All posts by Marcy

About Marcy

Advocate of Constitutional guarantees to individual liberty.

Yoga Moms United for Slow Streets

Today’s urban streets that feature barricades prohibiting thru traffic sport different names depending on target population – slow streets, car-free streets, safe streets, and open streets are the most popular titles.  Bikers, joggers, and central planners love these streets.  Central planners especially have been dreaming about the extinction of automobiles for decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic was the brass ring, the golden ticket for car-free-streets implementation in cities throughout the U.S.  Sheltered-in-place folks in urban areas needed safe outdoor spaces for fresh air and exercise, and car-free streets stepped in as a solution.

The City of Oakland was the first in California to implement a slow-streets program back in April 2020.  The cities of Emeryville, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Berkeley, Alameda, and others soon followed.   

However now as the pandemic wanes, so does the temporary nature of car-free streets.  Local legislation is popping up to make these streets permanent.  Cities are rebranding the streets’ existence as good for health, recreation and pedestrian protection regardless of pandemics. 

California assembly member Adrin Nazarian (D-LA) introduced AB 773 (at present awaiting referral) to facilitate the “closing of a portion of any street to through vehicular traffic if local authorities deem such action necessary for the safety and protection of people using that portion of the street.”

All the enthusiasm for car-free streets comes with a measure of cynicism. 

Car-free streets are best suited for yoga moms, cycling dads and others in the higher-income brackets.  They fit right in with the lifestyles of work-from-home professionals that like to go out for a stroll between Zoom meetings.  They are fantastic for bike messengers and able-bodied non-workers. 

Generally, they are impediments for workers that need to drop off their kids in daycare and/or school and be at work by 8:00 am.  Closed areas that provide direct access to destinations, such as the Great Highway in San Francisco, represent scarce time spent on meandering.  Car-free streets do not serve residents of neighborhoods plagued with crime, where taking a stroll down a street might not be the wise thing to do. 

In spite of talk of aiming for racial equity in car-free streets initiatives, neighborhoods with majority black and brown residents often reject them. 

Ah, but slow streets help small businesses that often employ those of lower income, no?  – picture of happy people sitting outside in a “shared space” on a sunny day enjoying their margaritas.  Feels more like advertising than truthful reporting. 

But slow streets reduce pollution and traffic fatalities! – no picture of the irate motorist barreling through a slow street barricade, or another just clogging up the parallel street.

San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton made pretty clear what he thinks of slow-street equity.  Of the proposed permanent closure of the eastern half of Golden Gate Park’s JFK Drive, Supervisor Walton said like “1950s in the South.”  Walton’s supervisorial district contains large populations of lower-income residents that live in less than safe areas, without efficient public transit.  Thus car ownership and usage is high compared to the rest of the City.  Where do they park if they want to visit the north-eastern part of GGP?  No parking along the closed portion of JFK, and the park’s underground garage is expensive.

In the city of Oakland, initial surveys on car-free streets showed the program was popular.  Problem was, two thirds of survey respondents were white and 40% had household incomes of $150,000 or more (Oakland’s population is over 70% non-white, and the median household income is $76,000).  So, Oakland’s Essential Places program, designed for lower-income neighborhoods, chucked the strolling/biking narrative, strengthened barricades so cars would not plow through them, and rebranded objectives as helping pedestrians move around safely in reaching essential destinations.  Maybe lower-income Oaklanders view slow streets as suspiciously as does San Francisco Supervisor Walton? 

Government programs are immortal by nature.  Like government bureaus, they are also “the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”   Especially so are programs such as car-free streets that help implement agendas like climate change, smart cities, or transit-oriented development.  For example, Smart Growth America, advocates for smart cities, contributed to the funding for Oakland’s slow-street initiative. 

The elites can comfortably ignore or embrace these agendas. The less affluent cannot.  Urban housing developments have contributed to gentrification and increased cost of housing for families.  Divestment from petroleum has increased the cost of energy and transportation.  Slow streets, coupled with a “transit first” policy that lacks reliable transit, only serve to inconvenience the working poor. 

Politicians and the public need to stop the cynicism.  Streets are for transit and responsible drivers that need to get where they need to go.  Bike lanes, street crossings, sidewalks, playgrounds and parks are the domain of folks not driving at the time. 

This article, written by JVN website editor, was first published on California Political News and Views

Horseshoe bat flying with wings extended

Bats, Labs – Neither pandemic hypothesis is entirely credible

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was recently in the news for once again pillorying Dr. Anthony Fauci with questions on the COVID-19 pandemic. This time Senator Paul wanted to know whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducting gain of function research, and whether the National Institutes of Health contributed funding to that research.

Dr. Fauci’s response was in essence no and no. This response is satisfactorily general. Underlying possibilities such as indirect funding and dissembling by Chinese authorities (or dissembling by anyone suddenly placed in a bind) are absent from the response.

Senator Paul’s rather theatrical statements at this hearing of the Senate’s committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of May 11, 2021, contained some dubious assertions. However, his insistence on learning more about the origins of the pandemic and about any involvement U.S. government agencies may have had is exactly what is needed.

