The countdown begins

In a couple of weeks, the nation will be exactly one year from the 2022 General Election. Yes, we feel like this is a long way out there but the party troops have been organizing for months. Trump republicans are locked in to win their primaries and have spent a fortune in state promotions. Most elected representatives and senators are from guaranteed republican states.

The Constitution mandates 435 House members distributed according to population. Currently 220 are democrat, 212 are republican and there are 3 vacancies. Looking at state representation, 22 states are democratic and 28 are republican – including 23 republican states where the Governor, legislature and courts are all republican. Ironically, just 19 percent of the nation’s population lives in these red states.

Both parties have split in two; the republicans have become enchanted by authoritarian capitalism while the democrats have championed a socialist revolution reminiscent of the 1960s. Add to this the results of the 2020 census which moved several representative seats toward the south and west. [Based on population shifts recorded in the 2020 Census, there were six US states that gained congressional House seats: Texas (2), Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Florida, and North Carolina; and seven states that lost seats: New York, Illinois, California, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.]

This noisy imbalance, in a nation based on one person, one vote has reached a painful cacophony – which falls upon the citizenry like bird droppings (Mariner loves to mix metaphors). At a time when the planet is racing into a totally new reality, the world’s most profound democracy is dropping bird poop.

Another issue is the age of the legislators who stopped experiencing new insights in the 1990s. Below is an excerpt from an HBO interview with republican senator Bill Cassidy. The interviewer is Mike Allen:

 

“1 big thing: Senator backs senility test

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

  • Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 … Speaker Pelosi, 81 … Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 … and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.

Cassidy, a gastroenterologist, told me during our wide-ranging interview in Chalmette, La., that in your 80s, you begin a “rapid decline.”

  • Noting he wasn’t talking about specific people, Cassidy said: “It’s usually noticeable. So anybody in a position of responsibility who may potentially be on that slope, that is of concern. And I’m saying this as a doctor.”
  • “I’m told that there have been senators in the past who, at the end of their Senate terms were senile,” Cassidy added. “I’m told that was true of senators of both parties.”

Cassidy said it’d be reasonable for Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, and executive branch leaders to submit to an annual evaluation in which they would have to establish cognitive sharpness.

  • “We each have a sacred responsibility to the people of the United States,” Cassidy said. “It is not about me. It is about my ability to serve the people.”

Mariner has great expectations for the 2022 election. Don’t you?

Ancient Mariner

It is time.

Mariner, for the sake of sanity, has stepped back from daily behavioral response to frightful, deliberately agitating news programs. Saner are selected on-line news sources, books and magazines. He is careful, as a citizen, to maintain his obligation to a national democracy; he is responsible to elect meaningful representatives to HIS government.

But mariner has begun to wonder. Is democracy becoming old fashioned? Is it the right philosophy of government for an era where international politics are growing more influential than national politics? Is the new global economy too expensive for a typical citizen to invest in and participate? Will each nation simply play the role of a labor union to reconcile humanistic virtues vis-à-vis international corporate politics? Will, in fact, super-sized corporations replace national governments? Who will govern the corporations?

As though to tease our brains, many of these questions already have emerging answers that seem to be pulling everyone into an age of supersizing – certainly causing stress on religion, secularism, humanism and the old fashioned descriptions of capitalism, socialism and communism. At the moment, without exception, the new frontier is fed and run by money.

Immediately important today is our concept of taxation. The rich have won the war on taxation: the richer one is, the less percentage tax they pay to the point of paying none; the same with corporations. It is the excessive wealth among a few that can launch a global plutocracy.

Ironically, the distrust between citizens has led to populism and identity politics, in effect dividing citizens one against the other while the rich unify their economic purposes.

If humans are to remain the significant influencer in human history, it may be that democracy is the last defense against authoritarian oligarchy. Democracy depends on an identity that evolves from human ethic while authoritarian oligarchy vacuums profit that denies human ethic. An excellent example is that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have the finances to underwrite a useless trip into the solar system while billions of humans live stressed, inadequate lives.

