On democracy

The premise of this post is to examine the impact of progress upon the cultural perceptions that existed in 1778 when the United States was born. Progress is not a bad thing; the benefits in comfort, health and functional prowess cannot be denied. What also cannot be denied is that progress has altered human behavior.

The ideals of democracy, its philosophy and manner of governing, is a product of the Great Awakening, the intellectual era that lifted Europe and America out of the dark ages. Similar to citizen behavior today, the public held a defiant resistance against the power structures of the Dark Ages. The transition to a new culture where each individual participated in society was led by religious liberation from the corrupt and powerful control of Roman Catholicism. The Reformation, led by religious leaders, preached that every person had an equal place in the eyes of God.

Sociologically, human behavior at the time still was constricted by the primitive forms of communication and travel. There were large cities where trading and governance occurred but generally the common citizen was bound to local and regional economics and self-reliance on a day-to-day basis. The term used to cite this culture is ‘communalism’. This was the nature of society in 1778.

What follows is the description of a series of historical moments that changed the economics and social behavior of the public. It can be argued that the troubles of the United States in 2023 are the unintended result of progress.

֎ In 1778 it was virtually impossible for a citizen to communicate with anyone even 50 miles away. Daily responsibility to sustain survival took an immense amount of time, which also limited communication. As a result, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution proposed a distributed form of governance that would allow every citizen to have a say in that governance. Hence the creation of a democratic republic divided into states, counties and districts.

The intent, philosophically, was to have each district contribute political or legislative needs and elected representatives that would be submitted to the county, then to the state. Each state then met with all the other states to pass legislation that accommodated local needs for the entire nation. In 1778, this process allowed each citizen, in principal, to participate in governing the nation in a way that accommodated a locally isolated society. The flow of information and decision making rose from the local communities, processed by the next level of governance and finally to represent national policies.

֎ In 1827 The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad opened its lines. The isolated nature of communal economics changed rapidly. Especially in agriculture, it was possible to integrate farm produce in quantities that required processing companies and much wider distribution to the end user. The local farmer was not dependent just on local markets to sustain his financial security. The bottom-up politics of communal economy had been displaced; processing corporations influenced many different districts, counties and states, often appealing directly to states and the national government. Further, transportation was a new political force that influenced national politics without the need to follow the bottom-up philosophy of democracy.

֎ From April 12, 1861 – April 26, 1865 the American Civil War caused severe damage to the idea of local self-sustenance. The war destroyed many communities and killed more than 600,000 soldiers (comparable to 7 million in today’s population). At the end of the war many did not or could not return home. Despite the truce that ended the war, the philosophy of a democratic republic continued to suffer because of racism and unwanted intrusion in Confederate states by the national government. Communalistic representation suffered a permanent change in daily life.

Even today the political scars remain that cause the two-party system to operate inappropriately in light of the philosophy of a democratic republic.

֎ The next culture-changing advancement in progress was the telegraph and telephone. The first public network was organized in 1877. Before 1877, if one wished to talk to another, it had to be face-to-face. Today, in 2023, we can recognize this new telecommunication device to be the first version of the smartphone! One more reason not to harness the pony and ride a mile and a half down the road.

As with all types of progress that covered many voting districts, the job of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was removed from communal economics and was, politically at least, in the hands of corporations. Retrospectively, one can see that the nation was quickly replacing democracy with corporatism.

֎ The ultimate collapse of communalism and bottom-up democracy was caused by the internal combustion engine. No one needed to keep the pony around anymore. State fairs became popular and represented the local remnants of communalism – just as they do today. Still, it was a burden to travel too far on two lane roads that meandered from town to town having followed old roads from one community to another (Remember Route 66? It was started by Indians.). The two World Wars facilitated shifts in population to support industries needed by the wars, causing a breakup and redistribution of communal families. But the final blow came when Ike created the Interstate system. One could travel on roads that were not managed by states – only by national government contracts.

A ghost of the past is sustained by air travel. Remember your parents who still live in the old home where you were born? It takes an airplane to get there and back in a reasonable time.

So here we are today with an electorate that has no voting power. Political opinion no longer comes from dialogue within a community. The power lies with corporations and the wealthy class who fund very expensive campaigns most local people cannot afford and forces the communal person to pick from television ads, biased news programs and gaming strategies like gerrymandering and avoiding term limits. One recent suggestion is rank voting, which may help with the act of voting, but will not repair communalism, aka democracy.

