Keep a Close Eye – things are changing

Mariner submitted a post yesterday warning of a political tendency toward authoritarianism saying that it was a prominent movement in local jurisdictions across the nation. In this morning’s mail Nate Silver at wrote the following:

“Republican state legislators spend the early days of this year’s legislative session proposing laws that would make it harder to vote — especially in ways disproportionately used by Democrats and voters of color — under the pretense of preventing large-scale voter fraud (which doesn’t exist).

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a pro-voting-rights advocacy group, more than 165 bills restricting voting access have been proposed in 33 state legislatures — more than four times as many as had been proposed in February 2020.”

The founding fathers left voting procedures to the states likely because of poor communication in those days. That decision, however, has led to disproportional representation in the Senate, the Electoral College and biased practices in gerrymandering. Whichever party controls the state legislature, controls voting. In Georgia there is a bill that would allow the legislature to overturn an election because it didn’t like the outcome.

What makes this movement important to watch is that polls all along have shown that 40 percent of republicans favor Donald and authoritarian practices that discourage democracy. In the last Presidential election 70 million citizens voted for Donald. At 40 percent, that’s 28 million votes against democracy already on record.

Nationally, the United States is democratic. At the State level, 22 states are consistently red states versus 14 blue states; the rest are close to even but unpredictable. At the county level, well, the reader saw the county results in the last post.

The point is this: Benjamin Franklin’s comment that the US will be a democracy only as long as we can keep it has come to a critical point. Around the world democracies are falling like flies to authoritarian governments. This century has begun an era of hardship that has tossed stable governments in the air like confetti.

The next holocaust will include blacks, Hispanics and Asians as well as Jews.

Ancient Mariner

Yes, Virginia, one day Santa may have to move to Antarctica

֎ Mariner has written in past posts about Earth’s polar magnetic field flipping erratically in the Bering Sea and the southern Atlantic. The following summary is copied from the current Science Magazine:

Kauri trees mark magnetic flip 42,000 years ago

By Paul Voosen

Using a remarkable record from a 42,000-year-old kauri tree preserved in a bog, researchers have pieced together a record of the last time Earth’s protective magnetic field weakened and its poles flipped—known as the Laschamp excursion—exposing the world to a bombardment of cosmic rays and, the team suggests, briefly shifting Earth’s climate. The record shows the field nearly failed prior to its brief swap, which only lasted 500 years. Combined with an unusually quiet Sun that is believed to have occurred during this time, cosmic rays could have caused a notable drop in stratospheric ozone, shifting wind flows and climate patterns, they suggest.[1]

֎ Bad Omens

Here’s what history tells us about what’s next for Trumpism. “From Berlusconism in Italy to Perónism in Argentina and Fujimorismo in Peru, personality-driven movements rarely fade once their leaders have left office.”

Trump’s county-level 2016 election map (red means GOP win):

“To the frustration of those Republicans who want to steer a new course, state-party committees have become the strongest redoubts of Trumpism,” Russell Berman reported last week.

Censured by a state GOP
Supported Biden’s … Voted in favor of Trump’s …
Campaign* Certification** Senate Trial† Impeachment††
Sen. Burr
Sen. Cassidy
Rep. Cheney
Gov. Ducey
Ex-Sen. Flake
Cindy McCain
Rep. Rice
Censured by a county GOP or multiple counties
Supported Biden’s … Voted in favor of Trump’s …
Campaign* Certification** Senate Trial† Impeachment††
Rep. Kinzinger
Sen. McConnell
Rep. Newhouse
Sen. Sasse
Rep. Upton

*Actively endorsed Biden.

**Acknowledged or supported certification of Biden’s victory before or on Jan. 6-7.

†Voted in favor of constitutionality of Trump Senate trial.

††Voted for either impeachment in the House or conviction in the Senate.

Officials censured by both state and local GOPs are categorized by the highest censure they received.

