Elizabeth Windsor, better known to the world as Elizabeth II or Queen Elizabeth, died on September 8, 2022, at 96 years of age. Her eldest son Charles, 73, ascended the British throne as King Charles III. Elizabeth II leaves very, very big shoes to fill.
Elizabeth II was the longest reigning British monarch, becoming queen at only 25 years of age in 1952. Thus the 96 year old queen the world lost today had an opportunity to build an exemplary track record as a true stateswoman, as a pillar of stability and service.
She led by example, the highest form of leadership. This virtue she learned from her parents, Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother).
During WWII, the young Elizabeth and her sister Margaret remained in Britain, instead being sent to Canada or other safer parts of the British Commonwealth. The King and Queen remained at Buckingham Palace, even as Germany bombed London. They often visited neighborhoods destroyed in the bombings. At age 19 Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, a women’s branch of the British army, and trained as a driver and mechanic.
If anyone kept calm and carried on through turbulence since the Cold War, it was Elizabeth II. She met often with world heads of state, and regularly with her Prime Ministers. She missed only three Openings of Parliament during her long reign, two due to pregnancy and one at the end of her life. The respect she commanded, has been key to keeping the British Commonwealth intact.
King Charles III is now tasked with rising to the occasion. Hopefully, his grandparents and parents’ example of service to the people will guide his path.
Pictured: Princess Elizabeth (in uniform), Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, King George VI, and Princess Margaret, in the balcony of Buckingham Palace at the end of WWII.
President Joe Biden delivered his fight for soul of the nation address on Thursday, September 1. The main networks did not carry the address. Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarty (R CA) taped a very brief response before President Biden gave his speech. Googling for other responses yields little at present.
Maybe people’s preoccupation with soaring prices, their kids’ unfruitful education, crime in the streets, porous borders, and other mundane challenges detracts from rhetorical talk of souls.
President Biden tried hard to change the focus from the mess this country is in to a vision of a future where prosperity, peace of mind, and unity will reign. Abundance of riches, goodness, and harmony will come, apparently, when MAGA extremists, who ignore the Constitution, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and democracy go away.
In all fairness, this nation’s predicaments are not all President Biden’s fault. The national debt and its attendant evils have been growing since President Bill Clinton’s days, the mass of unskilled workers unable to make ends meet has been around since education collapsed and the robber barons of monopolies sucked up the nation’s wealth, divisiveness and name calling has been almost fashionable for a while now. But, the present administration policies, like the Inflation Reduction Act that won’t make a dent on inflation, have not helped.
And in equal fairness, debacles like January 6, when Trump supporters got themselves lumped in with violent unlawful trespassers, feed into the view that MAGA folks are extremists. Hecklers outside Independence Hall shouting “Let’s go Brandon” and “F—Joe Biden” while the President was giving his “soul of democracy” speech were fodder for the President’s calm response: “They’re entitled to be outrageous. This is a democracy.” “… good manners is nothing they’ve ever suffered from.”
So, will a repetitious 24-minute speech touting a nebulous vision of an even more nebulous democracy turn the tide of Republican’s expectation to flip the House and Senate in coming elections? Probably not. But the expected drumbeat of anti-MAGA vitriol in the coming months might.
By the way, one is to assume that the “democracy” to which President Joe Biden referred in his speech is not the same “democracy” that these folks describe:
Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms. Aristotle – Greek philosopher during the Classical period of ancient Greece.
Democracy is the road to socialism. Karl Marx – German philosopher, critic of political economy, and socialist revolutionary.
Democracy is four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Ambrose Bierce short story writer, journalist, poet, and American Civil War veteran.
Google has come up with a potent antidote to conspiracy theories, misinformation, and misleading statements. Yes, even more potent than ubiquitous algorithms unleashed upon poor souls who do not understand the need to conform and stay in one’s place.
The new fakery fighters are short videos, akin to public service ads, intended to inoculate (Google’s word) Internet users against various forms or fakery. These videos, now being tested in Eastern Europe, were developed by Jigsaw, a unit within Google that “explores threats to open societies, and builds technology that inspires scalable solutions.” Jigsaw calls the inoculation approach by the clever name of “prebunking.” Debunking occurs after a particular claim is made. Prebunking works to counter any and all falsehoods continuously.
Now, the videos are actually very useful at teaching basic critical thinking. They illustrate methods commonly used by fakes, like emotional language, scapegoating, and false dichotomies. Jigsaw’s objectives as delineated in its website have value: counter disinformation, toxicity, censorship, and violent extremism. No one wants to fall victim of a targeted well-organized disinformation campaign, or experience incivility in a toxic environment, or heavens forbid be prevented from expressing one’s ideas.
