The long and short of it

This one is long: The first ‘human’ to evolve was Homo habilis who appeared 2.4 million years ago and survived for about 1 million years. A similar neighbor who came along about the same time was H. rudolfensis, who survived only for 100 thousand years. The first truly upright was H. Erectus who evolved 2 million years ago and survived until just 110 thousand years ago – about 2 million years. Today’s H sapiens came aboard 90,000 years ago and still is around. Just food for thought – will H. sapiens survive for one or two million years?

This one is uncomfortably short: If the United States were a sailing ship adrift at sea and President Biden took command, he has about six months to right the ship and reset the sails before international meetings and conferences will occur that will determine the ship’s course back to a role that leads in the race to the next decade. Righting the ship involves taming the pandemic and new rigging in Congress that can get things done.

This one is too long: Lingering with the ship metaphor, there are two storms at sea – the nation’s economy and the dangerous waves of Big Tech. It will take long enough to restart the economy that it will influence the 2024 election. Can the new sails and rigging hold? Big tech requires shifting ballast around below deck, which is restructuring taxes for the too rich investors and corporations, keeping the ship at good speed in choppy seas.

Really short: Donald Who? Don’t worry, he’ll be back as his business dealings and a number of investigations involving unconstitutional behavior reopen without the protection of executive privilege. However, we should not be zealous about whatsisname, we have a ship to sail.

Did you hear the Bosun’s whistle? Every citizen to their station!

Ancient Mariner

 

It IS our Nation

It was a long, relaxing day as the nation witnessed the transition from King Donald to President Biden. One sensed that a great sigh of relief blew across the United States; even the hardened press corps seemed to relish in covering the inauguration. To reach for a metaphor, we had turned off the burner that was causing our pot to boil over.

President Biden was eloquent in his attempt to return the nation to its citizens. Perhaps that is his most important agenda. He has deliberately selected career experts for every cabinet secretary, for the military, banking, corporate America and has begun restoring the State Department and the Department of Justice to be competent, experienced, professional functions capable of interpreting the world in the best possible light for the nation.

As has been reported widely in the press, President Biden inherits the most strained nation since FDR. Many aspects of the American spirit have been abused for decades; most of them appear in the headlines on a daily basis. We have become calloused as we watch day after day the terrible news of our disheveled society.

But we must help this administration. We must watch our daily news looking for progress not only in the nation’s wellbeing but in the lives of everyday citizens who are weary after decades of government indifference.

Joe’s first job is to put stitches on the wounds and at the same time begin therapy and reconstruction. It is a tall job.

It was clear today that the nation does belong to its citizens. Get your positive spirit out of the closet and put it on. That is your job.

Ancient Mariner

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

New horizons in change

The following two paragraphs are from World Review, an online magazine sponsored by New Statesman, a British publishing Company. It makes the case that conservative political forces around the world are drifting even further to the right and shredding centrist policies, allowing xenophobic and militaristic values to influence government policy. The American press is making the same case for US politics. Is this yet another tsunami of change confronting us in this troublesome century?

“. . . Just as central a place in histories of the Trump disaster must be reserved for those same, once-respectable conservative politicians who have enabled the president to whip up the chaos they now, finally, deign to criticise: the Lindsay Grahams, the Mitch McConnells, the Mike Pences, the Marco Rubios.

This pattern is not just confined to the US. Much has been written about the nationalist populist wave of recent years. Yet surely more powerful than any individual political victory by the populists themselves is the way they have co-opted and lastingly changed parts of the supposedly mainstream right (or threaten to do so). In Europe, conservatives in countries like Austria, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and France have adopted the language and tone of the hard-right. Old cordons sanitaires[1] have broken down, with extremists entering coalitions or otherwise cooperating with more established parties at local or national levels. Brazil’s hard-right president Jair Bolsonaro came to power with the help of the centre-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party. The turns towards authoritarianism in India, Turkey and Hungary have all been led from within established conservative parties.” [By Jeremy Cliffe, International Editor]

This is not the time in global history or that of the US specifically to introduce destructive social influences. At a time when technology, economics and global climate all face unknown frontiers of change that we can’t begin to define; at a time when collaboration, factual reality and common sense are the tools that are needed, will the future be achievable?

Ancient Mariner

[1] From French, a barrier designed to prevent a disease or other undesirable condition from spreading

It’s a New World

While the western world has survived the beginning of the twenty-first century more or less intact, getting organized for the rest of the century makes it seem as if the destruction of the Middle East is more descriptive.

