January 6

The attack on the US Capitol was violent; it consumed news organizations, social media, professional politics, corporate behavior and fringe organizations primarily associated with white supremacy. Five people died.

For all the cacophony, it is just a small incident in the midst of massive changes in government, society, economics, technology and global warming. Add to these unrooted times an epic invasion of the entire world by Covid-19.

In the United States 400,000 people will have died by the time this post is logged. Just measuring deaths, 5 people chose to be at the Capital where they may be killed while the virus has claimed one of every 121 people across the country. Each death not wanted and each death ripping into a family’s happiness.

It is true that four years of Donald-power has been extremely troublesome. There is no question that Donald is the match that lit many fires in society – including the attack on the Capitol – not just with his race baiting but with regulations affecting environmental issues, health issues, economic issues and he was disruptive to fragile behaviorisms that underlie democracy.

But Donald is just another incident brought on by the universal disruption we experience today, a disruption we will continue to experience for the rest of this century. Human society is very fragile. Society can be knocked off balance by imbalances in power, technology, weather and basic human need. Just a short list of moments that have contributed to our tidal wave of change:

֎ Since 1942 life expectancy has jumped from 53 to 80. This extra generation is very expensive to maintain and often interferes with incidental changes in society that then lead to larger consequences – think abortion, plutocracy, evangelical religion, any lgbqt issue, etc.

֎ For forty years American labor has been cut off from sharing in the nation’s profits; labor income has not grown commensurate with inflation – think loss of the American Dream.

֎ Despite the best efforts of white supremacists, caucasians will become a distinct minority in the United States by 2070 – think a revamping of civil rights legislation to eliminate the class discriminations that favor caucasians.

֎ Because of rising sea levels, by 2050 300 million people will be forced to relocate to other locations in the US – think housing, job loss, agricultural and local economies.

֎ Artificial Intelligence will force a major change in the relationship between employment and income. Most futurist economists believe a family stipend provided by increased corporate taxation is likely. Interestingly, a stipend was advocated by Andrew Yang in the 2016 presidential campaign and today, the impact of the pandemic has forced the government to issue stipends to keep the economy functional.

֎ The world is running out of resources, causing many nations to fail economically. Even wealthy nations are being pushed to reinterpret long held capitalistic tropes about supply and demand. The current rise in dictatorships is the result of public dissatisfaction with government but cannot be the final correction; internationalism will be redefined by 2050.

Everyone prays, in these turbulent times when society is in disarray, that the machinations of change will not become violent. Let’s hope the attack on the Capitol is the last of it.

Ancient Mariner

It isn’t what goes around, it’s what has always been

The disarray, some may say discontent, that the United States suffers today has been around for a while. Mariner has said that the damage to the American Dream began with the Reagan administration when regulations and legislation were loosened to allow corporations to invest in foreign markets and at the same time diminished obligations to employees.

Over forty years of discontent in the labor classes yields social discrimination and the splintering of national unity. Labor class unrest led to the militaristic behavior found in the role of police today. The police brutality evidenced in the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota became the new emoji for an old problem.

Flash back to 1991 – 30 years ago:

In 1991, after a drunk-driving automobile chase, four officers struck Rodney King with batons fifty-three times. The LAPD initially charged King with “felony evading,” but later dropped the charge. On his release, he spoke to reporters from his wheelchair, with his injuries evident: a broken right leg in a cast, his face badly cut and swollen, bruises on his body, and a burn area to his chest where he had been jolted with a 50,000-volt stun gun. Three of the four officers were acquitted.

The incident invoked the LA riots which eventually killed 63 people.

In 1992 Rodney became famous for saying, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Before the Nation’s cultural breakdown can begin healing, Congress must repair the Reagan policy that split the American Dream. Until then the xenophobic organizations will not subside; racial injustice will not be cured; economic fairness among the Nation’s citizens will not occur.

֎ Restore the unions.

֎ Raise minimum wage to be commensurate with inflation since 1980.

