Ready, Aim . . .

An article from The New Statesman, a British publication, has a different slant on the US obsessive gun dependency:

“US gun violence is not just a domestic political issue. The failure to take action is a gift to Chinese and Russian propagandists. Shortly after Joe Biden took office in January 2021, he delivered a major foreign policy speech setting out his vision for the United States’ place in the world. He vowed to rebuild the country’s alliances and restore its moral leadership after the tumult of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“America is back,” he declared, and he promised that the United States would “again lead not just by the example of our power but the power of our example”.

“Yet the power of that example has been repeatedly undermined by the failure of US political leaders to tackle the country’s domestic problems, including racial injustice and worsening gun violence. This plays into the hands of American adversaries like China, whose propaganda highlights the deaths of young children in American school shootings and the police killings of Black Americans to advance the Communist Party’s agenda and what it claims are the comparative advantages of its own political system.”

Mariner surmises that guns are to this disheveled nation as opiates are to a drug addict. How does one detoxify a gun addiction? As with all other virtuous ideals that have disappeared, it seems having a gun is more important than continuing to be the world’s moral leader and key advocate of democracy.

It isn’t just guns that tarnish our national image. A dysfunctional Congress and the attacks by red states on open elections also have been noted – especially by European sources.

If the United States loses its moral leadership advantage, it will lose the economic battle for economic supremacy in an emerging global economic system.

Mariner’s solution: When it comes time to vote and the candidate is running for reelection, give serious thought whether the candidate deserves another term; if the candidate is over 55, do not vote for that candidate; further, give precedence to women, nonwhites, and candidates not supported by a national PAC.

Detox is not a pleasant experience.

Ancient Mariner

Demise is becoming a possibility

Another tragic mass murder of children. It is within reasonable odds that the reader and their children will be shot before winning any state lottery. Yet, like an internal cancer, guns and gun ownership have become an irresponsible characteristic of American society.

Similarly, racial bias not just against blacks but against Chinese, Latino, immigrant and Middle Eastern races remains entrenched. Despite protest, like an internal cancer, racism has become an irresponsible characteristic of American society.

Similarly, homosexual differences and sexual discrimination against women prevail. Like an internal cancer, they have become an irresponsible characteristic of American society.

Similarly, the wealthy prey on more and more human lives, expanding the number of poverty-stricken families and forcing a drain on financial stability from governments, jobs, housing, and diverse productivity. Yet, like an internal cancer, trillions of American dollars continue to be hidden away and represent an irresponsible characteristic of American society.

Similarly, giant corporations have cornered freedom of speech. Lack of privacy, free thought and lack of accountability to the public, like an internal cancer, have become an irresponsible characteristic of American society.

Similarly, Federal and state governments have turned against democratic voting and pursue a totalitarian plutocracy. Like an internal cancer, self-interested governments have become an irresponsible characteristic of American society.

Similarly, the advocacy of religious institutions for the equal well-being of every individual has vanished and has been replaced with vile accusations, prejudice and endorsement of violence. Like an internal cancer, the spiritual base has become an irresponsible characteristic of American Society.

Some may scoff and recount the many counter-movements that fight these cancers. But the movements lose. The cancers abide within the core of the nation’s ethos.

Mariner is reminded of an old orange that has lost the shine of its rind. Soft shades of green begin to appear over the orange – then grey mold and sunken flesh appear. The orange approaches demise. There is no hope for this deliberately bred seedless orange.

Ancient Mariner

An unusual find

Mariner often shares his father’s penchant for chopping human behavior into little pieces with simplistic names like ‘who people, what people and how people’ and of course the ultimate Myers-Briggs test – all grouped under the term ‘pop psychology’.

Whenever mariner uses these terms he warns that none of us are pure examples of any pop phrase and therefore do not be too judgmental nor, as many Myers-Briggs folks do, brag about one’s uniqueness. The best example in a long time that proves pop psychology terms may be a bit tongue in cheek and that culture may influence our identity more than we know is the contractor who just today re-shingled mariner’s garage roof.

He and his team of three stripped the roof in one long hot day and finished the job the next day by Noon. They did an excellent job! The team was comprised of lifelong laborers accustomed to working all day at notable speed; they were heavily tattooed and in physically toughened shape. From a distance of ten feet, the business owner-contractor also looked toughened and tattooed.

As the job neared completion, mariner and the contractor had a chance to talk. The contractor was proud of his family heritage when it came to being accountable for a sound work ethic. His grandparents had a farm where the entire family worked long days; his father, a laborer, preached responsibility and hard work to the contractor and he in turn has made sure that his two sons regularly do physical work.

