Good ol’ USA

Remember when: Companies paid a guaranteed 100% retirement? Or employees had the right to negotiate salaries? Remember unions? The economists say there is a shortage of workers. Bull chips – there is a shortage of salary and benefits. Here’s another one:

Data: Center for Economic and Policy Research. Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios

Ancient Mariner

Have your hobby?

First, some feedback on the walking post: you may have read in fitness magazines about doing a warmup routine; the same goes for ‘hitting your stride’ in walking and running. Give your body time to shift into overdrive. Breathing is something to gauge as well; walk or run only as fast as your athletic condition allows without losing your breath completely. The more frequently you walk or run the more of a jock you will become! Remember Forrest Gump?

Today’s topic:

How is the reader doing with finding a hobby and displacing reality by becoming totally engrossed in that hobby? If the reader hasn’t pursued this idea, find it quickly; things seem not to be getting better. Here are some suggestions for hobbies that will engross:

֎ You know in your heart that your home is at risk from tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding or fire. An engrossing hobby today is finding somewhere else to live.

֎ You are dependent on prescriptions. Solve the answer to the puzzle half the nation must solve: avoid the doughnut hole.

֎ For readers that like abstract thinking, is there inflation or is there recession? Further, develop a solution for how your bank savings will support your lifestyle at 4 cents interest for each $1,000 every 30 days.

֎ For the car buffs, buy an all-electric vehicle within the next twelve months and drive 3,000 miles in any direction – totally engrossing.

֎ Invest in cryptocurrency.

Join an aggressive organization whose cause is to form a new nation. Choose autocracy or democracy or try racism or misogyny or immigration or join a housing association.

֎ Become a green advocate and actively try to shut down the fossil fuel industry, or the chemical waste industry or the lumber industry or climate change itself. All are engrossing.

Mariner has chosen gardening.

Ancient Mariner


Mariner has not had much physical exercise for the last two weeks because he had a houseful of guests. Today he decided he better start walking to the Post Office again because he felt aches and pains all over, that is, stiffness, muscle complaints and loss of gumption.

So he walked to the Post Office – a  brisk 10 minute walk each way. While walking he felt no unusual discomfort; true, he wouldn’t make the Olympic team but generally, it was a pleasant experience – until he arrived back at the house. Exhaustion set in and general malaise. The next hour or so he simply sat in his chair.

He is reminded of a post he wrote some time ago that suggested walking or running was good for a human. This is because when walking or running, the brainstem takes over bodily functions in such a way that the functions of the body (blood pressure, breathing, circulation, etc.) focus on sustaining the needs of walking or running. Only afterward are deficiencies dealt with.

Anthropologists have identified this deference to walking and running as a survival trait during the days in the Rift Valley and the Serengeti in Africa. In those times, we didn’t have houses, cars, roads, chairs, grocery stores or telephones. Survival meant chasing down food that often ran faster than humans.

What transpired in evolution was that the brain adapted a way to sustain walking and running – sort of putting the body in overdrive. This included perspiration and adapting various body functions so that sustained running and walking received maximum support.

What is fascinating is that the brainstem, one of oldest parts of the brain, still retains an on-off switch that switches on only when we walk or run. When the switch is on, the entire chemistry of the body gets a workout.

Mariner is sorry that the early humans didn’t have a chair to flop into when it was over.

Ancient Mariner

About monarchy

All the news, of course, is about the death and burial of Queen Elizabeth and what King Charles will do differently. England was organized into a nation officially in 927 CE, the point being that in comparison, the US today is but a teenager. Since 927, England conquered Scotland, signed the historic Magna Carta in 1215, was the primary colonizer of North America beginning with Jamestown in 1606, was the world leader in the age of colonialism during the 18th and 19th centuries and, as the calendar approaches the 20th century, formed a multinational union and shared global leadership with the United States.

Since its inception, the United States has switched national leadership 46 times, having only politically based Presidents, not neutralized Kings. As we are witnessing today, this teenager is having trouble holding things together.

The United States does not have an apolitical monarchy. Does a royal family that is noted for dogs, horses, interesting marriages and fancy parades have a role in the stability of the English State?

Perhaps there is more than meets the eye. Watching from this side of the pond, it seems the general population shares affection for the Monarchy despite their personal political differences and serious economic hardships.

Remember Rosie the Riveter? Rosie was a symbol of “We can do it” at a time when US industries did not have enough men to meet the demands for military production. Rosie had a positive aura that brought the nation together during a difficult time. Is this what the Monarchy provides – a sense of common unity that sits above the derisive issues of life and politics?

In mariner’s life time there is only one brief moment when the President may have represented a unifying role. Remember Camelot? He was assassinated.

