Good ol’ USA

Remember when: Companies paid a guaranteed 100% retirement? Or employees had the right to negotiate salaries? Remember unions? The economists say there is a shortage of workers. Bull chips – there is a shortage of salary and benefits. Here’s another one:

Data: Center for Economic and Policy Research. Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios

Ancient Mariner

About monarchy

All the news, of course, is about the death and burial of Queen Elizabeth and what King Charles will do differently. England was organized into a nation officially in 927 CE, the point being that in comparison, the US today is but a teenager. Since 927, England conquered Scotland, signed the historic Magna Carta in 1215, was the primary colonizer of North America beginning with Jamestown in 1606, was the world leader in the age of colonialism during the 18th and 19th centuries and, as the calendar approaches the 20th century, formed a multinational union and shared global leadership with the United States.

Since its inception, the United States has switched national leadership 46 times, having only politically based Presidents, not neutralized Kings. As we are witnessing today, this teenager is having trouble holding things together.

The United States does not have an apolitical monarchy. Does a royal family that is noted for dogs, horses, interesting marriages and fancy parades have a role in the stability of the English State?

Perhaps there is more than meets the eye. Watching from this side of the pond, it seems the general population shares affection for the Monarchy despite their personal political differences and serious economic hardships.

Remember Rosie the Riveter? Rosie was a symbol of “We can do it” at a time when US industries did not have enough men to meet the demands for military production. Rosie had a positive aura that brought the nation together during a difficult time. Is this what the Monarchy provides – a sense of common unity that sits above the derisive issues of life and politics?

In mariner’s life time there is only one brief moment when the President may have represented a unifying role. Remember Camelot? He was assassinated.

Short of establishing an apolitical family of its own, what could the United States do to generate national unity? What cause is as great and threatening as World War II? The pandemic, serious as it was, didn’t coalesce the nation. Maybe it might be global warming – that would be a world war with a tough opponent. Could that unify the US?

Maybe it’s a shame that the Founding Fathers didn’t set up an apolitical family. The Fathers did attempt something similar in granting religious freedom but they forgot to castrate it.

Ancient Mariner

Jesus versus tribal instinct

A film, available for viewing on PBS cable or online called ‘Hacking the Mind’, presents an experiment with 4 and 5 year-old children. Presented simply as a game, one child at a time is asked what color tee shirt they would like to wear. There are two options – orange or blue. The child picks one and then is presented with a series of drawings each showing two children, one in orange and one in blue. A simple situation is represented in the drawings.

The test giver asks each child independently to interpret the drawings. Without exception, the child in the chosen color can do no wrong and the child in the unchosen color can do no right – even when it’s the same drawing with colors reversed.

The point is made by the interviewer afterward that this is an embedded defense mechanism. Tribal behavior is in our genes. There is safety in belonging to a protective group.

In pre-industrial times large families survived more easily than small families. Large families could garner more resources for survival. In early Japanese history an army’s subdivision frequently was a collection of families. In mariner’s lingo, biologically humans are intelligent chimpanzees – inheriting the same tribal instincts and survival chemistry.

It is hard for tribal humans to abide by Jesus’s mandate to love all others before self. In other words, the self is discounted and sacrifices itself to the wellbeing of those in different color shirts – not a relatively protected situation.

So Christians build fortresses called churches; indoctrination into the tribe requires a purifying ceremony called baptism (AKA changing the shirt color); social prejudices are part and parcel of religious practices. Humans can’t help this natural, in-the-genes behavior. Not exactly what Jesus wanted.

But this doesn’t discount the value of faith, morality, and interpersonal bonding. In today’s overpopulated world with its emphasis on personal achievement above tribal obligations and economies that disrupt large family assimilation leaving nuclear families scrambling, every compassionate gesture is sorely needed.

Ancient Mariner

Marching on to Meta

GPT-3, is an AI program, can write essays, op-eds, tweets, and dad jokes. It will change how we think about creativity. Who is “we”? Doesn’t Alexi deal with this kind of stuff? Leave me alone so I can get back to my opiates.

There is an unreconciled circumstance when AI becomes judge and jury in our society: prejudice. Not necessarily the headline gathering prejudices like racism and misogyny but prejudices we don’t know we have. For example, app programmers working for financial firms may include biased code that is beneficial to finance firms just as a matter of business rather than allowing a fair integration with societal mores.

