All posts by Marcy

About Marcy

Advocate of Constitutional guarantees to individual liberty.

The Great Reset: Elites Caring About Us?

During the week of January 25, the World Economic Forum will meet digitally for “high-level ‘Davos Dialogues’ where key global leaders will share their views on the state of the world in 2021.”

The WEF’s annual January in-person conference in Davos, Switzerland, has been postponed until May 2021.

Background

The Word Economic Forum, a non-profit foundation established in 1971 in Geneva, Switzerland, considers itself “the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.” Its mission is to engage “the foremost political, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” It says its aim is to be impartial, global, holistic and forward looking.

WEF holds annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland. Although their Open Forum is free and “anybody can attend” (if you queue up early, since space is limited), free main events are by invitation only. Uninvited members of WEF can attend for a fee (around 480,000 Pounds Sterling or around 650,000 U.S. Dollars). Around 3,000 people typically attend, usually about 1/3 from business and the rest from government and quasi-government.

The Great Reset

WEF’s agenda for 2021will continue to be “The Great Reset”. The January 2020 meeting rebranded this long-time push for controlled globalization as response to Covid-19. The fine points of this agenda are expected in 2021. But the general platform seems to be set.

Build Back Better: Highlight of The Great Reset

“Build Back Better” is the core principle for those who believe capitalism is not working, so every aspect of our society needs to be re-shaped. Among the most ambitious plans are the following:

* Corporations must give up shareholder (owner) focus and adopt stakeholder (society as a whole) focus. The public sector must support this new focus.

* Harm to the global environment dominated the latest Global Risk Report. Therefore, both private and public sectors must take action to mitigate climate change and other environmental threats.

* New education models must equip children with skills demanded by globalization and rapid advances in technology.

* Building Back Better must include a wide-range of investments by the public sector – government spending in improved greener infrastructures as well as in human capital.

* Both private and public sectors must adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be described as the advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines … Examples include genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence, breakthrough materials and approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as the blockchain.

The Great Opportunity

Proponents of The Great Reset view Covid-19 as “a great opportunity” to implement controlled globalization guided by moral governance. Note, “governance” is the term used, not government. By way of reminder, government implies leaders elected by their constituents; while “governance” implies rules implemented by the non-elected.

Precedents

Jekyll Island and the Federal Reserve: In November of 1910 leaders of the financial world met in secret at Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia. The crisis that prompted the meeting was not a virus but persistent foolish investments that resulted in bank runs and general financial instability. The response was the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank, an independent institution that operates outside the control of Congress or any other elected body. Indeed the Fed provided reasonable financial stability, but unfortunately brought about undesirable results as well.

The fact that the Federal Reserve was born on Jekyll Island backed by the cream of the banking elite, it enables a debt-based economy, and it finances wars is freely acknowledged even by the Federal Reserve. End the Fed, April 25, 2018, Just Vote No

Bretton Woods and the short-lived gold-backed dollar: In 1944, the cream of the crop in the financial world met again, this time in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The crisis turned into opportunity was the need to plan for the reconstruction of war-torn Europe and Japan. The response was the establishment of the International Monetary Fund, the establishment of the Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now called the World Global Bank), and the creation of a totally new monetary system. The new system made the U.S. Dollar a global currency pegged to gold reserves, and all other currencies pegged to the dollar. The strong dollar allowed Europe and Japan to revive their manufacturing base by selling their goods to the U.S. Unfortunately, discipline required to maintain the dollar pegged to gold evaporated by 1971, opening the floodgates of government spending and unsustainable debt.

Now the “Public-Private” Elite Meets Again

Again people important enough to be invited to the table will meet at Davos. This time the meetings are not secret — as in Jekyll Island — or as narrowly focused — as in Bretton Woods.

This time, participants aim to shape all sectors of the global society: Manufacturing, Consumption, Digital Economy, Energy, Financial and Monetary Systems, Global Public Goods, Health and Healthcare, Investing, Media, Mobility, Technology Governance, Trade and Global Economic Interdependence, The Internet of Things, New Economy and Society.

We The Little People

Those of us nowhere near important to be invited to Davos or well off enough to pay around $600,000 to attend need to remain vigilant. When our elected officials start talking about “building back better” and reshaping institutions, we need to sift through the rhetoric and find out what it is we will eventually be voting for and how much will need to be taken out of our wallets.

Your Stimulus Check is Coming – Think No Further!