Source: News Reports

America’s next authoritarian will be much more competent. As Zeynep Tufekci[2] warned back in November: “It won’t be easy to make the next Trumpist a one-term president.” To wit from Axios:

“Trump advisers will meet with him at Mar-a-Lago this week to plan his next political moves, and to set up the machinery for king making in the 2022 midterms. Trump is expected to stoke primary challenges for some of those who have crossed him, and shower money and endorsements on the Trumpiest candidates. State-level officials, fresh off censuring Trump critics, stand ready to back him up.” [Currently given only thin margins for the democrats in both the Senate and the House, any success by Donald or his nationalist party likely will flip Congress red. AM]

Remember that 70 million citizens voted for Donald in spite of himself and his authoritarian politics. The clouds look familiar – like the clouds in Germany in the early 20th century. It is time for the public to educate itself on fascism. A good reference is Madelyn Albright’s book, “Fascism, A warning”. Banished after the second world war, Fascism is on the rise again, from North Korea to Hungary and Turkey, while a newly introspective America at best looks the other way, sometimes even offers encouragement. Madeleine Albright’s book is a warning aimed at all of us to look up from our petty partisan bickering.

֎ The good news is now that Joe is President and has made overtures to Europe, the Western Alliance quickly is re-energizing itself to deal with Russia, cyber warfare, big data, global warming and repairing trade arrangements. Still, the rubber meets the road when the alliance bumps into Brexit, immigration, EU dictatorships along the eastern front and Germany, who did not wait for Donald to leave and has built trade liaisons with Russia and China.

Remember when the news was just five minutes of simple headlines? Walter Cronkite would be astonished!

Ancient Mariner

[1] For those curious why the magnetic field flips, it is caused by the Earth’s iron core rotating at a different speed than surface layers of the planet. Eventually what can be represented as static electricity disrupts the magnetic balance – just like lightning or touching something while walking in your socks across the rug. Unlike the instantaneousness of lightning, the mass of the entire Earth acts like a capacitor, slowing the change to thousands of years.

[2] ZAY-nep tuu-FEK-chee) is a sociologist and writer. Her work focuses on the social implications of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data.

Do you have a degree in economics?

Do you have a degree in theology? Do you have a degree in history, sociology, and political science? If you have these degrees, you have the tools to fathom the depths of world and U.S. circumstances.

Mariner was watching his bird feeder the other day. It is quite popular with many kinds of birds, squirrels and rabbits. He observed the gluttony and crude eating habits of the larger starlings. They literally gulped chunks of all the peanut butter, cookie crumbs and nut treats before other species could have their fair share. The starlings left only after the ‘profits’ were gone, leaving only a scattering of sunflower seeds.

This behavior reminded mariner of how capitalism works. Profit is the ethic. If profit disappears, capitalism will go elsewhere to find still profitable resources. Don’t get mariner wrong, conservatives; he understands that the combination of an entire continent’s untapped resources, combined with a new public form of Christianity, the profit capacity of capitalism and little in the way of civic restraint – allowed the United States in a few scant decades to be the powerhouse nation of the whole world.

Something has happened recently. The capitalists have flown away to other nations where profit can be sustained at high levels; only information scavengers remain gleaning what can be had. The United States isn’t destitute. In fact, the U.S. still is the richest nation in the world. However, this is a relative statement because the majority of other nations aren’t doing as well as they once did. What’s left in the United States is a disarray of sunflowers shells and no investment in sustaining the life of the rest of the birds – er – population.

This is where your profound collection of degrees comes into play: How do you fix this situation? It is part economic, part cultural, part circumstance, and part government.

For example, the nation is very, very short on birdhouses. There aren’t enough to go around. And some bird varieties – the darker kind – can’t have one in any case. Will you please fix this?

Some birds have become predators and carry guns and clubs. They are confused and joined the political party that is responsible for their circumstances. Will you please fix this? Birdseed is becoming scarce; some birds have none. Do you know where to get more?

Fortunately, mariner maintains the birdfeeder. It’s a role akin to being the government. Does the U.S. have a government? Not one that can fix anything. Will you please fix the government?