Several studies already are in that show existing government programs arrive at different decisions based on assets, neighborhoods and cultural differences. To wit: roads and the Interstate system always have chosen less expensive neighborhoods to build the highways. Government policies also are prejudiced by NIMBY politics (Not In My Backyard). And finally, urban development regulations allow venture capitalists to buy up inexpensive land inhabited for many generations by unique subcultures.

How will AI make sensitive, on-the-edge decisions? Mariner spent enough years in the automated data world to know that more than enough data will be available; it’s the analog formulas where the rubber meets the road.

Today, cultural change is in the hands of the owners – the citizens. As everyone has learned, change is nasty, confusing and final expectations are unknown. Computerized data, no matter how hard it tries, cannot emulate values in a topsy-turvy world – unless humans surrender reality to the Matrix.

Ancient Mariner

The art of subconscious reasoning

Mariner has a pet phrase he often uses in the humid summers of Iowa: “I’m sweating like a fish!” On rare occasions a listener may come back with “Fish don’t sweat!”

“Of course they do” he responds, “where do you think the oceans came from?” As the listener pauses in confusion, mariner continues his argument: “And now there’s global warming and the fish are sweating too much. That’s why the oceans are rising.”

It all makes sense, doesn’t it? No facts needed, no historical dependencies, no social accountability. Not only does it make sense, there is no blame to be assumed.

Lest the reader become ‘holier than thou’ everyone thinks this way to some degree or another. Subconscious reasoning is the source of prejudice of every kind, even simple opinions and is the cause of every abusive behavior.

There is skill involved, though. The more central to one’s life and anxieties, the more elaborate the narrative becomes – and more denial of reality. This is how an attractive young lady can be a Trumpist. When given Donald’s illegal and immoral behaviors by a journalist, she is able to say, “I don’t care.”

Because internal, often unknown thoughts frequently are promoted by the cerebellum, the brain becomes very obedient to its opinions because the cerebellum’s job is to survive. Survival is important internally, of course, but externally as well when social integration or other threats occur – hence subconscious reasoning.

Perhaps this explains the Supreme Court’s reasoning.

Ancient Mariner


Political Sociology in action

It was mentioned on the blog some weeks ago that the time was coming when the retirement age would be extended as the population grew smaller and older. The pandemic has forced this idea into the political world today. Recently, Senator Ron Johnson (Trumpist republican) proposed putting seniors back to work – after they already had retired and started claiming Social Security benefits. Senator Ron’s motivation is suspicious; perhaps he found a new way to cut the cost of Social Security benefits simply by ignoring that it exists and ignoring the earned right to be on Social Security – or maybe civil rights are subservient to authoritative mandates.

Once a predator has been turned loose, it is difficult to put it back on the leash. This is the case between capitalism and socialism as resources become scarce, human environmental relationships begin to fail and plutocratic/authoritative defense mechanisms turn increasingly predatory. This battle will take decades to restore balance to society.

Recent history has shown that less sophisticated nations easily fall prey to authoritative leadership. Is the United States capable of putting the leash on prowling predators?

Who are economic predators? “everybody’s on their own” capitalists, a number of hoarding types like monopolistic corporations, venture capitalists and private equity types; also antidemocratic and libertarian types.

In the end, the outcome will be based on who controls the military and whether a legitimate, operational constitution holds together. Remember when Donald tried to call out the US military to quash Black Lives Matter and ‘de-fund the police’ protests?

Our personal liberties and democratic government lie within the realm of an arbitrary future. Perhaps we should win a big lottery just in case.

Ancient Mariner


Connect the dots

֎ Mariner was up early this morning. As usual, first get a coffee then turn on the computer. His standard procedure is to go to NOAA to check the weather, then to the blog, then open email.

Before mariner got past the weather check, Googlesyndication had made 138 attempts to enter his computer system. Fortunately, he has software that blocks this kind of silent intrusion.

֎ Mariner read the commentary of a Big Data executive who said, “Our future in the metaverse is to be a dot similar to the dots in a George Seurat painting.” The inherent value will not be in any one dot; one will have to step back to view the entire collection of dots.

Things like individualism, one person-one vote and personal choice in life no longer will exist. Instead, the entrapment of becoming a pink dot whether or not one prefers pink will be the extent of individualism.

