On June 7, 2022, San Francisco voters recalled their District Attorney, Chesa Boudin. It might be tempting for law-and-order supporters to think that Boudin’s ouster marks a shift towards more meaningful crime prevention. However, a broader view of San Francisco residents’ sentiments seems to augur crime as usual.
The visibility of crime
Crime is a visible blight in San Francisco. Shop lifters walk out of stores with bags full of stolen merchandise, public drug use is everywhere, sidewalks serve as sleeping quarters and toilets. Cars are not safe from break-ins for long. The scenario is not surprising since candidate for DA Chesa Boudin made clear during his candidacy that he would not prosecute low-level and quality-of-life crimes.
Voters grew weary of this scenario. They tired of the stories daily in the media about the revolving door the DA’s office had become – criminals arrested, released, committing more crime, arrested again, released again.
On June 7, what San Francisco residents saw and experienced took precedence over the arguments made by Boudin and his supporters: Reform is necessary to root out racial bias that fills American prisons with people of color. Reform takes time, and results are not as visible as crime. There are other alternatives to holding people accountable besides incarceration.
This comment summarizes the outcome of the recall election:
People are happy to be progressive and happy to be anti-racist as long as their bike doesn’t get stolen, or they don’t watch a viral video of a theft at Walgreens. Once that happens, or they feel vulnerable in some way, they throw out the high-minded ideals that made them vote for a reformer. Lara Bazelon, University of San Francisco law professor, as quoted in The Atlantic, “Why California Wants to Recall Its Most Progressive Prosecutors”, April 28, 2022.
The fleeting nature of recalls
As Professor Bazelon indicates in the quote above, in a recall, voters can vote to oust officials for whom they voted in the first place. It’s like buyer’s remorse. Unfortunately, buyers’ remorse is often instantly forgotten when another well-advertised impractical item appears in the store window. On the same ballot that San Francisco voters voted to recall Chesa Boudin, they also helped elect another criminal justice reformer, Rob Bonta, for state Attorney General.
Criminal justice reform as embraced by Boudin and his compatriots is very much still on the table in San Francisco. Here are some quotes uttered soon after the DA’s recall.
This election does not mean that San Francisco has drifted to the far right on our approach to criminal justice. In fact, San Francisco has been a national beacon for progressive criminal justice reform for decades and will continue to do so with new leadership. Mary Jung, recall campaign chair, as quoted in The Crime Report, “California Remains National Beacon for Justice Reform”, June 8, 2022.
We insist that the next San Francisco district attorney pursue reform, reduce incarceration, hold police accountable when they break the law, and root out racial bias in the criminal justice system. ACLU of Northern California, Press Release, June 8, 2022.
…to be clear, sometimes accountability means rehab. Sometimes accountability means community service. It is not just about law and order and tough on crime and locking people up and throwing away the key … It’s about accountability when those lines are crossed and coming to a reasonable conclusion around justice and what that really means for, in some cases, not just the perpetrator but the people who fall victim to those crimes. Mayor London Breed, as quoted in S.F. Standard, “Mayor Breed Weighs In on DA Recall”, June 8, 2022
Let’s let that sink in: “… coming to a reasonable conclusion around justice and what that really means for, in some cases, not just the perpetrator but the people who fall victim to those crimes.”
Whose job is it anyway?
Reformers are correct that the American criminal justice system needs a good deal of improvement. It makes no sense that, according to what is known, American prisons house more people than any other country in the world. It does make sense that root causes of crime must figure in crime prevention.
However, reform is not the job of district attorneys (or judges). The job of DA’s is to protect residents from falling victims of crime using tools provided by law.
The job of criminal justice reform belongs to legislators. As long as legislators continue to pass counter-productive laws riddled with consequences detrimental to the very communities they are purportedly attempting to help, the causes of crime will remain. Think American job losses due to minimum wage, offshoring, automation, climate change regulation, formation of monopolies and conglomerates enabled by fiat money. Think legislation with embedded disincentives to throw off the shackles of dependence, to reject coddling in schools and jobs in the name of “equity,” to learn job skills in school instead of rhetoric.
The best thing district attorneys can do is keep to their knitting under the law. That does not mean they cannot, like every citizen can, encourage legislators to quit passing counter-productive legislation.
Whether that could possibly happen in San Francisco will become more clear once Mayor London Breed appoints the City’s interim DA.
Conservatives have stood their ground on gun possession – give in on “common sense legislation,” and gun control advocates will come after the Second Amendment. This situation is akin to abortion advocates refusing to give one inch for fear a mile will be taken. Both misgivings are warranted. So, nobody budges.
Meanwhile, gun violence continues to escalate. Famously, the U.S. has the highest age-adjusted rate of firearms homicides per 100,000 population among higher-income nations. The U.S. should have a new slogan: MACA: Make America Civil Again.
Unfortunately, leaders as well the general public no longer value civility. Leaders lead by discordant slogans, political candidates rile up their base, and special interests sell their agendas with cherry-picked facts. The desire for trust, compromise and consensus has become a scarce commodity.