On December 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (H.R. 133), which contains in it the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. This omnibus bill carries a price tag of $2.3 trillion dollars — $1.4 trillion in regular annual appropriations that keep the federal government running, and $900 billion in supplemental appropriations for Coronavirus relief.

Under this bill, a $600 check will be sent to people who made up to $75,000 in 2019. As of this writing, President Trump’s demand that Congress cut “unnecessary” expenses and increase direct payments to $2,000, might be DOA in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has attached a couple of powerful poison pills to the proposal (elections investigation and repeal of legal protections for social media platforms) which Democrats are unlikely to approve.

Situation Chaotic But Normal

The signing came after several weeks of haggling in Congress and four days of objections by President Trump – not an unusual situation. Legislators are under pressure to bring the bacon home to their constituents, so compromises can get lengthy. Presidents do not have line-item veto power, so they must approve or veto an entire bill.

The approve-the-whole-bill or veto-the-whole-bill process leads to pork-laden bills landing in a President’s desk.

In a video release President Trump strongly objected to “wasteful” expenditures in the Appropriations Bill. He would have preferred less “unnecessary” spending and more Coronavirus relief. However, he had to sign the whole bill in order to fund relief and fund government operations.

The Consolidated Appropriations bill occupies 5,593 minutiae-filled pages – 3,280 pages more than last year’s bill. The House Committee on Appropriations website has brief summary of the bill plus links to specific sections (called “Divisions”).

Divisions A through L are regular appropriations, Divisions M and N deal with Coronavirus Relief, and Divisions O through Z are Authorizing Matters unrelated to the funding of regular or Coronavirus appropriations.

This massive bill was delivered to Congress shortly before a vote was expected, not an unusual situation, but much worse than last years’ 24-hour reading allocation of 2,313 pages.

Focus of Coronavirus Relief

As numerous news outlets have reported, the focus of the $900 billion Coronavirus Relief is direct payments to citizens, forgivable loans to businesses, and extension of federal unemployment subsidies ($300 per week).

There are many other provisions, like: Funding of cultural and entertainment venues. A campaign to increase awareness of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, and combat misinformation. Funding for low-income families that pay for drinking water and wastewater services.

Focus of the Annual Appropriations

The $1.4 trillion regular annual appropriations include the usual, very wide, domestic and international funding. “Very wide” means funding the average American would probably not fathom. For example:

Not less than $20 million for the recruitment and retention of women in the Afghanistan National Security Forces—twice the amount specified last year. Division C – Defense

Up to $500 million for Jordan, including not less than less than $150 million for reimbursements for enhanced border security. Division C – Defense

$116 million for the wild horse and burro program, $15 million above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level. Division G – Interior/Environment

Authorizing Matters

Here are a couple of samples of the Authorizing Matters in the Appropriations and Coronavirus Relief Bill 20121:

Establishes, within the Smithsonian Institution, the Women’s History Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino.” Division T – Smithsonian

Requires the Secretary of Energy to conduct a study on the benefits of blue hydrogen technology and how that can further enhance the deployment and adoption of carbon capture and storage.” Division Z – Energy, Title IV Carbon Management

Who Voted No

Not everyone in Congress felt pressured to concur with this bill.

In the House, 50 Republicans, 2 Democrats, and 1 Libertarian voted against the bill. The two Democrats issued strong statement explaining their vote:

Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) – We will be back here in a month because the suffering will have gotten much worse because there has been a lack of bold action and priorities to put people first.

Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) – $600 is a slap in the face to every American struggling due to the pandemic. You deserve better. I voted against the 5,593-page spending bill that gave billions to corporate interests, the military industrial complex & other countries, leaving crumbs for you who need help most.

In the Senate, 6 Senators, all Republicans, voted NO. They objected to the bill’s price tag in light of an already perilous national debt, the nearly 6,000 pages of complex legislation that nobody had time to read, and the process by which just a few legislators craft bills and expect automatic approval from everyone else. Here is a sample of the Senator’s frustration:

Rick Scott (R-Florida) – Once again, in classic Washington style, vital programs are attached to a massive omnibus spending bill that mortgages our kids & grandkid’s future. Therefore, I can’t support this bill.

Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) – The dysfunction of Washington, D.C. was on full display as Congress combined covid relief with a massive omnibus spending bill three months past the deadline and into the current fiscal year. This monstrosity was 5,593 pages long, and passed only nine hours after the Senate first saw it.

Mike Lee (R-Utah) – This process, by which members of Congress are asked to defer blindly to legislation negotiated entirely in secret by four of their colleagues, must come to an end.