It is time to have a constitutional convention. Yes, the mariner is as afraid of such an event as anyone. The reality is, however, that democracy doesn’t work anymore. What is the new equality? What is the new ‘all men are created equal’? How do we get there from here? Will wearing a gaming goggle help?

Ancient Mariner





Regarding the Apocalypse


Mariner’s alter ego Guru, responsible for wide ranging philosophical and futuristic insights, claimed in a recent post that the Apocalypse already has begun. There have been queries about definition.

From his safe house in Chicken Little’s hen house, mariner will lay out the timeline implied by Guru.

It all began innocently 2 million years ago when a new species evolved that had a growing brain. The species was Homo. 1 million years ago, Homo began splitting into variations. Many failed to sustain themselves and became extinct but a few with names like Neanderthal, Habilis, Australopithecus and Erectus survived into the age of humans. Together they would become Homo sapiens.

In those days, Homo had no choice but to live within the natural confines of their habitat. Living a plenteous life in an agreeable environment, a typical lifespan was about 40 years. Homo’s predators were meat eaters, infections and serious injury.

These characteristics are similar to the few indigenous tribes that still exist in remote areas of Africa and South America. These tribes to this day sustain themselves only with the restorative resources their environment provides.

About 10,000 years ago, Homo discovered how to grow more grain than he needed, hence the beginning of commerce by acquiring more grain than would be consumed by a local tribe. In a subtle way, this is the first abuse of the natural relationship between Homo and the environment.

Centuries roll by and Homo learns more ways to consume the environment beyond his natural relationship with nature. Homo extracted from nature other creatures like donkeys, horses, and wolves that would help expand the ability to acquire excessive amounts of Nature’s resources. Then Homo discovered iron, tin, lead and carbon-based energy. Now Homo could consume many times his need from Nature. Homo was consuming Nature faster than Nature could replenish itself.

This imbalance was the seed that has grown into the apocalypse we have today.

After I million years of living in accordance with the rules of Nature, in the last 1,000 years, Homo has trashed Nature; Homo has trashed the basic tribal society; Homo has trashed multiple generations that cohabit as a protective wall against difficult times. Homo quickly learned to ignore Nature and lived by the rule ‘If you can do it, do it’. He developed elaborate tools which, at every step, diminished the evolutionary potential of every Homo. For example, the use of coal and gasoline in the last 150 years has destroyed the security provided by extended family and tribe (town economy). Its method was to produce trains, automobiles, mechanized, oversized farms, superhighways and national and globally based industries.

In just 150 years the apocalypse gained speed. Isolated nuclear families became the norm – left defenseless without the human support of multiple generations and tribal support. Giant corporations became the norm, slowly eliminating local economies, local jobs and the existential satisfaction found in smaller towns and cities.

In the last 175 years, the apocalypse has shifted into a higher gear. 16,000 species are extinct because of Homo indifference. Around the world potable water is becoming scarce. Seafood from the oceans is 20 percent of what it was 100 years ago. And obviously the excess use of fossil fuel has launched serious changes in air quality and of the planet generally.

But in this century the chains are off. What easy transportation did to tribes, the Internet is doing to society. Communication technology makes war easier and more horrific; interpersonal skills and rewards are replaced by artificial behavior that dismisses 1 million years of evolutionary sophistication; privacy and security are fallacious assumptions.

Now a new age is upon us: artificial intelligence (AI). AI can emulate the entire reality of Homo. The final bridge to the apocalypse is that AI can reproduce itself. Who needs Homo?

Ancient Mariner


Mother Earth and humans

When mariner worked as a project manager, he learned that certain individuals made it difficult to run the project. For many reasons related to power insecurity, bad personality, uncontrolled desire to change objectives and other distracting behaviors, these individuals were overhead that was not helping.

As a necessity to survive and complete the project, he developed a technique that avoided confrontation but indirectly suppressed the person’s interference. He calls it “taking away cards”. Here is a simple example:

You have a chain-smoking relative who prefers not to drive the car so they always ask you to buy cigarettes for them. You are concerned about their heavy smoking. You take away their control card by saying, “I don’t have time right now; I must do something else right now. Why don’t you buy your cigarettes?” Either the relative goes without or must resolve their distaste to drive. You, however, have avoided a face-to-face shout down. With luck, you may have altered a pattern of behavior.