֎ Provide universal health care.

֎ Significantly raise taxes on the wealthy and large corporations to release privately stored, useless cash to the government so it can restore the middle and lower classes who live desperate lives today.

֎ Significantly increase the job market by utilizing opportunities offered by inadequate infrastructure, growing damage from climate change and by firm enforcement of antitrust laws.

֎ Repair a dysfunctional housing policy that locks out first time buyers and lower income families.

֎ Promote international economic participation with agreements similar to the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Some critics may claim these suggestions are a promotion of new-age socialism. In fact, it is a restoration to a time in history that ceased existing forty years ago.

Ancient Mariner

Beyond Covid-19

Similar to its addiction to Donald, the press has been consumed with Covid-19. Not that this is unwarranted but the world continues to live and breathe, to live day-to-day and to place each day into a continuing history of nations, nature, and the experience of individual lives.

The pandemic is a fog that prevents clear observation of human activity at every level. But reality still exists beyond the virus and certain policies and philosophies lay waiting as the fog clears.

֎ Most newsworthy has been the interest of the Congress in Big Data – not necessarily for the right reasons but still, Big Data is on the agenda for sweeping changes in antitrust, net neutrality, privacy, accountability, taxation and social responsibility. The Biden doctrine seeks to make high speed Internet available to every American – a source of new jobs.

֎ Every nation around the world is confronted with an old concept of economy that dates back to Adam Smith (1700s). The politics of world commerce is sensitive to how resources are leveraged. The fact that the stock markets of the world still seem to create earned income in the midst of worldwide economic suffering grows ever more fragile. At some point, corporate manipulation will no longer be able to support a profit that doesn’t exist at street level.

The leading thought is for nations to share the confrontation of dwindling resources by joining a common market where several nations agree to share an economic plan together. China is well on its way to creating a number of these international contracts. Economic philosophers use the term hegemonic economy.

֎ Climate change continues to be poo-pooed by the fossil fuel industry and others who would be resistant to enforced behavior by their governments. Nevertheless, like Covid, nature is not political. The sea level, the storm intensity and the rapidly shifting weather patterns forebode hardship on economies, regional disasters and personal tragedy. Forecasters have noted the years of 2030 and 2070 as times of irrevocable confrontation.

֎ Social institutions are forced to be at a crossroad as much as economy and social culture. Whether it is schools, shopping, health, labor policy, employment benefits or housing, there is inadequacy at every turn. The fact is that the very core of family behavior is at risk. How do families sustain themselves? How do families engage in normal behavior similar to education, childcare and achievable lifestyles? How do families prepare for elderly care?

Donald may be out of office but the tsunami of reality in his wake leaves a lot of work for each human being seeking to survive in these historic times of change.

Ancient Mariner

On Being a Stick

A stick always has two ends – if it has been broken from its tree. When it is attached to the tree, it is part of a larger presence, something that has evidence of a higher calling as part of nature. It is true that the branch (it is not a stick until it is separated) or even the entire tree may be dying or dead. Still, there is an aura of purpose, a part of the grand scheme for the planet’s biosphere.

Is the human species a stick or a branch? There is much evidence that humans have ceased being a branch; humans do not enhance the growth of the biomass, its natural balances or its evolutionary progression. The only human value to the world’s natural environment is species decomposition as mulch for the planet’s grand scheme, the same as a stick.

Unfortunately, on its path to mulch, the human stick exudes bile and poison and extinction to any environment around it. As Roundup is to vegetation, humans are to the environment.

The mariner, in spirit at least, has evolved into a minimalist. Three cheers to the ten million homestead families in the United States alone who have chosen to escape from the grist mill of human economies and who have returned to living only as the world around them will tolerate. Three cheers for the Amish who have sensed a limit to what nature will tolerate. There is no profit in nature, only balance. Ignored by the human species in pursuit of profit, the planet will tolerate only so much. The human species may end up being mulch, like a stick.

