Category Archives: Blogs

Ad for Marshall's Cigarette

When Cigarettes Cured Asthma

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

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

That was the science of the day.

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

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

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

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

That science apparently made sense back then.

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

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

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

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

Cigarette ad
IBM PC 5150

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

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

First, how big is Windows?

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

How did Windows get so big?

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

DOS and IBM’s PC 5150

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

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

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

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

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

OS/2 Is Born

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some programs never die

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

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

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

April 1 cartoon

A Modest Proposal: Rename April 1 Useful Fools Day

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

Why the proposal?

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

Event of the 21st Century: Covid-19 Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Our leaders in Washington forge on

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

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

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

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

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

Pictured Above

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

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

Recommended Article: Cancel Culture Threatening My World

Richard Eber likes to write when he has a free moment from working to make a living. His articles often appear in the Diablo Gazette and the California Political News & Views. His piece Cancel Culture Threatening My World needs to be shared. We have seen the movie before in real life – think Nazi Germany – and in countless works of fiction – think 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. Yet, the narrative continues with cancelling individuals and groups, erasing history, indoctrinating the populace, and disappearing books. Here is Richard Eber’s article as it appeared in the California Political News &Views.

Cancel Culture Threatening My World

Richard Eber, Exclusive to the California Political News and Views, 3/11/21

Being a conservative does not mean one is totally against progress. As Sonny Bono aptly put it in The Beat Goes On, “The Grocery Store’s the Super Market Now.” With that said the so called cancel culture of today has more than fulfilled the Star Trek tag line “to go where no man has gone before.”

Things have gotten so weird that living and breathing in many quarters (especially without a mask attached) is considered to be a hate crime. To adhere to PC-Woke norms in California, a proper family should likely:

Abandon their single family home in the suburbs and move into crime infested urbanized Stack and Pack housing in close proximity to government subsidized mass transit systems.

Dispose of their SUV’s in favor of utilizing bikes and buses for their primary source of getting around town. If an automobile is necessary, it should be of the electric variety.

Insist all members of the household are card carrying Democrats. If kids are exhibiting GOP like behavior such as being independent (non team players) and thrifty, it is best to seek therapy at an early age. This should be at the same time they determine their sexual identities.

Organized religion should be replaced in households with obedience to the Green New Deal. If Catholics still insist on going to confession, taking a ride in a gas powered vehicle must be worth several “Hail Mary’s”

It is recommended to enroll all family members in a Woke sensitivity course to avoid hurting the feelings of those whom they come in contact with. A new unabridged PC Dictionary must be strictly adhered to. Examples include The Homeless are Outside Urban Dwellers, Perverts are designated to be sexually dysfunctional and robbery is now part of wealth redistribution. Antifa is considered to be a middle of the road philanthropic political group similar to where the Red Cross was once stood.

Of course junkies are drug dependents and law enforcement officers are criminals wearing a badge.

Nothing is what it seems. Everything that I have grown up believing has been challenged and debunked by Cancel Culture norms.

Education and literature are at the top of the list. Banning Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are old news. Now a good number of Dr. Seuss books are considered to be off limits because of alleged racial overtones. Historical novels such as William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner, Pearl Buck’s Good Earth, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with Wind, and anything authored by Ayn Rand are on the “no fly list.”

My greatest fear is that the works of William Shakespeare will soon no longer be considered to be relevant.

While growing up and later on, I enjoyed all of the literature listed above. At no time did I ever believe these classics belonged in the Dewey Decimal non-fiction section of the library.

Whether this proves me having good taste or gives credence to Woke sensors desire to crash and burn everything that offends them, is a matter of conjecture these days.

What worries me most about today’s so called ethnic cleansing of books are the similarities to what transpired in Nazis Germany in the 1930’s. I have to ask what is the difference between Hitler’s followers engaged in public book burning as compared to attacking poor old Dr. Seuss and the Muppets?

A match?

Separating fact from fiction seems to be chronic dilemma in the world of Woke Cancel-Culture we live in. Blocking historical events is a vehicle used to create a new social order based upon ideological purity. In doing so taking down statues of Southern Civil War heroes such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis have brought slightly less resistance than trying to trash Abraham Lincoln.

Nothing seems to be off limits from these history deniers.

Making Christopher Columbus a villain 630 years after he discovered American makes little more sense than depicting George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison as George Orwell’s “Unpersons” characters in his dystopian novel 1984.

The Fathers of our Country, who defeated the British in battle while writing the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, have been placed on the scrap heap of history by the Cancel Culture. Having slaves in 17th Century Colonial times is too serious an offense for their sensitivities.