Add to the brew granular and persistent factors: mediocre schools, violent video games, pervasive social media, busy or absent parents, isolation, Covid-19, anxiety hammered into young minds by race/gender focused narratives, an uncertain economy, easily-obtainable drugs. Something bad is bound to happen.
Gun violence is what happened
In 2020, 43% of the [gun] deaths – amounting to 19,384 people – were homicides, according to data from the CDC. The figure represents a 34% increase from 2019, and a 75% increase over the course of the previous decade … The data also shows that the vast majority of murders, 79%, were carried out with guns.
Suicides were 54% of gun deaths in 2020. Mass shootings were 3% of gun deaths in 2020 (this figure changes depending on how mass shooting is described – some say 3 or more people, and some say 4 or more people).
Although mass shootings are a relatively small percentage of gun-related death, they are the most visible and the most remembered. Also mass shootings are rising since around 2012, giving cause for great alarm.
Pistols are often used in mass shootings, but the focus of rage is over semi-automatic, high-capacity rifles such as the AR-15, possibly because of their visibility and popularity. If anything has substantially contributed to America’s gun culture, the AR-15 has, especially right after President Bill Clinton’s 1994 ban and subsequent ban expiration in 2004.
Culturally, the ban did what marketers could not: In outlawing it, the government made the AR-15 tantalizing. “Once Banned, Now Loved and Loathed: How the AR-15 Became ‘America’s Rifle’,” New York Times, March 3, 2018.
Check out the AR-15s below, and spread the word on what AR really stands for, America’s Rifle.NRA Blog, January 20, 2016.
Clever marketing and plenty of lobbying by the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) and the NRA (National Rifle Association) further cement America’s obsession with guns, popularize semi-automatic weapons, and help make the gun industry very profitable.
The NSSF has a sleek website and spent $4,580,000 in 2020 on lobbying. The NRA’s lobbying expenses were $2,200,000 in 2020. For comparison, Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown Foundation, the better known of the gun-restriction advocates, spent $1,330,000 on lobbying in 2020. One could wager that such influence might tend to keep public officials from doing much fraternizing with the enemy.
No fraternizing with the enemy orcoming to agreements
There are cultural, political, patriotic, economic and self-defense issues that appear to be irreconcilable, with all factions escalating their rhetoric. The discord runs deep, with significant divergence in broad questions such as what was the Founders’ aim when they wrote the Bill of Rights, what is the role of government, who is responsible for the populace’s safety, and must government treat everyone as “created equal.”
Here are recent comments reported in the media that serve to illustrate how deep and acrimonious the divergence runs.
North Carolina Lieutenant Governor speaking at a worship service at Midpoint Church, Middlesex, NC, May 15, 2022: “I got them AR-15s in case the government gets too big for his britches because I’m going to fill the backside of them britches with some lead.”
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper in a Tweet on May 31, 2022, commenting on Lt. Governor Robinson’s speech: “An elected official sworn to uphold the Constitution advocating violent overthrow of our govt shames NC and puts our safety and our democracy at risk.”
These two comments, both needlessly confrontational, are examples of profound and irreconcilable disagreement as to the nature of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. One faction views government as a principal entity representing “democracy,” to which public officials swear allegiance; thus no distinction is made between government and the Constitution. The opposing faction views the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as a foundation document intended to constrain actions of government, and give the people means (Second Amendment) to defend themselves against a government that becomes tyrannical; the distinction between government and the Constitution is observed.
President Joe Biden, during a speech outlining his plan to combat gun violence, June 23, 2021: “If you wanted or if you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.”
Maybe such a comment illustrates what Lt. Governor Robinson was talking about when he mentioned a government getting “too big for his breeches.” President Biden is apparently OK with a pretty powerful government obliterating its citizens. Hopefully, citizens will use the ballot box to restrain government when needed before the conflagration envisioned by President Biden occurs.
Saida Grundy, Sociology and African American studies Professor at Boston University, Tweet, May 25, 2022, regarding destruction of property during the George Floyd riots: “When you say that to Black people, who historically have been property, one of our greatest weapons was the looting of ourselves as property from the system of slavery. And what we see in communities is they are reacting to the very racism of what we call property … I think it’s very important for people who see reactions in communities not to judge or make assumptions about what is good and not good reactions. And not actually re-victimize communities by saying there’s an acceptable and not acceptable way to react.”
The sentiment in Professor Grundy’s Tweet alludes that not all were viewed as “created equal” by the nation’s Founders, and therefore not all should be judged equally today. The question must then arise if the violence following George Floyd’s murder should not be judged as good or not good, how much leniency should society afford. Is gun violence included in the leniency? It would be difficult to reconcile such leniency with credible solutions to rising violence.
Polarization is the order of the day. There are sacred cows that would be difficult to eliminate, the Second Amendment is one of them. Any law that gun supporters perceive as threats to the Amendment is opposed. On the other hand, there are legitimate fears of people with guns. As families of murdered children increase, so does the call for stricter gun laws.