It is proven that humans alone are responsible for the extinction of 16,000 species since 1850. It is the combustion engine and energy production that has led to climate change, with seas rising more rapidly every year and forcing devastating shifts in weather patterns around the world. Human efforts in chemistry have improved war to the extent that a nuclear bomb can eliminate life, human and otherwise, in an entire city in one day.

Finally, artificial intelligence, a human contrivance, likely will eliminate the independent spirit of the human species. As independence fades, mulching grows nearer.

Ancient Mariner

 

Thoughts as the Shelter-in Continues

Mariner is fortunate that for the moment his financial status is sufficient, his curiosity in social studies has not waned and there are more physical chores than may be achievable in the gardens, home repair and shop projects. He is truly fortunate. Still, mariner like millions around the world is stifled by the lock downs, the isolation, the fear, the diminished ability to live a normal life.

Taking note of the television’s creation of slowly moving landscapes and the screensavers on the computer, mariner has declared his large living room window his own screensaver. He sits for periods of time noting that his screensaver has loops of viewing just as the landscapes do. There is the woman who walks her two little piles of dog hair in the morning and in the evening; there is a high school runner who will pass the window three times in half an hour; there are the three children who ride their bicycles to the nearby playground and back again; golf carts pass on their way to the golf course and back; UPS and FEDEX pass each day. Just like the landscapes, mariner has watched the summer turn into fall and now into winter. The meditation crowd has nothing on the mariner!

The problem is that mariner’s brain takes these screensaver moments to think about reality, economy, cultural collapse and impending issues that mariner’s readers are tired of hearing. To wit:

A book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (2013) by D. Acemoglu and J.A. Robinson, suggests that a nation can be too wealthy and therefore become susceptible to moral degeneration and economic weakness. Mariner is reminded of a series of tests with mice done in the 1960s. The mice had all the comforts possible: food, water, playgrounds, little nest apartments, etc. Eventually, the mice showed growing signs of disrespect, abuse, gang discrimation and even rape and murder.

The key factor for human societies was that the population has overthrown an authoritative plutocracy and spread the wealth to the population (AKA democracy). American citizens are experiencing this phenomenon. To be brief, consider Lori Loughlin spending $500 thousand and lying about her daughter’s athletic prowess to get her daughter into the appropriately prestigious university. Pondering at his screensaver, mariner wonders whether the rise in college tuition is because more people have the wherewithal to pay – making each seat in the university a scarcity versus market competition. Is this how the economy weakens? It has been proven that elite universities are attended only by the economic elite. Is this why colleges of lesser prestige are failing – the price doesn’t justify the reward?

It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize the disruptive nature of this behavior as it relates to economic class. Mariner has cited several times that the labor class has been deprived of sharing in the wealth since 1980; hence Donald’s Base. Humans are mammals, too – just like mice.

Maybe it’s better not to watch the screensaver too long.