Lockstep narratives might be waning

The COVID-19 pandemic has now lasted 18 months. Guidance from health officials and government mandates have been draconian. A large portion of the U.S. public has accepted prescribed narratives. Suggestions that depart from prescribed narratives have been summarily dismissed as misinformation or conspiracy – or worse, censored out of existence.

Fortunately some, like Senator Paul, still have the audacity to question authority. Among the most notable critics of COVID-19 response are the epidemiologists and public health scientists that published the Barrington Declaration, questioning the wisdom of the lockdowns, in October of 2020. More recently, May 14, 2021, 18 virus and immunology experts published a letter in Science demanding more investigation and more transparency regarding the origins of COVID-19.

Under pressure, ruling elites sometimes relent. Kaiser Health News reported on May 19, 2021, that Dr. Anthony Fauci told them in an email that “we at the NIH are very much in favor of a thorough investigation as to the origins of SARS-CoV-2.”

A timeline without conclusions

Expressions of interest and information crumbs are a start, but hopefully those seeking the truth will get more than that. The web of participants, funding and risks has become very tangled. A timeline of reported events since 2011 contradicts many of today’s narratives.

2011 – National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) suppressed two studies involving H5N1 viruses that had been modified to allow airborne transmission over concerns that methods used could be replicated by bioterrorists.

2014 – Breaches of protocol occurred at US government laboratories. Several workers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were possibly exposed to anthrax. Vials of smallpox virus were not securely stored at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The CDC accidentally sent out samples of ordinary influenza virus contaminated with H5N1.

2014 – The Cambridge Working Group published Consensus Statement on the Creation of Potential Pandemic Pathogens, signed by over 200 scientists. The statement argued for a cessation of experiments involving gain of function studies that manipulate deadly viruses to increase their transmissibility or virulence, until a credible assessment of risks and benefits was created.

2014 – The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced cessation of any government funding for pathogenicity-enhancing gain of function research until the federal government completed a risk/benefit assessment and developed a new funding policy.

21017 – With new guidelines in place contain greater scrutiny, the White House lifted the ban on government funding for gain of function research.

2020 – The White House raised questions regarding EcoHealth Alliance’s research partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In April 2020, the NIH suspended funding of EcoHealth’s surveillance of coronaviruses borne by bats in China. The surveillance aimed to prevent transmission of the virus to humans and to aid in the development of vaccines and therapeutic drugs. The White House’s concern was that EcoAlliance had funneled portions of NIH grants to the Wuhan lab. In August 2020, the NIH reinstated funding to EcoHealth with the stipulation that EcoHealth provide data relating to WIV’s research on coronaviruses, a most unlikely possibility.

2021 – A World Health Organization team of scientists visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology with the intention of gathering enough data to determine if the lab was in any way responsible for the spread of the coronavirus. Although the lab issued statements of cooperation, it did not give the WHO team any meaningful data.

2021 – On May 11, Senate Committee met to hear Update from Federal Officials on Efforts to Combat COVID-19. Senator Rand Paul asks forceful questions regarding origins of the pandemic, gain of function research, and NIH funding for GOF. Dr. Anthony Fauci responded that the coronavirus evolved in bats, and the NIH never funded research at the WIV.

2021 – On May 19, 2021, Kaiser Health News published To the Bat Cave: In Search of Covid’s Origins, Scientists Reignite Polarizing Debate on Wuhan ‘Lab Leak.’ The article acknowledges the accepted hypotheses that the coronavirus arose through natural mutations as it spread from bats to humans. But also notes the alternative theory that the virus escaped from the WIV, possibly after pathological enhancements.

The lab leak hypothesis has picked up more adherents as time passes and scientists fail to detect a bat or other animal infected with a virus that has COVID’s signature genetics. By contrast, within a few months of the start of the 2003 SARS pandemic, scientists found the culprit coronavirus in animals sold in Chinese markets. But samples from 80,000 animals to date have failed to turn up a virus pointing to the origins of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID.

Safety and clarity can only come from good information

The COVID-19 experience has been devastating. It is desirable to avoid a similar experience in the future as best we can.

Virologists say that one way to get a jump on pandemics is to know how pathogens behave when mutations increase virulence and transmissibility. Gain of function experiments can produce such mutations in a laboratory.

Virologists also know that if these enhanced viruses escape from a laboratory, the pandemic they were trying to avoid could wreak global havoc.

A credible origin of COVID-19 – be the origin a sick bat at a market or a lapse of protocol at a lab — could help improve safety standards. For that we need more open minds not wedded to prescribed narratives, and more effective investigative strategies what we have seen so far.

children tearing up covid masks

Two Generation C Embraced by the Establishment

The term Generation C is popping up in the press, “C” standing for corona virus or COVID-19. But the “C” in Generation C has another definition, connectedness or connected consumer. The latter definition predates the former by more than a decade.