Short of establishing an apolitical family of its own, what could the United States do to generate national unity? What cause is as great and threatening as World War II? The pandemic, serious as it was, didn’t coalesce the nation. Maybe it might be global warming – that would be a world war with a tough opponent. Could that unify the US?

Maybe it’s a shame that the Founding Fathers didn’t set up an apolitical family. The Fathers did attempt something similar in granting religious freedom but they forgot to castrate it.

Ancient Mariner

Jesus versus tribal instinct

A film, available for viewing on PBS cable or online called ‘Hacking the Mind’, presents an experiment with 4 and 5 year-old children. Presented simply as a game, one child at a time is asked what color tee shirt they would like to wear. There are two options – orange or blue. The child picks one and then is presented with a series of drawings each showing two children, one in orange and one in blue. A simple situation is represented in the drawings.

The test giver asks each child independently to interpret the drawings. Without exception, the child in the chosen color can do no wrong and the child in the unchosen color can do no right – even when it’s the same drawing with colors reversed.

The point is made by the interviewer afterward that this is an embedded defense mechanism. Tribal behavior is in our genes. There is safety in belonging to a protective group.

In pre-industrial times large families survived more easily than small families. Large families could garner more resources for survival. In early Japanese history an army’s subdivision frequently was a collection of families. In mariner’s lingo, biologically humans are intelligent chimpanzees – inheriting the same tribal instincts and survival chemistry.

It is hard for tribal humans to abide by Jesus’s mandate to love all others before self. In other words, the self is discounted and sacrifices itself to the wellbeing of those in different color shirts – not a relatively protected situation.

So Christians build fortresses called churches; indoctrination into the tribe requires a purifying ceremony called baptism (AKA changing the shirt color); social prejudices are part and parcel of religious practices. Humans can’t help this natural, in-the-genes behavior. Not exactly what Jesus wanted.

But this doesn’t discount the value of faith, morality, and interpersonal bonding. In today’s overpopulated world with its emphasis on personal achievement above tribal obligations and economies that disrupt large family assimilation leaving nuclear families scrambling, every compassionate gesture is sorely needed.

Ancient Mariner

Marching on to Meta

GPT-3, is an AI program, can write essays, op-eds, tweets, and dad jokes. It will change how we think about creativity. Who is “we”? Doesn’t Alexi deal with this kind of stuff? Leave me alone so I can get back to my opiates.

There is an unreconciled circumstance when AI becomes judge and jury in our society: prejudice. Not necessarily the headline gathering prejudices like racism and misogyny but prejudices we don’t know we have. For example, app programmers working for financial firms may include biased code that is beneficial to finance firms just as a matter of business rather than allowing a fair integration with societal mores.

Several studies already are in that show existing government programs arrive at different decisions based on assets, neighborhoods and cultural differences. To wit: roads and the Interstate system always have chosen less expensive neighborhoods to build the highways. Government policies also are prejudiced by NIMBY politics (Not In My Backyard). And finally, urban development regulations allow venture capitalists to buy up inexpensive land inhabited for many generations by unique subcultures.

How will AI make sensitive, on-the-edge decisions? Mariner spent enough years in the automated data world to know that more than enough data will be available; it’s the analog formulas where the rubber meets the road.

Today, cultural change is in the hands of the owners – the citizens. As everyone has learned, change is nasty, confusing and final expectations are unknown. Computerized data, no matter how hard it tries, cannot emulate values in a topsy-turvy world – unless humans surrender reality to the Matrix.

Ancient Mariner

The art of subconscious reasoning

Mariner has a pet phrase he often uses in the humid summers of Iowa: “I’m sweating like a fish!” On rare occasions a listener may come back with “Fish don’t sweat!”

“Of course they do” he responds, “where do you think the oceans came from?” As the listener pauses in confusion, mariner continues his argument: “And now there’s global warming and the fish are sweating too much. That’s why the oceans are rising.”

It all makes sense, doesn’t it? No facts needed, no historical dependencies, no social accountability. Not only does it make sense, there is no blame to be assumed.

Lest the reader become ‘holier than thou’ everyone thinks this way to some degree or another. Subconscious reasoning is the source of prejudice of every kind, even simple opinions and is the cause of every abusive behavior.

There is skill involved, though. The more central to one’s life and anxieties, the more elaborate the narrative becomes – and more denial of reality. This is how an attractive young lady can be a Trumpist. When given Donald’s illegal and immoral behaviors by a journalist, she is able to say, “I don’t care.”

Because internal, often unknown thoughts frequently are promoted by the cerebellum, the brain becomes very obedient to its opinions because the cerebellum’s job is to survive. Survival is important internally, of course, but externally as well when social integration or other threats occur – hence subconscious reasoning.