Ancient Mariner

Democracy is like the game of Jenga

Jenga is the name of that game where wooden blocks are stacked one by one to build a narrow tower that grows very high then each player must remove one block at a time without the tower collapsing into a pile of rubble.
Running a democracy is similar. The tower represents the power of a collective effort, the power of vision, cohesiveness, unity of purpose, and power among nations. The tower generates gross national product, human services and military defense. Being a democracy, like Jenga, it is a fragile compilation.
The analogy must be stretched a bit to understand the game of democracy. Unlike Jenga, democracy adds blocks and takes blocks away simultaneously. That is the purpose of democracy: everyone can draw benefits from the tower but in turn must at the same time add a new block to keep the tower strong. Like Jenga, democracy is a fragile construction but is not limited to one architectural vision; democracy is many towers, many broad, low lying configurations and spreads in every direction.
The skill is the ability for citizens to draw a beneficial block from the unity of the tower but to give a personal block back for the good of the tower. For example, the tower provides freedom of speech but in turn requires that a citizen must return that right to the tower for others to use as well. To press the analogy one step further, unity of purpose is the antigravity magic that keeps the democracy tower from collapsing.
– – – –
It is obvious, of course, that today the democracy tower is in disarray. It seems there are many citizens who take a block only and do not add one back to the tower. Many of these citizens are billionaire oligarchs, extremist groups, career-obsessed politicians, oppressed classes and racists. The reader may note the inclusion of the oppressed. Citizens without the benefit of democratic unity often rebel by debunking unity and will refuse to cooperate in any effort to build unity. Currently, they are called Trump’s Base.
Again unlike Jenga, the rulebook is humongous and, in fact, never ends. The rulebook covers subjects like taxes, economy, safety and health regulations, education, rules for corporations and religions, rules for individuals, and on and on. It is a difficult read as well. All of this diversity is held together by that magical antigravity – national unity.
– – – –
Not all the threats to the tower of democracy come from individual greed or misunderstanding. A major threat to the tower is the design of the tower itself. In the game of Jenga, imagine if one player wanted a tower that looked like a Saguaro cactus, another wanted a tower that looked like a Prickly Pear cactus and a third wanted a tower that looked like a Bishop’s Hat cactus.

                   

To make it seem more relevant, instead of cacti, substitute capitalism, socialism, communism, authoritarianism, plutocracy, or likely in the future, hegemony. In practice, a citizen may take a block from democracy but does not put a block back that provides the same function; the citizen replaces it with something different. For example, a citizen may benefit from a change in tax benefits but in return insists on compensating for the benefit by reducing the payout to Social Security – two different images of the tower!
– – – –
This treatise is running long. Take a breath and dive into another Jenga analogy: Suppose everyone is playing Jenga and understands the usefulness of the building squares. Suddenly, as the players draw more blocks, they begin to take on weird shapes like pyramids, octagons, spheres and ellipses. Trying to build the tower – let alone trying to benefit from it – becomes a virtual impossibility. Welcome to Artificial Intelligence (AI).
We must have compassion for our democracy tower. It is faced with AI, climate change, global pandemic, global migration, rapid polarization of human resources, massive economic shifts both in production and in consumption; the Gross Domestic Product has come loose from its leash, and instant global data knowledge from the Internet has the effect of a power hose washing away antigravity.
Democracy needs more than money and politics in November. It needs unity. Vote accordingly.
Ancient Mariner.

It’s all about Sixty Year Cycles

Mariner and his wife were having a discussion about the socio-economic cycles of a town. When mariner was in college, he read a book about the relationship between generational lifespan, economic growth and consumption, and group dynamics. He has long forgotten the author and title but has been fascinated since how perceptive the author was when he stated that the life cycle of any town or defined group was approximately 60 years.

Throughout life mariner has found case after case that adheres to this author’s premise. The sixty-year cycle, as one might imagine, has a lot to do with each generation as it passes through similar learning, socializing and aging. In mariner’s town, there are clear 60-year cycles. The town began in the 1880’s. One can imagine that virtually all the settlers were in their productive years and relatively close in age. This generation lived through the boom decades when the internal combustion engine launched a new technological age. This small town hosted four major implement dealers, a motel, four churches, two hardware stores, three grocery stores and a railroad.

Like the corona virus today, in the 1940’s (60 years after the town was founded) World War II forced an unusually rapid change from the previous 60 years to the second 60-year cycle. Overnight, the Baby Boomer generation took the lead away from the Silent Generation. The Boomers dominated a socially active era when there were clubs for every interest, and an active restaurant, tavern and movie society. The Civil Rights Act was one of several social modifications during the Boomer years.

As the Boomers passed into retirement age, generation X slowly took the reins and shifted the culture to a more conservative, economically aggressive society. By the turn of the century (60 years later), a new technology based on computers had evolved which began to push the X generation out of the way. Clearly, as the new century began, a new generation began to influence society – the Millennials.

