Category Archives: Blogs

Chaos at Kabul Airport

Afghanistan and the sunk-cost dilemma

Afghanistan is back in Taliban hands after 20 years of U.S. occupation. On August 16, 2021, President Joe Biden explained his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.

So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans — Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives — American lives — is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?

I’m clear on my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past — the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces. Joe Biden, August 16, 2021

U. S. costs since 2001 have been: 2,500 U.S. military deaths, 4,000 U.S. civilian contractors killed, an estimated 167,000 Afghan deaths, and $2 trillion spent.

The probability was low that Afghanistan’s central government installed after the U.S. 2001 invasion would survive without a strong U.S. presence.

When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations. We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people. We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically. They failed to do any of that. Joe Biden, August 16, 2021

A good interpreter interacting with the locals might let you in that the locals were confused about our presence there. A great interpreter would take the time to explain to you that outside of a few select people tied directly to the government, many locals were confused by even the mention of Afghanistan. They identified themselves as “Pashtuns” and if asked where they lived, believed they were in “Pashtunistan,” encompassing a region that is parts of Southern Afghanistan and Pakistan. Task & Purpose, August 17, 2021

Joe Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump, recognized the realities in Afghanistan, and on February 29, 2020, signed an agreement with Taliban leaders that set the date for U.S. troop withdrawal by May 1, 2021, and lay down a strategy for evacuating U.S. personnel and allies.

Although Biden shared Trump’s vision of troop withdrawal sooner rather than later, he delayed the withdrawal and the evacuation, allowing the Taliban to take control before allies were orderly evacuated. The ensuing chaos, reminiscent of the fall of Saigon in 1975, prompted criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

There has also been criticism of perceived disregard for the fate under Taliban rule of women and girls. The Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic principles calls for the subservience of women. The Taliban is now in charge, and expecting the U.S. government to dictate how the Taliban should treat women appears arrogant. If women and girls of Afghanistan value their education, right to work outside the home, owning property, and having other individual freedoms enjoyed by men, they have a challenging road ahead.

Shibboleths like “You broke it, you own it,” feel more like someone’s admonition at Faberge than a reference to the devastation of wars. The U.S. went into Afghanistan to rid itself of Al-Qaeda. It appears it did that, for now. In the context of war, no further action is required.

In the context of diplomacy and intelligence, there is much that can be done, especially now that the Taliban wants to be seen as a gentler, kinder version of its former self.

Since capturing Kabul, the Taliban have sought to rebrand themselves as more moderate, promising former rivals amnesty, urging women to join their government, pledging stability at home and trying to persuade the international community to see beyond a bloody past defined by violence and repression. New York Times, August 21, 2021

The correct response to the sunk-cost dilemma is to realistically evaluate the situation, and if most variables are not conducive to success, get out – mitigate as best you can, but get out. President Joe Biden failed to conduct an orderly conclusion to U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, but at least he gave the orders to get out.

Congress could still be MIA after new war powers bill

On a regular basis, members of Congress grumble about the Executive Branch usurping the war powers granted to Congress by the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, air strikes and other incursions continue unabated. Last month, President Joe Biden ordered “defensive precision air strikes” in Iraq and Syria, reportedly in response to drone attacks on U.S. personnel stationed in Iraq.

This month, Congress’ grumbling resulted in Senate Bill 2391, the National Security Powers Act, introduced on 07/20/21 by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).

SB 2391 aims to do the following:

  • Increase Congress’ control over the authorization of military actions.
  • Reform the review of weapons sales to foreign countries.
  • Increase Congress’ control over the declaration of national emergencies.

The Bill aims to accomplish its objectives principally by the following:

  • Repeal of the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
  • Sunset four existing authorizations for the use of military force. One of which is the open-ended authorization President Dwight Eisenhower obtained from Congress in 1957 purportedly to protect Middle Eastern nations from Communist aggression. The remaining three authorizations are those Congress granted following the 9/11 attack on the U.S.
  • Set forth the minutia of what words in the Bill mean, when a U.S. President can send troops into military action without Congress’ authorization, and when authorizations are supposed to end.
  • Require Congressional authorization for foreign arms sales over certain amounts.
  • Require a President submit underlying laws and protocols supporting declarations of emergency, and limit the duration of states of emergency.

In spite of rhetoric about usurpation of war powers, all this bill aims to accomplish is a reform of how Congress can continue to dodge its Constitutional responsibility to speedily and efficiently deliberate on matters of war, and choose to declare or not declare war when military hostilities arise.

If Congress were really serious about curbing Presidential usurpation of power in matters of military action, all that Congress needs to do is repeal all war-related statutory authorizations now on the books and abide solely by what the U.S. Constitution states in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11; and Article II, Section 2,

Article I – Congress shall have the power,

  • To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
  • To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
  • To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.

Article II –

  • The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.

Articles I and II make clear that Congress needs to declare war before a President exercises his duties as Commander in Chief. Constitutionally, in matters of war a President’s duties are solely military, directing deployments of troops placed at his command by Congress.

This Bill requires Congressional approval of government foreign arms sales over certain amounts. This requirement implies Congress’ view that choosing arms buyers is akin to choosing friends and foes. Besides, the U.S. Constitution gives Congress sole power in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 to “Regulate commerce with foreign nations.”

The last time Congress exercised its Constitutional responsibility under Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 was December 1941. For the last 80 years, men and women in the military have been sent into battle without public debate or a formal declaration of war. Although Senate Bill 2391 falls short in requiring that Congress exercise its Constitutional duty regarding the declaration of war, it does call for some restraints that could prevent the Executive Branch from engaging the nation in forever wars.

Pictured: Korean War – Nearly 40,000 U.S. soldiers died in action and more than 100,000 were wounded in a war that was never declared by the U.S. Congress.

Horseshoe bat flying with wings extended

Bats, Labs – Neither pandemic hypothesis is entirely credible

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

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

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

Lockstep narratives might be waning

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

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

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

A timeline without conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety and clarity can only come from good information

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

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

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

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

children tearing up covid masks

Two Generation C Embraced by the Establishment

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

Generation C: The corona virus generation

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

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

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

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

Generation C: The consumer generation

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

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

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

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

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

Same difference

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

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

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

Is the trend becoming apparent?

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

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

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

MLK I have a dream

Critical Race Theory: A Dream Cancelled

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brearley Is Not Alon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Priority 2—Promoting Information Literacy Skills.

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

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

In Fairness To Woke Progressives

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

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

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

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

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.