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We can write a story of tragedy to triumph–COVID-19 is Good Friday to the Easter Sunday that awaits

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Today is Good Friday.  Many of us aren’t feeling so good these days and few will experience a traditional happy Easter on Sunday. But what if the tragic story of COVID-19 has a happy ending and prompts a triumphant shift in humanity’s destiny just as in the well known story of Easter?  These three days of Easter weekend represent a time when heartache, agony and despair were replaced with the ultimate victory–the promise of a brighter future than ever imagined before.

As the entire world (a world most consider broken and in need of serious saving) faces this crisis, we are in the process of writing a chapter in history that all future generations will recount.  Let’s not forget, even in our worst moments, that we each have the power to make choices and take actions in our own lives to create a happy ending to this chapter we’ll one day read about in history books.  If we look for the silver linings in the cloud that is COVID-19 and pledge to use this trying time to take steps to make changes to improve our own lives, the lives of our family and of the world (in whatever ways our heart calls us to do so), we can experience the Easter that awaits us.  From small acts of kindness towards our friends to loving gestures among our families to heartfelt generosity to complete strangers–we can rewrite this tragic period of our present into an Easter-like triumph in the future.

What can YOU do in your own life to get us one step closer to our happy ending? DO IT! What matters is your heart. LET IT!

I wish you a blessed Easter–please stay safe and happy and healthy,
Beth

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Mail-In Voting

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historically speaking

With the shutdown of everything non-essential and social distancing becoming the new normal, one area of concern is voting. At the very heart of our democracy is the ability to vote. However, if we eliminate gatherings, as we have been instructed to do, voting is problematic. As of now the presidential vote hopefully will go forward as planned, but we have seen a disruption in primary voting. One of the options being floated is a mail-in vote. For some, changing how we vote goes against what it means to be American; however, historically speaking, we only started our current system of voting in the 1880s.

First and foremost, it is important to understand what the Constitution says about voting. Article I. Section 4 reads, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.” In other words, voting practices are controlled by the states and different states could have various practices. Because of this, states had a great deal of power over who could vote until the 14th and 15th Amendments were passed.

In early America, ballots were not provided; you were expected to bring your own. You could make your own ballot, but a popular way to vote was to take an already filled out ballot provided by your political party, not unlike the sample ballots found at some polling stations today. Usually these ballots were color coded so that foreign speakers or illiterate voters could make sure they voted for the correct party. However, color-coded ballots also made it easy for political bosses to make sure you voted for the correct person.

Unlike now, voters were not expected to cast an anonymous vote. The idea was that you should not be ashamed of who you voted for. The reason the pollsters were wrong in 2016, and I expect the same in 2020, was that many Republicans wanted to vote party but did not want to admit they voted for Trump. Early Americans were expected to vote for the common good, not for self-interest.

The switch to the secret ballot began occurring in the 1880s to battle corruption. By the Gilded Age, corruption had emerged as one of the leading political issues. The idea became so prominent that it threatened the Republican presidential dynasty, as the party divided internally between the Stalwarts, who wanted to keep the status quo, and the Mugwumps, who wanted real reform.

What was happening was that floods of immigration changed local politics in many ways. As immigrants got off the boat, they were met by party members from their homeland who provided them with a place to live already prepared and a job for them to start. This is why so many Irish became policemen and firemen; the Irish were in control of those occupations. Of course they were expected to vote for whoever the political machine ran. It was easy to vote for the right person, especially when the organization provided a filled-out ballot.

As bad as this looks today, political machines were not all bad. Early American cities had a plethora of issues – water, sanitation, paved roads, welfare, and eventually electricity. These issues were too big for most city governments to handle. It was the political machines that stepped in to handle the problems, of course with kickbacks for themselves. In some ways, the political machines were the only voice the poor had.  But in other ways the machines were taking advantage of the poor.

The power of the political machines led to middle- and upper-class Americans fighting so hard for political change. They fought for the passage of the Pendleton Act. This created a civil service exam where a test was given and, instead of political handouts, the most qualified were given jobs. With Pendleton passed they next fought for a secret ballot. If machines could not promise jobs, and votes could not be bought, it was harder for the machines to control the poor population. Pendleton was passed in 1883 and in 1888 Massachusetts became the first state to use the secret ballot and over the next decade the rest began to follow.

