January 6

The attack on the US Capitol was violent; it consumed news organizations, social media, professional politics, corporate behavior and fringe organizations primarily associated with white supremacy. Five people died.

For all the cacophony, it is just a small incident in the midst of massive changes in government, society, economics, technology and global warming. Add to these unrooted times an epic invasion of the entire world by Covid-19.

In the United States 400,000 people will have died by the time this post is logged. Just measuring deaths, 5 people chose to be at the Capital where they may be killed while the virus has claimed one of every 121 people across the country. Each death not wanted and each death ripping into a family’s happiness.

It is true that four years of Donald-power has been extremely troublesome. There is no question that Donald is the match that lit many fires in society – including the attack on the Capitol – not just with his race baiting but with regulations affecting environmental issues, health issues, economic issues and he was disruptive to fragile behaviorisms that underlie democracy.

But Donald is just another incident brought on by the universal disruption we experience today, a disruption we will continue to experience for the rest of this century. Human society is very fragile. Society can be knocked off balance by imbalances in power, technology, weather and basic human need. Just a short list of moments that have contributed to our tidal wave of change:

֎ Since 1942 life expectancy has jumped from 53 to 80. This extra generation is very expensive to maintain and often interferes with incidental changes in society that then lead to larger consequences – think abortion, plutocracy, evangelical religion, any lgbqt issue, etc.

֎ For forty years American labor has been cut off from sharing in the nation’s profits; labor income has not grown commensurate with inflation – think loss of the American Dream.

֎ Despite the best efforts of white supremacists, caucasians will become a distinct minority in the United States by 2070 – think a revamping of civil rights legislation to eliminate the class discriminations that favor caucasians.

֎ Because of rising sea levels, by 2050 300 million people will be forced to relocate to other locations in the US – think housing, job loss, agricultural and local economies.

֎ Artificial Intelligence will force a major change in the relationship between employment and income. Most futurist economists believe a family stipend provided by increased corporate taxation is likely. Interestingly, a stipend was advocated by Andrew Yang in the 2016 presidential campaign and today, the impact of the pandemic has forced the government to issue stipends to keep the economy functional.

֎ The world is running out of resources, causing many nations to fail economically. Even wealthy nations are being pushed to reinterpret long held capitalistic tropes about supply and demand. The current rise in dictatorships is the result of public dissatisfaction with government but cannot be the final correction; internationalism will be redefined by 2050.

Everyone prays, in these turbulent times when society is in disarray, that the machinations of change will not become violent. Let’s hope the attack on the Capitol is the last of it.

Ancient Mariner

It isn’t what goes around, it’s what has always been

The disarray, some may say discontent, that the United States suffers today has been around for a while. Mariner has said that the damage to the American Dream began with the Reagan administration when regulations and legislation were loosened to allow corporations to invest in foreign markets and at the same time diminished obligations to employees.

Over forty years of discontent in the labor classes yields social discrimination and the splintering of national unity. Labor class unrest led to the militaristic behavior found in the role of police today. The police brutality evidenced in the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota became the new emoji for an old problem.

Flash back to 1991 – 30 years ago:

In 1991, after a drunk-driving automobile chase, four officers struck Rodney King with batons fifty-three times. The LAPD initially charged King with “felony evading,” but later dropped the charge. On his release, he spoke to reporters from his wheelchair, with his injuries evident: a broken right leg in a cast, his face badly cut and swollen, bruises on his body, and a burn area to his chest where he had been jolted with a 50,000-volt stun gun. Three of the four officers were acquitted.

The incident invoked the LA riots which eventually killed 63 people.

In 1992 Rodney became famous for saying, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Before the Nation’s cultural breakdown can begin healing, Congress must repair the Reagan policy that split the American Dream. Until then the xenophobic organizations will not subside; racial injustice will not be cured; economic fairness among the Nation’s citizens will not occur.

֎ Restore the unions.

֎ Raise minimum wage to be commensurate with inflation since 1980.

