Where’s the spine?

All around the nation educationists are increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of children and teenagers to illicit information and conspiracy theories, especially on the internet and social media. Already we have seen the disruption conspiracy theory can cause in grown adults especially when leaders like a recent President and extreme left and right organizations play professional dodgeball with the truth.

There are many websites and educational journals covering this subject. One that has a good synopsis is the article in Feb. 2022 Scientific American, ‘Schooled in Lies’. The article reflects the lack of experience and direction in education which would provide for children a defense against illicit information.

Mariner thinks the missing defense mechanism ‘against the Devil’s work’ – just to greatly simplify it – is the disappearance of Sunday School. Public education systems are not the source that teaches ‘goodness’ and ‘ethics’ and faith through a graceful life. On the other hand, all religions deliver what mariner calls a spiritual/moral spine with which to interpret life’s road.

Classical religion is caught in a bind where modern society cannot relate to the myths recorded as far back as 6000 BC – myths that compensated for the limitations of primitive language and unknown science. On the other hand, it is the strength of religion that a universal value system, founded in a series of unchangeable truths, promotes a positive existentialism that protects against whimsical and immoral behavior.

Is this a new mission for religion? How would churches reverse the drain away from structured ideology? Mariner is of the opinion that founders like Jesus and Buddha may not have been successful if everyone had had smartphones and the Internet. The United States has spent centuries avoiding a theocracy; the battle between church and state is all about unchanging doctrine versus free will of the citizens.

So, let’s add yet another conundrum to the list of massive shifts occurring at this moment. How will capitalism, socialism, free will, artificial intelligence and now religion, come together?

Ancient Mariner

Have we noticed legislators don’t listen to us?

As the gap between the well-to-do and the lower income groups widens ever more rapidly, a citizen might wonder why legislators aren’t aware of the strain the gap causes. One could look at the effect Putin and his oligarchy has on the Russian economy: thin support for the quality of life and constant dissatisfaction from the citizenry.

But wait. Isn’t the US a democracy? Can’t options like referendums or voting correct the national path? Actually, the situation isn’t caused by selfish dictators, it’s caused by plutocracy. Our legislator’s overhead for reelection and other benefits have become extremely expensive; over the last three decades or so, legislator overhead has grown much faster than the rate of inflation. To keep ahead, the legislators follow the money. One blatant example is Donald who has a lock on the cost of Republican primaries, forcing members who want to remain in office to kowtow to Donald’s wishes.

But Donald is just one player in the money-for-policy game. Collectively they are called the ‘K Street’ players – the professional lobbyists representing special interests. Check out the report below.

Published by Politico, here is the Lobbying Disclosure Act revenue rankings for 2021.

TOP FIRMS:

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: $56.3 million (versus $49.3 million in 2020) and $16 million in Q4 2021 (versus $12.4 million in Q4 2020)

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: $53.4 million (versus $49.6 million in 2020) and $13.5 million in Q4 2021 (versus $12.3 million in Q4 2020)

BGR Group: $35.1 million (versus $31.9 million in 2020) and $9.2 million in Q4 2021 (versus $8.1 million in Q4 2020)

Holland & Knight: $34.9 million (versus $28.2 million in 2020) and $9.7 million in Q4 2021 (versus $7.4 million in Q4 2020)

Cornerstone Government Affairs: $34.6 million (versus $28.1 million in 2020) and $9.3 million in Q4 2021 (versus $7.6 million in Q4 2020)

Invariant: $31.2 million (versus $21.1 million in 2020) and $9.1 million in Q4 2021 (versus $5.7 million in Q4 2020)

Forbes Tate Partners: $25 million (versus $19.5 million in 2020) and $6.5 million in Q4 2021 (versus $5.1 million in Q4 2020)

Tiber Creek Group (previously Peck Madigan Jones): $24.6 million (versus $17.2 million in 2020) and $6.5 million in Q4 2021 (versus $4.5 million in Q4 2020)

Squire Patton Boggs: $24.4 million (versus $24.3 million in 2020) and $6.9 million in Q4 2021 (versus $5.1 million in Q4 2020)

Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas: $23.8 (versus $19.3 million in 2020) and $6.3 million in Q4 2021 (versus $5.1 million in Q4 2020)

Capitol Counsel: $21.9 million (versus $19.1 million million in 2020) and $6 million in Q4 2021 (versus $5.1 million in Q4 2020)