Again, the seemingly irreconcilable comments above are needlessly confrontational. Leaders like Lt. Governor Robinson mentioned above, who plans to run for governor in 2024, delight in incendiary comments about gun rights. Another governorship contender, Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who famously said during his presidential campaign in 2020, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” was escorted out of a press conference called by Texas Governor Gregory Abbott to report on the Uvalde murders, shouting to Abbott, “This is on you until you choose to do something different.”
But not too different
When Beto O’Rourke challenged Governor Abbott to “do something different,” a good guess would be he was not thinking of something too different, like taking on the underlying forces of which gun violence is a symptom. That would entail reversing over 50 years of the cultural and political status quo.
Some talk about eliminating the “root causes” of violence does come up, usually referring to incidents of mental illness and poverty. That’s like giving someone with a headache an aspirin to combat the root cause of the headache: pain. Cultural, political, economic issues behind mental illness and poverty are way too big to even think about tackling.
And not much can be fixed without a modicum of trust. After every highly-publicized shooting incident, anti-gun factions call for additional gun restrictions claiming the majority of Americans want restrictions. Yet, after every such incident gun sales rise significantly. Seems a lot of people either do not trust law enforcement to protect them, or fear government will use a shooting incident to make guns and/or ammunition largely unavailable to civilians. Again, such concerns are warranted, and will continue until public officials stop posturing.
Palliatives don’t cure but do blunt the pain
Since it does not appear that anyone is talking about deep diving into the real root causes of gun violence, gun restrictions arising from compromise and trust would serve as palliatives.
Compromise is accepting things one fears in exchange for acquiring things others fear. Trust is hoping the party to whom power is allocated will act responsibly. Both require eternal vigilance by average citizens and voters – or like Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”
There are three gun restrictions at the federal level: the long-standing restriction on owning fully-automatic weapons and “highly destructive” weapons, requirement that licensed gun dealers do background checks on gun purchasers, and requirement that purchasers be 18 years or older. Unlicensed firearms dealers are not required to make background checks. Presumably, folks in the underground market are not too constrained by gun restrictions.
Proposals for federal universal background checks, as well as federal red-flag legislation (law enforcement officer removing guns from individuals that appear to present a danger to themselves and others) are often proposed by anti-gun legislators and often opposed by pro-gun legislators.
As America remains the developed country with the highest rate of gun violence, right up there with failed poverty-stricken nations, more intelligent restrictions than those we have now seem in order. For example, how does it make sense for anyone, but especially someone barely out of childhood, to legally purchase several powerful weapons sometimes on the same day?
Here are a few figures from World Population Review (2018 figures). Suicides are included in gun violence statistics, and suicides account to 60% of U.S. gun deaths. The chart also shows level of strictness of gun laws (2019): A+ for strictest through F for least strict.
The figures on the chart show that states with the highest rate of gun ownership also have the highest rate of gun deaths. Statisticians acknowledge there could be externalities, like isolation in states with low population density or lack of supportive services in less progressive states.
Regulations and restrictions at the federal level preclude choices by individual states. They would also presumably provide a wider and deeper bank of information on potential purchasers, making background checks and other requirements more effective in excluding people deemed dangerous to themselves and others.
Reversing America’s gun culture, helping people cope with serious adversities, finding a way to get young people to stay away from isolating and violent video games, making the economy work for the less affluent, decrease dependence on government and increase self-reliance – all would help to reduce destructive or violent behavior. None of this has so far been done effectively.
Best that can be done at this time might be to encourage our leaders via the ballot box to tone down the rhetoric, and give a little to take a little.
Roe vs. Wade as well as Planned Parenthood vs. Casey might soon be on the chopping block, which has unleashed fury from the left and contentment from the right. The left’s fury is understandable – overturning Roe messes with a lot that women have taken for granted in the last 50 years. The situation on the right seems more difficult to understand.
The majority of conservatives oppose abortion, often declaring that life begins at conception and must be protected from that time on. Great, but whose life? Not all conservatives include in their declarations that there should be exceptions to protect maternal life.
Perhaps Hines has in other occasions better explained his position, and perhaps he does consider maternal life as important as fetus life.
However, Hines’ statement, as well as those of other conservatives speaking on abortion, are the kind of thing that could upend the 2022 midterm elections. That is, unless most conservative women have not heard of maternal risks during pregnancy either.
Here are three of the most serious potential risks to refresh their memory:
Ectopic pregnancy: No way either Baby or Mom can survive without intervention like surgery to remove the fetus or medication to stop the fetus from growth.
Preeclampsia: This used to be called “toxemia.” It is very high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The only cure for severe preeclampsia is to give birth. If the Baby is viable, all might be well. If it is not, either Mom will survive but Baby will not, or both will die.
Detached placenta: As the name implies, the placenta separates from the uterus, preventing Baby from getting nutrition and oxygen. If severe enough, Mom can only be saved by giving birth to Baby, regardless of gestation time.
