No One is talking about the Economy

2016 Presidential Election

It’s been a long, long campaign. Odd that neither party has a candidate who lifts the spirit of voters – with the exception of the hard core base for each candidate. For them, what their candidate says can do no wrong. It is a campaign without policy – especially economic policy. One candidate is full of character assassination; the other is full of detailed objectives not bound by policy. In each case, we’ll have to discover policy after one is elected President.

The press, too, has done a poor job. We should be used to it; they have done a bad job since Murrow, Huntley and Brinkley were news anchors. Unfortunately, the on-the-ground news journalists really would like to do a better job but they are constrained by bosses who want only news that brings viewer share. Not only should big money be removed from the politicians, it should be removed from news rooms as well.

Many voters the mariner has spoken with have placed their hopes on the Congressional races. It will take nothing short of collusion between voters to replace a decadent and bought Congress with a modern, statesmanlike one.

Lack of economic plans for the next ten years and beyond.

Neither Donald nor Hillary has had a sit-down with the American voter to discuss the realities of US economics. To quote economist Robert Gordon[1]:

“Even if innovation were to continue into the future at the rate of the two decades before 2007, the U.S. faces six headwinds that are in the process of dragging long-term growth to half or less of the 1.9 percent annual rate experienced between 1860 and 2007. These include demography, education, inequality, globalization, energy/environment, and the overhang of consumer and government debt. A provocative “exercise in subtraction” suggests that future growth in consumption per capita for the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution could fall below 0.5 percent per year for an extended period of decades.”

In a past post, the mariner took a thread of thought from Gordon’s paper published in August 2012, Is U.S. Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds. Gordon’s logic is a central pillar in the mariner’s economic perspectives. The topic in the post was whether rapid product versions were actually growth. In a recent interview on PBS’ News Hour, Robert touched on this thread, covering his entire presumption about future growth – the six headwinds.

Given the nation’s current state of affairs – especially an election offering a rich narcissist or a richer establishmentarian, Gordon’s concern about restoring an historically robust economy is real. To paraphrase Gordon, We invented cars – no more horse manure to clean in the streets; we invented electricity – no more drudgery for housewives and services; we invented air conditioning and heat – no more coal to shovel or sweaty homes; we invented airplanes – transforming travel; we invented Interstates – now everyone can travel coast to coast; we invented radio and computers and speed of light communication. What is the next “new” phenomenon that will change the world and provide huge numbers of jobs for generations?

This requirement for a new direction in the daily life of 300 million Americans is a stiff requirement. Already, the US has reported that ‘there are no more jobs.’ Unions are driven out of existence, salaries continue to drop precariously as a percentage of GDP, and oligarchy is entrenched in the American culture. Rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, from potholes to fiber optics, will not be a permanent reprieve.

Gregory Clark[2], an economist as well, challenges Gordon’s view by suggesting a computerized future is the new economic force. The mariner agrees with Gordon: Already we have invented computers; Gordon sees computers as a dividing force in economics – making the rich richer and the other 99% poorer.

Well, Donald and Hillary, what say ye?

[1] Robert Gordon is a renowned economist who has published many books and papers challenging many economic assumptions. Liberal in thought but conservative in assumptions, he is a leader in predicting future economic conditions.

[2] Gregory Clark, a professor of economics and department chair until 2013 at the University of California, Davis is most well known for his theory of economic history related to the change in behaviors that enabled the Industrial Revolution, discussed in his book, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World.

A Farewell to Alms discusses the divide between rich and poor nations that came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution in terms of the evolution of particular behaviors originating in Britain. Prior to 1790, Clark asserts, man faced a Malthusian trap: new technology enabled greater productivity and more food, but was quickly gobbled up by higher populations. In Britain, however, as disease continually killed off poorer members of society, their positions in society were taken over by the sons of the wealthy, who were less violent, more literate, and more productive. This process of “downward social mobility” eventually enabled Britain to attain a rate of productivity that allowed it to break out of the Malthusian trap.

Ancient Mariner

Lindsey Graham – Political Philosopher Extraordinaire

Liatris 002In the mariner’s garden, one can always tell when it’s the fourth of July. The sparkler-like Liatris stalk lights its flame within a day or two of the holiday. As any gardener will attest, gardens require labor intensive commitment. The small moments of reward stay for awhile. The delicate purples and blues of Liatris, Scheherazade Japanese Lilies, Alium, Blue Phlox, and the tall Dianthus grow among robust Black-Eyed Susans, naturalized Stella De Oro lilies and large, bright yellow Marigolds. The colors are brightened even more by scatterings of white Phlox, Impatiens, and Verbena. It is a special time in the garden and one must pause for the reward.