Generation C: The corona virus generation

The corona virus generation describes those born between 2016 and 2030. Children born in 2016 would be four years old when the pandemic surfaced, and the country started to shut down. Those born during the pandemic would be 10 years old in 2030.

The response to COVID-19, especially in progressive states, produced one of the greatest economic and social upheavals in the nation’s recent history. Children’s education, friendships, routines, and even livelihoods suffered great disruptions. Children were forced to wear masks, stay away from their grandmas, and admonished not to hug their friends.

Such events can instill anxieties and fears in developing minds that go on to define a generation. Children of the Great Depression became The Silent Generation — cautious, thrifty, and loyal. Young minds that experienced the tragedy of 9/11 while in school or college grew into Millennial adulthood in the shadow of the Patriot Act — they are comfortable with government mandates and restrictions.

It is of course too early to say what the characteristics of the corona virus generation will be. We can only point out that masks and social distancing might prove to be Generation COVID’s Patriot Act.

Generation C: The consumer generation

Way back in 2010, Strategy& published The rise of Generation C: Implications for the world of 2020. Here Generation C refers to the “connected” generation, young people that “live online.” These “digital natives” have vast networks of connections and contacts that rank as pure gold in strategies of communications and technology companies.

In the face of declining revenues from traditional services, the challenge for the communication and technology industries will be to abandon successful but outlived business models and refocus on what it takes to thrive in the Generation C environment. This shouldn’t be taken as bad news, however; the rise of ubiquitous broadband, and of newly connected populations from emerging economies, will enable operators to capitalize on a vast new array of services. The Rise of Generation C, Strategy&, March 26, 2010.

The Strategy& analysis labels Generation C as those born after 1990. However, others have postulated that although most members of Generation C do fall into the Millennial category, they comprise a group that is more psychographic than demographic, with a mindset that spans generations. Google has studied this group and says,

Most recently, we conducted a global study on Gen C with Ipsos MediaCT and TNS2 and for the first time we’re now able to see the behaviors that make Gen C such a potent force. From electronics to travel, clothes to cosmetics, live events to fitness, Gen C buy products and services with far greater regularity than do their non-Gen C counterparts; they’re up to 3.6x more likely to purchase. And two thirds of Gen C around the world say that, “If there is a brand I love, I tend to tell everyone about it.The Power of Gen C: Connecting with Your Best Customers, Google Marketing Strategies, January 2014.

Thus, this Generation C is the holy grail, pursued at every click of their smart device. Their reward is a vast array of apps that gives them instant gratification and endless connectivity.

Same difference

These two generations are different in age and general attributes. But they share an inclination anathema to The Silent and Boomer generations – trust in the establishment.

Silents and Boomers are skeptical. Millennials are trusting, as evidenced by their willingness to share limitless amounts of information. They are happy to live in the fishbowl of connectivity and be plugged into the smart grids of smart cities.

Although it is too early to define the corona virus generation, it might be safe to assume they too will trust. Their developing minds are saturated with mandates that are willingly obeyed: wear masks, stay 6 feet apart, stay home from work or school, vaccinate, and do not say anything counter to CDC guidelines on social media.

Is the trend becoming apparent?

As major difficulties occur – the Great Depression, 9/11, COVID-19 – mandates and obedience to them are normalized. Such mandates are not limited to government edicts. They can be pressures to conform applied by those that benefit from specific behaviors. The populace is promised safety, convenience or peer acceptance, in exchange for trust in the establishment. A drift towards increasing levels of dependence on the establishment becomes inevitable, obliterating individual freedoms.

If wariness of democracy and free speech does not represent a political position, what does it represent? What unites so many young Americans in these attitudes? I propose that the answer is fear — the ultimate enemy of freedom … When people are afraid, they cling to the certainty of the world they know and avoid taking physical, emotional and intellectual risks. In short, fear causes people to privilege psychological security over liberty. Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom? New York Times Opinion, October 14, 2017.

[Featured Image of school children tearing up a giant mask: Picture by Trent Nelson, in Salt Lake Tribune of April 24, 2021, article 3 Utah school districts now allow students to skip masks, based on their parents’ judgment]

MLK I have a dream

Critical Race Theory: A Dream Cancelled

Andrew Gutmann, parent of a 4th grader at the elite Brearley School in New York City, has touched a nerve in today’s woke culture. His 1,700-word letter to 650 parents at the school, decrying the famed institution’s race-saturated curriculum went viral after being leaked.

Mr. Gutmann explained in his April 13, 2021, letter why he and his family decided not to reenroll their daughter at Brearley for the 2021-22 school year. The letter discusses his objections to the schools’ embrace of critical race theory. Here are two of his objections that are particularly forceful.

I object to the view that I should be judged by the color of my skin. I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the color of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs. By viewing every element of education, every aspect of history, and every facet of society through the lens of skin color and race, we are desecrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died.

I object to the idea that Blacks are unable to succeed in this country without aid from government or from whites. Brearley, by adopting critical race theory, is advocating the abhorrent viewpoint that Blacks should forever be regarded as helpless victims, and are incapable of success regardless of their skills, talents, or hard work. What Brearley is teaching our children is precisely the true and correct definition of racism.