These risks are common knowledge. Nothing controversial about them. So, conservatives need to show they are aware that if abortions are completely banned, attending physicians might be placed in the position of deciding who gets killed – Mom or Baby – and whether or not to risk their medical career by not letting Mom die.
As an aside, another issue that conservatives might want to clarify is that Planned Parenthood does more than “kill babies.” It provides education and contraceptives that help the less affluent avoid abortions and plan the size of their families.
Picture: The featured picture above is from a series of photographs by Jon Dominis, published by Life Magazine in its January 31, 1964, issue in an essay titled “The Valley of Poverty.”
After living in California, a state forced into a progressive political bubble by the populous coastal region, it is refreshing to now call North Carolina home. This state has strong voices in both progressive and conservative camps.
Even within camps, there are divergent voices. In the conservative camp there are the Trump-anointed vs. establishment. In the progressive camp there are reformers vs. centrists. The libertarian camp is not as visible, although several libertarians are on the upcoming elections ballot.
This mishmash of sides will thin out on May 17, when voters choose who will represent them in the General Election.
The stakes are not insignificant.
North Carolina has maintained a workable political balance with a Republican-majority state legislation and a Democrat governor. Although most voters seem content with such arrangement, activists are not.
At the more contentious Federal level is where swords are drawn. The U.S. Senate is divided 50-50, with the Vice President, a Democrat, being the tie breaker. U.S. Senator from North Carolina, Richard Burr, a Republican, is retiring. His successor, depending on affiliation, can help either maintain or upset the 50-50 balance.
Then there is the Trump Effect. Former President Donald Trump won in North Carolina in 2016 and in 2020. Some say Trump’s influence in North Carolina will be determined if his endorsed candidates do well in the May 17 primary. Others point that the leading contender in North Carolina’s important U.S. Senate race is Trump-endorsed Ted Budd.
On the other side of the coin is the Millennial Effect. Liberal states like California are emptying out, and the bulk of the out-migrants are young professionals. Wake County, N.C., for example, is full of them, since the burgeoning Research Triangle offers well-paying jobs and pleasant low-cost living. Wake County is politically blue, and locals say that Cary stands for “Concentrated Area of Relocated Yankees.”
Thus, battles between factions rage
In his speech marking the anniversary of the January 6 debacle President Joe Biden said,
“I have said it many times. It’s no more true or real than when we think about the events of January 6. We are in a battle for the soul of America.”
A bit melodramatic but apropos. Today’s battle is not over one or two issues, like The Vietnam War or the New Deal. The battle, daunting and relentless, is over a wide range of subjects that are sometimes lumped together in phrases like “our democracy” or “make America great.”
At its core, the fight is about preserving our Constitutional Republic or abandoning it in preference of a Marxist-based democracy. States like California or New York have already chosen Marxism, so there is no real battle there. Residents of swing states like North Caroline, Florida, and Texas are still waging war.
To those right of center, George Sorors is evil incarnate. Whatever goes wrong, it’s Sorors fault. Given such position, the specifics of what he does goes unaddressed.
George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist founder of Open Society Foundations, has made his philosophy, objectives, and modus operandi perfectly clear, especially in the numerous very quotable quotes in his books, speeches, and public conversations.
Soros is an intellectual who is considered one of the best hedge fund managers in the world. His fortune, estimated at $8.6 billion, attests to his acumen. His Open Society Foundations, endowed at around $18 billion, is a grant-making machine amply capable of transforming markets and societies.
His objectives, as clearly expressed in his own words, matter.
A man with a mission
Soros objectives could be boiled down to two of his quotes:
When I had made more money than I needed for myself and my family, I set up a foundation to promote the values and principles of a free and open society.
An open society is a society which allows its members the greatest possible degree of freedom in pursuing their interests compatible with the interests of others.
Back in the late 1970s, when Soros started his philanthropic work, he funded educational initiatives for Black South Africans and gave financial support to dissidents of the Communist regime in the European Eastern Block. When South African apartheid dissolved and the Soviet Union collapsed, Soros turned his attention to other “enemies of open societies.”
The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.
According to information on its website, Open Society Foundations spends approximately one in five dollars in the United States.
Why? Because most people, including George Soros, view the U.S. as the hot bed of capitalism.
The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.
Such view of capitalism espoused by someone who made his fortune in the world’s capital markets is surprising.
However, today, Soros views his same theory of reflexivity that led to his success in the capital markets as a destabilizing force that needs government regulation.
Reflexivity is the “gap between perception and reality.” According to Soros markets often operate on perception, so prices reflect perception not reality. Reliance on past performance and ideas of how markets should behave can become useless when perceptions of the day interfere with prices.
Add to reflexivity what Soros sees as a tendency of markets toward excess, and we have, according to Soros, a recipe for instability, uncertainty, and economy mayhem.