Back to the world outside the garden, the mariner is in a wait state. The Supreme Court recently provided a flurry of activity with its decisions on homosexual marriage, the Affordable care Act, and Arizona’s redistricting process. Now we wait while a new set of events unfold: the nuclear program of Iran, the resurgence of activity in Ukraine, the unveiling of TPP, Greece’s economy versus the EU, and the oddly under-covered wars in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria.

Then there is the US campaign by Presidential hopefuls. In all the mariner’s years, there has not been a more entertaining national campaign. There are representatives from every form of democratic philosophy. Guess the appropriate name(s) for the following: libertarianism; democratic theocracy; capitalism; pragmatic democracy; liberalism; democratic socialism; and egocentric authoritarianism.

In spite of himself, Senator Lindsey Graham has revealed a significant change in the importance of primaries for the republicans. Graham says that the control of the debate process should never have been given to Fox News. The measure of who will attend the debates is dependent on national polls, not state by state primaries. The Senator is right when he says the debate selection criteria diminish the importance of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as later primaries if Fox oversees subsequent debates. “Who wants to go to Iowa if the important decision is based on national recognition?” the Senator said.

The mariner tends to agree with Lindsey. Graham reached into a bush to retrieve a bone of contention and grabbed a philosophical rhinoceros. The flaw in the US primary system is that no one state represents the political demographic of the entire nation yet the states vote in sequence by calendar date rather than by a meaningful demographic approach. In its current sequence, the early, more conservative states have undue influence in media, fund raising, and the ratio of conservative to liberal ideas that drive the campaign.

A lot of the smoke has cleared by the time a demographically representative state like Florida has its primary; it is even less meaningful for California.

For many reasons, this rhinoceros will not go away. The democrats, too, are part of how we stack primaries among liberal and conservative states. Certainly, the mistake of turning control of the process over to an unbiased media outlet won’t happen again…

Lindsey didn’t intend to open the whole manner by which states participate in a national campaign. He was just trying to keep South Carolina as a key decision maker once Iowa and New Hampshire had their primaries. His other motivation is not to allow Brad Pitt to be President. The mariner should have counted from the beginning the number of times the Senator mentioned his name.

Ancient Mariner


Cuba – Center Stage for a Match Between Capitalism and Socialism

The mariner is intrigued by the likely integration, or perhaps conflagration, of capitalism and socialism in Cuba. In pure philosophical form, the two economic cultures are totally opposite to one another. In the broadest terms, capitalists believe in free enterprise, unbridled entrepreneurship, and fast-profit markets. Socialists believe in cooperative enterprises where the economic engine primarily provides profits for the good of the citizens.

Essentially, capitalists desire to keep the government out of its affairs unless government legislation is helpful in increasing profit. For example, Monsanto lobbied Congress successfully to pass legislation making Monsanto unaccountable for any form of liability; in other words, Monsanto cannot be sued for damages. This legislation slipped through as part of another bill. Monsanto pressed for this bit of favoritism to counter a significant number of citizens who believe gene-modified products are bad for them. If one is an American, one must not be angry with Monsanto. It is the way of capitalism to make every conceivable effort to improve and protect profit. Virtually every sector of private business garners special advantages of one kind or another. Many advantages are simply prevention of regulations and oversight which may be to the betterment of society but reduce profit margin. The reader knows the popular aphorism: “What are the three most important things to a corporation? Profit, Profit, and Profit!”

To one degree or another, socialists desire a classless society where the government assures that everyone is treated the same and in a fair manner. Socialists believe the government is responsible for shaping economic prospects for the nation; usually this means that key enterprises are owned by the government to assure continued prosperity for the citizens. For example, the reader may remember when Hugo Chaves, President of Venezuela, nationalized all foreign oil companies and other parts of the fossil fuel industry. He did this in an effort to keep more profit in Venezuela for use by the government. It also took Venezuela from a minority ownership with foreign owners to a 60% majority ownership. Unlike capitalism, which virtually forbids government ownership of profit-making companies, socialism builds a national business model across three sectors: state-owned, cooperatives, and self-employed.

Hugo Pons Duarte, director of Cuba’s National Economist and Accountant Association, says, “The policy is not to open up the country to just anybody who wants to come, the government has a strategy for guiding investment.”