Predictably, the response from the Brearley administration is to suggest Mr. Gutmann is a racist, ignoring that what he was so vehemently opposing in his letter was the racism inherent in critical race theory. Surely the Brearley administration is capable of grasping how anti-racism has devolved from the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr to the decrees of Black Lives Matter. Or perhaps not.

We express our unequivocal support for our Black, Asian, Indigenous, Multiracial and Latinx students, faculty, staff, and alums. Many of our students of color, especially those who identify as Black, felt that the letter questioned their belonging in the Brearley community. Their belonging and their excellence are unquestionable.

Brearley Is Not Alon

* Paul Rossi, a teacher at Grace Church High School in Manhattan, wrote an essay, which podcaster Bari Weiss published on April 13 (as she did Andrew Gutmann’s letter). Mr. Rossi warned that Grace Church’s focus on race was damaging to students. Here is a short excerpt of his essay.

As a teacher, my first obligation is to my students. But right now, my school is asking me to embrace “antiracism” training and pedagogy that I believe is deeply harmful to them and to any person who seeks to nurture the virtues of curiosity, empathy and understanding …

My school, like so many others, induces students via shame and sophistry to identify primarily with their race before their individual identities are fully formed. Students are pressured to conform their opinions to those broadly associated with their race and gender and to minimize or dismiss individual experiences that don’t match those assumptions.

* “Parents at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles gather to strategize in their war on the school’s race orthodoxy. Bari Weiss was invited to one such gathering, and reported what transpired in “The Miseducation of America’s Elites.” This from City Journal

Affluent parents, terrified of running afoul of the new orthodoxy in their children’s private schools, organize in secret.

In a backyard behind a four-bedroom home, ten people sat in a circle of plastic Adirondack chairs, eating bags of Skinny Pop. These are the rebels: well-off Los Angeles parents who send their children to Harvard-Westlake, the most prestigious private school in the city.

Most of all, they worry that the school’s new plan to become an “anti-racist institution”—unveiled this July, in a 20-page document—is making their kids fixate on race and attach importance to it in ways that strike them as grotesque.

These are America’s cream of the crop $40,000 – $55,000 a year schools, feeders to Princeton, Yale, and Harvard. Average on-lookers might find it strange that any student at such schools would actually view themselves as oppressed. But, often reality is situational.

Chances are there will be more schools embracing a race-based curriculum

On April 19, The U.S. Department of Education proposed a two-prong approach to embed race-based curriculum in American schools. The proposals are described in The Federal Register (the public comment period of these proposals ends May 19, 2021).

Proposed Priority 1—Projects That Incorporate Racially, Ethnically, Culturally, and Linguistically Diverse Perspectives into Teaching and Learning. Proposed

Priority 2—Promoting Information Literacy Skills.

Proposal #1 is fairly clear. Proposal #2 is open to interpretation, but might mean simply don’t look at anything on Zero Hedge, The Keiser Report, or Alex Jones.

President Joe Biden is considering grants to support implementation of these proposals. Public schools always need more money. Private schools might be welcoming extra funding to make up for loss of tuition due to Covid-19 closure. Federal grant money could be the enforcing mechanism for implementation of critical race theory in American schools.

In Fairness To Woke Progressives

Parents rebelling against today’s critical race theory curriculum are often quoted as saying their children are being indoctrinated, not educated. True, indoctrination of what is occurring.

However, it is only fair to say woke indoctrination on race is not unique in America. Our country’s schools operated under strict government-sanctioned segregation by race for nearly 80 years. The school segregation mirrored the wider culture at the time, when white people felt they needed to be vigilant against black people “forgetting their place.”

Thankfully, there were brave people who fought to dismantle the race-obsessed, baseless indoctrination inherent in Jim Crow.

Let’s ensure today’s parents are not contributing, willing or unwillingly, to raising racists. Let’s not let our desire to foster inclusiveness to turn into obsession with race.

Los Angeles Skid Row

Guaranteed Income: California’s Next Horizon

Guaranteed income pilot programs are emerging throughout the state of California. The programs differ in who is selected and how much recipients get. None have strings attached.

The concept of a guaranteed income gained publicity during the 2020 elections, when presidential contender Andrew Yang made it a central part of his campaign. In California, additional exposure came from Michael Tubbs, who founded Mayors for a Guaranteed Income in June 2020, a coalition that advocates implementation of guaranteed income trials.

Three Sample Guaranteed Income Programs

Michael Tubbs, when mayor of the City of Stockton implemented one of the first guaranteed income pilot programs in the state, with great fanfare and a lot of private donations. The program gave $500 a month to 125 selected low-income residents and ran for two years (February 2019 to January 2021).

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaff launched her pilot guaranteed income program in March 2021. The privately-funded program will give low-income families $500 per month, for 18 months. Families selected are of color, in an effort to close the racial wealth gap.