Ancient Mariner

The good old, old, really old days

Mariner officially retired from his professions around the age of sixty-seven. He can’t speak for other retirees but he has drifted away from modern innovations and new technologies. Each year he finds himself respecting minimalism more. Not so much a minimalist as it relates to the arts but more like Jacob Amman, the founder of the Amish movement who lived before the Industrial Revolution; more like homesteaders living only with biodegradable resources. If mariner were still within the normal age span of a Homo sapiens, he might just go out of town somewhere, buy a few acres and adopt a pre-industrial lifestyle.

Mariner speaks to his predispositions as a preface to the movement by the Indian government to eliminate small farm, one family economics in favor of industrializing agriculture. 300,000 farmers marched in protest and continued to harass the government by blocking public roads and other public services. Unions representing 14 million truck drivers support the farmers. Further, the corporations would dictate prices – a move that would starve out small farmers (Just like the US poultry industry today). The sudden lurching from a small farm culture into a corporate-driven culture in less than two years adds to the consternation.

Mariner remembers in the 1960’s – 1970’s when his county in Iowa suffered a similar decline in farm population and a real estate market that forced small-farm land to be sold to larger, industrialized farms. In 1960, the average acre of land in his county cost $223/acre. In 1975 the average acre of land cost $965/acre. The price of land alone eliminated small farm economics.

The cultural side of agricultural industrialization is mariner’s town. In just ten years, the town went from a bustling, positive society to the beginning of a commercially dying town. In 1960 the county population was 44,207; in 2018 the population was 34,055. The largest cities in the county have roughly the same population over this period. In other words, something like 10,000 people from rural areas have disappeared.

Mariner’s home town is close enough to the cities to survive as a bedroom town with many farm family retirees but the vitality, the agricultural smell of its commerce has disappeared. Mariner’s wife and neighbors remember in the 1960’s everyone knew everyone else; that is not the case today.

Mariner visited his auto repair shop in town the other day. He and the owner reminisced about the old days when one could grow their own automobiles – otherwise known as horses and mules.

To all supernumeraries, the world grows more alien by the day.

Ancient Mariner


The Hero Children

It was Joseph Campbell, an unusually gifted anthropologist and sociologist that described our lives akin to traveling the hero’s path. Our life experience is an experience similar to that of the hero Jason, king of the Argonauts and a prominent influence in Greek mythology. Jason’s life consisted of one challenge after another which required insight and confidence to conquer. Jason famously stayed the course to capture the Golden Fleece – as is our duty as we live through life’s perils.

Everyone is a hero today as the world suffers excruciating change. Similar to Jason’s confrontations as he faced strange societies, monsters and physical challenge, we face new and confusing times at every turn. Will we complete our hero’s journey through to more stable times?

To we who are in the throes of today’s confrontations, stumbling as waves of change crash down upon us, our journey is one of survival. We must hold onto the civilized principles of our heritage. We must survive the monsters of insurrection, greed, fear and injustice. Metaphorically, we are the rowers of Jason’s boat Argo. We must sustain momentum as we sail into the stormy seas of tomorrow. That is our hero’s path.

It is the hero’s path of our children, those born in this troubled century, who must fight the battles, confront strange circumstances and have the wisdom to stay the path, to acquire peace and success at the end, to capture the Golden Fleece.

It is our responsibility to prepare our children for their hero’s path. We must stay afloat as new theories and pressures change our children’s politics, formal education and career; we must care for them lovingly to instill stamina, self-confidence and skill; we must provide a lee from the storms to give them time to prepare; we must put down the threats of terrorism and greed to keep our society afloat.

While we fight mightily to keep some semblance of reality and stability, it is our children who will conquer the monsters and take the world to peaceful shores.

Ancient Mariner


Life in a moment

This post is provided by Mariner’s wife. All her life she has been a poet extraordinaire. She has the skill to express insight and create association but at the same time her poems dig deep into the reader, leaving some thoughts to conjure.

Many times mariner has encouraged her to publish; she would be successful. She has won a few poetry contests and can dash off another poem in the snap of a finger. One time we were driving down a road when we saw a roadkill raccoon lying by the edge of the road. Within five minutes she had penned a poem asking whether the raccoon deserved a requiem.