To have a cultural view of the differences between capitalism and socialism, consider the following examples:

Capitalism – Airlines. Using buy-outs, bankruptcy and mergers, US airline corporations have reduced the number of airlines by more than half. Today there are only four large airlines left. In the process of merger, labor unions are shut out or, at best, are forced to take reduced salaries and benefits. Regularly, fees for every conceivable service increase. Remembering that power corrupts, four airlines make collusion much easier than 12 or 13 airlines. That many airlines will increase competition whereas only 4 can mimic one another easily, coordinate hub flights to assure every flight is full, and, in order to keep profits high, slip down the slippery slope to collusion.

In a capitalist culture, a portion of airline profits goes to individuals who own a share(s) of the corporation’s worth and receive dividends based on profit. This is perceived as a “sharing” of economic wealth. However, in the US today media tells us that 1% of the wealthiest citizens own 37% of all stock on American stock exchanges. In capitalism, money makes more money. “No money? Tough luck. You need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” In a purely capitalist economy, there would be no public schools, no state owned or maintained roads and highways, public works, welfare, unemployment insurance, workers compensation, Social Security benefits etc.

Technically, the government structure of the US is a constitutional democratic republic, that is, the ultimate authority over government is vested in the citizens who exercise their authority by voting. Certain rights, ideals and civic protection are within the constitution. It is the constitution that prevents the US from being a pure capitalist government.

The private sector strongly objects every time the government imposes on profit to support the lower classes that will never have sufficient income to sustain healthy lifestyles or afford to have financial security. This disparity has become so extreme in the US that the middle class, the vital component and profit maker in consumer-based capitalism, is badly damaged.

Capitalism depends on its class system to foster desire, commitment, creativity, efficiency, competition and profit. CEOs of the largest U.S. companies made 354 times what the average worker was paid in 2012 — the widest pay gap in the world — according to a new analysis by the AFL-CIO. At S&P 500 companies, CEOs received an average income of $12.3 million, while ordinary rank-and-file workers took home around $34,645 – clearly an example of enforcing a class system. See more information at: 

Socialism – Almost too simplified, there are two types of socialism: communist and democratic. Communist socialism is run by a political party (Russia and China are the two largest examples); there may be some limited voting by the proletariat but any undesired outcomes are dealt with by the Communist Party changing rules of order and shifting authority. Further, the ruling class has a tendency toward totalitarianism or authoritarianism.

Most generally, socialism refers to state ownership of common property, or state ownership of the means of production. A purely socialist state would be one in which the state owns and operates the means of production. The private sector would be very small and would not determine market objectives. However, nearly all modern capitalist countries (“the West”) combine socialism and capitalism. Interestingly, the word “socialism” is a bad and scary word in the United States – much more than in any other full-function nation. Partly it is a bad word because the US by far is the most capitalistic nation in the world. Other than the dominance of capitalism, there is more to the plight of socialist representation in politics and why it is ostracized – but that’s for another post.

Ancient mariner

How US Political Concepts will Change Society

The mariner has put aside mass extinction for the time being. He and the reader will have to watch related news for the next 3 or 4 years to see if humanity is responding to this important issue.

In a search for insight into the extinction issue, among other things the mariner researched is how large groups of people, nations’ economies, religions, and political advocates behave and how they have an effect on larger groups.

As an over-simplified example, the extreme right in the US pushes for a Christian theocracy. Other religions or social positions will be suppressed and the line between church and state will be smudged until it is useless. Israel is a good example of this approach.

Again oversimplified, libertarians press for freedom from everything. Regulations are an unnatural imposition on free market economics, which means all entitlements will disappear, business loopholes in tax law and favored status, economic regulations, including those for banks, will disappear, and individual states will be left to their own devices. The Federal government will back the currency, fight wars, deal with foreign governments but with a libertarian posture, and make it illegal for any special interest group (like the theocratic right) to impose on the national citizenry.

The mariner will assume that by now readers know these examples are oversimplified.

Capitalists, regardless of political party, are similar to libertarians except each capitalist wants to leverage profit and market expansion at any cost; loopholes and favored status will stay – including treaties, trade arrangements and control over all costs including labor, for which a minimum cost is the best cost. In short, the only notable difference between capitalists and libertarians is capitalists are less ethical and play a rougher game while libertarians adhere to the ethic of a level playing field and carry guns to assure levelness.

Switching from the conservative side to the liberal side (in the US), socialists press for an enforced level playing field. Unlike the libertarians, the ethic is one that incrementally protects the citizen first, providing for “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” The success of the private sector primarily will be for the benefit of the citizenry. Entitlement programs will multiply considerably. Agencies overseeing environment, health, military, science, and other issues that affect the citizen will multiply as well.