So enter prebunking. What could go wrong?
* It is difficult to imagine the existence of an untargeted ad. Should Facebook, for example, purchase a set of prebunking videos, one would imagine such videos might be placed in the vicinity of a targeted post. This would be a distraction from the information on the post. Google uses a similar approach with its Redirect Method.
Redirect Method placed ads next to search results for terms indicating interest in potentially harmful content, including queries related to joining extremist groups.
* The sample prebunking videos available on the Internet provide general information and look harmless per se. But some sneak in quick unobtrusive preaching. The friendly voice explaining “ad hominem” says sometimes attacking individuals as well as their claims is OK, such as in the case of cigarette manufacturers that claimed their product was safe. One would wonder what other preaching will show up in future examples.
* Although facilitating change to make the world better is a commendable endeavor, some pronouncements can be unnerving, like the title of Jigsaw’s “Issues” page: “Creating future‑defining technology.”
Technology has become our source of knowledge, avenue for social interaction, livelihood for work-from-home bread winners, and prolific provider of convenience gadgets. Whatever future technology decides to create, we will all be in it. We might only see what technology wants us to see – the rest will be relegated to the dustbin of misinformation.
* Clever workers and entrepreneurs that create remarkable systems are not the only source of technology’s power. There is also power that comes from corporatism. Corporatism is perhaps the most worrisome characteristic of gatekeeping tools like prebunking. Here is why.
Corporatism is today’s popular public-private partnership. Large corporations, non-profits, and government agencies mention their public-private partnerships with pride. Corporatism is called “stakeholder capitalism” in polite society; however, critics like Vivek Ramaswamy, author of Woke Inc., argue that corporatism, social capitalism, and stakeholder capitalism are all one and the same. Regardless of wording, it is a collectivist political and economic ideology intended to benefit government and corporations through shared power.
Teddy Roosevelt when campaigning for President in August 1912 spoke in general and hyperbolic terms about public-private alliances. When in office, he did not just talk about the subject, he did break up the big cartels of his day. His words:
Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day. Theodore Roosevelt, His Life and Times, Library of Congress
Not all corporations are corrupt. But partners in the unholy alliance share not only power but also agenda, making them a questionable choice for gatekeepers of the public knowledge.
* Monopolies in advertising media, principally enabled by corporatism and armed with tools like “fact checking” and prebunking, can easily cripple any endeavor. Here is an example:
Hillsdale College, a private liberal arts college in Michigan founded in 1844, posted an ad on Facebook promoting its lecture seriesThe Great Reset. Guest speakers in the series explain the origin and objectives of The Great Reset. They describe The Great Reset as an incubator of corporatism that encourages adoption of controlling tools like universal electronic payment systems (cashless societies) and elimination of private property (you will own nothing).
Facebook labeled the post “False Information.”
It should come to anyone’s mind that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents the U.S. government from censoring Hillsdale’s ad. But it does not prevent a private entity like Facebook from doing so, limiting the ability of Hillsdale to share inconvenient opinions about The Great Reset.
Cute prebunking videos targeting any ad would have been equally effective.
Although the purpose of Jigsaw is not directly to shut people up, it would not be unreasonable to surmise that anyone who does not follow whatever prescribed agenda Google/Jigsaw need to follow would be served with a cute audience-distracting video.
When works with some merit are too forcefully publicized, they become hysterical rhetoric that require a set of illusory truths repeated ad infinitum. At that point they attract critics bent on stripping those works of all value. A good example of this phenomenon is The 1619 Project.
New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones assembled essays on America’s history and named the collection The 1619 Project, which was published by The New York Times in 2019 with great fanfare. The name refers to the year the first shipload of Black slaves landed in America.
According to the project, this seminal event in 1619 forever imprinted racism in the American psyche, causing foundational and expansion episodes to carry slavery’s imprint to this day. The project in its original publication contended that 1619 must be considered America’s founding date, not 1776.
Praises and Disdain
Immediately after its publication, The 1619 Project received accolades from liberals and searing criticism from conservatives. In 2020, Nikole Hannah-Jones received a Pulitzer Prize for her work. She also received denunciations of circulating junk history.