The poem below was written after we caught a mouse in the basement that had broken into a bag of sunflower seed. You will enjoy the complexity.



I sweep up the leavings of sunflower seeds

left behind by a mouse

whose fate was snapped like its neck

in a trap that I had set.

I am glad that he had the thrill of satiety

when he found the bag of sunflower seeds

He was a millionaire among mice

in that moment of his big find.

I am glad that he did not know

his life would be cut short because of it.

Surely in that last moment there was no time for fear

And that snap too quick for pain.

He had perhaps the best that life can offer

in a little life–the warmth of a basement in winter

an endless pile of food, a quick and merciful death.

Or do I deceive myself?

His was not a little life, no smaller than my own.

Like me, he wanted more than comfort, warmth and food

He sought those things because they brought him more life

And more life was what I deprived him of.

MKM     1-19-19

Cleaning the archives

Mariner still is culling through old documents, deleting many and moving others, long lost, to the appropriate folder. The following is an old item written by Derek Thompson of The Atlantic. Mariner wonders whether the article, one of many along the same vein, describes the beginning of what would become Trump’s base:


How Globalization Saved the World and Damned the West

By Derek Thompson, staff writer at The Atlantic[1]

In 2016, James Manyika, the director of the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) co-wrote a landmark report on earnings growth in advanced economies over the previous 20 years. It was a tale of two decades, he said. In the first 10-year period, from 1995 to 2004, wages grew for at least 98 percent of households in just about every advanced economy. But in the second decade, from 2005 to 2014, everything fell apart.

“We found inequality, yes. But that was the least interesting thing we found,” Manyika told me. “The more interesting thing was wage stagnation in almost all the advanced economies.”

“This was an entirely new phenomenon. Wage income declined for the majority of households in France, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Italy. The U.S. had it even worse. Four out of five households saw flat or falling income before accounting for taxes and transfers. Between globalization, the Great Recession, and the not-so-great recovery, the middle class was slammed. And these people tended to blame free trade and immigrants for hurting their wages and ruining their culture,” Manyika said.”


[1] For full article click on

Repurposed Churches

The following article was in a November 2018 copy of The Atlantic magazine. Mariner thought it may be an interesting read. In the Methodist denomination if a church closes, church buildings and property revert to the state-wide Annual Conference; local parishioners seldom and only under peculiar circumstances are allowed to take ownership for local decision-making. In mariner’s rural county many churches are in death throes and face a serious dilemma. In mariner’s town, the Presbyterian church closed decades ago and has been converted to a private residence.


America’s Epidemic of Empty Churches

Religious communities often face a choice: Sell off the buildings they can no longer afford, or find a way to fill them with new uses.

Jonathan Merritt, Nov 25, 2018 Contributing writer for The Atlantic.

Three blocks from my Brooklyn apartment, a large brick structure stretches toward heaven. Tourists recognize it as a church—the building’s bell tower and stained-glass windows give it away—but worshippers haven’t gathered here in years.

The 19th-century building was once known as St. Vincent De Paul Church and housed a vibrant congregation for more than a century. But attendance dwindled and coffers ran dry by the early 2000s. Rain leaked through holes left by missing shingles, a tree sprouted in the bell tower, and the Brooklyn diocese decided to sell the building to developers. Today, the Spire Lofts boasts 40 luxury apartments, with one-bedroom units renting for as much as $4,812 per month. It takes serious cash to make God’s house your own, apparently.

Many of our nation’s churches can no longer afford to maintain their structures—6,000 to 10,000 churches die each year in America—and that number will likely grow. Though more than 70 percent of our citizens still claim to be Christian, congregational participation is less central to many Americans’ faith than it once was. Most denominations are declining as a share of the overall population, and donations to congregations have been falling for decades. Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated Americans, nicknamed the “nones,” are growing as a share of the U.S. population.