With Cancel Culture advocates, what occurred in the past is no longer relevant. All that matters is what those who interpret history today believe.

In such a totalitarian environment, our democracy has reached such a low point that in order to prosecute Donald Trump for alleged crimes committed as President; the Progressive Turnout Project PAC has organized a petition drive aimed at incoming Attorney General Merrick Garland. Based upon receiving over 100,000 signatures, he has been directed by The Court of Public Opinion to indict Trump for undefined offenses.

This is how our system of laws works today. Petitions and polls are supposed to determine how justice is dispensed.

It never occurred to these fruit cakes that if Garland was to do as they asked, he would be breaking his oath of office of administering impartial justice. Mob rule characteristic of totalitarian governments would be replacing the rule of law.

Before we get off our high horse it must be realized the Democratic PAC in gathering signatures to present the A.G. were performing this task as a fund raising ploy. It is doubtful their efforts will end up on anyone’s desk. The circular file is filled with similar schemes to raise money for Leftist causes.

Of paramount importance is that opponents of Cancel Culture be them Republican, Democrats, Independents, Green, or Libertarian, Black, Yellow, White, etc., stand up to preserve important American social values.

Somewhere along the line Joe Biden or whoever is running the asylum needs to muster up the courage to say “no” to unilaterally tearing down historical statues. Stop trying to sensor literature and tell people, (especially school children), what they should be thinking.

Is this too much to ask of the greatest democracy ever created? Do we need to dispose of Mr. Potato Head and Aesop’s Tables in the name of appeasing Woke sensitivities?

Nothing surprises me anymore. At this juncture I am afraid to answer these questions for fear that everything I know and love about my country are soon to be on the Cancel Culture chopping block.

Stop the world, I want to get off!

Freedom Trash Can to Mask Burning

Citizens of Idaho took a page from the 1960s. Back in the ‘60s the boiling cauldron of Vietnam-war protests, civil rights protests, and women’s liberation prompted action in town squares throughout America. Young men burned their draft cards, and young women tossed their bras into the Freedom Can.

On March 6, 2021, about 100 Idaho citizens gathered in front of Idaho’s state capitol to burn Covid face masks.

Darr Moon, an organizer of the mask-burning event, stated the reason for the protest.

I think people need to realize that we’re standing here today to rein back government, to reestablish our republican form of government, government that has balance between the branches. The Guardian, March 6, 2021

Today, Presidents, Governors, and Mayors play Kings and Queens by raining executive orders on the head of their constituents – stay indoors, wear masks, don’t visit Grandma, your children don’t need school. Faced with such scenarios, some folks obey but others push back.

Here are some pictures of what push-back looked like in the turbulent 60s. The women’s protest pictures are from the Smithsonian Magazine and the Vietnam War protest pictures from Les Anglonauts. Young men burned their draft cards in opposition to the Vietnam War. Women threw their bras and other symbolic items into a Freedom Trash Can to protest the “feminine oppression” that the Miss America Pageant represented. The 1960s are worth exploring, as a time when suddenly a lot of people said “NO” to the status quo.

GameStop Saga Continues: Congressional Hearing on Feb 18

By January 2021 half a dozen or so short sellers had lost around $13 billion. Retail investors on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum became catalysts in catapulting the stock price of GameStop from $13.66 on December 9 to $345.83 on January 27. The unfortunate short sellers were betting the stock price of ailing GameStop would fall.

Who knows why any of the retail investors chose to invest in GameStop. Money can be made by purchasing a low-priced stock, pushing the price up by incentivizing lots of other purchasers, and selling before the stock crashes. Also much satisfaction can come from watching short sellers and other dealers in market misery squirm.

Regardless of gain or loss, or impetus for the massive investment in an ailing company, the GameStop saga will most likely have lasting effects.

Congress Wants to “Do Something”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, announced a full Committee virtual hearing for February 18, at 12 PM ET. Subpoenas have gone to the CEOs of Reddit, Robbinhood Markets Inc. (on-line investing platform), Melvin Capital Management LP, Citadel LLC (capital management), and Keith Gill (retail investor).

Congresswoman Waters’ statement:

We must deal with the hedge funds whose unethical conduct directly led to the recent market volatility and we must examine the market in general and how it has been manipulated by hedge funds and their financial partners to benefit themselves while others pay the price.

Did either the short sellers or the retail investors involved in GameStop do anything illegal or even unethical? They appear to have done what law and practice has allowed since the financialization of the U.S. economy away from manufacturing, the proliferation of financial instruments that facilitate market manipulation, and the abundance of cheap money and debt.