The great tragedy of the original 1619 Project was its missed opportunity to add detail, nuance, and reflection to our historical understanding of slavery and its legacy. That opportunity was lost not upon publication but in the aftermath, when The New York Times met its scholarly critics with insult and derision. The ensuing controversies, initially confined to Hannah-Jones’ and Desmond’s essays, came to overshadow the remainder of the project, including its other historical contributions as well as its literary and artistic sections.The 1619 Project Unrepentantly Pushes Junk History, Reason, March 29, 2022
The principal purpose of The 1619 Project is not to inform but to agitate and entice action. Hannah-Jones wants to see acknowledgement of the persistent consequences of slavery and the ubiquitous nature of racism, present in the judicial system, housing, employment, education, and all other institutions. Her premise is that without that acknowledgement, society cannot begin to erase the negative effects of prejudice. In this regard, her premise aligns with the principles of Critical Race Theory.
Action is often best achieved with focus, flexible statements, relentless publicity, and fascinating storytelling. Lest The New York Times version of the project starts losing media space, Hannah-Jones expanded it into a book, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, and a school curriculum, Reading Guide for The 1619 Project Essays.
Measures of early action enticed by The 1619 Project could be the level of sales of the book, how many school districts adopted the curriculum, and the backlash. The book is an Amazon best seller. The number of school districts that adopted the curriculum does not seem to be available; there are only article, mostly published in 2020, saying that “4,500 classrooms” are using the curriculum. As of February 2022, 38 states have introduced or passed legislation banning the teaching of race-based curricula.
Possibly because of its dependence on illusory truths and storytelling, the Project is an easy target for criticism and dismissal. Here are three of the Project’s most salient, most often repeated, assertions and the JVN Blog’s opinion of how these assertions missed opportunities to enrich American history.
The American Revolution was fought over slavery
Traditional history does not fully discuss the crucial role slavery played in colonial economy, principally in the Southern plantations, but also Northern commerce. A deeper discussion would serve better to understand the words of the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and government-sponsored segregation.
However, other reasons for the Revolution abound: British soldiers quartered in America starting in 1763. Devastating taxation and regulation in 1765. The Boston Massacre in 1770. The long list of other grievances listed on the Declaration of Independence.
Also, the British were the middlemen who exported slaves to America. Calls for abolishing slavery in Britain did not occur until 1780, five years after the Revolutionary War began.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution was placed there to allow White men to defend themselves against Black slaves.
Indeed, history needs to speak more about slaves’ discontent and frequent rebellion, which no doubt caused White apprehension.
History also needs to be clear that the ten original Amendments that make up the Bill of Rights were the result of the Founders’ mistrust of a central government and particularly government’s standing armies. Those Amendments, including the Second, were intended to protect the People against government, not against each other.
What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty …. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins. Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, Annals of Congress 750, August 17, 1789.
Slavery and racism were, and still are, root causes of unjust social, judicial, and educational systems.
There are events that could be better understood with more honest discussions of their relation to racism. For example, during the 1930s through the 1950s, the Federal Housing Administration guaranteed most private mortgages that helped build America’s suburbs. Only 2% of those mortgages went to non-white applicants. The FHA encouraged covenants that kept suburban neighborhoods “harmonious.”
Areas surrounding a location are investigated to determine whether incompatible racial and social groups are present, for the purpose of making a prediction regarding the probability of the location being invaded by such groups. If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes. Federal Housing Administration 1936:233.
It is not difficult to determine what social and racial class was preferred when we consider what the American suburbs of the 1950s looked like.
Civil rights legislation of the 1960s removed housing discrimination, and many Black families did resettle to prosperous suburbs. But poverty kept more in the inner cities.
Poor Black neighborhoods share key characteristics that ensure poverty: Children living in one-parent families (64% vs. 24% of White children). Incarceration (in state prisons 5 times the rate of White incarceration). Gun violence, that results in high, mostly Black-on-Black, violent crime.
These self-inflicted wounds keep poor Black families poor and deluded by the cruel lie of victimhood.
Meanwhile, Black individuals and families that refuse to cling to victimhood prosper: Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Candace Owens, Clarence Thomas, the countless number of Black families who insist on discipline and have achieved economic well being.
Yes, slavery, government-sponsored segregation, and prejudice are the despicable triumvirate that shares a place in America’s identity. But they need not be the determining variables in anyone’s life. They need not be the relentless distraction from purposeful endeavors that Nikole Hannah-Jones and her fellow Critical Race Theorists want them to be.
A Great Experiment Goes Unnoticed
The 1619 Project’s plea to face history honestly makes sense, since nothing can be learned from an embellished version that ignores mistakes to be avoided. However, The Project’s version, stripped of understanding, has caused it to be dismissed in its entirely. Good understanding of history should include these three principles:
History is incremental. People develop knowledge of themselves and the world around them in bits and pieces.