Mother Earth is using this technique with humans. Some examples:

  • If you continue to pollute the air, I’ll stop enforcing dependable weather patterns.
  • If you continue to trash the environment and killing thousands of creatures, I’ll take away your clean water.
  • If you continue to make matters worse, I’ll melt all the ice at the poles and release methane from deep permafrost.
  • If you don’t learn to live within the constraints of your habitat, I’ll remove the habitat.

These are not future threats; they’ve been growing for decades if not centuries. Mother Earth is about to take away our control cards. Someone tell the fossil fuel industry.

Ancient Mariner

New signs

Bottom up power: [Politico] “The country’s 900 or so rural electric cooperatives serve remote rural customers and are member-driven, -owned and -controlled. Their nonprofit status has made it hard to make investments in low-carbon energy; unlike investor-owned utilities, they can’t go into debt or sell shares to pay for a solar farm. But getting them off of fossil fuels is essential to meeting climate goals.

Already five co-ops have either left or announced they will leave a major G&T (generation and transmission) called Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which covers parts of four Western states.”

This tendency is happening in Europe as well. Despite all the ‘effort’ to stop using fossil fuel, oil companies are making record profits. Even Biden is allowing a new oil-drilling operation in Alaska – talk about plutocracy!

Mariner often writes about collective cultures. Collectivism includes concepts like extended families, local government, local cooperatives, community rules for equality of life, etc. To one degree or another, terms for collectives include cooperative, clan, communist, commune, tribe and many other terms denoting a localized group. The image below captures the general spirit:

Just being a small group does not automatically grant goodness. There are many small groups bent on anything but sharing and survival of all – NIMBY is one of countless examples that demonstrate the conflict between collectivism and the imposing needs of a much larger population.

Having learned from many sources over many years, mariner knows Homo sapiens is a tribal species, along with most of its primate ancestors. In past posts, he has cited authors who said things like “The maximum number of individuals that can be familiar to a human is 150”, “The further a person gets from a direct relationship with the environment, the more abusive the relationship becomes” and recently, “I’m first if its fair for everyone”.

When he studies the development of western nations, and the unimaginable wealth that suddenly appeared on the American continents, mariner is reminded of a group of hoodlums during a riot who break into a store and steal all its goods. Such tactics work for the hoodlums if there is plenty to go around. Western Capitalism is the fastest way to reorganize wealth.

Today, however, there is not enough to go around. Capitalism has an idiosyncrasy that doesn’t work anymore: Grow or die.

Because the West has achieved such wonders and accomplishments – especially when the achievements provide convenience, collective terminology is not popular and its advantages often are discounted. It is this resistance that makes it good news to mariner that there is a breakaway of self-owned electric companies from large conglomerates. There are other appropriate concepts of management that will work better in these challenging times. Bigger may not be better.

There are many more sociological points of interest but mariner can become boring.

Ancient Mariner

Food for thought

The agricultural industry is entering an increasingly rapid pace of change. It was only yesterday (and today) that farmers were encouraged to use no-plow techniques for large crop fields. Basically, the intent is to let indigenous plants provide a cover crop so that (a) good soil will not continue to blow away or wash away (b) the indigenous plants will provide better chemistry and require less commercial plant food in the soil and (c) the indigenous plants would retain CO2 in the soil. Changing farming practices is very difficult for farmers.

There are other practices that are changing. A small number of commercially large farms have decided to pursue zero fossil fuel in their operation. Manure, crop waste solar power and chemical conversions are used to produce electricity, feed and fertilizer.

These and other similar efficiency-based crop practices are an excellent effort but the circumstances surrounding a human population approaching 8 billion by 2030 and little land left to increase agricultural production has taken farming in a different direction.

Everyone has heard of hydroponic gardening (grown in water without soil) but aggressive corporations are taking hydroponics to extreme levels. Soil and vast acreages have a small role to play in large quantity production. Combined with the use of solar and wind energy, these farms have no season – they are year-round.


Add to the plant operation the quandary of what to do about cows. Long a joke, it is a fact that through flatulence and digestion, cows produce 40 percent of atmospheric methane. Cows generate methane in two main ways: through their digestion and through their waste. Cows are part of a group of animals called ruminants. Ruminants have stomachs with four distinct chambers. Sheep, goats, and giraffes also are ruminants. Even on television there are ads suggesting that everyone fight climate change by not eating beef.

The other side of cow economics is provided by Mother Nature. She is causing drought and water shortage in the primary wheat-growing regions of the southwest. Cows et al eat wheat – and a lot of water!

There are critics who say “Why eat the cow? Eat the grass the cow would eat.” As mariner mentioned in an earlier post: Perhaps anchovies, scrapple and spam may become popular again.