It was hard to displace the X generation because science had found ways for humans to live beyond the lifespan of an evolved hominid: three generations or sixty years, more or less. Now hominids were living close to 80 years and were still meddling in the affairs of the next generation.

This extra-long lifespan has led to an intransigence of old people still involved in the society of the next age. This conflict between life in the twentieth century and life in the twenty-first century would still be dragging on except that the corona virus has put its foot down. With lightning speed our society, its technology and its economics will leap into the deep waters of the next sixty years. Welcome aboard, Centennials.

Ancient Mariner

Open Letter to Trumpers

Dear Working Class Trumpers –

It is understood why you are fed up with government and you elected a disruptive nonpolitician to break things. Break things he did – most of them in the area of citizen fairness but alas, he is part of the money crowd just like all of them. But to set things straight for the future, there are a few events that brought you to your difficult situation.

In the 1970s and 80s, the government changed how corporations could invest; after that businesses made better profits investing than they did in manufacturing so companies began investing in manufacturing in other countries where labor and materials were less expensive. Whole industries like steel, automobiles, home appliances and other factory businesses dwindled or disappeared completely – and so did the jobs.

Then businesses obtained permission to use employee pension money so they could make bigger investments. So as to not look totally sinister, businesses said, “Use this 401k, we’ll kick in up to x percent match”. The businesses failed to mention that the pension system paid 100 percent of your retirement but now, under the 401k, it was your money being put aside for retirement. Not only that, the 401k funds are in your name and are now exposed to the vagaries of the stock market. Pensions were worry free because with pensions the businesses had to invest through their own accounts.

Another pro-labor interference was labor unions. Unfortunately, more states had republican legislators and at the state level government focused deliberately on eliminating unions through government constrictions in labor rights.

And finally, because it was easier to make profit through investment – which freed businesses from social obligation to workers’ wellbeing and sharing of profit, salary was treated like a resource overhead. Consequently, since 1980, salary has not risen with inflation. This is the most damaging action to pursuit of happiness today: A person who made $5.00 per hour in 1981, if salary rose with inflation, should be making $14.00 per hour today. Citizens have a hard time raising the minimum wage from its current $7.25 per hour. Many unscrupulous businesses keep employees under 38 hours per week to avoid paying even as much as $7.25.

But now, Trumpers, Donald has done his damage. It is time to right things and move forward. All the damages listed above were done by republican legislators both state and federal.

Now it is time to elect democrats to repair what Donald has done and what the republicans have been doing for the last forty years.

Ancient Mariner

 

Evolutionary Change

For those readers who have an interest in the evolution of species on a grand, Earth-time scale, they may have learned that significant changes in the basic form of living things occurs in a relatively short amount of time. A couple of examples: The most significant ice age in Earth’s history lasted from 720-635 million years ago. The ice age caused a complete extinction of single celled flora that thrived on microscopic fungi and dissolved chemicals. As the ice age receded, a new form of life rapidly emerged: diversified plankton, similar boneless creatures and importantly, primitive sponges – the first evidence of the animal kingdom.

Another more popular example is the end of the Paleogene Extinction 66 million years ago when dinosaurs disappeared and the age of mammals literally exploded into the many branches of diversification that are familiar today.

Mariner apologizes for the lesson in paleontology but it sets a clear model for the absolute dissolution of social history as humans have known it since the Roman Empire and now, in the early decades of the twenty-first century a sudden, brand new, seemingly unevolved society – the age of artificial intelligence – is emerging. Thanks to Covid-19, one generation of humans can experience the rapid extinction of the industrial/technical age virtually overnight, leaving a new form of society ready to explode into the future.

The whole premise for future society is different. For example, capitalism is too slow for future society; capitalism has been the core economic philosophy all the way back to ancient times; it’s a horse-and-buggy single flow movement of resources. Cash flows only in one direction and ends up wasted in the coffers of the super-rich. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will redistribute static assets in a flash.