His conversation, however, told a different story. The contractor was erudite, showed interest in abstract issues, listened to podcasts, watched only selected news specials rather than daily news, understood the role of labor from an external perspective and otherwise demonstrated a mind that was interested in intellectual subjects. Yet he was a laborer by choice and belief and looked every bit a laborer. Mariner had to like him; he blames smartphones for the failure of work ethic in our society. He commented, “I can’t find any young help; two hours on the job and they quit!”

The insight mariner took from his conversation with the contractor, besides the unusual mix of a physical work ethic and an intellectual mind, was that everyone during their youth is shaped more by their culture/family than they may think. The contractor is in his mid-thirties; two generations before him were disciplined laborers; while financially stable, his family never had incomes that would suggest college and further could not allow time for college because there was work to be done. It is obvious in conversation with him that another profession is of no interest.

Mariner doubts the reader will run into the contractor in the metaverse.

By far the most important revelation that mariner took from his visit with the roofing crew is how important Labor is to a mature, sound and successful American society. Since the Reaganites dropped required underwriting of full retirement by manufacturing corporations, since the passing of the Great Society politicians (Ted Kennedy, Bob Dole, et al), since the continued disrespect by the electorate (mostly college snots) as one respectful element after another was cast aside – especially unions – Labor has suffered a forty-year history of disengagement from societal respect.

In fact, a laborer is as critical as a college professor. One is not better than the other. In fact, a laborer could no more handle the life of a college professor than a professor could handle the life of a laborer – let’s have some mutual respect here!

It is a familiar lesson. Every human being is a homo sapiens in good standing. Each is living, breathing, experiencing and surviving reality. No matter how different we may seem – each of us is the same, even identical in the larger measure of existence.

Ancient Mariner

Metaverse News

Mariner just read that in the metaverse there is a clothing store that will sell clothing fitted to your avatar. Mariner weeps quietly as he remembers going shopping at the nearby discount department store – now closed.

He has conceded that the new culture is not interested in genuine human interaction. He is waiting for the metaverse to celebrate the first birth of a young avatar bred solely through avatars. Mariner speculates how many nanoseconds labor will last. Mariner understands that instinctively Homo sapiens knows the future doesn’t look bright for the species. The reader surely knows there is an active real estate market for metaverse property, right? Better bring your crypto coin with you – it’s a bull market.

There is a new application available through smartphones and Alexi that will provide psychological counseling. Mariner doesn’t understand this offer. Isn’t an avatar to the metaverse as a pinball is to a pinball machine?

Will the proprietors of the metaverse be able to move your property to a poorer neighborhood if you don’t pay your bills?

Will the metaverse provide pornographic services? Will there be vicarious human elation when the avatar has climax?

Good luck with Zuckerberg, folks. Mariner is going to see his Mother-Nature-approved pony.

Ancient Mariner

 

Fading Democracy

Mariner appreciates that his readers tolerate his rambling across myriad subjects, his flaunting of philosophical irritations, and generally being the Luddite that he is. But this is a serious observation that must be dealt with within the first half of this century or democracy, by its literal definition, will no longer exist.

Succinctly, it is about money running our democracy. More abstractly, totalitarianism already has eroded the concept of one person, one vote. Authoritarianism (Trump stuff) has the headlines today but totalitarianism does not grab headlines because totalitarianism is accepted as de rigeuer. Simply said, “so what?”

To refresh the terms authoritarian versus totalitarianism, authoritarian means some form of self-aggrandizing dictatorship. Totalitarianism means that a central authority, usually a controlled set of institutions, determines what the people will believe and will be accountable for. A variation that may apply to the United States in particular is ‘plutocracy’, governed by the wealthy.

Let’s start with what detectives would call fingerprints. Every day, including weekends, mariner receives at least a dozen emails from political campaign committees and Political Action Committees. They are comedic on the surface, claiming ‘Trump cried when he saw this” or “Rachael was horrified when this happened” or ‘We need your opinion in this poll”. In truth, in every case the real purpose is to ask for money. The campaigners have the audacity to ask mariner for money to support someone who isn’t running in his federal, state or local district. Who is mariner to tell a voter in Arizona who to vote for? Remember for this post that money talks – in fact, a vote more likely is made of money than voter ballots.