Hopefully, Guru envisions a burst of energy, jobs and economy as the whole world responds to climate change, repairing infrastructure and shifting world economies in a way that will stave off international disruption through abuse of the Internet and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the global imbalance between the wealthy and the starving.

These tasks all are international and the wringing of hands and claims of the apocalypse will be part of the experience. It will be like training one’s wayward feet to fit into a new pair of shoes – if not painful at least uncomfortable.

Nations and their resources, unfortunately, do not drive the schedule of recovery. Every issue is at a critical stage such that avoiding catastrophe is the order of the day rather than casually planning new ideas with time to perfect them.

For the sake of brevity, mariner will describe only one issue – the one issue that ignores politics, economies and cultures; it is the most disruptive of the several critical issues: Climate Change.

We should be thankful that the pandemic has given the world practice at dealing with worldwide apolitical issues. Like the pandemic, climate change is no longer an issue of local environmental regulation and politics. It has become a global condition, an instability at the core of an environment that sustains all life. It is difficult to get excited about climate change because it is so slow in the manner by which it changes the environment. Mariner compares it to how sloping shoulders develop over decades of aging, one day at a time, one tiny increment of spine curvature each day. Then suddenly there is back pain and limitations of flexibility. The world already feels the pain of climate change.

Flooding of low lying land around the world already has become a crisis in many parts of the world: 11 million people in Bangladesh have lost two years of crops as the tides invade and stay longer each season; many populated islands around the world will disappear in this century; six large key cities in the United State will be overrun by rising seas – Miami already has in place city-wide pumping stations and drains to accommodate high tides.

Rising seas are caused by a warming atmosphere that melts the polar ice reserve. Being unusually warm, the atmosphere has extra energy for storms and, globally, the jet streams are shifting enough to begin changing agriculture on all the continents.

The following paragraph is a report from Forbes magazine:

“By 2050, sea-level rise will push average annual coastal floods higher than land now home to 300 million people, according to a study published in Nature Communications. High tides could permanently rise above land occupied by over 150 million people, including 30 million in China. Without advanced coastal defense and planning, populations in these areas may face permanent flooding within 30 years.”

The entire report is worth reading and has maps of where US cities will be flooded. See:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2019/10/30/shocking-new-maps-show-how-sea-level-rise-will-destroy-coastal-cities-by-2050/

 

Storms get stronger

Data: NOAA. Graphic: Reuters

With climate change, hurricanes overall are moving more slowly, meaning they can linger for longer over land, causing more damage. —Reuters

The temperature, as a daily personal experience, will be much warmer. In the United States the entire sweep of Gulf States will become very hot with frequent temperatures over 100°. Not only will agriculture be forced to relocate, so will the people. This means that hinterland cities will receive large migrations of people and jobs moving north. Retiring to the southern shores will no longer be a pleasant fantasy.

So Climate Change is a serious, immediate issue that will notably change weather, geography, agriculture, population centers and a reordering of governmental functions and responsibilities – and each citizen because the changes will be quite personal.

Mariner agrees that the confrontation is serious, perhaps greater than all the wars in US history. But. It is a new time to unify and tackle a big problem together. The world must succeed. Mariner is reminded of Rosie the riveter. Let’s wind up our sleeves, get beyond petty politics and personal agendas and get on with it.

Ancient Mariner

We are slow Learners

Most everyone (including mariner) points at the pandemic as an expediter, an accelerator of cultural change. Mariner checked out other cultural shifts that have occurred in history; it turns out big-time change takes a while. It obviously is true that the pandemic has shut down twentieth century values by forcing adaptation to emerging artificial intelligence, exploding corporatism and by causing an economic blip because of the shutdown of so many supply chains and services – an economic blip that forced the nation to look anew at racism and the growing population of indigent citizens.

So stepping on the brakes, quite firmly, has brought about discordant oddities like a President who is incompetent and a wannabe dictator, a totally collapsed morality in the GOP political party, trillions of dollars made by corporations who monetize what should be uncompromised social behavior and just to add an unusual spin, a planet that is not pleased with human behavior.

Now the question is how long it will take to establish a new era with new economics, new social behavior, new lifestyles, new international collaboration and a new sense of normalcy and confidence across the world.

THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

It took 131 years (1517-1648) before the open conflict between Roman Catholicism and the protestant rebellion came to awkward but agreeable terms. The role of today’s pandemic was played by Henry VIII, Martin Luther and John Calvin. In short order Henry said nations are not bound by Roman Catholic judgments; Martin Luther said the Holy Bible was the only source of Divine authority and proclaimed that every Christian is a priest in their own right; John Calvin stressed God’s power and humanity’s predestined fate.