֎ Provide universal health care.

֎ Significantly raise taxes on the wealthy and large corporations to release privately stored, useless cash to the government so it can restore the middle and lower classes who live desperate lives today.

֎ Significantly increase the job market by utilizing opportunities offered by inadequate infrastructure, growing damage from climate change and by firm enforcement of antitrust laws.

֎ Repair a dysfunctional housing policy that locks out first time buyers and lower income families.

֎ Promote international economic participation with agreements similar to the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Some critics may claim these suggestions are a promotion of new-age socialism. In fact, it is a restoration to a time in history that ceased existing forty years ago.

Ancient Mariner

Homo sapiens has become obsolete

Regular readers are familiar with the skepticism of alter ego Amos. In this new century, one beginning with a multitude of new and unchartered worries for mankind, Amos feels increasing depression as his fellow humans (AKA electorate) fail to grasp the enormity and perhaps the fatalistic nature of the times. The recent attack on the United States Capital was a misguided and virtually irrelevant gesture when global civilization is on the brink of collapse as the environment falters, global resources rapidly disappear, birth rates around the world approach zero growth and mankind’s own manufactured reality is decaying.

Now, there is hard evidence that Homo sapiens is about to be irrelevant and will disappear in short order. The following photograph is taken from the back cover of the January issue of The Economist. The small type says:

“Malicious AI created her picture, yet she has never been seen by a camera. It made her an online profile, yet she has never logged in. Malicious AI built her to attack you.”

The public today is worried about face recognition software. Poo. Who needs your face anymore when AI has a detailed description of your profile, health, driver license, family connections, friends and financial particulars – and can make a face made to order? Even more, a detailed copy of your whole existence sits in data bases that can emulate your probable real life experiences.

Now, AI doesn’t need your face or your body. AI can create a fictitious reality without using real human beings and can interlace you with others on Facebook, Twitter and E-Harmony. If you’re still around in a few years, you may have remarried and not even know it.

Consider the new AI world of business: AI creates a statistical version of a restaurant then populates it with statistical versions of humans. The finances look good on a digitized screen and AI will have to move bitcoins around in the fake economy to balance the database.

The next phase of human evolution will be complete. Living only as digitized energy, our progeny easily will be able to spread throughout the universe.

Ancient Mariner

 

New horizons in change

The following two paragraphs are from World Review, an online magazine sponsored by New Statesman, a British publishing Company. It makes the case that conservative political forces around the world are drifting even further to the right and shredding centrist policies, allowing xenophobic and militaristic values to influence government policy. The American press is making the same case for US politics. Is this yet another tsunami of change confronting us in this troublesome century?

“. . . Just as central a place in histories of the Trump disaster must be reserved for those same, once-respectable conservative politicians who have enabled the president to whip up the chaos they now, finally, deign to criticise: the Lindsay Grahams, the Mitch McConnells, the Mike Pences, the Marco Rubios.

This pattern is not just confined to the US. Much has been written about the nationalist populist wave of recent years. Yet surely more powerful than any individual political victory by the populists themselves is the way they have co-opted and lastingly changed parts of the supposedly mainstream right (or threaten to do so). In Europe, conservatives in countries like Austria, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and France have adopted the language and tone of the hard-right. Old cordons sanitaires[1] have broken down, with extremists entering coalitions or otherwise cooperating with more established parties at local or national levels. Brazil’s hard-right president Jair Bolsonaro came to power with the help of the centre-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party. The turns towards authoritarianism in India, Turkey and Hungary have all been led from within established conservative parties.” [By Jeremy Cliffe, International Editor]

This is not the time in global history or that of the US specifically to introduce destructive social influences. At a time when technology, economics and global climate all face unknown frontiers of change that we can’t begin to define; at a time when collaboration, factual reality and common sense are the tools that are needed, will the future be achievable?