On April 19, 2021, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, proposed a $24 million tax-payer funded one-year guaranteed income pilot program. The program will give $1,000 per month to 2,000 low-income families adversely affected by Covid-19.

The Selling Points

A guaranteed income, with no strings attached, given in addition to established public assistance programs takes aggressive selling in some communities. In Stockton, for example, Mayor Tubbs was not re-elected in spite of accomplishments. His defeat was in part (there were other adverse circumstances) because some of his constituents were not ready for agendas as progressive as a guaranteed income.

The promotional efforts are convincing, but debatable in some regards. Here is a sample of the press California’s guaranteed income programs have received, followed by clarifications that might be helpful.

  • “The idea of the government providing poor residents with some basic level of income has been floated by a number of prominent people over the years, including civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., libertarian economist Milton Friedman and Republican President Richard Nixon.” L.A. could soon become the largest city in the U.S. to offer guaranteed income for poor residents.” L.A. could soon become the largest city in the U.S. to offer guaranteed income for poor residents, Fortune, April 19, 2021.

Martin Luther King criticized the existing welfare system as fragmented and designed to affect root causes of poverty, not mitigate poverty itself. He did propose a guaranteed income as remedy. However, his plan came with strings attached. Government needed to create “social good” jobs for individuals who the market economy left behind. Dr. King’s plan, therefore, differs from the current “no strings” proposals.

Milton Friedman proposed a negative income tax, not a guaranteed basic income. Under Friedman’s plan, people file their tax returns, and depending on their income level, they either pay taxes or receive cash from the government. Also, Friedman’s plan was intended to replace existing welfare programs not supplement them. Today’s guaranteed income plans require nothing of recipients and supporters intend to avoid cannibalizing other public assistance programs.

Richard Nixon introduced in 1969 The Family Assistance Program (FAP), which aimed to implement a negative income tax that would benefit working parents with household incomes under a certain level. Unlike today’s guaranteed income proposals, FAP had a work requirement that applied to most recipients (there were exceptions to mothers with small children at home). The proposal passed the House of Representatives, but failed in the Senate.

  • “There’s a number of ways to pay for guaranteed income, from a sovereign wealth fund in which citizens benefit from shared national resources like the Alaska Permanent Fund, to bringing tax rates on the wealthiest Americans to their 20th century historical averages.” Mayors for a Guaranteed Income

Alaska’s principal source of revenue is crude oil. Residents receive an “oil dividend” from a natural resource that theoretically belongs to all residents. It might be difficult for California to come up with a comparable natural resource dividend.

California already has one of the highest tax rates in the nation. Several large employers have recently left California citing high taxes and high costs, among them California icons like Hewlett-Packard and Tesla. Texas and Arizona are among low or no-tax states that are happy to welcome California’s wealthy expatriates.

An objective of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income and others is to establish a federal guaranteed income program. The federal government can print copious amounts of money, redistribute revenue from low-spending to high-spending states, and does not need constituents’ approval to raise taxes. The only catch is that residents of low-spending states might not be happy with this plan.

  • Preliminary analysis of Stockton’s guaranteed income program: “Results gathered from the first year, which spanned February of 2019 to February of 2020, found recipients obtained full-time employment at more than twice the rate of non-recipients. Recipients were less anxious and depressed, both over time and compared to the control group … Recipients had a greater ability to pay for unexpected expenses …” University of Tennessee, College of Social Work, March 5, 2021.

“Asian/Pacific Islanders and homeowners comprised a larger share of the debit-card recipients than of the control group , which could have biased the results…The study’s small sample and reliance on self-reported outcomes are bigger problems. It’s difficult to assess a statistically significant effect on employment among such a small group over a one-year period—from Feb. 2019 to Feb. 2020—especially given high labor-market turnover among lower earners.” Universal Basic Income Hype, Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2021.

Conclusion

The highly-promoted Stockton experiment is serving as a catalyst for the proliferation of guaranteed income trials in California. However, it is difficult to see how a study of 125 folks, among them homeowners, can apply to California’s large population of low or no-income residents.

The state of California has a poverty rate of 11% compared to lower-poverty states like New Hampshire at 4.9%. Also, California has the third largest rate of homelessness of all states in the U.S. (after New York and Hawaii).

Guaranteed income programs in California will prove expensive. Local and state jurisdictions will have difficulty finding sources of cash. The federal government, with its ability to create debt, would be a reasonable source, but would low-spending states be willing to subsidize high-spending states?

Lyndon Johnson’s expensive Great Society sounded wonderful, but nothing really got fixed. It will be worth carefully reading the fine print on guaranteed income programs.

Ad for Marshall's Cigarette

When Cigarettes Cured Asthma

The Stanford School of Medicine has an amazing collection of old cigarette ads. Up until the 1960s, tobacco companies were comfortable targeting children, young mothers, even those with respiratory complaints, since cigarettes carried a tradition of being medicinal.

Some early brands claimed to relieve the symptoms of catarrh, cold in the head, asthma, and hey fever. Starting around the 1930s, tobacco companies claimed doctors recommended their brand as the gentlest and the mildest.