Democratic socialists, often called populists, believe in the absolute authority and right of the citizenry. Democratic socialists are susceptible to current hot button issues and governance by referendum and recall voting will be common. A democratic socialist government will be more under the control of bureaucrats because elected officials, unlike today, will come and go more frequently. A common plea by democratic socialists is the right to vote on budgets and military proposals. Jane Fonda is a well known democratic socialist for obvious reasons. Still, we must consider the likes of Hugo Chavez, Eugene V. Debs, John Dewey, Albert Einstein, Erich Fromm and Bernie Sanders.

Liberals are all about fairness in society. Fairness does not have a specific definition. Liberals believe the primary goal of government is to protect all citizens from abuse, especially from the wealthy and from corporate shenanigans; they also believe that there is a minimum financial status for the proletariat. Liberals expect the government to behave like a giant cultural scale, protecting both supply-siders and demand-siders. Corporations likely will require unions and a COLA compliant with Federal law.

The silent majority is ill-defined – even among themselves. On the one hand, the silent majority is created by pernicious gerrymandering and licentious political campaigning. On the other hand, the silent majority has a low advocacy factor. In great part, the silent majority is comprised of individuals who don’t vote. Their interests are a conglomeration of all the other groups: leave me alone, I have a little league game tonight; leave me alone, the Lakers are playing; just keep my paycheck coming; no new taxes; whatever it takes to have cheap gasoline, kill those bastards in the Middle East or, conversely, let them fight it out – what are we doing over there anyway, etc.

Finally, there is, for want of a TV political pundit’s imagination, the center right. The media often claims that the US is a center right nation. This is a phenomenon rather than a legitimate political position. The center right is comprised of the silent majority when they decide to vote. Insecure about change of any kind, whether out of ignorance or fear of losing the toehold they have on personal security, the center right voter will vote for the conservative candidate and support conservative referendums. However, they are not an accountable, unified group. The left also has its centrists who decide to vote occasionally. It takes a great deal of energy to stir these mostly young nonvoters to become voters. Kudos to Obama for that achievement.

So how does the reader want to improve the US? The mariner has written about political groups but he has not introduced the groups’ reactions to immigration, taxing the wealthy, bank domination of the economy, military philosophy, government funding for infrastructure – including new technological solutions that will help the environment, and, for that matter, avoid extinction. How will each political group address these issues? Answering that question certainly is more entertaining than jigsaw puzzles….

Ancient Mariner


On Friday, Stanford University released a study by internationally prestigious scientists that declared planet Earth is well into the sixth mass extinction (Holocene). The report has charts and other references that indicate the fabric of the planet’s ecosystem is collapsing at an ever increasing rate. The report predicted the collapse would occur in about three human lifetimes (315 years+or-). The report further suggested that humans will be one of the earlier extinctions because of human dependence on so many environmental and specie services, e.g., naturally cleaned water, pollination by bees, and stable weather patterns for vegetation.

The mariner is befuddled that no television outlet grabbed this issue. If the reader hadn’t come across an article on a few websites, the reader would never know that extinction of Homo sapiens has become a statistical reality – near enough that today’s elementary school children will have their lives disrupted in significant if not fatal ways. Despite what the Bible says about Armageddon, it will not occur in one day. It will occur faster and faster over time. For the most part, symptoms will involve starvation, disease, economic collapse, vandalism and true anarchy as governments will not have the resources to quell the collapse of rule by law.

There is a book on this subject published recently by Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate. (The mariner’s town library has a copy as well as a copy of The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert). Klein has written several books on the subject of economic greed destroying the planet. Following is an excerpt from the New York Times book review for This Changes Everything:

“Klein diagnoses impressively what hasn’t worked. No more claptrap about fracked gas as a bridge to renewables. Enough already of the international summit meetings that produce sirocco-quality hot air, and nonbinding agreements that bind us all to more emissions. Klein dismantles the boondoggle that is cap and trade. She skewers grandiose command-and-control schemes to re-engineer the planet’s climate. No point, when a hubristic mind-set has gotten us into this mess, to pile on further hubris. She reserves a special scorn for the partnerships between Big Green organizations and Immense Carbon, peddled as win-win for everyone, but which haven’t slowed emissions. Such partnerships remind us that when the lamb and the lion lie down together, only one of them gets eaten.

In democracies driven by lobbyists, donors and plutocrats, the giant polluters are going to win while the rest of us, in various degrees of passivity and complicity, will watch the planet die. “Any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews,” Klein writes. “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.”