Ancient Mariner

[1] From French, a barrier designed to prevent a disease or other undesirable condition from spreading

It’s a New World

While the western world has survived the beginning of the twenty-first century more or less intact, getting organized for the rest of the century makes it seem as if the destruction of the Middle East is more descriptive.

Hopefully, Guru envisions a burst of energy, jobs and economy as the whole world responds to climate change, repairing infrastructure and shifting world economies in a way that will stave off international disruption through abuse of the Internet and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the global imbalance between the wealthy and the starving.

These tasks all are international and the wringing of hands and claims of the apocalypse will be part of the experience. It will be like training one’s wayward feet to fit into a new pair of shoes – if not painful at least uncomfortable.

Nations and their resources, unfortunately, do not drive the schedule of recovery. Every issue is at a critical stage such that avoiding catastrophe is the order of the day rather than casually planning new ideas with time to perfect them.

For the sake of brevity, mariner will describe only one issue – the one issue that ignores politics, economies and cultures; it is the most disruptive of the several critical issues: Climate Change.

We should be thankful that the pandemic has given the world practice at dealing with worldwide apolitical issues. Like the pandemic, climate change is no longer an issue of local environmental regulation and politics. It has become a global condition, an instability at the core of an environment that sustains all life. It is difficult to get excited about climate change because it is so slow in the manner by which it changes the environment. Mariner compares it to how sloping shoulders develop over decades of aging, one day at a time, one tiny increment of spine curvature each day. Then suddenly there is back pain and limitations of flexibility. The world already feels the pain of climate change.

Flooding of low lying land around the world already has become a crisis in many parts of the world: 11 million people in Bangladesh have lost two years of crops as the tides invade and stay longer each season; many populated islands around the world will disappear in this century; six large key cities in the United State will be overrun by rising seas – Miami already has in place city-wide pumping stations and drains to accommodate high tides.

Rising seas are caused by a warming atmosphere that melts the polar ice reserve. Being unusually warm, the atmosphere has extra energy for storms and, globally, the jet streams are shifting enough to begin changing agriculture on all the continents.

The following paragraph is a report from Forbes magazine:

“By 2050, sea-level rise will push average annual coastal floods higher than land now home to 300 million people, according to a study published in Nature Communications. High tides could permanently rise above land occupied by over 150 million people, including 30 million in China. Without advanced coastal defense and planning, populations in these areas may face permanent flooding within 30 years.”

The entire report is worth reading and has maps of where US cities will be flooded. See:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2019/10/30/shocking-new-maps-show-how-sea-level-rise-will-destroy-coastal-cities-by-2050/

 

Storms get stronger

Data: NOAA. Graphic: Reuters

With climate change, hurricanes overall are moving more slowly, meaning they can linger for longer over land, causing more damage. —Reuters

The temperature, as a daily personal experience, will be much warmer. In the United States the entire sweep of Gulf States will become very hot with frequent temperatures over 100°. Not only will agriculture be forced to relocate, so will the people. This means that hinterland cities will receive large migrations of people and jobs moving north. Retiring to the southern shores will no longer be a pleasant fantasy.

So Climate Change is a serious, immediate issue that will notably change weather, geography, agriculture, population centers and a reordering of governmental functions and responsibilities – and each citizen because the changes will be quite personal.

Mariner agrees that the confrontation is serious, perhaps greater than all the wars in US history. But. It is a new time to unify and tackle a big problem together. The world must succeed. Mariner is reminded of Rosie the riveter. Let’s wind up our sleeves, get beyond petty politics and personal agendas and get on with it.

Ancient Mariner

What do You Believe?

That is not an easy question to answer today. There are no clear hints about what is absolute or true or real. It used to be easier way back in the very old days. For example, if you lived 75,000 years ago, the only source of belief was one’s experiences with the natural environment. What was true was simply an anthropomorphic existentialism (Yes, writing about philosophy invokes the use of philosophical words – which is why novels dominate the retail book market). What ‘anthropomorphic existentialism’ means is that nature had its motives and you had yours. The interaction with nature was not always predictable; after all, nature thought for itself just like you did.