Crossroads Strategies: $21.7 million (versus $16.5 million in 2020) and $5.7 million in Q4 2021 (versus $4.6 million in Q4 2020)

K&L Gates: $21.2 million (versus $18.6 million in 2020) and $5.8 million in Q4 2021 (versus $4.2 million in Q4 2020)

Cassidy & Associates: $20.6 million (versus $16.9 million in 2020) and $5.5 million in Q4 2021 (versus $4.3 million in Q4 2020)

Van Scoyoc Associates: $19.5 million (versus $18.1 million in 2020) and $5.4 million in Q4 2021 (versus $5 million in Q4 2020)

Thorn Run Partners: $18.9 million (versus $14.2 million in 2020) and $5.1 million in Q4 2021 (versus $3.8 million in Q4 2020)

Ballard Partners: $18.6 million (versus $24.6 million in 2020) and $4.5 million in Q4 2021 (versus $6 million in Q4 2020)

Subject Matter: $18.2 million (versus $14.5 million in 2020) and $5 million in Q4 2021 (versus $3.8 million in Q4 2020)

Covington & Burling: $17.3 million (versus $16.4 million in 2020) and $3.7 million in Q4 2021 (versus $4 million in Q4 2020)

Tarplin, Downs & Young: $15.9 million (versus $12.2 million in 2020) and $3.7 million in Q4 2021 (versus $3.3 million in Q4 2020)

Sadly, money almost solely drives policy. The press covers the really big legislation but behind the scenes, a change in this regulation or a deletion of a small requirement never makes the news. These changes are bought by K Street, who doesn’t even have a vote. A good example is how hard it is to rewrite tax legislation – a simple intellectual issue that would have a profound effect on the world of money.

Of late, plutocracy has entered the health industry. Keep an eye on changes to your health insurance coverage. By the way, Xarelto, a common blood thinner costs $4.74 per tablet in Canada and $16.29 in the U.S. Why hasn’t the Congress dealt with this? Ask your local Pharma lobbyist.

Ancient Mariner

Sea Change

Axios reported on some surveys of Generation Z, the young generation aged 18 – 29. The charts speak for themselves, showing a significant shift toward the Democratic Party:

Mariner often touts the theme of voting out of office anyone older than 55. These charts suggest that in about ten years there may be a new nation emerging that is focused on the issues of today and will have an awareness of how to manage society. Virtually every major personality in the political world is past, maybe really past, retirement age – including Donald.

What these old folks know about is the Cold War, competitive international trade, wars that use bullets, Adam Smith capitalism, Newt Gingrich competitive party politics, Reaganomics, and Jim Crow racial policies.

What they don’t know about is the negative effect of emerging oligarchy and plutocracy, team-based supply chains, wars without bullets, everything that has evolved with the Internet, national unity in politics, and a long list of social issues including racism, class stability in economics, true church versus state ideology, and the immediate importance of restoring the planet’s resources and ecosystems.

The future still seems scary to mariner but he’s past retirement, too; he was the new generation when Camelot came along.

Nevertheless, this seems like good news to share on this special holiday.

Ancient Mariner

 

Revisiting the World in 1950

The red line on the map of Eastern Europe below shows the peak of USSR dominance in 1950. For decades the West has known that Vladimir Putin’s dream is to restore Russia to its largest expansion that was created by the Warsaw Pact. Evidently Vladimir thinks it is time to begin restoration.

The Russian aggression has pushed out of the news the inflamed issue of Pacific Ocean dominance vis-à-vis China. Today the issue is Ukraine and Crimea, which are immediately to the east of Poland and Romania, bordering the northern shore of the Black Sea. Crimea, already forcibly annexed by Russia, is the island at the north end of the Black Sea

One of the intellectual victories that came out of WWII negotiations, and one which sustained national independence through the Cold War, was an agreement that national boundaries cannot be changed by brute force.

Ukraine was part of Russia until it officially declared itself an independent country on August 24 1991, when the communist parliament of Ukraine proclaimed that Ukraine would no longer follow the laws of USSR and only the laws of Ukraine, de facto declaring Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union. For the likes of Russian plutocrats, this has remained a thorn in the side. Vladimir surely believes that Ukraine and Crimea have always been part of Russia and should remain so.

Economically, Russia is hurting the way dictatorships usually suffer: Government sucks every dollar it can (not unlike American private equity firms) leaving too little for the citizenry to survive comfortably. The one thing Russia cannot tolerate is to be cut off from international trade via intensely restrictive sanctions – the strategy Biden and the EU have been touting. The problem that throws sand in the gears is that the EU is dependent on Russian oil and natural gas.