In short, our defense is to unify, to become one human force that controls its ethical experience. It is not a time to destroy democratic election processes; it is not a time to quibble over a measly trillion (many individuals in the world could pay out a trillion by themselves). It is not time to pretend superiority by hiding behind race and other social issues. It is time to defend the very core of humanity.

Will someone tell the electorate?

Ancient Mariner

Mariner’s calisthenics for older millennials+

Mariner is growing older – well, a lot of growing older already has occurred but still, he is growing yet even older than that. Like many elders, he has aches and pains that lead him to a rehab center where he is led through a series of namby-pamby stretching exercises. Mariner agrees that the stretching drills do relax the skeleton’s pressure points and ease pain a bit  but when one is out in the garden and has one foot under an azalea bush and the other foot is in midair and must execute a one-legged bunny hop to land outside the garden, the little stretching drills do not help.

The reality is that, because humans have invented things like chairs, tables, chainsaws and elevators, we don’t use the muscles as they were intended. You know the trope: use it or lose it. As we age, stretching is important but it doesn’t help keep a body that is serviceable for daily life. If one is to be spiritually alert, strong and have a good feeling about one’s self, one must have muscle that works in the real world. So mariner proposes a muscle-based exercise rather than a joint-stretching one. The legal caveat: these exercises may not be helpful when recovering from injuries or operations.

If the reader has ever found themselves on the floor and literally can’t get up, e.g., mounting a lawnmower deck under the tractor or reaching the baby’s pacifier under the sofa or are prone to losing balance whenever the legs are off center, the following exercises performed every other morning may help:

  1. Squat thrust – Keeping your body over your knees, squat as close to the ground as possible. Place your hands on the floor and using them for balance, kick your legs back until they are straight behind you and your toes land on the floor. Once landed, quickly return to the original squat position and without hesitating kick the legs back again two more times. Then stand up, take a breath and repeat. Do this repetition five times as a beginner and work up to ten easily performed. In all exercises do not stop breathing and exhale at the point of maximum exertion. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4511oTkNls
  2. Weight-assisted squat – Find an object that you can hold easily and weighs five to ten pounds. Stand with legs ready to squat and hold the object at arm’s length in front of you. Squat as deeply as you can and immediately return to an upright position. Do ten squats at a slow pace. For a sample squat without the weight see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aclHkVaku9U
  3. Pushups – Compulsive jocks may do a full pushup hands to toes but mariner recommends using the milder version, hands to knees because many individuals have injuries and arthritis that may be aggravated. Lying flat on the floor, use your arms to lift the body off the floor so that only the hands and knees remain in contact with the floor. Lift until the arms are straight and keep the body straight throughout the lift. Work your way up to ten; do more to show off in front of friends. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyCG_5l3XLk

For upper back and posture issues, e.g., peeling potatoes without pain and remaining a fully erect hominid, here are a few exercises to help:

  1. Middle back. Have at hand a pair of small hand weights weighing two to five pounds each. Lay flat on your stomach with body straight to the feet. Stretch your arms out so you look like an airplane. Slowly lift the weights as high as possible without bending at the elbows, hold for two seconds then slowly drop back to the floor. Start with five repetitions but quickly build up to ten repetitions.
  2. Back and Shoulders. Find something that is easy to hold onto that can hang from your hands and down your back; a hand weight weighing ten to fifteen pounds would be perfect. Grasp the weight overhead and let it pull your arms down from over your head, letting the weight hang down your back. Very slowly lift the weight until your arms are straight above you. Very slowly allow the weight to fall down the back. Slow is better in this exercise. Do ten times; do more if you don’t feel satisfactory stretching of the upper back and arms.
  3. Shoe tie. This is all about balance. Put on a pair of string tie shoes; tennis shoes would be perfect. To tie the shoe, stand on the opposite leg fully straightened. Raise the target shoe to knee level but do not rest it on the other leg. Keeping the foot at knee level, tie the shoe. Repeat for the other shoe.