His solution is to regulate institutions and the market
Throughout the 19th century, when there was a laissez-faire mentality and insufficient regulation, you had one crisis after another. Each crisis brought about some reform. That is how central banking developed.
To stabilize and regulate a truly global economy, we need some global system of political decision-making.
In short, we need a global society to support our global economy.
Soros explained during his remarks on October 1, 2013, at the Global Economic Symposium,
Behind the invisible hand of markets lurks the visible hand of politics. Both the markets and the authorities are fallible; that is what makes their interaction reflexive.
The downside? According to Soros, reflexivity applies to society as a whole, not just to capital markets. He willingly admits that his views and actions are a result of his perceptions of reality. As his perceptions change given new information or new developments, he recalibrates.
Unfortunately political decision makers are seldom blessed with such wisdom. Their perceptions mushroom into eternal rules
* Soros view of the ideal society “which allows its members the greatest possible degree of freedom in pursuing their interests compatible with the interests of others” clashes with his desire to achieve stability through heavy regulation. Nevertheless, he acts on his perception that wide-spread regulation is desirable.
* The perception is that capitalism, especially American capitalism, is the cause of imbalance, uncertainly, and economic disaster. The reality is that capitalism has been transformed into cronyism. Already excessive regulation exclude competitors from markets, low interest rates facilitate acquisitions and monopolies, largess showered on the populace disincentivizes workers.
* Power corrupts. Thus, it stands to reason that politicians with the power to heavily regulate and control markets, especially on a global scenario, face temptations to act in corrupts ways.
* Soros is quick to clarify that when he refers to global decision makers, he means a decision-making body that supports sovereign open societies. A nation that must take orders from a global decision maker cannot be called sovereign, whether it is an open society or not.
Watch who supports your political candidates
George Soros’ Open Society Foundations aim to transform economic and social systems in America. Some systems like the creation of elites through inflated stock or real estate prices, for example, could use improvement. But transformation from a sovereign nation with still some semblance of free markets and still some semblance of individual freedom into a subsidiary of a global decision-making body is not what we should want.
Open Society Foundations has created a vast network of grant-making entities that target candidates who will support George Soros’ vision of what America should look like.
Voters need to pay attention for whom they vote. Voters that reject the U.S.’s form of capitalism as does Soros are certainly free to vote for Soros-supported candidates. However, voters who still place faith in our markets and our sovereignty, might want to choose other candidates.
In this article the JVN blog discussed Soros’ economic objectives and how he is advancing those objectives in the U.S. In an earlier article, published in California Political News & Views, JVN discussed Soros’ focus on transforming America’s judicial system by funding selected candidates for district attorney.
Pictured:This picture, from a timeline of initiatives on the Open Society Foundations website, shows Step by Step, an early childhood education institution funded by Open Society. These institutions are now in 120 countries, including the U.S.
The paper mainly lists the forms CBDC could take, and the benefits and risks of implementation. That is all the paper could do, since the key issue – the form CBDC could take – is at this time undetermined.
However, Money and Payments is clear on the following points,
* CBDC is a liability of the U.S. government, just like paper money. The general public and private institutions such as banks carry no liability. The white paper does not discuss that a U.S. government liability is a public liability – when government functions sour, Joe Q. Public pays the price in taxes or soup lines.
* CBDC can be designed to achieve various levels of privacy, stability, surveillance, crime fighting, inclusion, risk, transparency, permanency, cross-border availability. The white paper does not discuss the likely levels of each. Numerous articles found on the Internet simply assume the shapes CBDC will take without any basis for such assumptions.
In other words, CBDC is not like Bitcoin or Stablecoin or any other form of private digital currency in existence today. CBDC is government issued, and government controlled to stay in concert with government objectives.
Today, several countries have launched pilot CBDC programs, and 9 countries – 8 in the Caribbean plus Nigeria – have fully functioning CBDC.
Rushing to where angels should fear to tread
It is not just Internet pundits imagining what CBDC would look like.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are collaborating on Project Hamilton to explore CBDC design.
Some members of Congress have introduced legislation on CBDC. Not the kind of authorizing legislation that Chairman Powell would like to have, but what could be called preemptive legislation. Examples:
On January 12, Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) introduced a bill prohibiting the Federal Reserve from issuing a central bank digital currency directly to individuals.
On March 30, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a bill, companion to Rep. Emmer’s, in the U.S. Senate. The Federal Reserve is already prohibited by Constitution and statute from issuing money directly to the public; which might be the reason Senator Cruz emphasizes his concern for individual privacy and his desire to keep the market competitive
“U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Commerce Committee, today introduced legislation to prohibit the Federal Reserve from issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) directly to individuals. Sen. Cruz’s bill was cosponsored by Sens. Braun (R-IN) and Grassley (R-IA).
Specifically, the legislation prohibits the Federal Reserve from developing a direct-to-consumer CBDC which could be used as a financial surveillance tool by the federal government, similar to what is currently happening in China. The bill aims to maintain the dollar’s dominance without competing with the private sector.“
On March 28, Representative Stephen Lynch (D-M), with co-sponsors Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Alma Adams (D-NC), introduced a bill calling for an “ECash” prototype that would be distributed directly to the public by the U.S. Treasury.