Ancient Mariner


It warms the heart

֎ Mariner watched a short video from NEWSY broadcasting which revealed a growing market for farm equipment built with standard parts rather than having to abide by the privatized and copyrighted and BIG dollar cost of companies like John Deere. The reader will enjoy a sensation they probably haven’t felt in a long time. See:


֎ Mariner lives in a semi-rural area of Iowa, several small towns and no large metropolitan areas. Nevertheless, the public libraries in the region all have seen the new light in these changing times. Libraries aren’t quiet, dusty archives anymore. Libraries have become public activity centers with almost continuous programming for all ages from old people playing euchre to preschoolers running around on the lawn. Technically the libraries are up-to-date, even having supported some public school classes during the pandemic.

֎ The reader knows by now that Kansas voted overwhelmingly to keep the right to have an abortion. This may or may not be good news to an individual reader but the really good news is the turnout. Dangerous Donald continues to loom over politics like a possible tornado. His followers, mostly conspirators, racists, misogynists and illicit opportunists drew only half as many voters as those who voted for abortion. These numbers bring hope to those who know that the only way to defeat the Trump movement is to outvote its advocates. And most of us did not have faith that this could happen. Dare we think the Kansas turnout may be good news for November?

Ancient Mariner

Possible tools for HORSE #3

It is interesting to notice how this horse race has an all or nothing air to it. HORSE #1 has democracy at stake. Intensely focused social and political resources must be expended, to borrow an abused phrase, to make America great again.
HORSE #2 has economic survivability at stake. As the 21st century moves forward, civilization will become more extreme in its relationship between have and have-not nations. Already 793 million humans are starving to the point of death, severe malnutrition and stunted bodies. Already out of 43,000 multi-national corporations, 40% of the wealth rests in the hands of only 147 of those corporations.
Human society has hidden much of its economic imbalance by over indulging in the consumption of Earth’s resources – fossil fuel, over-fishing the oceans, destroying forests to plant crops, leveraging limited elements on the Periodic Table, etc. The resources have become scant enough to threaten national stability around the world. HORSE #2 has the difficult task of redistributing wealth in an oligarchic, grow or die world.
Taking a look now at HORSE #3, the planet has no judgment with which to modify or improve its condition. The planet, from an unusual perspective, is just another orphan in the Milky Way not allowed opinion or input into how the orphanage is run.
What tools might humanity use to counter such huge, automatic, astronomic rules?
Probably the most important tool is to realize that humans live in the same orphanage. (Suddenly, a new metaphor emerges; mariner can’t help it!) In other words, planet Earth responds only with cause and effect options. Humans have given HORSE #3 Carbon Dioxide, which amounts to Furosemide (Lasix), also called “doping”, in horses. Now the Earth is running a lot faster than it usually does. So, not being too intellectual, humans should stop doping Planet Earth with Carbon Dioxide. But humans have a flaw: humans can make decisions without facts.
Today, it is the fossil fuel industry, the logging industry, the computer industry (computers are in the same class as automobiles when it comes to releasing CO2), the plastics industry, et al who make decisions about Carbon Dioxide. Asking these industries to stop releasing Carbon Dioxide is like asking the reader to stop urinating.
In this respect, all three horses are using the same equipment to win the race: Politics and money. Planet Earth, however, has an unmeasurably large bankroll with which to raise the stakes (another metaphor: poker).
To win or at least tie in this race, the US stable must expend unknowable amounts of money, must overcome the fleabites of prejudice and greed in society, and must acknowledge from the heart that they do not own or control the biosphere.
Ancient Mariner


֎ The Iowa spring has been slow to start; the ground is still too cold for most vegetables. It rains three days out of five and the daytime temperature refuses to stay as high as the 60s. Iowa has had so much rain that mariner has a foot of standing water at the back of the property; shrubs and decorative trees just can’t survive. This has happened frequently so mariner has decided to take Mother Nature’s advice and plant River Birch (Betula nigra). This tree thrives in swampy ground found in low spots, especially near ponds and rivers. What is fascinating is the tree’s habit of shredding bark every year (see picture). Insects have a hard time burrowing into smooth bark. Also, as bark peels off, it gets rid of moss and lichen that thrive in the same damp environments as birch trees.

The last few days of garden work have been a respite from the state of the world. However, mariner is aware that he lives in a pleasant spot as climate change begins intensive intrusion in many spots of the planet.