Earth was once the center of the universe, until it was not. Slavery was once a fact of life going back to ancient times, until it was not.
America’s Declaration of Independence laid down a new concept of the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness: these rights are not granted by government, but by The Creator.
At the time the Declaration was written, the Founding Fathers’ attitude toward slavery and an economy dependent on slavery was evolving. As Hannah-Jones herself pointed out Thomas Jefferson included in the Declaration a passage condemning slavery, but the passage was removed prior to ratification. One would have to speculate that the Founders must have figured that if they were to have a country at all, they could not obliterate their economy by suddenly freeing the slaves.
America’s Constitution laid down a never-before tried system of government 1) of rule by the people through the peoples’ representatives in Congress, 2) of enumerated powers in the Articles clearly indicating what each of the three branches of government does, and 3) of restrictions in the first 10 Amendments indicating what government cannot do.
In other words, the Founders wrote the American Constitution as an experiment in self-government, something never before attempted. It turned the idea of government held since time immemorial on its head. Under this Constitution, government works for the people, not the other way around. That means the People, through their representatives, can change (amend) any part of that document if they so choose.
Baby Gone With the Bathwater
In conclusion, The 1619 Project throws away the baby with the bathwater. That is unfortunate. However, if the Project’s intent, along with that of brethren Critical Race Theory, is to agitate, distract, and solidify Black adherence to progressive politics, then rational thinking does not matter.
Cameron Weber – economist, historian, professor – has a show called Hardfire. Dr. Weber likes thought questions. What are thought questions? They are “what if,” “would you want it?” “what stands in the way?” “what could make it work?” questions. They are questions the Founding Fathers must have asked when someone must have said, “Man, we really need to get rid of King George!” Or maybe questions like President John Kennedy asked when he pledged to put a man on the Moon before the decade ended. For sure, not all thought questions end in successful endeavors – some do, some don’t.
The latest Hardfire show asked the following:
On May 19, 2022, the U.S. Senate approved a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package to Ukraine in support of Ukraine’s fight against Russian invasion. That is not the first package and probably not the last.
From a pragmatic cost-benefit point of view, would it not be cheaper to offer Russian conscripts tasked with fighting in Ukraine immigration into the U.S. plus $100K?
Discussions would need to include cost-benefits of immigration. And cost-benefits of distressing Vladimir Putin any more than he is distressed already.
Here is a link to the Thursday, July 7, 2022, Hardfire show – only about 30 minutes long.
This 4th of July is a good time to reflect how our country today differs from the nation our Founders envisioned. A handy measure is to compare the national motto the Founders chose vs. how our country behaves today.
What is the national motto.
The U.S. national motto is “In God We Trust.” This phrase first appeared in some coinage during the Civil War, was officially sanctioned as the national motto in 1956 by then President Dwight Eisenhower, but is not the original national motto the Founders chose. Actually, the Founders rejected that and other similar phrases for obvious reasons: they were trying to build a secular nation that acknowledged the blessings of Providence but rejected the supremacy of any specific religion (including Deism, to which several Founders adhered). The subject was important enough to the Founders that they wrote this as the first clause in the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The motto the Founders chose was “E Pluribus Unum” — From Many, One. The “many” were the several states carrying their own philosophies, economies, and customs. The “one” was the new nation governed by one Constitution and one goal of realization. Of course, one must acknowledge that the norms of that time and place, which allowed for a more homogenous leadership and electorate, facilitated the transition from many to one. However, the sentiment of E Pluribus Unum could have remained unaltered as our nation grew. It did not. At least it did not to the extent the Founders envisioned.
Sentiments of divide and conquer that permeate the national psyche have webbed and flowed since the nation’s birth. Today, we are on an upward flow. Media, including social media, compartmentalizes everybody into spheres of preference – echo chambers – and turn participants into one-issue zealots. Schools, especially government schools, are indoctrination centers, as are workplaces. When school children and employees are forced to sit through hours of diversity training, it is a good bet that a true preference for diversity (when persons will “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”) is not occurring. Add to that brew, legislators that moved away from an ideological center that allows for rational discussion and compromise.
Happy 4th of July
Enjoy the hotdogs and the fireworks. Take a few minutes to cogitate on the new national motto vs. the old one. If you prefer the old motto, perhaps help turn the tide towards E Pluribus, Unum.
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.
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??