Interestingly, anthropomorphic existentialism easily lends itself to a way to measure whether you are a successful thing or not by the way nature, an uncontrollable power, treats you. This method of measuring success still exists in today’s world. Just one example among many, it is how monetized religion works today – if you give enough money to the television evangelist, you will be rewarded in kind by God (AKA nature). Speaking cynically, this con was developed by religious middle men from the beginning. Remember having to pay the church so your family could get out of purgatory? How about sacrificing your child in exchange for a good rainy season (AKA nature)? Given this perspective, it is understandable why military leaders pray to a supreme influence before going into battle.

Given some thought about it, one realizes the tit-for-tat relationship that even today requires some sacrifice or commitment on our part before a deal can be made. If Nature (God) is to be served today, what is our modern tit-for-tat? Is it global deforestation or contaminating air and water? Just food for thought; that’s what philosophy is good for.

Jumping forward a lot of years, humans learned enough about nature to define how nature thinks differently than we do. Nature says all living things are created and survive according to the rules of evolution – nature’s measure whether you behave well or not and deserve a tit-for-tat. Our species will thrive and be successful simply by following nature’s evolutionary playbook. Unfortunately, this is hard for us to do.

After 90 million years of evolving the hominin branch of living things, one hominin, Homo sapiens (us), began to do well using an extra amount of intelligence. We figured out a way to consume nature without participating in a tit-for-tat. In other words, instead of surviving like other life, which is living in balance with nature’s rulebook, we figured out a way to make a profit from nature without the balance part.

Nature is not petty or judgmental. The evolution rulebook was written in the very beginning; astrophysicists named the event ‘the big bang’ – the beginning of nature itself. So nature lets our existentialism play out. That means sooner or later, nature will claim its tit-for-tat.

So maybe anthropomorphic existentialism is the right belief. Functionally, what’s the difference between one child sacrificed and civilization sacrificed, functionally speaking. Quite like a reverse mortgage, don’t you think?

Ancient Mariner

 

Tiny Tidbits

֎ When oldtimers use the stairs, keep a hand floating along the bannister in case that trick knee jumps out or a slipper catches the stair. It is important, though, to use the legs to carry ALL the effort of ascending or descending – the more the bannister is used to disburse strain, the sooner the sense of balance is lost due to small leg muscles never having to balance under stress.

֎ The last environmentally balanced human species was Homo erectus who had mastered fire and stone tools. H. erectus, along with other hominins Neanderthal and Dennisovan, lived for two million years until 110 thousand years ago. H. sapiens, a trashier version, has existed only for 110,000 years but is not in balance with the environment.

֎ Mayo Clinic says the best treatment for insomnia is sunlight. Pills, it seems, aren’t very effective unless sleep is induced by nefarious narcotic means. Even on cloudy or cold days, go outside and stay there for a couple of hours. In cold weather, of course, dress accordingly.

֎ Speaking of human origins, the Australian aborigines moved to Australia 80,000 years ago and developed a characteristic of small, family-based tribes rather than assimilating into nations or empires. Today, aborigines are 3.8 percent of the Australian population.

֎ When using cast iron cooking pans or pots, make sure they have been seasoned at some point in a high temperature oven. Ask Alton Brown how to season iron. When washing, do not use soap. Use very hot running water and a putty knife or other stiff, straight blade, finishing with a vegetable brush. It is important to remove all recent oils and fats. When clean to the eye, wipe dry with paper towels or dry rags; sheen still should be visible. This method preserves the seasoning process and reduces sticking.