That was the science of the day.

Unfortunately for the tobacco companies, science evolves as events are discovered, documented, and form the basis of new customs and policies. By the mid 1950s, tobacco companies had to confront the growing links between their products and cancer. Their ads then shifted to claims that studies on the dangers of tobacco were inconclusive.

In 1954, tobacco companies released “A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers” arguing that research showing a link between cancer and smoking was alarming but not conclusive.

Recent reports on experiments with mice have given wide publicity to the theory that cigarette smoking is in some way linked with lung cancer in human beings.

Although conducted by doctors of professional standing, these experiments are not regarded as conclusive in the filed of cancer research.

That science apparently made sense back then.

However, thankfully, not everyone was convinced. The U.S. Department of Justice listened to the emerging research on the dangers of tobacco. They sued tobacco companies on the ground that they had mislead the public and misrepresented the addictiveness of nicotine. On August 17, 2006 Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia issued a 1,683 page opinion holding the tobacco companies liable for violating the RICO act by fraudulently covering up the health risks associated with smoking and for marketing their products to children.

At that point, forceful warnings, curtailment of advertising, and high taxation on tobacco products aimed at reducing consumption.

Tobacco companies tried their best to discredit information that went counter to their agenda. While they did, a lot of people kept on smoking and kept on contracting lung cancer.

Given today’s efforts to discourage divergent thoughts on the currently accepted science of hot topics like climate change and pandemics, we all might need a reminder that science evolves – it is supposed to evolve.

Cigarette ad
IBM PC 5150

Bill Gates, DOS and OS/2: A Windows Tale that Won’t Die

Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is nowadays often in the news advocating for world health. But before Bill Gates the philanthropist, there was Bill Gates of DOS, OS/2, IBM, and Windows. For those not entirely familiar with the “old” Bill Gates, here is often-told, but forever fresh story.

First, how big is Windows?

Windows has been top dog in the operating system market since 1992. The tablet market is dominated by IOS and Android, but Windows has 80% of the U.S. desktop and laptop markets. Server versions of Windows run bank ATMs and other infrastructure.

How did Windows get so big?

The short answer is Windows enjoys a monopoly. A better insight lies in a story of Bill Gates and IBM that has as many versions as there are people who tell it. Here is one very compressed version of that story.

DOS and IBM’s PC 5150

Around the late 1970s, IBM, mainly a maker of mainframe computers, decided enter the emerging personal computer market where Apple, Atari, Commodore, and Tandy were already making strides. IBM had to develop a machine that could compete – compact and economical. And IBM had to move fast before any of the other companies dominated the market.

The vast mainframe-dominated bureaucracy of IBM needed to innovate. Instead of building all components of the personal computer in-house, IBM procured outside products. IBM aimed for an open architecture to enable manufacturers to supply peripherals. Instead of developing an in-house operating system, IBM partnered with Bill Gates’ Microsoft.

Microsoft outfitted IBM’s new machine with MS-DOS, a non-graphical command line operating system Microsoft purchased and patched up to make it compatible. The language was Microsoft BASIC, a Microsoft-developed dialect of the original BASIC.

The IBM 5150 was introduced August 1981, and was wildly successful. In 1983, instead of “Man of the Year,” Time Magazine featured the 5150 as “Machine of the Year.”

But there were a couple of problems: Cheaper clones soon surfaced, and Microsoft was more than happy to outfit them with MS-DOS. Remember, MS-DOS belonged to Gates, not to IBM.

OS/2 Is Born

So, IBM decided to develop a more sophisticated operating system that would avoid the problems encountered with DOS. Surprisingly, IBM again recruited Bill Gates to help.

The IBM/Gates alliance produced OS/2, introduced in 1987. It was a protected-mode operating system that allowed for virtual memory, extended memory, and multitasking. The original OS/2 was text mode, but OS/2 1.1 introduced graphics.

Unfortunately, OS/2 had its own problems. OS/2 looked too much like MS-DOS to the average user, did not have adequate user support from IBM, and did not find itself bundled in popular hardware of the day. Also OS/2 was big and clunky. We are talking about 20 – 25 3.5” installation disks depending on the version.

It did not help that Bill Gates introduced Windows 2, full of graphics and other bells and whistles, also in 1987 in direct competition with IBM. Again in 1992, when IBM unveiled OS/2 2.0, Microsoft introduced Windows 3.1. PC manufacturers were encouraged to bundle Windows and other Microsoft products in every PC they sold.

IBM did a lot better with the server versions of OS/2, which was considered a very stable operating system. For nearly 20 years, OS/2 ran bank ATMs and other infrastructure (famously, the New York City subway). IBM discontinued support of OS/2 in 2006, as Windows made inroads in the infrastructure market, partly by effective and aggressive marketing.

This is not to say OS/2 is dead. IBM licensed OS/2 to Serenity Systems as eComStation, and later to Arca Noae as ArcaOS in 2017. Arca Noae is still around upgrading and supporting OS/2.