The point is, there is a mountain of resistance to change – especially on capitalist philosophy and the ingrained demand for ever increasing profits. How long will it take Earth’s humans to break the most successful profit engine in history? The Mass Extinction report implies that everything must be corrected in two lifetimes to prevent full collapse of the environment.

The mariner includes one chart from the report that ties the development of the mass extinction, or conversely, the destruction of the global environment, back to the beginning of the industrial age.

extinct animals

An easy to read article is available at the following link:

As Naomi Klein pointed out (and Pogo), our own perceptions of what is good, better and best for each human, each of all species, and the planet environment itself, is a myth. We do not have a model of human behavior that matches the reality around us – nor will reality accept it. Yet, humans are delinquent and tardy in how they manage their own place on the planet.

How many years will it take for humans to eliminate arrogance and hubris and recognize that we are not the reason for the Earth to exist?

How many years will it take for core cultural values to recognize that Homo sapiens is not, by a high count, the superior species. We are more dependent on many other species than they are on us.

How many years will it take to dismantle capitalism and nationalism? If history serves correctly, once a nation has cured its unstable situation of war and abuse, it won’t be until the third generation thereafter before that nation will have leaders unscarred and unbiased in their decisions about national policy and culture.

The mariner will have more on the Holocene as matters develop. He presents only high level concepts and ideas in this post; he depends on the reader to pursue links and news sources that will add more substance to this issue.

Ancient Mariner

Red Brain, Blue Brain

The following information was published in the PLoS ONE journal on February 13, 2013:

“Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans

Liberals and conservatives exhibit different cognitive styles and converging lines of evidence suggest that biology influences differences in their political attitudes and beliefs. In particular, a recent study of young adults suggests that liberals and conservatives have significantly different brain structure, with liberals showing increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, and conservatives showing increased gray matter volume in the in the amygdala.

Here, we explore differences in brain function in liberals and conservatives by matching publicly-available voter records to 82 subjects who performed a risk-taking task…. Although the risk-taking behavior of Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) did not differ, their brain activity did. Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, while Republicans showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala….. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives engage different cognitive processes when they think about risk, and the results support recent evidence that conservatives show greater sensitivity to threatening stimuli….. Conversely, liberals had stronger responses to situations of cognitive conflict than conservatives.”

Red brain art

The mariner apologizes for the scientific journal lingo – rather dry reading. He will paraphrase while contemplating what this means in the world of politics and beliefs in general. His comments easily can be interpreted too literally; the reader should consider the mariner’s informal interpretations as parables.

Republicans orient attention to external cues. What this means is Republicans find it less important to understand how they feel inside; more important is their control of potential risk outside.

On the other hand, Democrats orient attention to perceptions of internal feelings – how they feel about the external cues. This orientation also borders the temporal-parietal junction, and may reflect the perceptions of internal feeling and motivation in others as well.

Now the reader has a clear and firm understanding of the difference between a Republican and a Democrat. The mariner perceives this may not be true. Let’s take a real example but remember that simply saying something for clarity may be overstated and may not be wholly true in the first place.

Republicans are good managers because they are risk averse. Republicans are sensitive to anything that blocks their range of decisions in dealing with risk. Therefore, Republicans do not like labor unions because labor unions have the ability to limit what the Republican may want to do regarding job profiles and salary – risk-laden issues in any business. This does not mean Democrats aren’t good managers, too. Remember the statement in the journal lingo: “Although the risk-taking behavior of Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) did not differ….” In other words, a good manager will deal with risk appropriately – liberal or conservative.

The Democrat manager, however, is sensitive to his/her feelings about jobs and salary and, because the temporal-parietal junction is nearby, empathy may play a role in how the risk is perceived. As long as labor unions play by fair rules, the Democrat is more likely to accept why being in a union is important to the employees’ perception of risk.

How are we doing? Maybe one more example. But to keep it simple, no elected government folks are allowed:

Bah, Humbug! People have nothing to do with global warming! Republican or Democrat? We don’t really know for certain but several surveys show that this is a Republican. Global warming is nothing if it is not constrictive, behavioral (the right amygdala doesn’t know about behavioral) and interferes with profit strategies across the board. A Republican would run from the restrictive regulations that cure global warming. The same is true of the fossil fuel industry, the banking industry and a myriad of other corporate interests that do not want to be curtailed in their decision making regarding risk to profit.

What is the future of humanity if it all boils down to Left Posterial Insula versus right amygdala?

Ancient Mariner

Advanced Advocacy

Has the reader ever thought about running for office? It may be that the reader will lose. However, as an official candidate, one has access to reporters and journalists, is asked to speak at political gatherings, and may get radio and television interviews.