The tight, dark age relationship between work and wage will be separated so that work is an act of participation in society and wage is more related to sustaining an optimized GDP. This allows AI to utilize income as a fluid resource throughout the economy rather than the very slow, piecemeal process of distributing wages to each person one-on-one – another horse-and-buggy process.

The stock market already has acquiesced to the presence of AI. Twenty-nine percent of all transactions are decided by self-learning computer algorithms without human intervention – doubling since 2013.

Although at the moment many social behaviors are in turbulence as the dynamics of change already are shaking things around, new forms will emerge relatively quickly. For example, the bipolar political situation around the world is a sign of pushing out the old and reforming differently. In the US, it is quite plain that the republican concept of capitalism isn’t working well and is on the verge of losing dominance. New economic concepts will be a combination of capitalism, socialism, communism and AI’s philosophy, pragmatism – whatever works best in a market situation is what will set the –ism.

At the personal level and involving emotional comfort, secure identity, sufficient privacy, and the right to human judgment versus AI, things will be sticky. Human feelings and behaviors, bound by genome, don’t fit as smoothly to the bit and byte world of AI as economic policy does. There will be a struggle between the public and the never ending encroachment of AI psychology, Pavlovian control (witness how humans have adapted to smartphones and Alexi) and environmental manipulation, e.g., who can live where and in what kind of housing.

Add to personal uneasiness the issue of race. By 2045 caucasians will be a mathematical minority of US population. This will affect long standing social taboos and class definitions. Worldwide, mariner has mentioned in a previous post that Indians and Chinese will constitute one in every three humans.

And finally, the center of civilization will leave Europe, the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the Middle East and settle on the boundaries of the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Hemisphere.

Don’t bother packing bags, AI will do that.

Ancient Mariner

 

About Communism

Communism in the West has been associated with foment, antigovernment vitriol and suppression of the people. Blame this view on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Joseph Stalin and Senator Joseph McCarthy. Marx and Engels took the bait that Rousseau took during the French Revolution: trying to write a solution to tyranny by doing away with authority altogether.

Conversely, true unadulterated communism existed in Asia for centuries – beyond the intrusion of emperors and warlords – and still does in pockets of the continent. To clear the mind of all the consternation, remember the root word ‘commune’. Many may remember the movement of the hippies in the 1970s when communes supported nearly one million citizens. Today, the commune has reduced itself to one family at a time and is called ‘living off the grid’.

Unlike capitalism and socialism, cash flow doesn’t flow very far. In fact, the less cash the better. If a person visited Taiwan in 1990, their first impression would be that for the seventh richest nation in the world, there seemed to be no money on the streets or in local commerce. Unlike capitalism and socialism, the nation’s wealth came from the citizenry who put away any cash for a rainy day rather than reinvesting in local appearances, AKA classism.

Communism depends on communal participation and is heavily influenced by extended family obligation. Sustainability is the primary objective, not profitability. For example, a specific sauce in China, dou-chi, has been made by hand by the same families for centuries. Recipes can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (200 BCE). Very popular in China today, one would think production of dou-chi would have succumbed to more industrial processes – but not in communist regions where family, labor and product are bound into a tightknit culture that functions with very little cash flow. Sharing to sustain life is preferred to using cash.

Visiting a communist region shows how inconvenient cash really is and probably exists only, as the old story goes, because it is easier than carrying sheep around. One also notices that cash is an expensive commodity to maintain. When the reader thinks of communism, think of off the grid homesteaders – that’s pure communism.

Class and elitism are bad words in communism. Karl Marx even disliked the idea of personal property. Under communism, it isn’t how much property one owns (if one owns any); it’s the contribution to the ‘commune’ which in early millennia was virtually all of China away from cities and sea travel.

As a national philosophy in today’s world, communism couldn’t operate successfully; any trade that occurs between nations isn’t tit for tat because everyone’s trying to make a dollar, not dou-chi. Nevertheless, in the pockets where it flourishes, peace and wellbeing are simpler to achieve.

Ancient Mariner