The mail-in ballot is not the same thing as the open ballot of the 19th Century, but it does pose similar circumstances. It may be the great equalizer that allows for more democratic participation than ever before, especially if we are social distancing. However, it could also result in less control for non-English speakers, under-educated persons, or under-employed voters. Not that voter tampering would be openly used, but there is potential for representatives of a company, union, community, or immigration group to pass out completed ballots and offer to mail them in for voters after voters fill in their personal information. We have seen something similar with McCrae Dowless in North Carolina collecting absentee ballots in 2018.  I am not saying this will happen or that we should not use a mail-in ballot. Historically speaking, I am just showing what happened in the past.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.

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Social Media vs. Integrity and Leadership

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March 13th, 2020 is notorious for two major events – one national and one local.  On this date, President Trump declared a national emergency due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and infused state governments with $50 billion dollars in federal aid.  Locally, the Town of Front Royal was quietly servicing their amended lawsuit against the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority upping their ante to $20,226,153 plus attorney fees and other costs.

While March 13th is an important milestone in this country and community, there are two far more important time spans to remember as you read through and more fully understand the “incompetence” that past EDA Board members exhibited, inclusive of former EDA Board Member and present Vice Mayor of Front Royal, Bill Sealock.

March 1, 2002, through December 9th, 2016 (EDA Board of Directors) and November 5th through present-day (Front Royal Town Council) shall serve as a reminder for a multitude of unremarkable and remarkable events that spans the illustrious career of Bill Sealock.  This period of time equates to nearly 19 years of public service.  These dates are critically important to the community, as Mr. Sealock’s unremarkable leadership tenure spanned the period in which much of the EDA fraud occurred; and where he continued to demonstrate a lack of true leadership on the Front Royal Town Council.  Sealock was in a prime position to have leveraged his past EDA knowledge and relations to broker a better working relationship between the Town of Front Royal and the EDA; possibly staving off the $20-million-plus civil suit against his previous board.

This was certainly not too much to ask, given Sealock’s 2016 candidate platform of “refusing to pick fights with the Board of Supervisors over silliness.” I will give Sealock credit for not picking any fights, as stony silence publicly overcame him for most, if not all the troubles between the EDA and the Town.

What was far from silly was Mayor Tewalt justifiably fighting and advocating for a mutual resolution on Town and EDA projects; while Sealock demonstrated no public support, and did not publicly build a coalition to challenge the current Council status quo that had their aim set on an entity that he helped lead and manage for 14 years.

What is remarkable in this time period is the Council’s willingness to chew up and spit out one of their own. Albeit, not through their personal words, but through their proxy attorneys.  The good ‘ole boy network may not be as strong as I once thought, as the sting of the outside-contracted Town attorneys’ words characterizing the Sealock manned EDA board’s leadership and management prowess includes such shameful vernacular as “incompetence”, “failed”, “unlawfully”, “grossly negligent” and “could have been prevented”.  These words and phrases are not my own, but direct quotes and characterizations that are peppered throughout the 83-page amended complaint by town attorney & famed automobile accident attorneys Damiani & Damiani.

Another unremarkable event is Mr. Sealock’s decision to not seeking another term on Council and chalking up the reasoning due to social media influence.  There was no mention or demonstration in acceptance of personal or professional accountability, the exercise of integrity, or simple sorrow, knowing that his inaction on both Town Council and the EDA will most likely cost the community untold millions of lost money through fraud, mismanagement (I will get to the EDA’s Sealock promoted Workforce Housing Project at a later time), attorney fees, and maintaining the status quo.  Leadership involves tough decisions, accountability, integrity, taking a stand for what is right, and reconciling the wrongs.   Demonstrating and practicing leadership is clearly not a strong suit for Sealock—that ship set sail years ago.  Fortunately, the community will not be forced to decide via future elections if Vice Mayor Sealock continues to deserve a seat at the dais knowing that his actions or inaction fully contributed to the chaos, dysfunction, and near-total loss of faith in community leadership posts.

The civil suit which The Town of Front Royal believes to be factually accurate paints a blistering account of Vice Mayor Sealock’s contribution to this community.  Vice Mayor Sealock was given 14 years, 9 months, and 8 days to help lead the EDA.  Instead, he let the organization lead him down a path that will forever scar this community.  Vice Mayor Sealock was given 4 years to jointly lead on the council, from the unique perspective of his nearly 15-year front-row seat at the EDA board table.  When the time came to reconcile his past decisions as an EDA board member, instead of being at the forefront and championing alternative resolutions, or simply resigning; he sat in stony silence while the Town of Front Royal began its campaign of fleecing the entire community with eyes wide shut to its own complicity and poor judgment as the EDA situation developed.

Sealock’s legacy will be forever cemented in the Town of Front Royal vs. FRWCEDA, not through social media fodder and a nearly 20-year career of unremarkable leadership.