Any minister can tell you that the two best predictors of a congregation’s survival are “budgets and butts,” and American churches are struggling by both metrics. As donations and attendance decrease, the cost of maintaining large physical structures that are in use only a few hours a week by a handful of worshippers becomes prohibitive. None of these trends shows signs of slowing, so the United States’ struggling congregations face a choice: Start packing or find a creative way to stay afloat.

Closure and adaptive reuse often seems like the simplest and most responsible path. Many houses of worship sit on prime real estate, often in the center of towns or cities, where inventory is low. Selling the property to the highest bidder is a quick and effective way to cut losses and settle debts. But repurposing a sacred space for secular use has a number of drawbacks. There are zoning issues, price negotiations, and sometimes fierce pushback from the surrounding community and the parish’s former members.

A church building is more than just walls and windows; it is also a sacred vessel that stores generations of religious memories. Even for those who do not regularly practice a religion, sacred images and structures operate as powerful community symbols. When a hallowed building is resurrected as something else, those who feel a connection to that symbol may experience a sense of loss or even righteous anger.

After St. Augustine’s Church in South Boston was abandoned, the developer, Bruce Daniel, encountered a number of unforeseen difficulties. Demolishing the 140-year-old building and starting from scratch was the most economical option, but sentimental neighbors’ protests forced Daniel to retrofit the existing building into condos. Many local residents remain unsatisfied with the compromise.

“Anybody who goes into a neighborhood and buys a church, without having some knowledge and sensitivity, they’re asking for trouble,” Daniel told The Boston Globe.

Converting old churches into residential spaces, like St. Augustine’s and St. Vincent De Paul, is becoming more popular. Churches’ architectural flourishes—open floor plans, exposed brick, vaulted ceilings, and arched windows—often draw buyers of means who are looking for a residential alternative to ubiquitous cookie-cutter developments.

While this type of sacred-to-secular conversion may be a tough pill for former members to swallow, many are even less satisfied with the alternatives. A large number of abandoned churches have become wineries or breweries or bars. Others have been converted into hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and Airbnbs. A few have been transformed into entertainment venues, such as an indoor playground for children, a laser-tag arena, or a skate park.

When St. Francis de Sales Church in Troy, New York, closed in 2009, it was converted into a fraternity house for the Phi Sigma Kappa chapter at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A communal symbol that once served as a beacon of hope and welcome now seems like little more than an emblem of American youthful superficiality. Imagine the emotional impact of driving past the place of your mother’s baptism only to see frat boys stumbling down the front steps.

Calling it quits isn’t the only option for dwindling congregations in possession of expansive, expensive buildings. Some are moving upstream of the crisis, opting to repurpose their buildings before they go under.

Larry Duggins left a successful career in investment banking a decade ago to attend seminary at Southern Methodist University. There he met a professor of evangelism named Elaine Heath with whom he brainstormed ways to help dying churches who maintain a will to live. The pair eventually founded the Missional Wisdom Foundation, a 501c(3) that functions as a kind of think tank for “alternative forms of Christian community that makes sense for traditional churches that may be declining.”

“Years ago, the neighborhood church was the place many in America got together and, along with local schools, was where they got to know their neighbors,” Duggins told me. “But this model is no longer relevant for many people, so churches have to think creatively about how to help people encounter others and God in their everyday lives.”

To test their idea, Duggins and Heath approached the pastor of White Rock United Methodist Church in Dallas about collaborating. Half a century ago, it was a massive congregation with robust weekly programming, a strong reputation in the community, and a 60,000-square-foot building. But the neighborhood’s demographics shifted in recent years, and church membership waned. Its combination of sprawling space and shrinking attendance made White Rock the perfect guinea pig for Duggins and Heath’s experiments.

Missional Wisdom moved into the bottom 15,000 square feet of White Rock’s building and got to work. It converted the fellowship hall into a co-working space and transformed Sunday school rooms into a workshop for local artisans, including a florist and a stained-glass-window artist. It formed an economic empowerment center, where the group teaches a local population of African refugees language and business skills. And it finished out the space with a yoga studio and a community dance studio. Today, the church building is bustling most days, and the congregation is both covering expenses and generating revenue from its profit-sharing agreement with Missional Wisdom.