Now consider that the detectives are after ‘The Mob’. The mob is the wholesale political money source provided by elite billionaires like the Koch Brothers who, by the will of dollars alone, can shape the political culture of an entire region of the United States. Foreign billionaires participate as well.

Finally, but not as simple as it sounds, there are the corporate sharks. They, too, push money into the election process for their own reasons. All this money does several things:

֎ Deep pocket PACs can flood local advertising markets, underwrite excessive junk election mail and pay for local on-the-ground campaign staff. This activity is overwhelming to a locally based candidate who has neither the funding nor the staff to competitively underwrite local district campaigning against a candidate backed by national PACs. To make the issue clear, having a national PAC tell local voters who they should vote for locally is very, very totalitarianistic. (is that a word?)

֎ Deep pocket PACs also underwrite far right or far left organizations not bound by local reality. Their messages range from scary, anti-American ‘truths’ (Tucker Carlson) to deliberate misrepresentation of operations (Zuckerberg) to political events (Sean Hannity and Joy Behar) to leftist battle talk by Bill Maher – not to mention Proud Boys and QAnon. Very little of this financed information has factual backup and in terms of local culture and issues, is irrelevant.

֎ Beyond elections, big money easily influences votes by legislators. A few favors to a politician or two can stop a vote that may not be desired by the contributor. One need think only as far as fossil fuel (think Manchin), redistricting, citizen privacy and obviously, taxing the very billionaires disrupting the democratic process.

֎ Corporate sharks can interfere even with neighborhood politics. One example is the building of major public roads only through poor neighborhoods promoted by collusion between homeowner associations and construction corporations – enough to tilt any local legislator. As suggested earlier, “so what?” Totalitarianism is de rigeuer. Where one lives defines voting power; one person, one vote does not exist.

In the past Presidential election, mariner heard the same attitude in greatly different situations: A young female Trumper, when told of Trump’s gross misbehavior, said “I don’t care”. On the other hand, a young black woman was asked if she was going to vote. “Why?” She said. “What difference does it make?” Totalitarianism lives. Who needs one person, one vote?

A skeptic may scoff, “So what? This is hardball politics. Grow some calluses!”

With a tear in his eye, mariner turns away. Democracy is based on the primary, mandatory, not to be compromised idea that for every one person, that person has a say in government. One person, one vote is the first, ultimate, one unmodifiable principle that makes democracy work. Democratic power begins with the vote, not with muscled intrusions.

Or mariner can adjust his principles: A hog must live in the sty it’s in – regardless of conditions. The implication here is that democracy may be going the way of other political theories that no longer can handle the size of government, economics and a nonexistent horizon, a perpetual existentialism not rooted in the five senses, truth no longer is hands on. Farewell, Roman Church; farewell plains Indian socialism; farewell, Queen Elizabeth; farewell Neolithic tribes; farewell Anabaptist communism; farewell democracy.

Ancient Mariner

Birth events have shifted

The AP news service published an article today that is fascinating to think about. AP pointed to statistics that show women in their twenties have put off having children. Instead the average time for having children has crept into the late thirties and forties. In the grand scheme of things, why is this happening?

Wouldn’t our evolutionary processes prevail, that is, becoming pregnant as hormones and independence from parents become active? Mariner’s mother, certainly poor by any comparison, gave birth to him at the age of sixteen and his brother at age twenty. What has caused this move to not have children until the thirties and forties?

The statistics from AP: Fertility rates declined by almost 43% for women between ages 20 and 24 and by more than 22% for women between 25 and 29. At the same time, they increased by more than 67% for women between 35 and 39, and by more than 132% for women between 40 and 44, according to the Census Bureau analysis based on National Center for Health Statistics data.

Direct influences are related to finances. The importance of careers for women as security against uncertain times is obvious. In a related statistic, there is pressure for a financially stable household to be a two-income family. Who pays for childcare and related overhead for children while both parents work? Young families are forced to be practical and wait for more secure times before having a family. Yet, in mariner’s mind, his mother had no financial security but was not influenced to wait for better times; he wonders what is different today?

Another direct influence is pharmaceutical advances in birth control, something that was not available to his mother. Even with the advantage of birth control, why has the shift been so absolute? The statistics suggest that birth control made it easier to pursue a general conclusion to have children later.

Is the shift because Homo sapiens has become a four generation creature? Does this extra generation, largely not financially self-sufficient, add to the intuitive burden of their children?

Is this shift because Homo sapiens no longer has direct habitat-dependent requirements that lend themselves to tribal (extended family) society?