Gregory A. Harold
Front Royal, VA  22630

(Writer’s Note: This is not a formal statement or position of the FRWCEDA.  This is one citizen’s position based upon the facts that the Town of Front Royal believes to be accurate as detailed in their civil suit against the FRWCEDA.)

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Miracle Cures

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historically speaking

As I was driving home from my office this week and listening to talk radio, the host kept talking about how if everyone took 50 milligrams of zinc each day we could wipe out COVID-19. It seems like over the last few weeks I have read or seen many so-called cures for our current crisis. President Donald Trump started a race to buy up hydroxychloroquine when he claimed it could help with the virus. Most recently, he has suggested using ultraviolet light or disinfectants. I am not commenting on these medications’ effectiveness against the coronavirus. As my kids like to remind me, I am not that kind of doctor. I am only saying that historically speaking radical cures are not new.

Whenever America has faced crises, there have always been some claims of miracle cures. Sometimes, these are quacks looking for a buck. Other times, even when the experts claimed the cures were crazy, they later proved to work.

Fear is expected during difficult time and, with social media, conspiracies can spread faster than ever before. This past week I have heard a couple different celebrities with millions of followers claim that COVID-19 was started and is being spread by 5G. They even have “scientific” evidence to prove their theories that radiation is at fault. There are even claims that Bill Gates is behind the pandemic to depopulate the world. Not to be forgotten, others have linked the virus to global warming. True or not, controversial causes and cures are a part of history.

In the later 19th Century, one such miracle cure was snake oil. As the Chinese started immigrating to America they brought the oils from the Chinese water snakes with them. The oil from this snake did prove to have healing ability, especially with aching joints and inflammation. With the success of the snake oil, less scrupulous people began to pedal their own miracle cure snake oils. The difference was most of these potions did not contain a single trace of actual snake oil. The scams became so common that the term snake oil has come to mean a hoax cure.

In the midst of the Spanish Flu there was an advertisement in the Daily Ardmoreite in Oklahoma claiming that Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic of Quinine and Iron has doubtlessly saved thousands from the ravages of the grip and influenza. An Oklahoma newspaper in Granite had a story about how one company from Camp Funston was spared from the flu because the company physician made them gargle salt water twice daily. Not to be forgotten, malaria could be cured, according to an ad in the Hollis Post-Herald, by taking Oxidine. The ad even claimed backing by the U.S. government. Interesting enough, the Hitchcock Clarion had an article which actually had good advice on how to avoid the flu. They prescribed social distancing, covering your mouth when coughing, and avoiding large gatherings. However, they also claimed you should sleep with your windows open at night. The point is that out of desperation or greed, miracle cures will be widespread.

At the same time, some controversial cures can turn out correct. In colonial America one of the greatest fears was smallpox. It was a devastating disease that could wipe out thousands and left its survivors scarred for life. The year 1721 was a particularly difficult year for Boston. In September of that year when smallpox first began, there were 26 deaths, and by October there were more than 400. The prominent preacher, Cotton Mather, had read about a treatment in Turkey where a smallpox scab was placed under a healthy person’s skin to inoculate them against the disease.

Being new, radical and Islamic, when Mather presented his findings to the medical community, he was scorned. He did find one willing doctor to perform the procedure, only to bring down the wrath of the medical and religious community to the point of a failed assassination attempt. It was not until famous doctors in Europe stated touting its effectiveness of inoculations did Mather gain some relief. What was once seen as Islamic voodoo, is now saving lives around the world.

In another time and place, the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1905 in Louisiana brought an equal amount of fear. Every couple years brought a major outbreak of the disease. With the discovery of germ theory, scientists spent years trying to find the cause of the fever in order to create a cure, but to no success. In 1898 America fought the Spanish for control of Cuba and with our “colonization” of the island came the even greater need to find a cure.

Enter Dr. Carlos Finlay. Finlay was a Cuban doctor who discovered yellow fever was being transmitted by mosquitoes. He even identified the exact type. After the US set up camp on the island, Finlay shared his information with Walter Reed who confirmed this theory of mosquito transmission. Finlay and Reed were able to reduce the mosquito population in Cuba and saw yellow fever numbers drop.

However, what should have been a godsend was not fully embraced by the South.In the South, their own medical personal remained unconvinced that the fever was spread by germs. They refused to accept an annoying bug could be the culprit.

New Orleans, one of the hardest hit each summer, decided to follow the recommendation and try to kill the mosquito population in the city. It was recommended to put a small bit of oil, like vegetable oil, into the water cisterns to kill the bugs before they developed. In the neighborhoods were this was done the people complained about the taste of their water and so they stopped. They did not believe the fix and so saw no reason to pollute their water. To force the treatment, the health board tried to pass city laws requiring it, but that efforts failed.