If the reader thinks this is absurd, 22 republican candidates for US President don’t agree.

Running for office is the fastest way to become influential in politics – even if you lose. The reader has reason to organize and sustain a political organization. This organization expands one’s voice by magnitudes.

In local politics, the fact that one runs may be enough to be elected! Especially in these times when politics grows more volatile in its philosophy of government, upsets are common. The reader’s influence begins at the smallest political level, usually a precinct or a politically oriented club (think Rotary, Lions, Masons, etc.) There are personalities in these organizations and precincts called “king makers.” If they like you, they will spread an influential word in your behalf.

Many readers may not want to step into politics as a candidate. There are many legitimate reasons to deny one’s self such an opportunity. The next best thing is for the reader to attach one’s self to an acceptable candidate. By attach, the mariner means become the candidate’s right-hand person. The reader will have access to policy and campaign meetings, become known as someone to listen to because the reader’s voice is the candidate’s voice, and if one is young enough and in a position to change careers, the candidate will win and take the reader with him/her to a job on staff. This happened to a close friend of the mariner’s daughter, who now is a speech writer in the White House.

The reader could become a member of a local advocacy group that plans marches, gatherings, trips to the offices of elected officials, and forms blockades at the entrance to abusive corporations.

The bottom line is the reader must feel in his/her heart that something must be done for the sake of humankind, for justice, for the wellbeing of the planet, for the health of governance.

Ancient Mariner


Definition of Advocacy

A number of readers have written to the mariner through email to ask a series of related questions.

  • The mariner challenges very large issues that require international authority and millions of dollars. Where is the bridge to action for those of us who are not rich or powerful?
  • While I may agree with the mariner’s concerns generally, they do not fit the fabric of the American Culture today. I have no resources to buy politicians and I must flow with the economy around me.
  • I abhor what the states are doing to block unwanted voters. Do we need another March to Selma?

The mariner shares the readers’ lament. Darrell Issa(R) has been the U.S. House Representative for California’s 49th district since 2001. Issa is considered the richest man in Congress, amassing a net worth between $330 and $600 million. His voting record is conservative, very pro-business and not in favor of entitlements. How does one relatively poor citizen confront Issa’s lock on his influence on our government and what it stands for?

If Issa is not the reader’s representative, Issa will ignore the reader except that the reader may receive a bland response that could be written by anyone. The place to start is with one’s own US Representative and Senators and, if the issue is within the reader’s state, the Governor and the legislature. Do you know your state representatives? Ostensibly, these politicians were elected by the reader and, in principle at least, can be unelected by the reader.

Becoming an advocate for any cause, large or small, is the same as taking up a hobby. The mariner writes to his government representatives whenever there is an issue that is important to the mariner. This could be many times in a month. A prepared letter or petition, often offered by organizations, is accepted but discounted because it is not personally written. A personally written letter, clearly explaining the issue logically and in a cool-minded way will gain you a personally signed response. It will also have more weight. It doesn’t take many letters (or phone calls) to urge a politician to consider his public words on the subject – though this consideration may not change his vote. Nevertheless, persistence and advocacy to others one knows has a way of becoming a campaign issue in the next election.

At the same time that one writes a letter to the government official, one can write a letter to a newspaper of choice to be published on the op-ed page.

Writing to a representative or calling – without losing one’s temper – is one way to expand your influence.

Another way to expand the reader’s influence is to join the appropriate organization that advocates one’s opinion. These special organizations, like Food and Water Watch, an organization to which the mariner subscribes, magnify one’s voice. These organizations have the ability to create news and even television coverage where one individual could not. These organizations usually ask for a modest donation.

In a different vein, one could volunteer for a candidate who advocates the reader’s position. These often are jobs involving phone calls, stuffing envelopes and going door to door. Often, one may be asked to visit the offices of an adversarial politician or make signs for a protest. This is the beginning of grass roots politics and, with the luck of a few important leaders, is quite capable of forcing change. The mariner and his wife had their first campaign job going door to door with brochures for Bobby Kennedy – in a conservative district!

If you are an advocate of voting rights, Hillary Clinton has opened the door for local advocacy in a recent speech. Find those in your precinct who are Clinton voting advocates and help out.

The hard part is one must get away from the television and the easy chair and start using the telephone and going out at night and on weekends. The reader has become a member of the original American democratic process. Don’t let the corporations and big money taunt with funny TV, terrible commercials and false advertising about how good the US is. Become an advocate. It is a more interesting and entertaining hobby than one may think.