Is it because farming economy no longer is a slow, multi-generational experience that launches the process of gross domestic product?

Is it because modern technology has expanded the awareness of young people to a larger, more complex world?

How is this delay in building families related to falling populations in every industrialized nation? Is industrialized life too rapid and short-funded to allow for a society based on family-centric value?

From a broader perspective, do the planet’s rapidly shrinking resources cause an unconscious awareness that there isn’t enough to go around anymore?

Give this subject some thought. It’s certainly better than the general angst provided by cable news.

Ancient Mariner

Follow up to Vladimir

Mariner was asked what he meant by ‘gunslinger’ capitalism.

RENO – In late 2016, an out-of-state casino owner, Jeffrey Jacobs, started buying up property surrounding Nystrom House, a large old hotel for low income families, vacant land, derelict houses, historic mansions, a car repair shop, a dry cleaner, a wedding chapel, a neighborhood bar, a gas station. And motels, lots of motels. Within months, Jacobs owned Nystrom House,

Jacobs began demolishing the motels. First the Carriage Inn and Donner Inn Motel. Then the Stardust Lodge. Next, the Keno, El Ray and Star of Reno fell. The motels, decades past their prime, had served as housing of last resort for hundreds of people with extremely low incomes and few other options. Jacobs was clearing the way for what he said will be a $1.8 billion entertainment district anchored by his two casinos.

The exact same thing is happening in Miami, Florida.

Given a national crisis in low income housing, that’s gunslinger capitalism.

Elon Musk buying Twitter is gunslinger capitalism.

Venture capitalists buying small newspaper publishers, stripping away the ability to cover news and turning them into low-staffed rags for profit is gunslinger capitalism. Unfortunately, venture capitalists are invading medical centers and hospitals with the same intention by limiting or outsourcing services and requiring patient quotas. That’s gunslinger capitalism.

Lumber companies trying to cut down the most ancient trees on Earth within a nature preserve is gunslinger capitalism.

Buying small banks and foreclosing on every single mortgage is gunslinger capitalism.

A very painful fact is that the Federal Government doesn’t even ask them to pay taxes.

Ancient Mariner

Checkpoints

֎ 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

Who makes the decisions in your life?

Lately mariner has been writing about truth – aka reality – especially as it applies to an environment of disbursed information not relative to local reality. Another form of truth-stealing is mariner’s old favorite, the search engines – everything from Alexi to Google to Amazon to Facebook. Mariner often has lamented the warping of reality such that we don’t control our own reality – the engines tell us what to think and even who we are or supposed to be. Fortunately, there are some government people that are taking on this world of subliminal trickery. Below is the beginning of an article published by Protocol, a tech newsletter:

 

The FTC is going after dark patterns. That’s bad news for Amazon Prime.

Companies’ favorite tactics for locking in subscribers are under scrutiny by government enforcers, and it could spell trouble for tech giants like Amazon that have huge numbers of customers paying up every month.

Dark patterns are design decisions or settings that nudge — or, sometimes, shove — consumers toward actions that companies want, even if customers don’t. These can include pre-checked permission boxes, autoplay, hidden fees, unexpected shifts in pricing and time-consuming processes for canceling recurring payments. Subscriptions are a fertile ground for dark patterns, and as tech goes all in on recurring payments, the nudges are popping up everywhere, from video games, streaming and travel sites to ecommerce and even financial products.

Enforcers, especially at the FTC, are concerned about dark patterns generally — and specifically, that these tricks undermine consumers’ ability to make their own choices and may run afoul of legal prohibitions on unfair or deceptive practices. [See complete article at:]

https://www.protocol.com/policy/dark-patterns-subscriptions-ftc-amazon

One quick example the reader may recognize. When you fill out credit data and mailing information, how many times has the reader overlooked that insignificantly placed little box with a checkmark already in it that says, “Send me information on sales and account opportunities” and failed to remove the checkmark? How many unsolicited email entries does the reader have to delete because of this one unwanted manipulation?

By the way, if the reader wants a refresher about how the web manipulates their thoughts, watch

https://www.pbshawaii.org/hacking-your-mind/  and

https://watchdocumentaries.com/the-social-dilemma/  (also on Netflix)

Ancient Mariner

The Truth shall make you Whole

Is it right, either spiritually, politically or culturally, for one person (Musk, Zuckerberg et al) to own a conduit to the truth? Is this a new form of dictatorship? Do we already live in an oligarchical state? Where is our ‘democratically’ elected government?