And the Spending Goes On

Constituents clamor for relief – this time from the economic effects of Coronavirus response – and legislators are happy to oblige by passing massive spending bills. The idea of cutting back on non-urgent spending to allocated funds to urgent challenges is anathema to most legislators.

The U.S. national debt is $27.5 trillion, and debt to GDP is 128.9%. No matter, say the bulk of today’s legislators. What used to be a derisive accusation – making money out of thin air – is now accepted as Modern Monetary Theory. Government keeps producing money by borrowing, legislators keep spending, and the people are happily appeased. Think no further!

This Will Be A Difficult Christmas

This will be a difficult Holiday Season. So many without jobs. So many fearful. Thus, just maybe listening to “Joy to the World” or wishing family and friends (whom we are forbidden to see) a “Merry Christmas” could feel like cognitive dissonance. Just maybe, instead, this could be a good time to remember the challenges Mary and Joseph overcame just prior to Baby Jesus’ birth.

Those were great spiritual and physical challenges, the reminiscence of which could be useful regardless of whether we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, or nothing at all.

Spiritual Decisions

We all must struggle with poignant decisions at points in our lives. Accepting momentous obligations qualifies as hugely poignant.

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus …Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Luke 1 31-34.

Mary, chaste and betrothed to Joseph, accepted her instructions, although she must have known that if Joseph cast her out, her punishment by law would be death by stoning.

Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away quietly … But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared onto him in a dream …

A man of faith as well as compassion, Joseph followed the angel’s command. Not an easy task.

The Long Journey

The physical challenges Mary and Joseph prevailed close to Jesus’ birth might be as useful to remember as their spiritual ones.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. Luke 2 1-5

Bethlehem is 80 – 100 miles, depending on the route, from Nazareth. It is rough, mountainous, and at the time dangerous terrain. This map shows the route (green dots on the right) Mary and Joseph would have taken, not a direct route but a safer one. The direct route would have taken them through Samarian land, hostile to Jews.

The Story of the Gift of Christmas. Lux Mundi, December 17, 1917

Strong Souls Forge On

Women heavy with child have traveled the overland trails and refugee caravans. Mary forged through as well – probably on foot, not even on a donkey.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1

As the saying goes “What have you done with what you have been given” The Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the guy who crystalized the meaning of Christianity was born in a bed of straw.

The Soul Must Feel Its Worth

There is one carol that could help if in these trying times of Covid-19 and mandates your business is failing or your children have not received proper schooling since the beginning of 2020. That is the carol that speaks of the soul feeling its worth. Here is a link to the incredible voice of Leontyne Price singling Oh Holy Night.

Walter E. Williams Told It Like It Is – RIP

Walter E. Williams, distinguished professor of Economics at George Mason University and advocate of free markets for everyone, died on December 1, 2020. With his passing, a voice raised against the devastation inflicted upon the poor by well-intentioned government policies was lost.

Professor Williams was a plain-speaking, straight-talking economist, with credibility to speak about the poor since he himself came up from the projects.

He Suffered No Fools

His 2010 autobiography Up from the Projects became the basis for a 2014 PBS documentary, Suffer No Fools. Here, as in his other 10 books and widely syndicated newspaper column, Dr. Williams enumerated good intentions that produced bad results.

The PBS documentary features a relaxed interview with Dr. Williams and some of his contemporaries. The point throughout is that government intervention aimed at equality of results, or equity, does more harm than good. Although Professor Williams was not alone in espousing this perspective, he was uniquely emphatic.

Highlights of Suffer No Fools

Here are some of the points Professor Williams makes.

* The Great Society of Lyndon Johnson led to dependence on government largess instead of dependence on individual effort.

* Expectations of equality of results through government intervention replaced efforts to excel.

* Government is like a giant drug pusher. The system encouraged the propagation of poverty pimps that make a living on the grievances of the poor.

* Dependence promotes “spiritual poverty” — more significant than economic poverty because it more readily builds a cycle of tolerance for dependence.

* Spiritual poverty is seen in communities where traditional families and dedication to education is absent.

* The market pays people what the market determines people’s skills are worth. Teens who receive “a fraudulent education” in inadequate schools and have no work experience are denied the opportunity to get their foot on the first rung of the ladder to success when government demands they get paid more than the market says their skills are worth.

* Government stifles opportunity for economic success, especially for the poor, by mandating minimum wages, expensive business licenses, taxi medallions and other draconian regulations. Government conspires with insiders to keep newcomers out.

