– – – –

The entire world is in the throes of shifting from one nation, one economy to international economic agreements. It is not a time to throw rocks into the gearbox of the US economy. The forces at work are monopolistic corporations invading a new money system where regulation and political influence are scant. An example of the effect is similar to Amazon.com or Walmart or Google diminishing or eliminating local businesses or incorporating the small business marketplace into the large corporation – in effect curtailing how smaller businesses invest and grow. Replace local businesses with nations; a scramble for global market share is underway. The US, early on the scene, put together the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a consortium of 12 countries agreeing to share a global market. Sadly, some terms of the agreement were overbearing to a given nation’s participation and the Congress was ignorant of the context in a global economy. Donald has cancelled participation.

Another area in the throes of global change is Artificial Intelligence. Cloud technology and ever smarter software will displace millions of labor class jobs around the world. Again, corporate interests see a time when job salaries and jobs can be eliminated – without obligation to the jobless employees.

Further, world population is in dire straits. For the developed nations, including the US, demographics are skewed toward older, retired individuals who no longer contribute to the economy; rather, the nations must support the retirees – a double whammy.

Under developed nations suffer corrupt governments or oligarchies. There is no dependable economy. 20 million people in North Africa face starvation.

Finally, Planet Earth is changing. Only the fossil fuel industry and its allies refuse to accept global warming despite visible, three dimensional evidence.

There are many other collapsing systems that humans depend on in the environment. The list above is a collection of economic issues in serious disrepair as the world moves into a truly new age.

Will the great experiment survive?

Ancient Mariner

[1] “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas, copyright 2016, Penguin Random House. ISBN 9781101979983 hardbound — ISBN 9781101980002 ebook. $26.00 hardbound. Or see your library.

Political Nits

One has to hand it to Donald. One of his personally owned golf courses claimed a charity donation of five million dollars. NPR dug into it and could only find $80 thousand. The golf course and Donald have ignored questions about it. Mariner suspects the five million dollar gift is on Donald’s tax form to cut taxes owed. Pardon the use, Robert, but it will be an awesome day when Donald’s tax history is revealed.

The Gold Star issue laid bare Donald’s inability to feel empathy. Even in defensive comments, he can’t find something to blame it on; as in past presidents, generals and other leaders who have suffered the fallen, compassion comes from one’s own heart – nowhere else.

Mariner marvels at the inadequacy of nations to properly respond to the new age of globalization. In China, Xi Jingpin is moving the nation toward the glorious days of communism in an effort to make China Great Again (familiar?); in China, free press is disappearing, civil rights are disappearing. To maneuver around the leadership of the Communist Party, Xi has made himself chairman of several key committees. Other nations actively engaged in isolationism are Great Britain (Brexit), Spain, the United States (at least Donald says so), and the entire European Union – stressed by the wave of immigration and economic conflicts with Eastern European nations.

Globalism requires a market-based economy, not a nation-based economy. The TPP, which has serious civil rights flaws, nevertheless is a model for globalism. Nine nations were about to sign an agreement that bound them to an economic relationship where each nation shared a global market and agreed to a fair distribution of profit.

One of the shortcomings in the TPP is labor distribution. The reader may have noticed that over the past fifty years, corporations are doing everything they can to shed employees, minimize salary and benefits, and hide profits. While the concept of shared profit sounds good between nations, it does not require that job distribution is employee oriented or that corporations, either through taxation of actual profits or through internalized policies, seek to optimize employee participation (jobs). Nevertheless, we should understand that we will share GDP with other nations. Those nations seeking isolation are going in the wrong direction.

The Democratic Party shows signs of hope and increased energy but what is the message? What is the theory of social equality that binds Americans in a democratic society? What are the examples of civil liberty and equality? In mariner’s county, the focus still seems to be on petty local issues. This may be appropriate under general circumstances but today, with conservative policies running amuck from Libertarianism to Reaganism to white supremacy, voters need a new national message. Where is it? Voters already identify with the Affordable Care Act; what else is in the Democratic Bag?

The press recently called Donald the ‘destruction’ President because all he does is undo Obama’s legacy and destroy principles of democracy. But his Cabinet members also are great ‘destructionists’. Put together, our country rapidly is returning to the 1920’s. Mariner wouldn’t be surprised that new racist statues will be ordered and we shall become an archipelago nation as the oceans rise. We will not be a nation of rich-hued skin but a pale whiteness preserved from an ancient era – like a pod of Beluga whales.