In case you are wondering what the text-mode DOS looked like

Chances are, if you use a desktop or a laptop, you probably have Windows. You probably have a home screen full of colorful icons ready to instantly take you to the files you need.

DOS was not like that. If you are curious as to how deeply different this pre-Windows program was, you can get a general idea by clicking RUN or SEARCH and typing cmd. RUN will take you to system32/cmd.exe, and SEARCH to a Command Prompt screen where you can then click the cmd icon.

Some programs never die

Maybe “pre-Windows” is not entirely accurate, actually. When Bill Gates first designed Windows, DOS was the foundation. Windows ran on top of DOS until the 1993 introduction of Windows NT (originally standing for New Technology). Windows ME (Millennial Edition) was the last DOS-based system.

But DOS, as well as OS/2, will probably live forever in Geek Lore. Ask any computer enthusiast if he/she has or knows someone who has a full set of DOS and/or OS/2 disks, and the answer will probably be yes. Here is a picture of my OS/2 2.1.1 disks, along with installation instructions and product brochure.

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Article’s Featured Image: Ad for the IBM 5150 from The PC:  Personal Computing Comes of Age, a section of the IBM website.

April 1 cartoon

A Modest Proposal: Rename April 1 Useful Fools Day

Today is April 1, celebrated for centuries as April Fools Day. It’s a day to play pranks on the unsuspecting gullible. Given the current penchant for updating history and renaming symbols, the Just Vote No Blog proposes that April Fools Day be renamed Useful Fools Day. The new name would be more inclusive, and therefore more equitable.

Why the proposal?

Historians disagree on the origins of April Fools Day, but have some likely suggestions, all relating to events in the distant past: celebrations of the cult of Cybele, change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, start of the Vernal Equinox – all old stuff. We need to add to the list a newer event that, as the ones before, produced sufficient confusion to create a large pool of unsuspecting gullible people. Also, we need to update the title of the celebration, since these days simple fools are not anywhere near as visible and important as useful fools.

Event of the 21st Century: Covid-19 Response

The Just Vote No Blog proposes that the outsized response to the Covid-19 pandemic be the 21st Century’s contribution to April 1, and that useful fools be celebrated on that day. The Blog further proposes that celebrations include not only ordinary individuals, but also a lot of Wall Street darlings, public servants, and respected professionals.

A comprehensive list of prominent useful fools would take up several volumes, so here is just a sample of possible candidates for inclusion in the updated April Useful Fools Day.

*Our fearful brethren that support a slash and burn approach to the pandemic in an effort to receive protection and safety. The establishment has been more than happy to grow by leaps and bounds by providing such protection and safety. Problem is, as is usually the case, there is a lot of collateral damage.

Discarded surgical masks strewn along the sidewalk aptly represent COVID-19’s lasting legacy. The federal medical bureaucracy’s response to the pandemic has resulted in a wasteland of lost economic and educational opportunities, psychologically damaged children, terminally lonely nursing home residents, and lives lost to suicide, illicit drug overdoses, and missed diagnoses…

Shameless non-clinician bureaucrats have stolen our lives, stolen the smiles from children’s faces, and bullied a segment of the population into paralyzing fear. Those hiding behind masks (including our precious children) no longer see people as people, but as 170-pound nests of germs and certain death.

Dr. Marilyn Singleton, MD, JD. The New Wasteland: COVID-19’s Shameful Legacy. March 31, 2021.

* Our crony capitalists in technology that turned collaborators in the war against Covid-19. Whether collaboration will protect them against anti-trust intervention and onerous regulation remains to be seen.

A decades-old law shields companies such as Facebook and Twitter from lawsuits over content their users post on their platforms. Now that legislation is under attack as lawmakers look to hold social media firms accountable.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill generally agree that changes need to be made to Section 230, a provision in the Communications Decency Act that gives legal protections to social media companies.

What’s Section 230? The Social Media Law in the Crosshairs of Congress. March 26, 2021.

The government has flailed in its response to the pandemic, and Big Tech has presented itself as a beneficent friend, willing to lend a competent hand. As Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, wrote in April, “The challenges we face demand an unprecedented alliance between business and government.”

What Big Tech Wants Out of the Pandemic. The Atlantic. July-August 2020 issue.

*Our leaders in Washington forge on

Back in January 2021, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order on domestic and international travel. A clause that stands out mandates that U.S. agencies study the feasibility of linking COVID-19 vaccination to International Certificates of Vaccination. On March 12, the White House issued a press briefing noting that the private sector and non-profits are taking care of these vaccine certificates with guidance from federal agencies.

We are to rejoice that at present government will not be keeping a central database on who has been vaccinated and who has not. We are also to rejoice Joe Biden is reviving our lives, our businesses and our economy.

Once again we seem to be blind to the collateral damage – the vaccine apps will be the equivalent of the ancient “Quo Vadis?” and the modern equivalent of “show me your papers.”