Is it right for one person (Rupert Murdoch) to own: (He owns everything until the reader reaches two dashes)

News Corp. holdings including three national newspapers in the U.K.; almost 150 publications in Australia; the New York Post and Community Newspaper Group in the United States; The Wall Street Journal and related publications in the U.S., Europe and Asia; Dow Jones information services;

HarperCollins book publishers. The list includes:

Daily Telegraph; Dow Jones; Harper Collins Publishers; Herald Sun; Inside Out; New York Post; News International; NT News; Post-Courier; Sunday Herald Sun; Sunday Mail; Sunday Times; The Advertiser; The Australian; The Courier-Mail; The Daily; The Mercury; The Sunday Mail; The Sunday Telegraph; The Sun; The Sunday Times; The Times; Times Literary Supplement; The Wall Street Journal; The Wall Street Journal Digital Network; Weekly Times; Zondervan.

Broadcasting

Businesses include the FOX Broadcasting Company; the 27 stations in the Fox Television Stations group and various television operations throughout the world. Cable properties produce and license programming for cable and satellite platforms in the U.S and Asia, including the FOX News Channel and FOX Business Network, FX and STAR. News Corporation wholly owns Italy’s most popular pay-TV company, SKY Italia. The company also has significant holdings in British Sky Broadcasting, Germany’s Sky Deutschland; Asia’s TATA SKY and FOXTEL in Australia and New Zealand.

The list includes:

FOX Broadcasting Company; FOX Sports; FOX Sports Australia; FOX Television Stations; MyNetworkTV; Big Ten Network; FOX Business Network; FOX Movie Channel; FOX News Channel; FOX College Sports; FOX Sports Enterprises; FOX Deportes; FOX Sports Net; FOX Soccer Channel; Fuel TV; FX; Nat Geo Wild; National Geographic Channel United States; National Geographic Channel Worldwide; Speed; STAR; Stats, Inc.; BSkyB; FOXTEL; Sky Deutschland; SKY Italia.

Movie and television production and distribution

Move production and distribution through Fox Filmed Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film. Television production includes 20th Century Fox Television and other TV studios.

The list includes:

20th Century Fox; 20th Century Fox Espanol; 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; 20th Century Fox International; 20th Century Fox Television; Fox Searchlight Pictures; Fox Studios Australia; Fox Studios LA; Fox Television Studios; Blue Sky Studios; Shine Group.

Other assets

“Next generation” media properties including Hulu, an online video joint venture with NBC Universal and Disney; and News Outdoor, an outdoor advertising company.

The list includes:

American Idol.com; AskMen; careerone.com.au; CARSguide.com.au; Fox.com; FoxSports.com; FoxSports.com.au; hulu.com; IGN Entertainment; Milkround; National Rugby League; NDS; News.com.au; News Digital Media; News Outdoor; Scout; Spring Widgets; truelocal.com.au; WhatIfSport.

– –

The list goes on with media monopolies like Disney or Belo, another corporation that takes in $1.4 billion a year and owns or operates eight print outlets, 20 TV stations, and ten cable news channels.

Ownership of information is not benign. In mariner’s home broadcast area, one station is owned by a conservative organization called Sinclair Broadcast Group, a media company that also owns or operates 294 television stations across the United States. Each local news broadcast is required to insert a conservative commentary as though it were part of the news.

Specifically, mariner isn’t trying to be critical. Recently he has been focusing on the issue of truth and how it has become rudderless; no one knows what truth is. This is dangerous at the species level because each of us, individually and generally, must know what our stable, normal habitat looks like. Interpreting cause and effect is managed primarily by the subconscious brain. Should we flee? Fight? Ignore? Interpret? Impossible without the truth – what is real?

At this moment, mariner recognizes control patterns similar to gerrymandering. Not that specific government jurisdictions are controlled but more a control of information across viewing areas which may include several districts or regions. Think FOX or MSNBC; think Texas truth versus California truth – which one is true either politically or capitalistically or especially empirically?

In the old days before broadcast technology (dare we include the telephone), truth was local. Truth was hands on. Truth was based on existential reality. When the ownership of news was local, the broadcaster couldn’t range far from existential reality. These last bastions of local truth are being bought by venture capitalists, stripped of capability and turned into advertisement brochures. Today, truth has no foundation, no existential reality. The definition of truth is ‘manipulated broadcasting’. No wonder populism prevails; government, science and existential experience are irrelevant and not to be trusted.

Each day mariner dislikes uncontrolled capitalism more.

Ancient Mariner