General posture is important and requires similar muscle-building exercises. These exercises are more difficult only because it requires constant attention to accomplish them:

  1. Easiest of these exercises is to walk at a comfortable pace for thirty minutes without stopping. Walk outside, not inside or on a treadmill. Walk every day; this exercise has meditative aspects to it. Distance is not the issue; mariner’s wife walks twice as fast as mariner. Walking together for exercise possibly may not be a shared experience.
  2. This is the most difficult exercise because you must do it constantly while awake for the entire day. Pretend there is an attached string at the center of the top of your head. Pretend that it kept in tension to hold your head as high as you can while keeping the chin in. Maybe God is pulling it or four eagles or an F-15.
  3. The strut. At the same time, push your chest out in front of your shoulders – all day whether sitting, standing, walking, etc.

You will find these posture exercises to be the most difficult because you must train your brain to pay attention constantly. It is important, however, because posture is what keeps the skeletal frame in place and enables muscle-centric health.

Mariner finds that the quads are the most diminished and need exercise if one is to be active or keep balance. The rewards are subtle but guarantee an enjoyable life in distant years. If the reader can sustain the effort, the posture exercises alone can improve one’s general well being.

Ancient Mariner

Gumption

Among many words that describe the lifestyle of older folks, mariner feels the word ‘gumption’ is a major descriptor. Researching the usage of gumption suggests that the general meaning of the word is to have ambition, motivation or, colloquially, ‘get-up-and-go’. But being old can’t be captured by one behavior; it takes a lot to be old – or conversely it takes losing a lot to be old.

Gumption has a lot to do with energy. As folks grow older, their power supply becomes worn and becomes harder to generate. Using an old automobile as an analogy, the engine’s piston rings aren’t as tight as they used to be; it takes more gas, oil and electric current to create the same horsepower; the carburetor, sparkplugs, distributor and air filter aren’t as finely tuned. Translate the analogy to a human being and the parts become internal organs, angina, aneurysm, lost muscle and less resiliency.

Gumption is more complex than just having energy. Older folks don’t have much to motivate them. Society leaves them behind; their careers are over, family members have passed on, all leaving little social purpose and little need to ‘get up and go’. There is no need other than a compulsive disorder to jump out of bed at 6 AM before the alarm clock has finished its chime. As the trite phrase says, “use it or lose it”. Motivation can wane just as muscles do.

The brain has a large influence on gumption. Using the automobile analogy again, brains are like tires: the tread wears out. Without tires the automobile may have a brand new engine and still not be able to function. The brain isn’t called the brain for nothing – it controls every aspect of a person’s physiology from the shape of toenails to the ability to think. Unfortunately, such a complex organ is easily affected by wear and tear.

Most notable about brain dysfunction are concentration and short term memory. It is hard to have gumption if a person is easily distracted. It is hard to perform tasks if they can’t be remembered long enough to be completed.

The advice to oldsters is to have gumption to experience life in whatever intellectual or physical way that sustains a relationship with life in general.

The advice to youngsters is to have respect for folks who can live day after day without fancy mental tools, any power tools or any reason to have tools but they continue performing as a human being. That requires its own definition of gumption.

Ancient Mariner

Skipping through the news

֎ A quote from Politico news:

“The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that Facebook treats users’ posts differently depending on their wealth, privilege and status. That and other findings based on internal Facebook documents indicate Facebook “presented different, contradictory versions of these policies in public and private. From a securities regulation standpoint, any big lie could potentially defraud investors and invite an investigation” by the Securities and Exchange Commission, per Jena Martin, a former SEC attorney and now law professor.”

‘nuff said. Big data needs regulation.

 

֎ Remember TPP? Congress failed to approve the treaty and Donald cut off political ties later. What was agreed by the other eleven nations became the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership’ (CPTPP). Today, China is attempting to join the agreement which, of course, would destroy the original purpose to control China’s influence in the Pacific Rim. CPTPP representatives are begging Joe Biden to hurry up and join the treaty. International supply chain treaties need an anchor economy that only two or three nations can provide.