֎ Wasn’t it exciting to see Jupiter and Saturn in syzygy? Does the reader know that when the largest planets line up it affects Earth’s declination? When Jupiter talks the solar system listens because Jupiter is 14 percent of the planetary mass; add in Saturn and something is bound to happen. Every once in a while (this happened recently) Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and the Moon get in a line. When this happens, Earth’s declination is changed just a tiny bit. Humans won’t notice the change right away because it is a 96,000 year cycle combined with Earth’s wobble and the relationship of gases in the atmosphere – carbon being the main one. Long story short – Earth is headed for a major ice age in about 5,000 years. Ice ages last for about 150-200,000 years.

Ancient Mariner

It’s that easy time of night

The title is a quote from long, long ago when the local television station opened its late night movie show. For many viewers it was a successful ploy to sit back, relax, put the day behind them and get comfy – both physically and emotionally.

Mariner has discovered the same experience in a television series found on NETFLIX. It is called “The Repair Shop”, a show made in England. It is a simple show that has customers come to the shop to drop off family heirlooms that are in the worst possible shape. Specialists are available covering all sorts of skills such as woodwork, leather, porcelain, clocks, paintings, stained glass, even teddy bears and fire engines.

The tone of the program is focused on a no hurry attitude, is set in a romantic setting of old thatched workshops, has a crew that is oblivious to any amount of detail required, and a soft-voiced narrator.

There is no way mariner can express the expertise of these craftsmen. Nor is there any way he can express their eagerness to engage in immense, tedious detail with the patience of the gods. Anxiousness is not known to these craftsmen because they glory in detail. Time is irrelevant, as well.

It is a perfect escape television show. These craftsmen have never experienced the tumultuous, angry, pressure-laden world the rest of us must endure. They haven’t been tarnished by politics, economy, or the stress of family life. They are perfectly content in a world of extreme detail and patience. – two behaviors the rest of us have no time for.

Mariner highly recommends “The Repair Shop” as an escape from dreary times. After all, it’s that easy time of night.

Ancient Mariner

Where is the Road?

It was Robert Frost who wrote the familiar poem about two roads diverging in a yellow wood and at the end of the poem the author is pleased to have taken the road less traveled. Or perhaps Yogi Berra’s version, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Mariner has known many older, older folk, some born before 1900, who, when deciding whether to attend college, followed the advice of both gentlemen. If one wanted to be nothing more than to be a polished, genteel and astute person, there was only one path: enroll in college. Just as absolute, if one wanted to work in a pleasant job that paid more than union labor or walk-in hiring rates, one took the only road – graduate from college.

During mariner’s time this option prevailed; one had to go to college to be recognized as smart and to be a participating contributor to the greater human experience. A college degree was the discriminator between being a cashier or an accountant; a store clerk or an entrepreneur; a salesman or a lawyer. Mariner had to make this choice in his own life: sustain the simple joys of youth by working for an income that would allow that lifestyle to continue or go to college and have the opportunity to be creative and tackle new responsibilities. It was a difficult choice that mariner made only belatedly in his mid-twenties.

Only since the GI Bill has this singular path begun to have a different objective. For the most part, a college degree no longer represents a genteel and polished person; completing a Liberal Arts major doesn’t provide much after graduation. In fact, many small ‘liberal arts’ colleges are dropping that major altogether.

At the same time, however, the higher the cost of a college degree, the more exclusive will be the job opportunities. The divide between labor jobs (including white collar labor jobs) and educated jobs has risen to whether one wishes to be middle class or upper middle class. Just ask Lori Loughton (found guilty of bribery trying to register her daughter in the proper college).

What has changed is the number of students pursuing college degrees. In 1940, 5 percent of the US population had college degrees; in 2017, 33 percent had college degrees. As an economic market, one could say demand is greater than supply – hence the endless increase in college tuition. It follows that the higher the cost, the more return is expected by students. This has led to a new relationship where colleges have turned to skill training and collaboration with corporations for job placement. Today, it isn’t one’s book learning and genteelness, it’s the job skill one has at graduation.

The new line of discrimination is whether one has a graduate degree. Jobs known as STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) are the new discriminator for being ‘educated’ as well as the traditional ones, medicine, law and business. The graduate level is required increasingly because there are so many Bachelor graduates that exclusivity requires an additional degree.