Ancient Mariner

 

US Isolationism is Suicide for the US – Soon!

A tip from fivethirtyeight’s (Nate Silver) website:

$31.4 million – – Russian trade with North Korea doubled to $31.4 million in the first quarter of 2017. Reuters found eight North Korean fuel ships that left Russia ostensibly in route to China or South Korea only to change their final destination to North Korea. [Reuters]

It appears sanctions against North Korea are an iffy tactic. North Korea can be held together by Russia and China alone plus their dependent satellite countries.

Mariner does not believe China and Russia will allow Kim Jung Un to fire a nuclear weapon (under normal circumstances, both Kim and Donald are capable of the most impulsive and most disastrous decision at any time). Mariner thinks, however, that Russia can manipulate Donald enough to prevent Donald from picking up the red phone and launching nuclear war.

The ulterior motive of North Korea and its allies is to further diminish the prestige of the US around the world, advance their own agenda of trade and political dominance, and make the Korean Peninsula unified under China’s influence. In this regard, Kim is just a pawn – similar to Donald’s relationship to Russia. Any military action between the US and North Korea will be devastating to South Korea. Geographically, South Korea will be destroyed before the US can launch any preventive strike. Nuclear weapons, in the big picture, would not benefit Asian plans to control Asia and the Pacific all the way to Australia. Having posited this view, never say never.

Donald’s empty bully rhetoric and his foolish go it alone isolationism leave the US standing at the gate as other nations and international groups are off to the races to reorder power structure for the new global society, global economics, and global prestige.

Here at home, several polls show the Democratic Party has lost support from several liberal organizations. One would expect that 2018 would be a windfall election for the democrats. Better pundits and journalists believe the cause is the party’s inability to paint a picture of the immediate future that its followers can follow. Bernie almost pulled off a third party run; will a liberal third party arise in 2018?

Ancient Mariner

Populism – a Grist Mill for Change

The United States is not the only nation suffering an interruption caused by populism. Remember Brexit? And Greece, France, Italy, and just about everyone in South America? Don’t forget Ukraine, thrown into civil war by nationalist intentions.

The mariner has been looking into the phenomenon of populism, drawing from several websites on the subject, respected magazines and journals, and a book or two, particularly David Goodheart, a Brit who has received notable accolades for his book, The Road to Somewhere – the populist Revolt and the Future of politics. One may also want to read Ivan Krastev’s Democracy Disrupted: The Global Politics of Protest.

Any reader who has studied history knows that politics, economics and status quo do not want change, e.g., fossil fuel; there is comfort in a well-rooted establishment that provides a modicum of security with some guarantee of regularity. It is inevitable that folks are pushed aside to sustain the status quo. Eventually, enough citizens are dissatisfied with the growing imbalance between the benefactors of the establishment and themselves that what results is an uprising, certainly rowdy and disrespectful in nature. In fact, conflicts have often become wars and on occasion restart the entire culture, noting Denmark’s citizen rebellion that tossed out capitalism and created a socialist state.

Americans are well aware of the populist movement in the United States. Accustomed to a two party political system, a progressive, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, an advocate of change with no political experience, became the leaders of the populist movement. In the wake of the 2016 election which Donald won, the conservative populists have settled into a conservative group generally referred to as ‘the base.’

Nevertheless, many more citizens still with rebellion in their hearts remain a grumbling presence. Signs suggest there will be another storming of the Bastille in 2018.

Populist response to inequities is more common in democratic societies than in authoritative ones although authoritarian societies have more violent rebellions. The United States, known for its ‘experiment’ of self-governance and citizen freedom, has frequent populist uprisings. The first of significant note – aside from the Revolutionary War – was the Boston Tea Party. Every thirty or forty years since, populist uprisings have been the gearbox to keep governance in line. Within the experience of citizens alive today is the suffragette movement, the labor rebellion, the Great Depression, the Viet Nam war resistance, Civil Rights, and, in real time experience, the job rebellion happening today.

Populist uprisings have a singular purpose: disrupt the establishment. There is no other purpose. The present and future be damned; they are of no consequence. Logic and reason are irrelevant; populism is a battle between emotions and authority. Within a family, populism is a teenager’s rebellion against parental authority. Despite the belligerence, the crassness, the destructiveness, populism is good. It is good because it makes the establishment listen. Petty accommodation, persuasion and doubletalk will not suffice. New definitions of the social order must emerge.