 

֎ Mariner had a romantic image of Venezuela, once a wealthy member of OPEC, even though its governments traditionally have been faux democracies dominated by authoritarianism. Today Venezuela is under an abusive dictatorship which has led to seven straight years of excessive inflation. Ironically, gasoline is heavily rationed and very expensive. Having no transportation, few citizens can find work. The nation has 28 million citizens; 21 million live in extreme poverty.

Several South American nations are struggling economically. China has been investing heavily in these nations to become the key economic provider. Hah! Not America – South Americans aren’t Caucasian and they are immigrants.

Stupid America.

 

֎ Britney Spears at least has booted her father off the conservatorship. Let’s hope she can kill the remaining control held by a CPA firm. Conservatorship is one of those conditions mariner groups under ‘Matrix Management’, referring to the movie The Matrix and the control by intelligent machines over humans – using them only to generate electricity and feeding them a false reality. The street term is ‘bloodsucker’.

Anyone who finds themselves in a position of being the middleman between a person and the world cannot help but become a bloodsucker. This condition expresses itself across many social phenomena from stock fund managers to anti-abortion to domineering parents to sport coaches to abusive spouses. If there were not some benefit to the bloodsucker, they wouldn’t bother with the overhead.

Go Britney.

 

The reader may not hear from mariner with regularity during October. He and his wife are traveling the nation to catch up on the wellbeing of family and friends. Besides, the news needs a break from mariner’s effusive commentary.

Ancient Mariner

 

Immigration, Climate Change and Housing

These three subjects eventually will be at the center of political, economic and cultural life not only in the United States but around the world. ‘Eventually’ means in about ten to fifteen years from now.

Immigration. The current increase in immigration along the Gulf Coast and Mexico largely is Central Americans escaping brutal, terrorist-controlled nations. But recently it includes Haitians – a first of its kind wave due to global warming. Each year the number of immigrants easily could grow by a power of ten (10, 100, 1,000, etc.) as coastal areas around the world force inhabitants to relocate due to flooding and sea rise. In Bangladesh already 4 million people have been displaced. The coastline between Houston, Texas and Pensacola, Florida already has suffered extreme and prolonged weather conditions that are permanently displacing thousands of families. Austin, Texas, a city only on a river and away from the coast,  had to buy large acreages from the public to let the land return to a wild state that will protect shorelines.

In a few years American migrants will outnumber foreign immigrants. The current Congress and Administration tinker about trying to retain reelection leverage rather than facing a rapidly growing dilemma for which there is no plan, no allocated resources and no idea of a solution. The issue is so dire that mariner suspects eventually the Government will create an independent, apolitical commission to deal with the issue. Of the three topics in this post, Immigration/migration will be the most disruptive in the shortest amount of time.

Climate Change. It isn’t just flooding by rising seas and turbulent storms. Between 2040 and 2060 extreme temperatures will become commonplace in the South and Southwest, with some counties in Arizona experiencing temperatures above 95 degrees for half the year. The entire southeast sector of the United States will be too warm for current farm crops. This affects a significant part of the agricultural economy and in its own right will force thousands of farm workers and farm owners to migrate north – even into Canada.

Still, it is flooding along the coasts that will drive large migrations. As many as eleven major metropolitan areas in the U.S. will have to deal with total destruction or major Dutch-style dams and walls. The exact number is hard to project given all the variables but several estimates suggest that as many as 13 million Americans will be displaced in the next few decades.

Housing. Mariner remembers inflation during the 1970s. Housing costs rose by 17 percent; many entrepreneurs became millionaires just by buying and reselling their homes every six months. Climate change will induce a similar inflation in the cost of homes. Anyone can guess how bad inflation will be but it will be significant and disruptive. Even today there is inflation in housing cost because there aren’t enough homes due to the impact of Covid and the reorganization of large corporations.