* When young, Professor Williams identified more with the militancy of Malcom X than with the philosophy of “forgiving the enemy” of Martin Luther King. As he matured, Williams began to see that salvation from poverty fares better in the free marketplace arena than in government’s political arena.

* Great empires of the past went down the tubes doing what our society is doing now – dwelling on the political arena rather than the free market arena.

* Slavery, rape, murder are actions that violate private property, including the ownership of one’s own self. Who owns you?

Progressive Economics vs. Laissez Faire

Dr. Williams’ admonitions sound radical. Our society today is focused on government’s obligation to attain equity and social justice through regulation and mandate. Private property and individual achievement are viewed with disdain. Laissez-faire economics has been replaced by progressive economics, and true capitalism replaced by crony capitalism.

Economics is not a science but a set of beliefs. Laissez faire believes that the free market is the best arena for the creation of opportunities that lead to economic wellbeing. Economic progressives believe intervention and control produce the best results through engineered social equity.

The New Wave: Progressive Economics

Here is an example of the progressive economics that Walter Williams excoriated every chance he got – an opinion piece in the Washington Post dated November 11, 2020, written by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Senator Warren expressed her view of how the Biden-Harris ticket unseated an incumbent President, and what the priorities for the new administration should be.

They ran on explicit plans to create new union jobs in clean energy, increase Social Security benefits, expand health care, cancel billions of dollars in student-loan debt, hold law enforcement accountable, make the wealthy pay their fair share, tackle climate change and provide for universal child care. … The lesson is clear. Bold policies to improve opportunity for all Americans are broadly popular. Voters recognize that these reforms are necessary to fix what is broken in our nation.

In progressive politics “opportunity” means government largess showered upon selected groups.

The Passing Wave of Laissez Faire

Black Washingtonians were proud of what they had created. In 1921 the Washington Bee, the city’s largest black paper, editorialized that the growth of black business in Washington, “more than anything else, marks real and prominent racial progress.” The thriving business district was a symbol of what blacks could achieve. As one longtime resident of the area put it in 1988, “If you were on U Street, you didn’t need to go anywhere else. It was all right there for you. Blacks had a society put together on this street.” …

Today, the city’s black aristocracy, like the thriving communities it created, exists mostly in memories. In its place are Washington’s new black leaders: the civil rights class that took power in the District nearly 30 years ago. As it turned out, the two groups could not coexist in Washington.” Washington’s Lost Black Aristocracy, Autumn 1996

No, the two groups could not have possibly coexisted.

In Defense of the Governor’s Partying While We Dine Alone

California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued numerous directives, instructions and guidelines regarding COVID-19, all describing in great detail what residents of the state can and cannot do. One activity specifically verboten is partying indoors by members of several households. One suggestion especially idiosyncratic is wearing a mask while dining — admittedly a difficult scenario to visualize, leaving one to feel obliged to wear a mask between bites.

Therefore, California residents were justifiably confused when news broke that Governor Newsom on November 6, attended a dinner, along with several other guests, in celebration of the birthday of lobbyist Jason Kinney. The venue was the elite Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry.

Enter U.S. Congressman for California’s 4th District, Tom McClintock, a conservative Republican whose libertarian streak is known to liberty-loving communities. On November 19, on the House floor, Congressman McClintock delivered a speech in defense of Governor Newsom’s maskless cozy dinner.

The speech is must-read

Mr. Speaker:

I rise this morning in defense of Governor Gavin Newsom who recently defied his own idiotic Covid edicts as he partied at one of the few restaurants that he has not yet forced out of business. I defend him because he was doing what we all once did in a free society: make our own decisions over what risks we are willing to run and what precautions we are willing to take according to our own circumstances to protect our own health.

Yes, Covid is a nasty bug and a quarter of a million Americans have died while having it. But this isn’t the Bubonic Plague. The CDC’s best estimate is that if you are under 49, your chance for surviving Covid – it you get it – is 99.92 percent. Even for those over 70 the survival rate is 94.6 percent.

Forty percent who get it don’t even know they have it. Yet we have allowed our officials to ruin our quality of life over it – destroying countless businesses, throwing tens of millions into unemployment, robbing our children of their educations and shredding our most cherished rights as Americans.

Governor Newsom’s night of partying should be a wake-up call to every American.