Finally, in this post, ALWAYS attend every political party meeting. Be part of the group that shapes policy and may even choose the next candidate. These groups don’t advertise very well on purpose but one can find them and establish rapport. Finally, never, ever miss a chance to vote – even for the judges.

Ancient Mariner


Some readers of the mariner’s blog are discomforted by the negative tone that often creeps into the mariner’s posts. He admits that sometimes he does not need to share his dissatisfaction with every day nuisances like rabbits and Midwest weather. Grant him the excuse of personal therapy.

Some readers feel the mariner is simply depressed. This is too bad because the reader shoots the messenger and discounts the information. The truth is that the mariner is depressed by the content of his posts – as the reader should be as well. Nevertheless, the mariner has an ethic about the quality of information and the important, though sometimes abstract, revelations put forward.

He knows he is more the skeptic than the poet. The mariner chooses to comport himself with the likes of Gandhi, King, Amos, Joshua, Geronimo and Jane Fonda. Something is grotesquely wrong with the United States today. Every one of us lives defensively – not noticeably day-to-day for most of us but we huddle under the shrub like my friend the rabbit, hoping no predator will pounce on us.

In this post, rather than go on and on about the details of this grotesqueness, the mariner will list topics followed by the primary issue and how it may affect us rabbits. He asks the reader to bookmark these mentally so the reader will notice activity in the news that is related to these topics. In later posts, perhaps he will expand the detail as he did with the bribe money paid to greedy Congressmen by corporations to fast track the TPP. (Incidentally, he just mentioned the primary predators of us rabbits: government and corporations.)


Private money in government. This topic has more snakes than Medusa. At the top, legislation must be enacted that prevents financial contributions from any private source and limits campaign financing to the governments holding elections. We are affected by money in government because it displaces democracy. Adding insult to injury, the Supreme Court recently declared money as speech. Therefore, it’s not one person one vote; it’s one dollar one vote.

Gerrymandering. Mandatory to resolution of redistricting abuse is to remove this function from political influence primarily by removing elected officials and party leaders from the process. The size and population of a district is intended to be based entirely on census data and equal distribution among the districts. There is a new issue that threatens one person one vote: The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that would determine district population only by registered voters, not the census. Since the Court threw out the Civil Rights Act supervision of election procedures, thirteen states have been purging voter rolls without verification – eliminating many who have been voting for years but are the wrong race, too poor or disruptive to local politics, e.g., college students. Adding this new interpretation will enable gerrymanderers to ignore whole neighborhoods as if they didn’t exist. Gerrymandering is the root cause for needing the term “silent majority.”

Voting. Updating the way we vote is long overdue. We should consider Australia’s model. Voting is mandatory; if a voter fails to vote, he/she is fined. Further, votes should be cast by a mailed ballot. Internet voting opens a completely different set of problems and would be even easier to manipulate (Your vote is supposed to be secret for several reasons; does the reader think Google will respect your privacy? New ads will appear on your computer obviously based on the way you voted.) Mandatory, mailed voting will help with the gerrymandering topic.


The topics listed above must be repaired before we can expect any changes to the way corporations treat employees, the environment, and international business practices. On the government side, the topics must be repaired before there will be citizen-centric policy for entitlements, infrastructure, military objectives, developing new markets using modern technical solutions, and economic policy – just to name a few. Topics that will have the most profound impact are listed below.


Environment. Deceptively, addressing the environment will have a profound effect on every topic on this list. Briefly, many dramatic disasters will be avoided along the coasts, destructive weather, and across all the species of life; reset the domestic economy with new jobs, new policies affecting the oil and gas industry versus other energy sources – creating new areas of industry and development; a massive upgrade of the infrastructure to require less energy and less costly materials, including a resurgence in shipping via rail – a rail that will be based on new, more efficient technologies; all this only skims the surface of what solving the environment issue will generate.

Government control of natural resources. Today, corporations invade, misuse or destroy many kinds of resources from oil spills to backfilling sensitive estuaries to grazing cattle for free on protected land. The issue of control could be seen as a subset of the environment topic. However, government control of natural resources has a strong element of economic policy that is more to the point. It will have a much greater impact on corporate behavior. For example, how livestock is raised, what chemicals are allowed on any natural resource from golf courses to chickens to fish farms. Good examples in today’s food production are the issues of labeling and artificial additives. Holding up the Keystone pipeline because of ancillary US cost, political interference, tax revenue, and a host of local objections related to the disruption of local businesses is another example. If US governments, Federal, State and Local, had more influence and were backed by citizen-centric political power instead of corporate payoffs, the use and development of natural resources would be fair, improve production and be rational.