What Putin is banking on is that an invasion could be accomplished in a few days before opposing nations could respond to Russia’s execution of overwhelming military force, borrowing Syria’s strategy which is to level everything without regard for future functionality; Ukrainian leaders, like the opponents of Adolf Hitler, would be summarily executed.

On paper this has merit since Ukraine is not part of NATO and is not automatically protected.

The 1950s question is whether nations will be able to enforce the idea that boundaries cannot be changed by brute force without using brute force themselves.

All eyes are on Vladimir Putin.

Ancient Mariner

Immoral circumstances

Since early last December online news services have begun reporting on the immoral circumstance and the economic impact of a rapidly self-enriching oligarchy, i.e., the super billionaire citizens and large, illegal income structures of international corporations and investors. Ironically, Putin and his cronies keep their hidden wealth in the US and a few other western nations – it’s safer.

Wealth can be purchased at advantageous times and allowed to grow untaxed because of tax loopholes. These invested assets are, in fact, removed from the economic flow of Growth Domestic Product (GDP) that supports the entire nation. While showing the wealthy growing even wealthier, the fungibility, or trade value is zero. In effect this wealth sits in an attic with no comparable value in the common economy. Think of a magician making a dollar coin vanish from his hand and never show up again.

One of the news sources is ProPublica, known for deep investigations where daylight doesn’t shine. To save words, mariner quotes ProPublica’s opening remarks to a piece written last year:

“Had the billions in budget reductions occurred all at once, with tens of thousands of auditors, collectors and customer service representatives streaming out of government buildings in a single day, the collapse of the IRS might have gotten more attention. But there have been no mass layoffs or dramatic announcements. Instead, it’s taken eight years to bring the agency that funds the government this low. Over time, the IRS has slowly transformed, one employee departure at a time.

“The result is a bureaucracy on life support and tens of billions in lost government revenue. ProPublica estimates a toll of at least $18 billion every year, but the true cost could easily run tens of billions of dollars higher.

The cuts are depleting the staff members who help ensure that taxpayers pay what they owe. As of last year, the IRS had 9,510 auditors. That’s down a third from 2010. The last time the IRS had fewer than 10,000 revenue agents was 1953, when the economy was a seventh of its current size.”

 Another news source wrote about eight multibillionaire families who had never paid one dollar in taxes. Obviously the IRS needs to be refunded at appropriate levels and the fungibility of trillions of dollars must be returned to the economy by rewriting tax laws so that gained wealth can be taxed.

But this issue is more than numbers, profit margins and taxes. The wide, growing division between the wealthy and the average citizen has deformed the national culture. The number of poverty-stricken people is growing at an historic rate. The working class has endorsed Donald Trump as a savior. A normal lifestyle is out of reach for the twenty-year-olds who cannot afford college, marriage or housing. In times of great swings by inflation or recession, these are times when the private equity world sweeps in to gather easy, profitable pickings. Note that the US is heading for two economically disastrous situations: inflation and climate change. Will Government have the resources to keep the boat afloat for the next ten to fifteen years?

Not without a total rewrite of taxation laws and the agents needed to enforce compliance.

Make sure your representatives in every level of government hear your concern for tax reform.

Ancient Mariner

Democracy Simplified

It never fails to impress mariner how Non Sequitur can simplify so many complex issues into one comic frame. Here’s a great example:

Facts are immutable. That is their strength. Truth is culture, also a strength.

When facts are ignored over time, culture fills in the gaps; the longer the time, the more abstract culture becomes. Finally, disparity overcomes rationality.

The fact that the working class has not been given a fair shake when matched against the facts of inflation and loss of benefits since 1980, culture has adapted to accept this situation until disparity could no longer be denied.

Hence Donald. Hence January 6. The pandemic, a factually based circumstance, has magnified culture’s disparity a hundred fold. Today, a disparate culture is in the midst of collapse.

Who will steer culture back to a factually driven reality?

Not The House of Representatives.

Not the Senate.

Not the housing shortage.

Not global warming.

Not China.

Not Russia.

Not even the European Union.

Not big data.

Not the oligarchy.

Not even religion, which has its own disparate issues.

The United States situation has been represented accurately  by Wiley’s cartoon.