Reminiscent of today’s republican-democrat standoff, treaties were hard fought, physical agreements that took decades to settle. It wasn’t until 1530 that the Lutheran Denomination was able to document its approach to Christianity by publishing the Augsburg Confession, a document that settled differences between Protestant sects and was presented to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

A thirty-year war raged until 1648 when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. Another comparison between then and now is the opportunity to use new technology. The new technology during the Reformation was the printing press, giving dissenting views a new, quickly distributed tool with which to fight entrenched authority. Today, in 2020, the new technology is social media – having the same disruptive effect.

As Christmas grows near this year, a genuine gift is the vaccine – developed in such a short time it seems miraculous. This leaves 2021 as the year to start rebuilding the American Dream, redesigning new economics for the world and to see what we can do about Planet Earth’s complaints not only regarding fossil fuel but the heavy price on the biosphere caused by human indifference.

Only 130 years left . . .

Ancient Mariner

A Tall, Tall Order for Joe

Politico was nice enough to put some effort into analyzing the major issues that will confront Joe Biden whether he wants to deal with them or not. Mariner copied them into this post to give readers a quick insight into what will be occupying the interactions between the President, both houses of Congress, the various cabinets, virtually every State, and hesitating to mention a deeply divided electorate with very little interest in healing through moderation.

Lightly mentioned in the list, other than repairing Donald’s removal of fossil fuel regulations, is the global warming issue. If scientists’ predictions hold – and they have so far – preparing for new housing regulations, new pressures on agriculture, improved FEMA coverage and a seriously increased ‘inside the US’ migration issue should be added during Joe’s term.

Oddly not mentioned are job growth issues. Politically touted by the progressives through the Green New Deal, still, infrastructure has been ignored for twenty-five years and will be a huge boost to job growth.

Another significant issue is restructuring the economy to focus on international trade agreements a la the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). These international deals can’t wait as suggested in the Trade and Manufacturing item. China already has moved in this direction and has begun to tie together international hegemonies.[1]

So the reader can appreciate a quick, clear and analyzed prediction of Joe’s future:

Health Care

Joe Biden’s health care agenda has a Goldilocks strategy: Trying to get it just right to pass Congress. But It doesn’t go far enough for progressives who want Medicare for All, while it goes way too far for Republicans, who still want to kill the bill. -Susannah Luthi

Immigration and the border wall

Immigration policy would be the most dramatic and immediate reversal of Trump policies when Biden takes office. Border wall construction would end virtually overnight in a Biden administration, and he’s pushing a comprehensive immigration overhaul with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. -Rebecca Rainey and Bryan Bender

Tax

Joe Biden has been quite consistent on his taxation agenda: Nobody who makes less than $400,000 a year would see a tax increase. But dig a little deeper, and the plans around capital games and state and local tax deductions get a lot more complicated in Congress. -Brian Faler

Energy and climate change

Rolling back Donald Trump’s oil industry-friendly regulations could take years for the incoming Biden administration, and the courts that hear challenges to these rollbacks have been stacked with conservatives. That means climate change activists could be seriously disappointed if they’re looking for quick victories in the new administration. -Anthony Adragna and Bryan Bender

Trade and manufacturing

President-elect Biden could roll back tariffs on day one if he wants to — and many American industry leaders would love him to do just that. But Biden is more likely to take a more negotiated approach with China and other trading partners, meaning the free-wheeling global trade system won’t come roaring back quickly. -Gavin Bade and Eleanor Mueller

Technology

The legal protections that major technology platforms like Google, Twitter and Facebook have enjoyed for years will still be threatened under a Biden presidency, but Biden is more likely to work with Congress to rewrite the rules for social media liability protections. -Cristiano Lima

Education

Democrats are dreaming big about free college and increasing spending on low-income schools, but getting a polarized Congress to go along with funding these priorities won’t be easy. The good news for Democrats is Biden can undo some of Donald Trump’s executive orders, including new protections for transgender students. -Michael Stratford

Defense

Everything from the nuclear arsenal to transgender protections for the military will be under review in the Biden administration, with promises to roll back several of Donald Trump’s policies. Biden also wants to negotiate a new version of the War Powers Act to rewrite the post-9/11 authorization for use of force in Afghanistan and Iraq. -Bryan Bender

Housing and redlining

Donald Trump rolled back protections against discrimination in housing, which was part of his efforts to win over white suburban voters. The Biden administration is almost certain to reverse Trump’s orders and push fair housing rules again. -Victoria Guida and Katy O’Donnell

 

[1] Hegemony: Preponderant influence or authority over others. In context, this means several nations will agree to specific roles in an international agreement as opposed to colonialism, EU monetary models, or tariff-driven arrangements. Only three nations are large enough to anchor hegemonic agreements: China, United States and India.