International control of multinational corporations. This is a scary topic for the mariner. As corporations move into the international markets made possible by computerization and telecommunication, they are moving into an area void of regulations, national law, and human rights. The multinational corporations will create a faux “government” presence that nations will have great difficulty controlling. An EXCELLENT example is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Generally, it grants freedoms to corporations to operate in several nations as they see fit; they can ignore work related regulations because the multinational corporation is not under the jurisdiction of any one nation or, as the mariner suspects the TPP is written, all the nations collectively. They can move profit around to avoid taxes (that already happens often). The structure of international agreements, as they are written now, almost guarantee a culture of skimming, bribes and payoffs. Never forget the purpose of any corporation: profit, profit, profit, and no liability.

US tax structure. Taxes are the tool with which government has the ability to execute its functions. Today, as everyone knows, the tax code has more holes than a screen door. Most of the holes, similar to the TPP payoff, are inserted by interests who own the Congressmen, or Governors, or state legislators. The tax code, along with suppressed payroll practices since 1985, has created the imbalance of personal worth such that 90% of the population does not share in GDP profits. All the profits go to the 10% who own 37% of the country’s stock market shares. Fixing taxes will take lots of time and wheeling and dealing. It won’t begin until the current antagonistic atmosphere surrounding elected officials is normalized.

Don’t be depressed. The mariner feels better already!

Ancient Mariner

Hooray for the Norwegian Muslims!

From the Times of Israel:

“In the wake of a deadly shooting attack at a synagogue in Denmark last week, a group of Norwegian Muslims intends to hold an anti-violence demonstration at an Oslo synagogue this coming weekend by forming a “peace ring” around the building.

One of the event organizers, 17-year-old Hajrad Arshad, explained that the intention was to make a clear statement that Muslims don’t support anti-Semitism.

“We think that after the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, it is the perfect time for us Muslims to distance ourselves from the harassment of Jews that is happening,” Arshad told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK in an interview cited by The Local News website on Tuesday.

She noted that the group aimed to “extinguish the prejudices people have against Jews and against Muslims.”

The demonstration drew praise from the local Jewish community.”


A fine, intelligent act in an age of rage about religions. Has it always been this way? Across recorded history, it seems many people have been brutally tortured and murdered because of religious intolerance – perhaps more than all the wars from 1700 to the present. Even in the “civilized” United States today, religious intolerance is not above killing over abortion, sexuality, Islam, atheism, theocracies, and still ostracizes Roman Catholics and Jews.

Perpetually, philosophers and behaviorists ponder religious brutality and still have not discovered a way to discuss religious differences in a rational way.

What the mariner finds puzzling is that those who turn intolerance into murder and destruction are not exactly the devoted core of the faith, devoted to their god and seeking a holy world. Rather, it is the opportunists, bigots, self-anointed “religious” warriors, and psychologically unbalanced who make up the army of the “Lord.”

In the Mideast, conflict has become absurd. Belief in the sanctity of life disappeared centuries ago. Every type of zealot, from heads of state to violent, deranged thugs, fight under the same flag: Islam. Added to the broiling mess is the regional prejudice between theocracies and western secular countries.

What fuels this ongoing war is not really Islam per se, though that is important. It is the fossil fuel wealth of the area combined with inadequate governments still depending on sheikdoms (Saudi Arabia) city-states (Libya), and warlord authoritarianism (Iraq, Egypt and Syria).

The western countries went through this violence centuries ago and have evolved into nations run by constitutions and law. While extremists still cause problems in the western nations, the political infrastructure is robust enough to prevent anarchy.

The coming battles for the industrialized world are mercenary values versus the earth itself – a new kind of fervor based on ecology rather than religion and one that ignores national borders.


Some notes from the mariner –

Many do not check back to earlier posts to see if replies have been added. The “Purgatory” post drew some insightful responses:

One reader, self-described as an existentialist, defined purgatory as those moments when a person has lost his/her compass of life. “What do I do next? Where are the signs that will give me direction? Where will I stay for the next two weeks? It is a sense that life has come to a stop and there is no way to move ahead into the future.

Another reader suggested that purgatory could last no longer than the last living person who knew you – approximately four generations at most. After that, no one is around who will pray for your release from purgatory.

Another reader suggested the living have nothing to do with purgatory, that is, purgatory lasts from the point of death to the moment one must answer for one’s life at the Pearly Gates.

All these replies are fascinating and provoke extended thought about purgatory.

Thanks for your replies.

Ancient Mariner