The Misery Makers Might Get a Slap on Their Wrist

Hedge funds who use short selling as one of their many money-making activities and private equity firms who specialize in buying ailing companies are indeed the most visible dealers in market misery today. Private equity firms buy struggling companies with cheap borrowed money, and burden the companies with debt and a downsized workforce. As the companies struggle to pay interest on their debt, hedge funds borrow the companies’ stock from brokers, sell it, and then buy back the stocks at a lower price.

Poor management, inflexible strategies in changing times, and lately government responses to the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to the downfall of companies that were household names: Thomas Cook Travel, J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, Toys R Us. However, the role of the misery makers should not be overlooked.

But they also shared one increasingly common problem for retailers in dire straits: an enormous debt burden — roughly $1.7 billion for J. Crew and almost $5 billion for Neiman Marcus — from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. Like many other retailers, J. Crew and Neiman over the past decade paid hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and fees to their new owners, when they needed to spend money to adapt to a shifting retail environment. The Pandemic Helped Topple Two Retailers. So Did Private Equity, NY Times, June 18, 2020

Unsustainable debt is a good indicator of a company in decline that can enrich short sellers. GameStop’s debt was almost 6 times its equity at July 31, 2020.

At February 12, 2021, GameStop’s price was $52.40. Depending on when investors bought GameStop stock, and when they sold it, if they sold it, they either made money or they lost money. That’s how markets work.

Let’s see what Maxine Waters contributes to this saga.

Beethoven’s Eroica: Is Tyranny Voluntary?

Recommended Film

Have you listened to Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, the Eroica, lately? If not, you might enjoy giving yourself a little break from today’s little tyrannies and watch Beethoven’s Eroica – A film by Simon Cellan Jones – BBC 2003 . It’s free on YouTube, it’s beautiful, and the Eroica is well played.

Here we see in 1804, Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz, a patron, hosting at his Vienna palace the first private performance of the Eroica. We hear discussions between the aristocratic guests, musicians, and servants respectively about the revolutionary musical path Ludwig van Beethoven took with Eroica. And we hear differing views on Napoleon Bonaparte, the original subject of this symphony.

As the symphony’s name suggests, the Eroica creates an audible image of struggle and heroic triumph — Beethoven’s view of Bonaparte.

In 1799, Bonaparte staged a coup d’etat, dissolved the Directory that ruled France and appointed himself first council. In 1804, Beethoven wrote the Eroica and dedicated it to Bonaparte.

Indeed, Bonaparte must have appeared at the time as bringer of order in midst of the chaos first brought about by the Reign of Terror and then by the ineffective Directory.

However, he also gave evidence of being a talented and ruthless opportunist by conquering most of Europe. When Bonaparte proclaimed himself Emperor, Beethoven changed the dedication of Eroica to his patron, von Lobkowitz.

Beethoven was able to turn his back on his former hero. All he had to do was erase Bonaparte’s name from the Eroica’s score and replace it with that of Lobkowitz. But the people of France and later most of the territory Napoleon Bonaparte conquered were not able to get rid of him so easily. His reign lasted until 1815.

Tyranny starts as voluntary

Voluntary tyranny sounds totally counterintuitive. But is it? Some of the world’s notable tyrants enjoyed popular support at the beginning of their careers.

Here are a couple of quotes that might explain the paradigm.

Recognizing a Tyrant To Be, Econlib.org, May 18, 2019

Everything is a matter of degree, and we should say that a ruler is a tyrant to the extent that he consistently favors a given part of the population against another, even if the law allows it.

Thus, recognizing a tyrant is not easy, especially before he has assumed full power. The process can be so gradual that most people may not see tyranny coming; only the last step may be obvious.

John Philpot Curran, The Speeches:

It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

Be careful what you vote for, you might get it.

The Great Reset: Elites Caring About Us?

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

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

Background

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

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

The Great Reset

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

Build Back Better: Highlight of The Great Reset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Opportunity

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

Precedents

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

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

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

Now the “Public-Private” Elite Meets Again

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

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

We The Little People

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

Your Stimulus Check is Coming – Think No Further!

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

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

Situation Chaotic But Normal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus of Coronavirus Relief

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

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

Focus of the Annual Appropriations

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

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

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

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

Authorizing Matters

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

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

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

Who Voted No

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Spending Goes On

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

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

This Will Be A Difficult Christmas

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

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

Spiritual Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

The Long Journey

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

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

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

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

Strong Souls Forge On

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

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

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

The Soul Must Feel Its Worth

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