Between 1900 and 1905 there were no major outbreaks in New Orleans, convincing the locals that their campaign of clean homes had helped kill the germs. They were partially right. The cleaning up of homes and neighborhoods took away breading grounds for mosquitoes. It was really not until the 1905 epidemic that the city was finally able to convince the population of the importance of mosquitoes. They asked people to oil their cisterns, removed anywhere with standing water, and sleep under netting. Finally following these steps, the 1905 epidemic was the last in New Orleans. What once seemed as a radical idea proved to be what was needed.

The jury is still out for some with hydroxychloroquine, zinc, or UV light. They may prove in the end to be modern-day snake oil, or possibly the things that save countless lives.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.

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The Town’s money shell game and a suggestion on one COVID money saver

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It never ends with the incompetence of our Town Council and Interim Town Manager. I will exclude Councilman Thompson on the waterline issue as she voted against this.

At Monday’s Town council meeting, the council made an amendment to the 2020 budget to take $2.3 million dollars from the Enterprise Fund Reserves: $1.31 million dollars from the Water Utility Reserve fund will be used to cover the cost for the engineering drawings for the Rt. 340 corridor redundant water line; $990,674 from the Sewer Utility Fund for closed circuit television investigation of sewer lines.

To start with, before retiring I worked in the Commercial Property Management field. This included high-rise office buildings/complexes, retail and shopping centers. I know this business very well. At Monday’s (April 27) Council meeting, Council members justified the redundant waterline to the corridor for the following reason: possible liability litigation from Dominion Power and businesses in the corridor if the water were to be shut off for waterline repairs. If this liability issue was not written into the contract between the town/county or town/businesses, there is no liability issue. If a liability issue was written into either of these and not written in the town’s favor, this was plain stupidity and incompetence.

As I have said before at council meetings and a previous letter to the editor, there is not one shopping center in the country that has a redundant waterline. Could you imagine the cost? Having a waterline break to a shopping center, office complex, etc., is nothing new or out of the ordinary. It happens every day. Water loss and power loss is a situation that cannot be controlled. There can be no guarantee for continuous, uninterrupted water and power flow. Does Fairfax Water Authority get sued when a waterline breaks? – No.

It is inconceivable that Dominion Power, who relies on the flow of water to create the electricity they sell did not have this line installed at the same time of construction to prevent a shutdown. Dominion had the money then and has the money now for this entire project. But our Town Council wants to put some of the cost on the back of the citizens. Councilman Gillespie, at a council meeting earlier this year made this comment, “I can’t sleep at nights thinking about what it would do to the businesses in the corridor if the existing waterline breaks.”

Here is my comment, “Thank you Councilman Gillespie for thinking about Dominion Power, who has billions in yearly revenue, and the businesses in the corridor over the taxpayers of the town”.

But then again, the taxpayers have always come last with this council and past councils. Seems to be the normal for Front Royal.

The town will take out a bond to cover their share of this waterline. Council states Dominion’s future water rate increases will cover the payments on this bond, which in their eyes means the taxpayers would be paying nothing toward the bond. I say, Dominion should cover the entire cost of the waterline. Then there would be no bond to make payments on. Dominion’s water rate increases could then be used for water plant upgrades and sewer plant upgrades which are D.E.Q. required. Isn’t this part of what water rate increases are to be used for? So the taxpayers will end up paying for all of these required upgrades.

Again, thank you again Town Council for helping the gigantic power conglomerate over the lowly taxpayer.

Also another $1.657 million dollars was recommended to be cut from the General Non-Utility fund reserves to provide contingency funding to cover shortfalls in the water, sewer, solid waste and general street fund balances related to the COVID-19 economic impact.

So, we take money from here, put it over there. Take money from over there and put it back to here. Then when all of that here, there and everywhere moving of dollars is done, who still gets shafted in the end?

I’ll leave that answer to you.

On a personal note to our Interim Town Manager (Matt Tederick): Instead of having closed door meetings to discuss possible employee terminations due to COVID-19 economic losses, why not cut your overly paid salary by half or go salary free before terminating another town employee?

A leader inspires confidence in other people through examples of integrity and inspiration, not by fear. A leader is driven by the right motivation and makes a positive impact on the people around them. With these examples of a leader, you sir, are no leader.

Paul Gabbert
Front Royal, Virginia

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More Town terminations, or cut interim manager’s salary first?

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The Town Council and the Interim Town Manager once again went behind closed doors (at Monday’s Council meeting of April 27) to discuss personnel issues. This included employee layoffs in response to the COVID-19 economic instability.