The establishment will defend itself – especially in matters of money and elitism. This may go on for years; the common classes still are rebelling against monetary policies put in place in the 1980’s. Only now have a significant number of citizens felt enough is enough. Sharing wealth, having job security, feeling opportunity, and a sense of a better life ahead are disappearing at an alarming rate – all to sustain the establishment to the exclusion of the greater citizenry. The 2016 election was one of many breaking points; there are many more to come that will, sooner or later, tackle social issues, the definition of citizen rights and a settlement of economic policy in manners of governance; for example, the cost and process of campaigns and elections, minimum wage and redefinition of the term ‘job.’

Back to the populist phenomenon, it evolves from the liberal side of voters. Over decades the working class was the heart of the Democratic Party in the United States and of the Labour Party in Great Britain. In both countries, liberal party workers slowly evolved into successful groups still loyal to the liberal side but slowly became a minority to fellow party members who stayed at lower class labor jobs. It is this lower class of liberals that abandons the ‘elitist’ membership and in the midst of foment becomes populist. An example of this abandonment clearly was present in Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President; Hillary represented the Establishment – the enemy – to the disdain of her own party. The majority, still left of center, flocked to a fellow revolutionary, Bernie Sanders, and left the Democratic Party quite diminished. In a populist mood, many voted for the Republican anti-establishment candidate rather than support their party – the beginning of ‘the base.’

The conservative government clings to the awkward election of Donald Trump. He is their windbreak from populists but his inadequacies are weakening his hold and may serve to lay exposed the wealth-centric philosophy of the Republican Party as the 2018 election approaches.

In Great Britain, populist surge led to a defeat of British participation in the European Union. This is a glaring, visible setback to the strength of Great Britain as a nation. The same disaffection occurred in the US and similarly has damaged the status and leadership of the nation. It is not as visible as the cleaving of Britain from the EU but the US has lost leverage in several international arenas of immediate importance.

This time around, however, populism has become international. Virtually every democratic country around the world is suffering from the same dilemma: struggling economic systems that facilitate the centralization of wealth in a few at the cost of supporting the common citizen.

Donald Trump recognized, in a simple way, that trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and TPP had something to do with job distribution but failed in recognizing that trade agreements are the vehicles through which populism may have a voice in international change and further, trade agreements are the conveyance that will define the global future, whatever it may be.

The future cannot change too much from what populism provokes today. The chasm between have and have not, skilled and unskilled, opportunity and oppressed, will remain and likely increase. Populism can only interfere; it cannot dictate. Especially in an international marketplace, populism will be fragmented. The best populism can do is draw our attention to the misbehavior of power. It is only the gristmill, not the wheat.

Ancient Mariner

Donald has been Busy

Today’s post is a copy of the Washington Post article about what Donald has undone. The press has under-reported this activity which is as damaging as the absence of legislative progress. It is recommended that the reader not skip through the list; each one has seriously damaging intent and reeks of special interests that intentionally expose risk to US citizens.

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President Trump has repeatedly argued that he’s done more than any other recent president. That’s not true, as measured by the amount of legislation he’s been able to sign. It is true, though, that Trump has undone a lot of things that were put into place by his predecessors, including President Barack Obama.

Since Jan. 20, Trump’s administration has enthusiastically and systematically undone or uprooted rules, policies and tools that predated his time in office. Below, a list of those changes, roughly organized by subject area.

The economy

Withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The trade deal would have established a trade partnership between the United States and countries on the Pacific Rim.

Revoked a rule that expanded the number of people who could earn overtime pay.

Reversal of a rule that would mandate that oil and gas companies report payments to foreign governments. The Securities and Exchange Commission will no longer receive this information.

Ended limits on the ability of states to drug test those seeking unemployment benefits.

Revoked an executive order that mandated compliance by contractors with laws protecting women in the workplace. Prior to the 2014 order, a report found that companies with federal contracts worth millions of dollars had scores of violations of labor and civil rights laws.

Repeal of a rule allowing states to create retirement savings plans for private-sector workers.

Cancelled a rule mandating that financial advisers act in the best interests of their clients.

Repeal of a bill that mandated that employers maintain records of workplace injuries.

Killed a rule mandating that government contractors disclose past violations of labor law.

The justice system

Rescinded an Obama effort to reduce mandatory sentences. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered that prosecutors seek the most stringent penalties possible in criminal cases.

Cancelled a phase-out of the use of private prisons.

Reversed a ban on civil forfeiture. Law enforcement officials are now once again able to seize assets from suspects who haven’t been convicted of any crime.

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When will he be gone?

Ancient Mariner