It’s Time

Regular readers are aware of mariner’s belief that, generally, changes in society reach a moment of significant pressure to change every sixty years. The basic pattern that encourages the sixty year cycle is the generational influence in the social framework. For example, each generation grows up learning different values than their parents; the parents in turn learned different values than their parents.

Because of the natural, familial authority structure, grandparents hang on to the world they grew up in, parents manage the humanist influences of day-to-day life and the youngest generation is absorbing a world relatively unknown to the grandparents.

Significant world events can disrupt and force a restart of the sixty year cycle. For example, two world wars, a massive economic depression and, more subtly, the Cold War, prevented normal cycles of change to occur – although in rural America, the sixty year cycle continued primarily because of advances in farm machinery and real estate cycles.

– – – –

Mariner was ruminating about society with Guru the other day. It was sixty years ago that the 1960’s occurred. Those alive at the time may remember the following events from that era:

John Kennedy assassinated.

Bobby Kennedy assassinated.

Martin Luther King assassinated.

Four white college students murdered on campus by National Guard.

Racial uprising caused major fires in many larger cities, requiring in Baltimore a permanently posted, armed National Guard soldier at every intersection.

Disruptive rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Rebellion against Vietnam War with protesters burning draft cards and bras and causing a small migration of young people into Canada.

Lyndon Johnson was forced not to run for a second term.

Oh, the memories . . .

The overriding effect of this pressure to change began with new liberal ideas about government and individual rights that began with FDR solutions to the Great Depression. But in the seventies, to regain control of an unruly society, resistance by the oldest generation led to a series of conservative election cycles that shut down liberal change until the emergence of the Millennials at the beginning of this century.

Today, the same generational influences are at play – except this time around there is a fourth, even older generation clinging to authority (Baby Boomers). Despite the overwhelming changes brought about by the Internet, shifting international economies, climate changes and population shifts, governmental authorities are plagued by this extra burden of really old officials remaining in power who are unaware of the new world their grandchildren and great grandchildren are experiencing.

Then along comes the pandemic. The sixty-year model is stopped dead in its tracks. Whatever changes were slowly to be introduced as the oldest generation passed away, suddenly were demanded immediately. A short example: work from home. Another: the political power of social media. Another: Within twenty years, six of the largest cities on America’s coasts will be forced to relocate or constrict real estate economies because of rising seas. But last-cycle politics from the very conservative clog the effort of government to keep up with new demands from society.

It is time for term limits based on age. Bring back the normal Homo sapiens life cycle of three generations of power – sixty years, more or less.

Perhaps it is good that the common citizen must shelter-in while the sixty-year cycle goes to war.

Ancient Mariner.

The Senate

Vox News (reputable) published the results of a study that shows 18 US Senators represent 52 percent of the population. Is it any wonder that as Kentucky goes, so goes the nation? Is it any wonder that, in the midst of the worst pandemic in US history, the Asperger’s-laden Senate will not support adequate discretionary funding to help out family life, housing and health?

The Georgia vote for two US Senators, if two democrats are elected, will break the conservative logjam in the Senate – something that is necessary before Joe Biden can actually put in place some programs and policies relevant to the 21st century. Alas, mariner has trepidations that both positions will not be filled with democrats. Even with the current election spread in the Electoral College, Chicken Little trembles as the Electoral College December 14th vote approaches – an institution that also reflects a warped representation of the citizenry.

John Dingle, who served in the House of Representatives for 80 years as a democrat from Michigan, often lamented the misrepresentation of the Senate and often proposed changing the Constitution. In the Atlantic Magazine issue of January 2019, Eric Orts wrote an article about the two-senators-from-each-state rule and proposed a solution that gave every state a minimum of one senator; California would receive 12 Senate seats and other states would receive allocations commensurate with their population. In that article, Orts quotes Daniel Patrick Moynihan who in 1995 said “Sometime in the next century the United States will have to address Senate representation of the population to preserve the Second Amendment right requiring ‘one person, one vote.’”

So, as most Americans celebrate the end of a surrealistic Trump administration, nonetheless recovery may be difficult with a republican Senate. Remember that Joe’s job is to heal the nation more than to take on an undefined future.

Ancient Mariner