֎The Trumpian movement occurs because the labor class in the United States for decades has been discounted as an unsuccessful class because they are not white collar; their salaries have fallen in value because of inflation versus employer disregard for economic well being; they carry no respect in the gestalt of US culture; their voice through unions was systematically eliminated. Now to be a dot . . . 29 percent of US citizenry believe it is somewhat likely that within ten years there will be a civil war.

The situation is made more complex because of a dysfunctional Congress. We can blame Newt Gingrich for that dysfunction. During his tenure as Speaker of the House of Representatives (1995-1999), he weaponized party politics; the opportunity for Bob Dole and Ted Kennedy to cut a deal could no longer happen.

In Congress, party dominance became Job One; citizens weren’t on the job list. Campaign fundraising became the influence on policy. When Al Franken resigned, he said he spent five hours a day making calls to raise campaign funds. Today, Mitch McConnell carries the torch but isn’t the leader of the party. The party stands armed and ready under the Trumpian flag.

So, reader, will there be a civil war? Who cares if one is just a statistical dot?

– – – –

On the good side of things, unions may be coming back. Gallup news reports that public approval is rising and is at its highest since 1965 (71 percent). Mariner’s brother is a union advocate. He reports that many trade companies are voluntarily coming to unions to have access to workers. Obviously the economic effects of the pandemic have messed up employment enough that unions are the only dependable source to find workers.

Ancient Mariner

A conundrum

Mariner was a preacher for a while. He became familiar with the Christian faith generally and with Christ’s exhortations to love others before self. In college he had a minor in religion and studied several religions. Not one religion, especially Islam, ever took the ‘love’ thing seriously.

For centuries Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism were more closely related to the role of a Supreme Court and supported the political power base. Islam had a similar role but promoted a more punitive role as a requirement for inclusion. These are generalizations, of course, but generally the role of religion has more often been concerned about politics and self-aggrandizement than the pursuit of salvation.

It seems today that this political role has returned. In the United States particularly, hate is preached from the chancel. Deliberate political enmity and even violence are supported.

Is religion a change agent? Does religion have a ‘divine’ right to promote pain, suffering and death in the name of God and Jesus Christ? It is a conundrum.

Whenever religion takes up political reform, it is rebellious; advocates are looking for revenge, not love. Whenever religion focuses on profitability, it disregards the need for love and replaces it with dollars. With all the confusion in today’s world of humans, it is hard to find positive spiritual anchors – especially in churches.

What happened to the words of Jesus? Does religion suffer from the same forces that shape society? If so, what purpose is religion? In a time when unity, love of fellow man, sharing and compassion are in critical demand, where is the moral authority of religion?

Some of this confusion can be laid at the footsteps of the Founding Fathers. They wanted to be sure that the Church would never play an official role as a ‘state religion.’ In effect, however, making religion an independent and protected role in society, religion could do whatever it wanted in spite of democratic legislation.

So, the question remains, how can religion help? How can it advocate love of others? If religion doesn’t uphold Christ’s principles, who needs religion – unless it is a political voice instead of a religious voice?

Ancient Mariner


While we wait

It definitely is a waiting game on several critical fronts. China has begun its pressure game with Taiwan; we can only wait to see what happens.

Neil Degrasse Tyson said if both polar ice caps melt completely, the ocean will rise to The Statue of Liberty’s elbow; we can only wait to see what happens.

The November elections clearly are jump ball at this point. All the polls mariner has read indicate a fog of insight; we can only wait to see what happens.

The Supreme Court has missed the ball on the Affordable Care Act and abortion. Is this the new direction for the Court? We can only wait to see what happens.

Across the nation police departments are understaffed from resignations and low pay. Crime is up in many states, including homicides; we can only wait to see what happens.

Finally, big corporations will have to pay a 15 percent income tax; will the republicans reverse this legislation in November? We can only wait to see what happens.

Afghanistan society has collapsed, having no economy and no social standards; we can only wait to see what happens.

The Ukrainians continue to fight as their nation becomes decimated by a needless bullet war; will the government and the economy survive as the war goes on? We can only wait to see what happens.

Mariner’s potato crop is nearing the end. Will there be an abundance of potatoes? We can only wait to see what happens.

Does the reader have a hobby?

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