Concern. Recent polls of the younger population indicate that climate change already is the number one concern. Second is lack of confidence in any U.S. government – which they blame as the cause of global warming. Mariner will cite only one of many telling clues that Congress has no idea how overwhelming global warming is: One Senator from a small coal mining state willfully prevents funding for climate change because he won’t be reelected by his coal mining electorate. Multiply this attitude by all the elected officials in this nation. Who to blame – the official’s greediness or the electorate’s ignorance?

Ancient Mariner

Technology Today

It was in the news the other day that China is outlawing crypto, AKA bitcoin et al. Although the news clip alluded to competitive technology, it is more likely that China knows it cannot control transactions or investments because no institution is involved that can be subject to government regulation. Further, the transaction database cannot be erased.

On the other hand, using common tracking software, the government could know when someone entered a transaction on their own computer. On the other hand, there is home security software that frequently changes the computer id. But then the government can track a person’s bank transactions from which a crypto investment was drawn or perhaps would notice a windfall deposit into that account.

It isn’t just about China. Across the world government, business, special interest groups, spammers and social media are addicted to information about our personal lives. On the other hand, a person could buy software that erases all the cookies. However, the intruders can check our internet history. But then one could buy software that erases our internet history and of course change the computer id.

Mariner uses a bank that refuses to know who he is. Passwords, id, not a robot, names of relatives and friends, confirming emails and still the bank doesn’t accept his identity. Why? Because his computer changes its id every hour. The situation is exacerbated because mariner uses a search engine that doesn’t track him; so even if the computer didn’t change id, the bank still does not know mariner because the search engine provides no personal information.

Using email and social media is wide open. Once a party has your email or social media address, they never forget; even years later, the democratic parties still know where to find him. On the other hand, mariner could change his email account. On the other hand, databases exist that can be cross referenced. Mariner wins in the end because he never gives them money.

Who needs internet gaming? Play the real life version.

Ancient Mariner

Changing the Sails

Mariner saw that the reconciliation bill in Congress is available for review and download. He was eager to scan through the document to have a sense of its direction. The first page of titles came on the computer screen. In small print it said the bill has 2,465 pages! Scanning this document would be like crossing the Atlantic Ocean one glass of water at a time. It is true that the reconciliation bill is a benchmark bill that if passed would shift the national philosophy in a direction that hasn’t been active since the early 1960s.

Despite the Vietnam War and the racial riots during the sixties, there was an air of emerging freedom and opportunity. This air of future happiness (it was called Camelot) faded quickly after JFK’s assassination in 1963 and died along with Bobby’s assassination in 1968. The 1968 election was as raucous as the 2020 election.

LBJ took over after the JFK assassination and pushed through the remaining key legislation (intended to build A Great Society) that in those days made exceptional progress for civil rights, tax cuts, Medicare and other liberal programs that haven’t been headline news until the current Presidency. When Lyndon did not run for a second term and diminished support for the Vietnam War, the war was doomed very much like Afghanistan today.

So the nation has come full circle. Shamefully, the nation has made little progress toward racial equality, has put back rich-friendly tax rates and now faces competition from the planet itself. Further, the third branch of government, the courts, is not the neutral arm it is supposed to be – despite Justice Breyer’s new book to the contrary[1]. The public trust of the courts has fallen into the 40 percent range. This is serious because the courts are the trusted ballast that prevents storm waves from coming over the gunnel and sinking the ship – something that destructive bias causes.

It is a hellish time, in the midst of a hurricane, to try to turn the sails toward a new image of nationhood. Mariner fears that the sails can’t be turned during the next several election cycles. The nation needs a new crew in Congress; the rudder of electoral representation is broken; the electorate is as clueless as the government at this point. In the midst of this hurricane is a tornado called climate change which will make current issues about immigration and housing seem like child’s play.

However, let’s hold onto hope that the electorate is tired of this crap and may surprise us in coming elections.