The Fed treads more lightly
The Fed Board of Governors so far has stuck to what it was mandated to do: produce a preliminary study.
On several occasions Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated that he will not proceed with CBDC on his own. He wants specific authority from Congress in the form of legislation, concurrence from the Administration, and acceptance from the general public.
When issuing those statements, Powell might be referring to the fact that the U.S. Constitution clearly says that the power “to coin money, regulate the value thereof…” belongs to Congress. Also, although the Federal Reserve is tasked with ensuring the efficiency and safety of payment systems, it does not have the power to unilaterally implement a totally new payment system or engage in transactions with the public directly.
Powell also might be noting that implementation of CBDC could, as the white paper states, “fundamentally change the structure of the U.S. financial system, altering the roles and responsibilities of the private sector and the central bank.” Not something the Federal Reserve should undertake without support from the public and their representatives in Congress.
What is Biden proposing exactly?
We don’t know what Biden is proposing, and at this point neither does he. U.S. CBDC could be designed in many forms and to accomplish many diverse objectives.
The Money and Payments white paper comment section illustrates how widely interpreted is CBDC. Comments vary from viewing CBCD as a pig in a poke, a solution looking for a problem, another step in the evolution of the current U.S. payment system, a great opportunity for inclusion, and so on.
Informed consent from Congress in the form of adopted legislation (if that ever happens) with the approval of the President will provide cover for Chairman Powell.
Paul Lovinger, founder of the War and Law League, makes an interesting point regarding politicians’ comments on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Lovinger is a frequent contributor to Antiwar.com. In his latest contribution, he lists absolute contradictions between what politicians say regarding war and what they do. Today they condemn Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. Yesterday they supported U.S. invasion of Iraq and Libya. Not the same thing? Paul Lovinger argues otherwise.
Lovinger’s aim is to avoid U.S. involvement into yet another “presidential war.”
Here is his article as it appears in Antiwar.com :
In March 2003, when the U.S. launched its second war on Iraq, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced it. The attack flouted world opinion and international law, he said. In bypassing the United Nations, America threatened “collapse of the international security system.”
Iraq posed no danger to any neighbor or any other country, Putin said. Noting signs of Iraqi cooperation with arms inspectors, he questioned the claim that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction.”
President George W. Bush perpetrated that invasion. Based on his lies that Baghdad had WMD and ties to terrorists, Congress agreed (10/12/02) to let him decide whether to fight Iraq. (He was already hellbent for hostilities. His staff had drafted the resolution relinquishing Congress’s constitutional war power.)
On the following March 19, Bush’s bombs attacked a nation of one-twelfth the U.S. population, commencing a war to topple Saddam Hussein’s government. It sacrificed, some say, as many as a million lives, including those of about 4,840 Americans. Officially it ended December 15, 2011, but U.S. combat forces remain in Iraq, at least through this year.
Nineteen years after the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Iraq, Bush condemned Putin (2/24/22) for his “unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”
He urged “solidarity with the Ukrainian people as they seek freedom and the right to choose their own future. We cannot tolerate the authoritarian bullying and the danger that poses.” Let’s support “our friend and democratic ally.” (The U.S. and Ukraine, non-member of NATO, are not military allies.)
A Warrior Protests the War
Another ex-president, Barack Obama, castigated Putin. First, let’s go back eleven years.
On March 19, 2011, exactly eight years after Bush attacked Iraq, U.S. and NATO bombs began blasting Libya. No congressional vote preceded war, just President Obama’s order. Presented as a humanitarian, UN no-fly zone, it became a gory campaign to oust—and assassinate—Libya’s leader, Muammar Qadafi.
Three years and three months before Libya, Senator Obama wrote The Boston Globe: “The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
We return to Obama’s statement (2/24/22), protesting the “brazen attack on the people of Ukraine, in violation of international law and basic principles of human decency.” Russia did so because “Ukrainians chose sovereignty, self-determination, and democracy.” A brutal onslaught kills thousands and displaces untold numbers.
The illegal invasion by authoritarian forces, Obama wrote, “threatens the foundation of the international order and security.” All Americans should support President Biden’s hard-hitting sanctions.
“We all face a choice between a world in which might makes right and autocrats are free to impose their will through force, or a world in which free people everywhere are free to determine their own future.”
The writer had imposed his will on Libya through force, escalated Bush’s anti-Taliban war on Afghanistan, launched an unauthorized anti-Assad war on Syria, committed countless drone assassinations, and helped Saudis bomb Yemenis. Obama was the first president to wage war throughout his presidency (2009–2017).
Donald’s remarkable shifts
In various tweets, citizen Donald Trump opposed an attack on Syria in 2013 when Obama proposed it, called Obama’s foreign policy “reckless,” and extolled peace.