Ancient Mariner

2022

We must be thankful, truly thankful, if we had a good, heartwarming, soul refreshing holiday season. To have been so blessed in these times is a privileged experience. Mariner had such a holiday. His son and daughter-in-law, a four year old, a one year old, a frisky dog and a cat spent Christmas week with mariner and his wife.

It was commotion and noise, of course, and special meals and decorations and presents and special conversations. It is how Christmas should be experienced. Opportunities to have inter-human experiences are growing less common. Some of it is due to the migration of children (or parents) and close relatives to distant geographic locations; some of it is due to the massive interruption of Covid; some of it is due to the powers of the internet; more common than we may think, some is due to debilitating poverty; finally, some of it is due to cultural disruption caused by a failing national ethos and the unknown future that will be created with artificial intelligence.

But it is our duty to hang on, to sustain the normal pleasures and responsibilities that come with being human. It is our mandate to be among humanity. Our saneness depends on unity amongst the species. We should take every opportunity to share time with others, to mingle, to share common courtesies and goals; to take responsibility for the human condition.

Think about this: all things are subject to evolution. Is our house the first evolutionary form that will become our Matrix casket? Will the growing, amoral reality of machines that can think live our lives for us?

We no longer have to shop outside our home. Our bills are paid automatically. We talk to other human beings on the internet rather than in person; it has become common to go to work without leaving the home; we arrange lifelong partners according to internet specifications. Our house, evolutionarily speaking, is our Matrix coffin. For most of us, that final coffin is beyond our lifespan but in the meantime, let’s celebrate face to face human interaction at every opportunity!

Ancient Mariner

 

Thoughts on Evolution

Mariner writes this blog to avoid picking the last apples to make a year’s supply of apple butter. Why does he defeat himself with laziness? His thoughts turn to what evolution has created in the 900,000 years of creating the hominid line. It certainly hasn’t stood still. Everyone has seen the ascent of man chart. Mariner provides a variation below:

Paleontologists often identify key transitions that mark different physiological species. The most common are when –

֎ Early monkey species came down from the trees. Groups or tribes of the new ape species began to have a more stationery society and expanded their diet to more insects, small creatures and additional low vegetation like roots.

֎ In Northern Africa there were periods of drought that forced the ape-hominid to forage more widely. The demands of this long lasting period demanded the ability to range even farther, taking more energy and stamina to sustain the species. Two key evolutionary improvements were the ability to perspire and a brain that could take charge of basic visceral functions when hunting, thereby allowing man to outrun animals by wearing them down.

֎ But something new was happening. Evolution was changing the brain. By the time these early hominids left Africa, frontal lobes were growing rapidly in the brain. Early man began to have the ability to surmise beyond physical reality. There was a new smartness that required logic to perceive advantage. When the early hominids arrived in the Fertile Crescent, the area had perfect weather and a robust ecosystem. Man surmised, “If we’re going to eat so much of this grass (Kamut/Khorasan, an ancient version of wheat), why not collect the seeds and grow it more conveniently”. Because an excess of resources could be created, this was the beginning of agriculturally-based society and feudal capitalism as well.

֎ Evolution had provided man, by then called Homo erectus, the advantage to breed rapidly and consequently H. erectus had to expand territory across whole continents in order to sustain what was considered a safe survivability. Evolutionary ethics promotes successful survivability; expansion is possible because of a certain advantage to the species. This is not new; today consider the Lionfish, a flourishing invasive species in U.S. Southeast and Caribbean coastal waters. The difference is that Lionfish do not have frontal lobes. Humans, on the other hand, know full well the relationship between investment and profit: “chop those trees down, damn it, there’s money to be made!” or maybe, “Kill those savages, they aren’t Christians!” Both logical in evolutionary terms.

֎ Since Roman times in the West, Human frontal lobes have taken over ethical control of what used to mean ‘survival’ to the planet’s ecosystems – themselves a product of evolution but without frontal lobes. Humans with their ever growing frontal lobes have expanded into Einstein’s universe of time and space and they are eager to expand beyond this planet to leverage the profit motive even while significant numbers of the human species languish on Earth.

– – – –

Mariner stops here to pick apples. What about these frontal lobes? Are they a self-destructive error on evolution’s part? Thousands of species including many Homo precursors have gone extinct because of unintended shortcomings.

Have a happy holiday season!

Ancient Mariner

 

The Next World War

Understand that mariner and his alter egos do not have the ability to predict anything. Mariner just reads tea leaves . . .