Old Saying: Nobody is useless; they can always serve as a horrible example

Useful fools are an extremely valuable commodity. They come in all forms – a concerned individual, a greedy corporation, a government on a tyranny dry run. Each hopes for protection, security or power that may or may not materialize. Each deserves a day of celebration dedicated to them.

Pictured Above

Interesting picture on Realm of History website’s article Ancient Romans and Medieval Church: The usual suspects in the origins of April Fools’ Day. From the article,

In any case, historically, April Fools’ Day possibly became a standardized affair by 18th century in Britain. The jests and pranks were especially popular in many parts of Scotland, with people actively participating in concocting fake errands and even inventing the ‘art’ of putting signs on the unsuspecting person’s back.

Parents of School Children are Fighting Back

The Just Vote No Blog recently discussed California’s BLM-inspired schools. Identity politics has permeated schools as it has other sectors of society. Some are fighting back. In San Francisco, a fuse that ignited a revolt was the Board of Education’s decision to change the merit-based admission policy of Lowell High School to a lottery-based system. This decision will bring Lowell down to the mediocre level of other San Francisco government/union-run schools.

One school official caught in the maelstrom is Alison Collins, Vice President of the San Francisco Board of Education. Her unfortunate Tweets insinuating that Asians behave like white supremacists to get ahead placed Ms. Collins in a difficult position. She offended both the race-focused progressives and the traditional-education-focused parents of Lowell High students. Mission Local in an article dated March 23, explains the situation well.

A petition calling for Ms. Collins ejection from the School Board has been posted on Change.org.

Perhaps petitions and other means of raising awareness need to be posted regarding the broader issue: school officials that descend into race peddling.

The BLM-Inspired Schools of California

On one of the windows of a public Marin County middle school there was recently not a display of children’s work or announcements of school events.  There was instead a poster issued by Black Lives Matter at School asking for a pledge of support for,

Restorative Justice. Transgender Affirming. Globalism. Collective Value. Queer Affirming. Unapologetically Black.  Loving Engagement.  Empathy. Intergenerational. Black Villages.  Black Women. Black Families. Diversity. 

One would have to wonder how a 12-year old might interpret this complex pledge.  Parents, as well as taxpayers, might want to ask themselves how time spent discussing such concepts affect time available to learn skills like reading and math. 

This Black Lives Matter at School poster falls comfortably under political propaganda.  The objective of all propaganda is to convert as many hearts and minds as possible.  Therefore, parents and taxpayers should know what they and their children are being recruited for. 

The BLM at School website from which the poster in question can be procured makes quite clear what the group wants their recruits to support.  As all attempts at winning hearts and minds, BLM at School principles contain both positive and dangerous objectives.  And, as is often the case, positive messages of love and understanding do not pass muster when the more aggressive messages are explored.  Here are samples from the BLM at School website.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.  It is our duty to win.  We must love each other and support each other.  We have nothing to lose but our chains.   ~Assata Shakur

We are committed to collectively, lovingly, and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people. As we forge our path, we intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.

We are committed to fostering a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or, rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they disclose otherwise.

We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.

The first objective quoted above might need clarification for those not familiar with Assata Shakur.  Ms. Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, is presently residing in Cuba, where she received asylum following her escape from prison in 1984. Her crime was murder of a state trooper during a 1973 shootout.  Her brother, Mutulu Shakur, also a member of the BLA is still incarcerated for his role in a 1981 Brinks armored truck robbery, in which two policemen (one, by the way, Black) and one Brinks guard were murdered.  In violent struggles for liberation people die, regardless of all professed love and justice.

Ms. Shakur is not the only radical honored in the BLM at School website.  Another name that should stand out, especially to residents of San Francisco, is BLM at School endorser Bill Ayers, a leader of the Weather Underground and foster parent of San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin.  However, his role in several bombings in protest of the Vietnam War during the late 1960s and 1970s is not what is significant here. 

Bill Ayers, along with other prominent radicals like Bernardine Dohrn (Weather Underground leader and retired Northwestern University law professor) and Kathy Boudin (Weather Underground leader and Columbia University co-founder of the Center for Justice), pivoted from violence to education (or indoctrination).  After his Weather Underground days, Ayers became known for his work in education theory, education reform, curriculum and instruction.

Things roll downhill, and the race/gender-focused socialism that radicals brought into universities is now sipping into primary schools.

The Marin County middle school poster could have been the idea of one teacher or one parent for all we know.  The concern here is not with that particular school, but with a wider trend of mainstreaming radicalism in children’s schools.  The California Department of Education website has a section describing California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum and containing the following in the lesson plan.

… develop an understanding and analyze the effectiveness of #BlackLivesMatter and the broader Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), specifically delving into the movement’s structure, key organizations, and tactics/actions used to respond to incidents of police brutality…

The ultimate questions for parents and taxpayers need to be:  Is reform of schools, criminal justice, and some cultural conventions desirable at this time?  What is the track record of the race/gender-focused education that has gained ground during the past three decades?  Are parents and taxpayers these days willing to speak up if their answer to the first question is “Yes” and to the second question is “Lousy?”

This article was written for California Political News & Views, March 23, 2021