Every time we step outside our homes, the risks we face multiply. A free society assumes that its citizens are competent to assess those risks, balance them against the avoidance costs, and to manage their decisions in a generally responsible way. It’s called common sense, and it’s a necessary prerequisite for self-government and liberty.

The choices of an octogenarian with emphysema might be very different from those of a healthy governor in California. Only a fool would claim the omniscience to make an informed judgment for every person in every circumstance in every community. Sadly, this crisis has revealed that fools abound in public office and that a fool with power can quickly become a petty tyrant.

Which brings us back to Governor Newsom. These government nannies love to tell us that they’re just following the science. What does the science tell us? It tells us that Covid poses virtually no risk to children but can be severe among the elderly. So, what did these lockdown leftists do? They closed all the schools and ordered infected patients into nursing homes!

The science tells us that outdoor transmissions of the virus are extremely rare and that 80 percent of infections occur in people’s homes. So what did these lockdown leftists do? They closed our beaches, parks and campgrounds and ordered people to stay at home!

The science tells us that obesity is a contributing factor to the severity of the disease. So what did these lockdown leftists do? They closed all the gyms and kept the liquor stores open!

These lockdowns haven’t saved lives. The states with the most stringent lockdowns generally have the highest mortality rates from Covid. Utah stayed open while next door, Colorado shut down. Utah currently has half the Covid mortality rate and 3/4 the unemployment rate as Colorado. But the lockdowns have cost countless lives from suicides, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and deferred health screenings and treatments.

Recently, Governor Newsom demanded that restaurant diners replace their masks after every bite, but also minimize the times they take them off. I guess that means take very big bites. Thanksgiving dinners are allowed in California, but only when they are held outside, guests are seated six feet apart, and they last no more than two hours. It’s all right to use the bathroom, but only if it is frequently sanitized. Otherwise, presumably you’ll just have to use the bushes. And for God’s sake – NO SINGING!

I have wondered how much longer the American people are going to tolerate this nonsense?

So let us not criticize Governor Newsom. Perhaps he has just offered us all deliverance from his own folly.

Nor should we criticize the California legislators who ignored travel and quarantine restrictions to junket to Hawaii. Nor should we ridicule Speaker Pelosi for choosing not to wear a mask in a hair salon that was forced to close for the rest of us.

Good for them. They’re demonstrating by their own actions the freedom that every American citizen needs to reclaim from these very same people. The governor SHOULD make his own decisions about running his own life. I only ask that he and his ilk would stop telling the rest of us how to run ours.

Rule Makers Need Not Be Inconvenienced

Congressman McClintock touched upon a truth that must not be ignored. Politicians often belong to elite circles that thrive in the acquisition of power. Their default modus operandi is “For your own safety and the safety of your neighbors, follow my rules.” There is no covenant that the rule maker follow those same rules. Power grows as constituents are rendered increasingly fearful and receptive to obedience in exchange for perceived protection. Rule makers need not be inconvenienced.

(Featured picture posted by Fox News)

After AlphaGo There Is No Stopping AI

Artificial Intelligence, in one form or another, is everywhere. We invite it into our homes and feed it on social media. Businesses that have the resources to automate, will. Every sector of the economy utilizes AI in some form.

It is nearly impossible to find an industry that is not looking to AI for improvements. AI is potentially playing a role in semiconductors, industrial applications, military and defense and everything in-between. Manufacturers hope AI will make developing products and innovation easier. Globalspace, September 6, 2019

Advances in AI

Meanwhile, AI keeps advancing in what it can do. An interesting way to observe AI’s recent trajectory is to recall the times when AI competed against human champions and won.

* IBM’s Deep Blue defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997.

Chess kept Deep Blue in the realm of what computers are good at, using statistics and probabilities to determine strategy. (Popular Science, 12/26/12)

* IBM’s Watson defeated two Jeopardy! champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, in 2011.

Jeopardy! … pushed Watson into an unfamiliar world of human language and unstructured data. (Popular Science, 12/26/12)

* DeepMind’s AlphaGo program defeated go world champion Lee Sedol in 2016.

When compared with Deep Blue or with Watson, AlphaGo’s underlying algorithms are potentially more general-purpose… (Wikipedia, AlphaGo vs. Lee Sedol)

Ultimate Goal With Unknown Results

Real artificial intelligence is general-purpose. It is artificial general intelligence. AGI has the potential to perform any task that a human being can perform, not just a specialized task such as playing board games. It can teach itself by manipulating massive amounts of data. It can act based upon its own knowledge.