֎ Politico reports on the precarious state of India saying we should be grateful we’re not in South Asia, where in India and Pakistan temperatures have soared above 120 degrees, creating hell on earth. It’s difficult to survive in those conditions without air conditioning, which around 85 percent of Indian households lack. There is also the issue of 70 percent of India’s electricity coming from coal, creating especially negative climate feedback loops.

And there’s worse to come via a “devastating impact on crops, including wheat and various fruits and vegetables. In India, the yield from wheat crops has dropped by up to 50 percent,” reports Hannah Ellis-Petersen from Delhi.

֎ And there’s the checkpoint of the demise of Roe v Wade. Chicken Little has been put on CPAP since he learned that the United States democracy is ranked 26th in the world and falling. Mariner will forego lamentations about the dysfunction of the nation’s governments; it’s too nice a day.

֎ Mariner has noticed an increased rate of death among show business greats. He wanders YouTube looking for clips just to commemorate the passing of an entertainment era. He ponders when the same time in history will apply to politicians.

֎ Finally, this summer is a checkpoint within mariner’s family relationships as many members travel hither and yon for reunions, holiday celebrations and visiting lifetime friends. Buy airline stock!

Be well, readers. Find pockets of comfort and security in a transitive, turbulent planet.

Ancient Mariner


From a number of sources, mariner has picked up a theme that the combination of pressure to increase farm production, increased regulations about farming methods, the need to continue the use of fossil fuel versus the pressure to revamp farm equipment, has put farmers in a target zone being fired upon from every direction.

Also making smoke is an antiquated supply chain which puts the cost of farming on the shoulders of farmers while a monopolized processing chain takes an easy profit from controlled pricing to the public. The most blatant example is the chicken industry where a corporation like Perdue avoids farming costs with a minimum payment for each chicken but gathers great profit from a tightly manipulated sales strategy. Through mergers and buyouts, beef processing, more or less, has been consolidated into four large beef processing firms – which caused a stink during the pandemic because it didn’t take much to shut down four processing firms caused by Covid absences.

Add to this pressured environment dysfunctional state and federal legislatures and rising inflation and being a farmer isn’t a quiet, countryside experience. Perhaps like mariner, they may yearn for the old horse and plow days; at least back then meat supply was dealt with directly at the farm.

The reason there is growing urgency in the farming sector has to do with a number of circumstances that are worldwide. One is the fact that in a couple of decades food production around the world may feed only half the world’s population. Another is the impact of climate change on huge regions; The U.S southwest, for example, is a major supplier of hay for beef farmers but already the temperature is growing too hot and droughts are setting new records. Along the Gulf Coast flooding and very heavy storms are wreaking havoc. This is the story around the world.

Keep an eye out for news from the farm sector; it may be the most serious situation for the next generation.

Ancient Mariner

Moving Forward 

Like global warming and other slow but critical phenomena, one of the issues looming steadily larger is providing enough food to feed billions of humans. It has been stated by agronomists, realtors and anthropologists that there is no more open land to purchase for grand scale farming. Conflicting with this is the need to restore much of the biosphere that has been destroyed by human practices. In short, how can humans increase food supply in a world that shrinks for many reasons? In this month’s issue Science Magazine reports a breakthrough that may significantly improve crop value for grains:

“When farmers in ancient times harvested their crops, some saved the seeds produced by the best performing plants and sowed them the following year. Gradually, this selection led to better and better results, such as increasing the size and number of kernels of maize—traits that helped pave the path to modern corn.

Now, a team led by researchers in China has identified a single gene behind this crucial productivity boost in maize and linked it to early improvements in rice harvests as well.

In 2004, maize geneticist and breeder Li Jiangsheng of China Agricultural University (CAU) began to explore the genetics of teosinte, the puny wild ancestor of maize, which early farmers domesticated and bred to create edible corn. One big change: Whereas teosinte has just two rows of kernels, modern maize has more than a dozen. To understand what changed genetically, Li and colleagues spent years creating an experimental intermediate type of maize that has six rows.

By mapping genetic markers, Li and an even larger team identified a single gene that influences the number of rows of kernels in this lab-grown corn. They called the gene KRN2, for kernel row number.”

What is new that just one gene can be manipulated to increase rows of kernels. It is highly likely that all grasses, e.g., wheat, can be made to grow larger amounts of grain. Imagine the global increase in productivity if each ear of corn, each rice and wheat caryopse increased its yield by twenty percent! Good news!