We all know what happened the last time they went behind closed doors to discuss personnel issues: Four people lost their jobs.

Also let me remind you, our Interim Town Manager laughed at a poster with these terminated employees’ names on it at a Council meeting after saying terminating them was one of the hardest things he has ever done.

So with that being said, please join me in emailing our Town Council members and our Interim Town Manager requesting the Interim Town Manager’s salary to be cut in half before another town employee is terminated. All email addresses are on the Town of Front Royal web page.

Thank you.

Paul Gabbert
Front Royal, Virginia

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Digital Currency, Some Strings Attached

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Some may see this as “men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.” (Rev 16:2)

Others may view it as technology benefiting the life of man.


A newly published international patent owned by Microsoft reveals a technology capable of being used to modify human behavior. Three inventors at Microsoft Technology Licensing, LLC, have developed what is called a Cryptocurrency System Using Body Activity Data.

Here’s how it works. A ”task” is given to a human. The human is monitored by a sensor. When the task has been successfully completed and verified, cryptocurrency is awarded to the human.

This cryptocurrency can then be used to satisfy debt (or spent) in the same fashion as existing currency. This is classic behavior modification.

Not specified in the patent is who decides which task to assign or to which humans.

According to the international patent application released March 26, this ‘system’ may award cryptocurrency to humans who are coupled to a computer server via a communications network.

These humans are connected to a server by means of sensors and user devices.

Imagine, for example, your neighbor Jack. He has a sensor either implanted within his body or worn externally. Jack has been given a task. This task arrives via his user device. As Jack performs the task, his sensor measures his body activity. This activity verifies that he has satisfactorily completed the task. His user device reports the completed task. Jack’s cryptocurrency account receives a deposit.

Digital currency itself is not new. The well-known Bitcoin has been around for more than 10-years. This newly patented Microsoft application, however, stretches the imagination. It combines human body sensors and human monitored actions with financial transactions.

The Microsoft patent speaks of using “human body activity associated with a task provided to a user.” But not specified is who specifically decides upon the task. Who is it that essentially says, “You do what we want, we pay you in the form of digital cash.”

Neither does the Microsoft patent discuss limits –not to mention accountability. In fact, the patent declares that its summary “is not intended to be used to limit the scope of the claimed subject matter.” Not limit the scope?

That’s worth keeping in mind while we take a closer look at sensors which might be within a human body or external.

The Microsoft patent refers to sensors including electroencephalogram (EEG) to detect electrical activity in the brain, ambulatory MRI, and near infrared spectroscopy to detect changes in oxygen levels of blood. These as well as heart rate, thermal, optical, and radio-frequency sensors report the human activity.

This may sound a bit like science-fiction. But it is certainly not. This is not a leap of science. It is an application of today’s science.

This is likewise true with respect to the human’s user device. Our neighbor Jack may be using as his ‘device’ one or a combination of such things as personal computer, server, cell phone, tablets, laptops, smart watches, and smart televisions. And all of this may be using a plurality of processors and memory-storing units.

All of this technology functions in such a way that neighbor Jack, or we ourselves, might be convinced to perform tasks in order to reap digital currency.

That’s behavior modification.

But don’t take my word for it. Read what Microsoft inventors Dustin Abramson, Derrick Fu, and Joseph Edwin Johnson, Jr. have to say about all this in the patent application better known as International Publication Number WO 2020/060606 of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

This might be a good time to consider which of our human behaviors we want to have modified.

We might likewise give thought to who it is that we trust to modify our behaviors.

Now, as an addendum read this:

(By Staff, Biohackinfo News, March 19, 2020)

Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced on March 18, 2020 during a “Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ session” that he is working on a new, invisible “quantum dot tattoo” implant that will track who has been tested for COVID-19 and who has been vaccinated against it.

According to BioHackInfo.Com: “The quantum-dot tattoos involve applying dissolvable sugar-based microneedles that contain a vaccine and fluorescent copper-based ‘quantum dots’ embedded inside biocompatible, micron-scale capsules. After the microneedles dissolve under the skin, they leave the encapsulated quantum dots whose patterns can be read to identify the vaccine that was administered.”

The Covid-19 vaccine is already under research and development and experts say it will likely be available in about 18 months. Will this mean forced vaccinations or perpetually “sheltering in place” for those who refuse the coronavirus vaccine?

Gates is simultaneously working on the ID2020 Certification Mark, which according to pymnts.com utilizes “immunization to serve as a platform for digital identity.”

The Gates Foundation has also formed an alliance with Accenture, IDEO.org, Gavi, and the Rockefeller Foundation to make ID2020 a reality.

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