Speaking in 2016 in Washington, DC, candidate Trump repeatedly promised a new policy, aiming at “peace and prosperity, not war and destruction …. Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct.” He pledged diplomacy, caution, restraint, a peacemaker’s role for America, and so on.
Once in the White House, Trump showed that war and aggression did appear to be his first impulse. He soon bombed Syria.
Not only did he continue existing warfare: he intensified it. Looser rules of engagement and disregard of international law swelled civilian tolls. In Afghanistan the devastating MOAB bomb detonated for the first time. Trump continued the policy of furnishing bombs to Saudis to drop on Yemen; additionally, U.S. soldiers shot villagers there. New conflicts transpired in Africa. Trump scrapped weapons treaties, considered giving battlefield commanders nukes, and nearly fought Iran.
Comments by Trump on the Ukrainian crisis have swung wildly from praise of Putin’s “genius” to mocking of Biden’s avoidance of military action in Ukraine for fear of nuclear war with Russia.
Trump proposed a false-flag operation in which U.S. warplanes disguised as Chinese “bomb the s* out of Russia.” That scheme, presented to GOP donors, would supposedly fool Putin into fighting China. (The more likely result would be Russia’s bombing the s**t out of us.)
Joe will ‘defend NATO countries’
Joe Biden exemplifies both hawk and dove. In 1995 he urged Bill Clinton to bomb Serbia. When Clinton did so, in 1999, Biden told him not to let up.
Senator Biden opposed Bush Senior’s 1991 Iraq war, but Bush Junior’s lies about WMD and terrorism bamboozled Biden eleven years later. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he echoed them in a prowar Senate speech. Later, as presidential candidate, he claimed he had opposed the war.
President Biden ended the Afghan war. However, he bombed Iraq and Syria and—contradicting election promises—has continued the Obama-Trump support for Saudi-led bombing of Yemen’s people.
Biden’s State-of-the-Union oration March 1 dealt first with the state of Ukraine. History taught “when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they create more chaos. [But not more aggression?] That’s why the NATO alliance was created to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II.” (So why has it waged wars from Yugoslavia to Libya to Afghanistan?)
Putin’s attack was “premeditated and unprovoked.” He resisted “repeated efforts at diplomacy and tried to falsely justify his aggression.” (Biden could have been talking about the U.S. aggression against Iraq, which he tried to justify.)
U.S. forces “will not be engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine.” (Knock on wood!) However, “we’ve mobilized American ground forces, air squadrons, and ship deployments to protect NATO countries …. [Uh oh!] The United States and allies will defend every inch of territory of NATO countries with the full force of our own collective power.”
Will Congress authorize such a war? Or will Bidden dictate it himself—a la Iraq, Syria, and Yemen? And what keeps it from becoming World War III??
North Carolina’s Research Triangle is home to world-class institutions. The Triangle gets its name from Research Triangle Park and three Tier 1 research universities—Duke University, North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Thus, it is not surprising to find North Carolina scientists on the forefront of coronavirus research and pharmaceutical development.
One such person is Dr. Ralph Baric, distinguished researcher and professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Recognition for his contributions to coronavirus research and vaccine development abound. Among his accolades in 2021 are the O. Max Gardner Award which recognizes faculty within the UNC System that make “the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race,” and the News & ObserverTar Heel of the Year award given to North Carolina residents who have made lasting contributions to their community and state.
Acknowledgement of individuals in any cutting-edge endeavor never comes without controversy. In today’s hyper reaction and response to the corona virus pandemic, Dr. Baric’s virus engineering is especially controversial. Dismissing concern about his work as conspiracy theory does not help, since it detracts from the immense complexity of such work. Some of the arguments are worth repeating.
The Lab-Leak Debate
In its September 2021 issue, the Atlanticcarried an article about a proposal presented by Peter Daszak, President the EcoHealth Alliance, to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in 2018, describing a $14.2 million project to defuse the threat of bat-borne coronaviruses. Here is an excerpt from The Lab-Leak Debate Just Got Even Messier, the Atlantic, 09/26/21.
The document seems almost tailor-made to buttress one specific theory of a laboratory origin: that SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t simply brought into a lab by scientists and then released by accident, but rather pieced together in a deliberate fashion. In fact, the work described in the proposal fits so well into that narrative of a “gain-of-function experiment gone wrong” that some wondered if it might be too good to be true.
Central figures in the coronavirus-origins debate were involved. Among Daszak’s listed partners on the grant were Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an American virologist known for doing coronavirus gain-of-function studies in his lab, and Shi Zhengli, the renowned virus hunter from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Risks vs. Benefits of Virus Engineering
In June 2021, MIT Technology Review discussed the risks of bat-virus engineering that need to be weighed against the urgency of emerging pandemics. The article quoted Dr. Ralph Baric’s assessment of risk vs. benefit. Here is an excerpt from Inside the risky bat-virus engineering that links America to Wuhan, Technology Review, 06/29/21
His 2015 paper, “A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence,” was a tour de force, utilizing bleeding-edge genetic technology to alert the civilized world to a looming danger on its periphery. It also revived concerns about gain-of-function experiments, which Baric had known it would.