Here is a description of Google’s machine learning tool AutoML-Zero, published in Google AI Blog July 9, 2020:

In our case, a population is initialized with empty programs. It then evolves in repeating cycles to produce better and better learning algorithms. At each cycle, two (or more) random models compete and the most accurate model gets to be a parent. The parent clones itself to produce a child, which gets mutated. That is, the child’s code is modified in a random way, which could mean, for example, arbitrarily inserting, removing or modifying a line in the code. The mutated algorithm is then evaluated on image classification tasks.

When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Leigh Mallory responded, “Because it’s there.” Once a goal is envisioned, there is no stopping those who will pursue its attainment, regardless of unknown collateral results. The envisioned goal in AI technology is to spread AI everywhere in ever-advanced forms.

On December 2, 2014, BBC News made headlines with remarks by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawkins and response by Cleverbot creator Rollo Carpenter.

The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race … It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate… Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded. Hawkins

I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realized.… We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it. Carpenter

Recommended Segment of PBS FRONTLINE

In the Age of AI aired on FRONTLINE’s Season 2019, Episode 5, November 5. The program serves as a good overview of what AI is, what it is used for today, what effect is has had in economies, what it has done to privacy and liberty, and where it looks like AI is going.

The program’s framework is the U.S. AlphaGo’s victory over China’s go player Ke Jie, which ignited China’s quest for AI supremacy.

Here are some good take-aways offered by In the Age of AI:

There are three important developments that changed the world – the steam engine, electricity and AI — “everything else is too small.”

In the U.S. automation amplified by AI has sadly caused a lot of white and blue collar workers to lose their jobs. However, developments in technology have always done that. Former elevator operators, telephone operators, and secretaries can attest to that.

AI’s most prominent role has been in personal data gathering. Both private and public sectors depend on some form of AI’s ability to collect massive amounts of data and use it to indicate individuals’ preferences, habits, routines, etc.

China’s advances in AI have been astounding. China sees benefit in having become a surveillance state where people’s routines are in a vast database that can be used to quickly process loans or quickly scoop disruptors for purposes of re-education. The regime’s Belt and Road Initiative invests in and builds infrastructure all over the world. Included in the developments, are China’s ubiquitous surveillance cameras.

AI is the ultimate tool of wealth creation. The push for advancing AI results in aid to capital and neglect of labor, causing inequality to grow. It used to be that wages rose with productivity, but with the advent of automation, especially that augmented by AI, productivity and wages decoupled. It won’t be long before there is real clamor for distribution of wealth created by capital.

You and AI

Whether you embrace or fear artificial intelligence, AI is here to stay. In the short run you will benefit from augmented diagnostic techniques or harmed by loss of a job. In the long run your place in the universe – to your advantage or not — might be determined by a machine.

(Featured picture: Ke Jie playing AlphaGo, NPR, Google A.I. Clinches Series Against Humanity’s Last, Best Hope To Win At Go, May 25, 2017)

Question Authority No Longer

Were he alive today, 1960s counterculture icon Timothy Leary would be appalled. Leary is mostly remembered for his efforts to decriminalize psychedelic drugs. However, his principal objective was to encourage people to think for themselves, question authority, and accept the chaos that comes with “a state of vulnerable open-mindedness.”

Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities — the political, the religious, the educational authorities — who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing — forming in our minds — their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself. A Notable Quote by Timothy Leary.

Today’s Battle Cry is “Obey Authority”

Instead, we crave for the comfort of authority. We want protection from vulnerability. Those standing at the ready to provide comfort and protection abound. They hold up the equivalent of the Little Red Book that tells us what to think, what to say, and what to do. They use words in ways they were not meant to be used. Science is no longer observation, inquiry and experiment, but is now absolute. They use “science” as a psychological bludgeon.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the following in response to criticism regarding his COVID-19 guidelines:

I believe for the most part you can trust respected medical authorities … I believe I’m one of them, so I think you can trust me. But I would stick with respected medical authorities who have a track record of telling the truth, who have a track record of giving information and policy and recommendations based on scientific evidence and good data. The Guardian, July 15, 2020

One needs to question Dr. Fauci’s awareness of how drastically scientific knowledge can change. The theory of a stationary earth around which the sun revolved was once scientific truth.

What Might Timothy Leary Question Were He Alive Today?

Why is the media so focused on reporting numbers infected with COVID-19, especially when famous people are among those numbers, and not much reporting on numbers recovered?