Perhaps this explains the Supreme Court’s reasoning.

Ancient Mariner



With all the social confusion, with the growing menace of global warming, with all the corruptness in politics, a giant walks among us: Goliath, AKA super large monopolistic corporations.

It isn’t just the communication sector (Big Data) with Google, Meta, Apple, Microsoft and a large number of software companies providing cloud and internet services. It is also the retail sector with super conglomerates like Amazon, Walmart, Costco and Walgreen.

Endless examples abound: show business has Disney, butchering has Tyson and Hormel; news has CBS and NBC.

Anti-trust laws have not been properly enforced for decades. Corporations buy potential competitors when those companies still are small. Marketing companies do the same thing in different retail markets.

There are two things to be concerned about. The first has been obvious for many years: monopolization diminishes competition thereby controlling market prices and availability of alternatives.

The second is a new issue available since the internet was invented: government policy intervention. For example, does anyone know who will set health policy when Amazon owns one of the largest hospital corporations in the US? How about a wanky space engineer owning Twitter – one of the most used communication channels in the country. Who will set regulations? Zuckerberg already has proven that if a corporation is large enough, the government has a hard time getting its arms around it.

One could almost say “Huge monopolies are like city or county governments.” Counterarguments may claim that global supply chains require large monopolies; not true (what happened during the pandemic when too few manufacturers caused failure?) Another counterargument is the international nature of business today; not true (The EU has imposed $million+ fines for not complying with privacy and false information regulations and impeding free trade.)

Whenever the US government can get its act together, two things will make or break the nation: fix taxes and break up monopolies. It can be done. Remember Ma Bell and Standard Oil?

Ancient Mariner

Political Sociology in action

It was mentioned on the blog some weeks ago that the time was coming when the retirement age would be extended as the population grew smaller and older. The pandemic has forced this idea into the political world today. Recently, Senator Ron Johnson (Trumpist republican) proposed putting seniors back to work – after they already had retired and started claiming Social Security benefits. Senator Ron’s motivation is suspicious; perhaps he found a new way to cut the cost of Social Security benefits simply by ignoring that it exists and ignoring the earned right to be on Social Security – or maybe civil rights are subservient to authoritative mandates.

Once a predator has been turned loose, it is difficult to put it back on the leash. This is the case between capitalism and socialism as resources become scarce, human environmental relationships begin to fail and plutocratic/authoritative defense mechanisms turn increasingly predatory. This battle will take decades to restore balance to society.

Recent history has shown that less sophisticated nations easily fall prey to authoritative leadership. Is the United States capable of putting the leash on prowling predators?

Who are economic predators? “everybody’s on their own” capitalists, a number of hoarding types like monopolistic corporations, venture capitalists and private equity types; also antidemocratic and libertarian types.

In the end, the outcome will be based on who controls the military and whether a legitimate, operational constitution holds together. Remember when Donald tried to call out the US military to quash Black Lives Matter and ‘de-fund the police’ protests?

Our personal liberties and democratic government lie within the realm of an arbitrary future. Perhaps we should win a big lottery just in case.

Ancient Mariner


Is there a shift in the wind?

֎ It seems that the latest polls – and a few primaries – suggest that the democrats may be more successful in November than was imagined just sixty days ago. Don’t bet money yet but the election may be more interesting than expected.

One situation that is giving democrats a larger than expected victory is rank voting. In Alaska especially, Donald-backed Sarah Palin did not survive to run in November.

If you aren’t sure what rank voting is, mariner posted a detailed explanation back on April 22 called ‘Rank Voting – 2’. Type the title in the search box on the Home page.

A lot hangs on whether the economy is decent until November. Any disruptions will have an effect on a cautious electorate. Otherwise, the polls suggest that an unusually large number of independents and young voters prefer the democratic side.

It is obvious that the abortion issue has stirred dust as far as voters are concerned but Donald himself is having difficulty with his appointed preferences in tossup states.

֎ Another issue that is growing rapidly is climate change happening across the US west. Small towns already have rationed use of water; some literally have so little water they depend on government and charitable organizations for water.

On the other side of the crisis, Mississippi and several other southern states are suffering from record breaking floods. A skeptic could poo-poo the shifts in weather as just an unusual year except that the entire world is having a weather related crisis. For the moment, Pakistan has the worst case. The nation’s economy and human wellbeing have been stopped dead as mountain glaciers melt so rapidly the lower rivers can’t handle the flood.

Let’s hope Mother Earth holds off on more tragedy until after the election; sooner or later the US economy will have to accommodate a growing cost caused by a warming planet.

֎ Does the reader have a pseudonym? Mariner’s is pink dot.

Ancient Mariner