Mariner is reminded of an old joke from a British comedian describing the need for a few good soldiers during WW II: a man walks into a recruiter’s station and says, “Please, sir, I’d like to join the few.” “I’m sorry” the recruiter says, “There are far too many.”

Mariner apologizes for too many nuances. A summation will say:

  • College is socially discriminatory. It takes extra money to go to college. Those without money are greatly disadvantaged and will not participate in the fringe benefits of a more comfortable lifestyle.
  • As a percentage of population, if the number of college graduates increases, the privileged status diminishes. Elitism becomes more important defined by certain colleges, e.g., Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, etc. Further, it requires a graduate degree to sustain an educated persona.
  • Culturally, the purpose for attending college has changed dramatically from a time when going to college was limited to the elite/intellectual class and was more or less a finishing school. Today, going to college is a virtual necessity to obtain a job with growth potential and decent wages.
  • As a means of rounding out maturity, college still helps but the tone has become less erudite and more commonplace primarily because of the high percentage of students versus the general population.

As to the future, mariner suspects college will become the fourth step in public education behind elementary, middle and senior schools. This is just as well because the entire society, the definition of jobs, income and employment rights are changing dramatically. It is likely that both the government and business interests will oversee cost and content.[1]

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] In past posts mariner described the education system in Taiwan. All education through college is paid by the government. College seats are limited and filled competitively using an entrance exam similar to the US SAT score. A choice other than standard college, everyone attends a buxiban (bushyban) which provides trade and developmental education. Interestingly, buxiban is available to any citizen at any time in life from kindergarten through adulthood.

We are slow Learners

Most everyone (including mariner) points at the pandemic as an expediter, an accelerator of cultural change. Mariner checked out other cultural shifts that have occurred in history; it turns out big-time change takes a while. It obviously is true that the pandemic has shut down twentieth century values by forcing adaptation to emerging artificial intelligence, exploding corporatism and by causing an economic blip because of the shutdown of so many supply chains and services – an economic blip that forced the nation to look anew at racism and the growing population of indigent citizens.

So stepping on the brakes, quite firmly, has brought about discordant oddities like a President who is incompetent and a wannabe dictator, a totally collapsed morality in the GOP political party, trillions of dollars made by corporations who monetize what should be uncompromised social behavior and just to add an unusual spin, a planet that is not pleased with human behavior.

Now the question is how long it will take to establish a new era with new economics, new social behavior, new lifestyles, new international collaboration and a new sense of normalcy and confidence across the world.

THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

It took 131 years (1517-1648) before the open conflict between Roman Catholicism and the protestant rebellion came to awkward but agreeable terms. The role of today’s pandemic was played by Henry VIII, Martin Luther and John Calvin. In short order Henry said nations are not bound by Roman Catholic judgments; Martin Luther said the Holy Bible was the only source of Divine authority and proclaimed that every Christian is a priest in their own right; John Calvin stressed God’s power and humanity’s predestined fate.

Reminiscent of today’s republican-democrat standoff, treaties were hard fought, physical agreements that took decades to settle. It wasn’t until 1530 that the Lutheran Denomination was able to document its approach to Christianity by publishing the Augsburg Confession, a document that settled differences between Protestant sects and was presented to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

A thirty-year war raged until 1648 when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. Another comparison between then and now is the opportunity to use new technology. The new technology during the Reformation was the printing press, giving dissenting views a new, quickly distributed tool with which to fight entrenched authority. Today, in 2020, the new technology is social media – having the same disruptive effect.

As Christmas grows near this year, a genuine gift is the vaccine – developed in such a short time it seems miraculous. This leaves 2021 as the year to start rebuilding the American Dream, redesigning new economics for the world and to see what we can do about Planet Earth’s complaints not only regarding fossil fuel but the heavy price on the biosphere caused by human indifference.

Only 130 years left . . .

Ancient Mariner