Are COVID tests accurate? Celebrities Elon Musk and Erykah Badu recently received on the same day both positive and negative diagnosis, according to media reports.

Have U.S. state and city leaders struck a reasonable balance between lockdowns and future health in the absence of routine in-person exams, workers’ threatened livelihoods, children’s lack of proper education, deterioration of mental well being?

Even if people are willing to question, what would be a venue for those questions? The Internet is today’s soapbox. But…

…[T]he UN Secretary- General launched the United Nations Communications Response initiative to combat the spread of mis- and disinformation in April 2020. ..The Resolution also calls on international organizations to address mis- and disinformation in the digital sphere, work to prevent harmful cyber activities undermining the health response and support the provision of science-based data to the public. WHO, Managing the COVID-19 Infodemic

Social media companies have committed to regulate content in light of the pandemic.
Eliminating misinformation can help social media users gather and disseminate accurate information, helping them stay safe and reduce risk to others … A more ambitious role for social media platforms would be to boost efforts by public health authorities by, for example, upranking links to recommendations from recognised health authorities, and downranking ads for essential limited medical supplies, such as face masks, to prevent hoarding.
Building Trust While Influencing Online COVID-19 Content in the Social Media World, The Lancet, April 21, 2020.

Questioning or Obeying is a Personal Choice

Indeed, COVID-19 is a real pandemic. The current estimated COVID-19 death rate of 2.16% is not to be flippantly dismissed. However, the principal question here is whether shutting down discourse that conflicts with official WHO and CDC guidelines is beneficial.

Timothy Leary was certainly not the first to encourage questioning. Greek philosopher Socrates, for example, regarded questioning essential to critical thinking.

The art of Socratic questioning is intimately connected with critical thinking because the art of questioning is important to excellence of thought. Socrates argued for the necessity of probing individual knowledge, and acknowledging what one may not know or understand. Wikipedia, Socratic Questioning.

It is the prerogative of each individual to choose questioning and vulnerability or obedience and protection. Today, it seems the majority have chosen to “stay safe.”

Taxes Disguised as Fees Raiding Your Pockets

The California Supreme Court accepted for review on October 14, 2020, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association vs. Bay Area Toll Authority. Those who recall the 2018 epic battle pro and con Regional Measure 3 (RM3), which raised bridge tolls by $3, might not be surprised.

The Court granted and held the HJTA case pending disposition of a similar case, Zolly v. City of Oakland. So, it will be a while.

The basic issue with RM3 is whether it is a fee – as supporters claim – or a tax — as opponents point out. RM3 passed with 55% voter approval. Article XIII, Section 3 of the California Constitution requires two thirds approval for passage of a tax.

Article XIII, Section 3 is the Constitutional Amendment approved by voters November 2010 as Proposition 26. Prop 26 was intended to put a break on the proliferation of taxes and fees emptying the pockets of California residents.

Difference Between a Tax and A Fee

Article XIII, Section 3 says any charge is a tax except what the Section specifically says is a fee:

“(b) As used in this section, “tax” means any levy, charge, or exaction of any kind imposed by the State, except the following:

(1) A charge imposed for a specific benefit conferred or privilege granted directly to the payor that is not provided to those not charged, and which does not exceed the reasonable costs to the State of conferring the benefit or granting the privilege to the payor.

(2) A charge imposed for a specific government service or product provided directly to the payor that is not provided to those not charged, and which does not exceed the reasonable costs to the State of providing the service or product to the payor.

(3) A charge imposed for the reasonable regulatory costs to the State incident to issuing licenses and permits, performing investigations, inspections, and audits, enforcing agricultural marketing orders, and the administrative enforcement and adjudication thereof.

(4) A charge imposed for entrance to or use of state property, or the purchase, rental, or lease of state property, except charges governed by Section 15 of Article XI.

(5) A fine, penalty, or other monetary charge imposed by the judicial branch of government or the State, as a result of a violation of law. “

(Article XI, Section 15, of the California Constitution refers to “revenues derived from taxes imposed pursuant to the Vehicle License Fee Law.”)

The Problem With RM3

Regional Measure 3 exacts a charge to motorists crossing the Bay Area’s State-owned bridges. But revenues derived from that charge are not limited to benefiting motorists by building highways or fixing potholes. The bulk of RM3 revenues benefits users of other modes of transportation, like public transit riders, bicyclists, and walkers.

RM3 is intended to fund a wide variety of improvements to Bay Area mobility. Therefore, the measures’ charge to motorists exceeds the cost of benefits received by motorists.