In the paper, he spelled out the extra precautions he’d taken and held up the research as a test case. “The potential to prepare for and mitigate future outbreaks must be weighed against the risk of creating more dangerous pathogens,” he wrote. “Scientific review panels may deem similar studies building chimeric viruses based on circulating strains too risky to pursue.”
The NIH decided the risk was worth it. In a potentially fateful decision, it funded work similar to Baric’s at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which soon used its own reverse-genetics technology to make numerous coronavirus chimeras.
Quest for theUniversal Remedy
As arguments pro and con COVID-19 vaccines rage, scientists on the fore front of vaccine development will inevitably receive both accolades and criticism. Again, dismissing all con arguments as conspiracy, anti-science, or anti-vaxxer is unhelpful. More rational and helpful would be to acknowledge that, as human beings, none of us produces perfect solutions, free from human limitations and frailties. Picking a best balance between risk and rewards is perhaps the best any of us can do.
The MIT Technology Review article quoted earlier mentions Dr. Baric’s efforts to develop “universal drugs and vaccines against the full spectrum of SARS-like viruses.” A breakthrough came with his collaborative work in 2013 with Dr. Shi Zhengli, the virology at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Shi had detected the genome of a new virus, called SHC014, that was one of the two closest relatives to the original SARS virus, but her team had not been able to culture it in the lab.
Baric had developed a way around that problem—a technique for “reverse genetics” in coronaviruses. Not only did it allow him to bring an actual virus to life from its genetic code, but he could mix and match parts of multiple viruses. He wanted to take the “spike” gene from SHC014 and move it into a genetic copy of the SARS virus he already had in his lab. The spike molecule is what lets a coronavirus open a cell and get inside it.
The resulting chimera would demonstrate whether the spike of SHC014 would attach to human cells. If it could, then it could help him with his long-term project of developing universal drugs and vaccines against the full spectrum of SARS-like viruses that he increasingly considered sources of potential pandemics.
From Splicing to Vaccination
Dr. Baric holds Patent number 9884895Methods and compositions for chimeric coronavirus spike proteins, among his many other scientific papents. As the inventor of this product (with Drs. Sudhakar Agnihothram and Boyd Yount), Dr. Baric can claim a major contribution to the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
Risks Necessitate Free and Informed Choices
Identification and manipulation of viral spike proteins entail serious risk. But so is being exposed to the coronavirus without the choice of protection via a vaccine.
Researchers in the life sciences are the primary line of defense against organisms that harms us. Polio and smallpox are no longer the scourges they once were. Hopefully, soon SARS-CoV-2 will also be tamed in a collaborative approach that allows for rational and free assessments of risks and benefits.
Seems each year that passes, Christmas is getting less exciting. Christmas 2021 is competing not only with the devastation caused by COVID-19 response, but also with the drumbeat of identity politics. Maybe it is time to dial back. Maybe it is time to regain some “Christmas Spirit.”
Here is one way to do both: Sit back and listen to Leontyne Price sing Oh Holy Night. Better yet, also listen to a Price interview, where she is fun, loving, and oh, so self-assured.
Picture above shows Leontyne Price performing one of her most famous operatic parts, Aida. Picture below shows Price in an interview with Anthony Tommasini, chief classical critic at the New York times.
Oh Holly Night and Leontyne Price seem to fit together well. The song talks about Jesus moving people away from desperation to a feeling of self-worth and new beginnings:
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth; Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…
Leontyne Price has absolutely no doubt about her worth as a human being or an accomplished singer. She said:
Accomplishments have no color.
To sing is the most human of the art form delivery, more than, perhaps, an instrument which has to be tuned mechanically. You are the tuner; you are the vessel. Everything depends on how you feel as a person. It is for you to hear how beautiful your instrument is.
In Leontyne Price’s interview with Anthony Tommasini, she talks about her voice range. Her point is you need to know what you want to achieve, visualize the result, and be in complete charge of what you need to do to accomplish what you want. In other words, feel your worth.
Like liberty, self worth is God given. You either find it in yourself or, to your detriment, you wait for others to decide to give it to you or not.
Thank you to Cameron Weber — economist, historian, and educator — for writing, producing and hosting Hardfire TV. Several of the Hardfire segments are on YouTube.
Dr. Weber and the guests on his show provide the liberal (“liberal” meaning “liberty-leaning”) view on a wide variety of subjects. On December 10, 2021, guests Marcy Berry, John Clifton, and Erik Frankel discussed how government seizes the opportunity of a crisis to expand its power and reach.
20 Years of the USA Patriot Act shows how new laws and changes to existing laws immediately followed the declaration of emergency in the wake of the 9/11 attack. The Patriot Act was not renewed in 2020, but the numerous restrictions imposed by the laws the Act left behind remain.