Next, the Missional Wisdom team partnered with Bethesda United Methodist Church in Asheville, North Carolina—a congregation with challenges similar to White Rock’s. Together, they created a community center called Haw Creek Commons. In addition to co-working space, they retrofitted the building with a textile and woodworking shop, meeting rooms that are used by local business and AA groups, a retreat space that can sleep up to nine, and a commercial kitchen in the basement for local bakers and chefs. Outside, Missional Wisdom constructed a community garden, food forest, beehives for the Haw Creek Bee Club, a greenhouse, and a playground for the children who attend the school next door.

Duggins said that the goal of these two experiments was simply to create opportunities and space for the community to gather and connect with one another. But as with White Rock, Haw Creek Commons has had residual positive effects on its host congregation.

“We wanted to transform the church into a place that would draw people who might not otherwise come, and in Asheville, we’ve seen it break down stereotypes of what the church is,” Duggins said. “At Bethesda, there were less than 10 people in the church on a given Sunday, but now there are more than 50.” Multipurpose spaces lower the barriers to entry. When someone using a co-working space experiences a personal crisis, they have a comfortable place to turn to.

This relatively small organization can only do so much to turn the tide of congregational death in America. Missional Wisdom has shifted its focus from one-off projects to publishing books, conducting seminars, and consulting with struggling churches. They hope that these resources will be helpful to America’s flailing congregations who are forced to choose between evacuation and innovation. The latter may be the harder road to travel, but many faithful will find it preferable to watching their childhood church converted into luxury lofts.

Ancient Mariner


As the World Turns

One of the characteristics of life today is that there is a sense among people around the world that something just isn’t right. The global nature of this uneasiness makes it difficult for each citizen to identify cause and effect and to take some reasonable action to set things right.

֎ One of the most notable in its cause and effect is the uprising in 31 democratic nations, including the U.S., of rebellion against the government. The nature of rebellion can lead to disruption of government oversight or even to organized and deadly attacks on government. Already many important nations have suffered a collapse in democratic government that has been replaced with authoritarianism.

֎ Another international crisis that slowly increases is the amount of resources available to sustain the world’s population. The most notable evidence is the slow accumulation of excessive wealth for the elite around the world versus growing poverty and public stress. The community of nations has been derelict in its obligation to ‘change with the times’ as today’s economies begin to falter under the imbalance of global resources and its effects.

֎ Still too political for its own good, the response to global warming and climate change remains inadequate. Most scientists doubt that any meaningful effort this late will slow warming for the next century. The primary cause and effect is the relocation of tens of millions of citizens around the planet who will (and are) suffer from sea rise, loss of potable water, disruption of lifestyle and jobs, and massive migrations much larger than migrations away from violence and collapsed economies that occur today.

A tie-in with the global resource issue will be the stress on virtually every large agricultural area in the world. Even the United States will have to deal with crops grown in the Dixie region as the weather there becomes more like Arizona and New Mexico.

֎ Finally, but probably not least, is the massive destruction of the planet’s ecosystem by the human species. The ‘intelligent’ humans have learned how to steal and ravage Mother Nature for human convenience and profit. Mother Nature, however, can be a bitch and will deal with imbalances in her desire to keep a balanced environment.

The point is this: Because of technology, industrialism, class discrimination, resources, weather and everything else, humanity has reached a point where individual nations can no longer solve global problems. The requirement to feed the world requires an international consortium of super-nations that can address the economic stress.

Already China has begun to move in this direction by creating closed supply chain relationships with other nations; interestingly, the idea of a super-American nation comprised of Canada, Mexico and the United States has been around for well more than a century. Unlike the European Union, which tried to sustain nationalism by allowing each nation to keep its own currency, the new consortiums will operate as one nation with one ‘dollar’ used in a common economy.

The pandemic has expedited these issues to the very front of our twentieth century society’s attention.

The future is in the hands of the electorate. Has anyone seen Chicken Little?

Ancient Mariner