Ancient Mariner

[1] The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities.

Let it Be

Here’s a humbling statement from mariner’s desk calendar:

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

– Helen Keller

“Fidelity to a worthy purpose.” Everyone understands the virtue of fidelity. It represents commitment to something which requires personal value and personal discipline. Anyone, without regard for faith, politics or personal circumstances has some obligation to an idea or behavior that shapes their life and sets the standard for daily behavior.

No one would make it through a day without some set of values that keeps them anchored to who they are, what they need and how they interact with reality. While it is true that many of us need to improve our skills when dealing with daily life, the real issue is fidelity to what?

One can’t fault the fidelity of Trump followers; the question is whether that set of values is worthy of fidelity. One can’t fault the fidelity of socialist liberals; the question is whether that set of values is worthy of fidelity. This criticism can be made about any opinion. The question that must be answered is, “are these values worthy of fidelity?”

Frankly, the world, its nations and its societies are in great transition – some may say dysfunctional. What will future society look like? Taking into consideration the fact that many social institutions are on decline, e.g., churches, colleges, social service organizations, governments at all levels, reduced income opportunities and the intense interruption of global warming, what institutional structure will rise to overcome all the trauma?

Mariner suspects it will be small communities; perhaps urban neighborhoods as well; populations of about 1,500 – 10,000 or so. What has slowly disappeared is community bonding. The large agricultural family has all but disappeared; the ease of travel and a broad range of employment opportunities leave much of the population without the friendly surroundings of large families, local clubs, or common career familiarity. In mariner’s small town, the glue provided by large, multi-generational families is gone. The many clubs and organizations that afforded social gathering have dwindled to a precious few and no longer set the pace for the town; the common employment base of agriculture is a memory.

Nevertheless, in the name of sanity people must belong to something meaningful in their daily life. Without community, society cannot heal, grow or reorganize. Without community fidelity, more sophisticated institutions cannot be stable.

The best thing you can do to weather this era is to be friendly and helpful with your neighbors.

Remember the words from the Beatles song ‘Let it Be’?

“And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be”

When government fails, when society is disheveled, when calamity and uncertainty are in the air, people will gather into small groups to minimize fear, provide social stability, and establish common fidelity.

Evolution has declared that Homo sapiens is a tribal creature.

Let it be.

Ancient Mariner

 

Evangelical Similarities

At the top of the news these days is the social conflagration occurring in Afghanistan. Women are being shoved out of a male dominated, religiously-based power structure that will run the nation and its culture for the foreseeable future. Ironically, a similar situation exists in the United States where religious denominations suffer the same ‘divine male power’ syndrome.

The book that delves into this issue is ‘Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation’ by Kristin Kobes du Mez. The book documents ideas about masculinity in the white Evangelical church and its politics which, while not as violent or intrusive as the Taliban, are eerily similar. Kristin Du Mez said “Trump’s four years in the White House made painfully clear just how deep these divisions ran.” About a quarter of Americans describe themselves as evangelical protestants; that’s tens of millions of people according to polling by Pew Research Center. 14% are white evangelicals, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, and that evangelical population grew among white Americans during the Trump administration.

This is another fissure opening in this age of social change rife with computerization, racial upheaval, women’s rights, and an increasingly oligarchical economy. The ‘white Christian’ tag is present in other denominations as well.

Americans must admit that national legislation, whether Federal, state or local, still limits women’s rights and underplays male accountability to be fair and nonjudgmental. The fact that years of rape cases documented in police records have gone unprocessed is just one example. The fact that sexual abuse to women is as blatant and ignored as to tolerate gross abuse to an entire team of female Olympic gymnasts is just one example. The fact that a woman does not have the right to make decisions about her own body with respect to abortion is just one example. The fact that the rate of pay for the same job across the United States even in modern industries pays women 82 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Perhaps Americans should take note of the Taliban and cast the mote from their own nation.

Ancient Mariner