The use of revenues derived from RM3 make the measure clearly a tax, according to Clauses 1) and 2) of Section 3, Article XIII.

Proponents’ Argument

What argument could proponents of Regional Measure 3 make in view of Clauses 1) and 2)?

Aside from arguments that amount to we want the money, proponents argue that RM3 falls under Clause 4), a charge to enter or use state-owned property. They also argue that Clause 4) is not subject to the relationship of charge to payer vs. benefit to payer as are Clauses 1) and 2). Clause 4) does not have the wording on charge vs. benefit that Clauses 1) and 2) have.

Enter Zolly vs. City of Oakland

Robert Zolly, owner of an Oakland apartment building, joined two other small-property landlords in suing the City of Oakland. The lawsuit claims that the city’s fee for hauling garbage far exceeds the cost of hauling said garbage. Indeed it does, because the haulers’ franchise costs are included in the garbage-collecting fee. A portion representing the haulers’ franchise pass through is placed in Oakland’s general fund to cover expenses not related to garbage collection.

The Court sees a comparison between using garbage-hauling fees to fund general city services, and using bridge tolls to fund public transit and other modes of mobility. A strict adherence to Article XIII, Section 3 would render such use of funds unconstitutional.

Bigger Issues

Regional Measure 3 is the brainchild of the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). MTC is an agency easy to dislike. Its commissioners are appointed, not elected. However, MTC’s power to determine the destiny of the San Francisco Bay Area keeps growing.

Although MTC is a transportation agency, it is deeply involved in housing policy. Its Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) has been a powerful influence behind state and local legislation dealing with evictions, rent caps, rent assistance, and other housing-related mandates.

There is a crucial difference between Regional Measure 3 and Measures 1 and 2. RM3 carried a mandate that all nine Bay Area Counties had to place RM3 on their ballots whether they liked it or not, and passage was based on votes aggregated from all nine counties. More of this strategy should be expected, as indicated by plans to place Faster Bay Area on a future ballot. RM3 contributed to the ongoing blurring of what a legal voters’ jurisdiction is supposed to be.

Your Pockets Are At Peril

There are pitfalls inherent in the kind of “regional planning” exemplified by RM3. If the Court sides with RM3 proponents, extracting money from Bay Area residents will become a lot easier. Proposals for tax increases disguised as fees will rain upon all our heads.

Childhood: You blink and you miss it

This is Just Vote No editor sharing random thoughts on a place in Northern California that exemplifies fun for all families: Casa de Fruta. For the more well off, yes, bring your wallet since there is lots to buy. For the less well off, enjoy the grounds without an entrance fee and a reasonably priced lunch.

At present, the grounds feature a store filled with food and wine, restaurant, pond, water wheel, and playground. Additionally, there are real old-time farm equipment on display. How many children know about a hand-operated water pump? [This writer’s family once had a hand-operated water pump in the back yard. The family took turns pumping water to drink, cook, and wash.]

But the children’s highlights are closed until the County says it is OK to re-open.

Visit Casa de Fruta – Store Hours

For how long? How many little ones will miss out? Is the lockdown worth it?

Childhood comes but once. You blink and you miss it. You shut down schools, playgrounds, and carrousels and childhood pays the price. Children whose families earn minimum wage – or nowadays no wage at all, pay the highest price. The legacy of the Covid-19 lockdowns will reverberate for a long time to come.

October 25, 2020

Recommended: The Barrington Declaration

None of us wants to see our Grannies succumb to COVID-19, or G-d forbid, any of our children. However, our precautions need to be balanced against the “irreparable damage” lockdowns and other extreme measures are causing.

“Irreparable damage” is the correct description to what lockdowns are doing to mental health and physical well being as a result of isolation and postponement of routine treatment.

It’s like kicking the can of illness and mortality down the road.

“Irreparable damage” is the description The Great Barrington Declaration uses. The Just Vote No Blog recommends consideration of the thoughts expressed on the Barrington Declaration website. The Declaration was signed by numerous health practitioners from around the world on October 4, 2020, in the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The Declaration simply recommends: focus on protecting the most vulnerable and let the rest resume their normal lives.

Here is an excerpt:

As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

The Barrington Declaration mostly addresses the destructive effects of lockdowns on health. We also need to keep in mind the devastation lockdowns have wrought upon our individual liberties and our economic prosperity.

As an aside, perhaps predictably, the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, has declared its objection to the Declaration’s title.