What makes world wars ‘world wars’ is a unification of several nations united against a group of other nations; typically the nations are spread about a bit and share partially unified political, military and economic support. Modern telecommunications have allowed a number of autocratic governments to quickly, by historic standards, share objectives, strategies and resistance to other nations that they consider to be enemies (all democracies). Below is a list of the leaders of these autocratic nations – all of which already plot support for one another in an effort to stave off pressures from democratic nations.

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus

Vladimir Putin, Russia

Xi Jinping, China

Recep Erdogan, Turkey

There are, all in all, 50 significant dictatorships around the world but the list above actively is plotting to disrupt or weaken democratic influence in world politics and economics. One dictatorship of note is excluded because it lacks the sophistication of the other dictatorships: North Korea, who on its own is an unpredictable and uncontrollable disruption.

The fuses that will ignite destructive behavior are neighboring nations and organizations. For example, not many news cycles go by before mention is made of Poland, NATO, Ukraine, Slovakia and Lithuania – just to name nations adjacent to Russian-controlled Eastern Europe.

China has made it clear that only China will dominate the Pacific; Taiwan definitely is a fuse and, possibly, Australia. Japan has committed to support the U.S. and Taiwan if conflict erupts.

Since the Vietnam War, nuclear agreements have pushed off Armageddon but recently both Russia and China (along with North Korea) have active production of more nuclear rockets. Also, since the Vietnam War economic sanctions have held errant behavior to a degree but this is an increasingly irrelevant strategy – particularly with Russia.

If open conflict occurs, it will not be a typical bullet war like World War II or Vietnam. The war will be fought largely by electronically disrupting the internet, satellites, banks, utilities, military intelligence and international supply chains and, given the added pressures of global warming, immigrants themselves will be weaponized to cause disruption in a nation’s functionality – note Belarus already is using immigrants to disrupt Eastern European politics.

Open conflict will not encircle the planet as it did in past world wars but will be used as a distraction and an aggravated disruption while more economic and technological advantages are pursued. Count on smaller, less affluent nations to be battle zones.

What can’t be predicted is the intense interruption that will be caused by global warming. Whether there is open war or not, every nation will be tested in its own sovereignty by flooding, droughts and continent-sized changes in agricultural stability – not to mention massive human migrations and economies drained by a pure need to physically survive.

A highly speculative thought is if open conflict can be delayed until 2040, global warming may prevent any thought of war as nations shift to survival mode.

The Zees have their hands full.

Ancient Mariner

 

Caste the mote

Mariner stumbled across a small analysis that suggests the United States is struggling with an ingrown caste system very much like the caste system that exists in India. Americans don’t pay much attention to India (they should, it’s a sumo nation). India covers a large part of Asia and has a cultural history dating back six thousand years. The culture is a mix of authoritarianism, Buddhism, Hinduism and a current political structure instituted by the British occupation during the age of Colonialism (1600s to mid-1900s).  Rather than devote pages of copy to describing India’s history, mariner will provide simplistic comparisons between the two caste systems. A simple chart describes India’s caste system:

The smaller type in parentheses is helpful. Twice Born, loosely interpreted, means those who were born under normal circumstances but remade themselves into successful leaders of the nation, religion or wealth. In the United States a similar structure exists with different terminology. For example, where would the reader put the white-college-successful democratic party? Where would the reader put the labor class? Taking into consideration India’s stronger theocracy, where would the reader put conservative evangelicals? And obviously, where would descendants of slavery be put? And the Oligarchs and capitalists?

Mariner hopes this is enough information to demonstrate how castes work. Certainly the two systems don’t reflect identical cultures but the point of the analysis was how hard it is to deconstruct what are, in fact, culturally cemented castes. The samples mariner used for the United States date back to the nation’s origin. The first settlement introduced slavery from the get-go. Remember the Puritans? Remember Native American genocide? Etc. etc.

That the Declaration of Independence says ‘all men are created equal’ doesn’t displace Western Civilization’s long practiced, class-based social structure.

Having read the analysis – just a paragraph in a larger article about politics – mariner now has a different perspective about the troubles the U.S. is having. Maybe people can’t break embedded castes but a pandemic plus artificial intelligence together are having a go at it. Primarily, the changes are superficial and economic in nature, caused by recent changes in elitist society. Unfortunately the embedded castes like racism, Christian theocracy and plutocracy will be around for the foreseeable future.

Is there a U.S. comparison to India’s sacred cows (in light of the fact that the United States virtually eliminated the existence of the American Buffalo)?

Ancient Mariner