Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Notations From the Grid (Special Mid-Week Edition): Out & About On "Virtual Route 66" This Week In America


Russia Demands a Re-Write of the West's Security System

Three high-stakes meetings took place last week in GenevaBrussels, and Vienna between Russia and Western allies in an effort to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis. As talks progressed, the situation on the ground remained tense. Russia sent more than 100,000 troops and attack aircrafts, to surrounding regions in the past few months ( with more on the way), and increasingly appears poised to strike. Live-fire drills have been taking place in the area, heightening anxieties. And late in the week, 70 Ukrainian government sites were hit by a cyberattack that displayed "Be afraid and expect the worst” on screen. Menacing stuff.

Russia’s aggression may have been the impetus behind last week’s talks, but Moscow has made it clear its demands encompass more than just Ukraine. In December, it published a draft treaty demanding NATO withdraw military personnel and equipment from Eastern Europe and guarantee that it won’t offer membership to Ukraine or Georgia in the future. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was explicit in his statement: “It’s absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine, never, never ever becomes a member of NATO”. US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman called these requests non-starters.

Sherman underscored the importance of working closely with allies to ensure a unified front for these diplomatic negotiations. Nevertheless, the EU has been notably absent from the week’s talks. Though EU member states have taken part in the NATO and OSCE talks, EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was not at the table (unlike his predecessor in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014). After some messaging  discord early in the week, however, the EU lined up in solidarity with the United States. During a meeting of European foreign and defense ministers Borrell noted that although Russia seeks to divide the EU and the US, Washington won’t play the Kremlin’s game.

Omicron in four charts

The Omicron COVID-19 variant set off an unprecedented increase in cases and hospitalizations nationwide — and after a fall season in which the Delta variant hit the American health care system hard. The latest government data shows how this variant is infecting more young people than previous waves.
  • On January 10, an average of 25,285 adults were hospitalized daily with either confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases. The previous peak was one year prior: 24,284 daily hospitalizations in January 2021. 
  • More children are also going to the hospital. An average of 1,612 children were hospitalized daily with confirmed or suspected cases on January 10. The previous pediatric hospitalization peak was 1,092 daily in September 2021.
  • The current two-week average of 592,000 cases is 175% higher than two weeks ago. However, the two-week average of COVID-19 deaths is down 91%. In previous surges, deaths increased a few weeks after a rise in cases — whether that will happen with Omicron remains to be seen.

 Explore more charts and data on this variant in this new report.

Dive into updated data

The USAFacts data pages enable readers to compare trends and interact with visualizations to better understand the government's impact on the American people. We've updated dozens of pages with the latest data available, ranging from 2019 to 2021, depending on the topic. Here is a sample of what's new.

Explore the data pages for even more, including disaster declarations in your state2020 border apprehensionsdeaths of armed service members, and many nonpartisan numbers on a variety of issues impacting American life.

Tracking voting rights

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For years, Dr. King organized to secure African Americans' fair access to the ballot box. And last week, President Joe Biden gave a speech in Dr. King's hometown of Atlanta to urge Congress to pass voting rights legislation. Given both events, we wanted to reshare this article on the more than 30 states that have changed voting laws since the 2020 election. Scroll through the story to see where states have lengthened or shortened the window for mailing in ballots, proposed voter signature bills, and more.

One last fact

It's taken over Facebook and Instagram, and now USAFacts is joining the #10YearChallenge. In 2019 (the year with the latest data available), federal, state, and local government spending was half a trillion more than spending for the 10 years prior. See more 10-year comparisons throughout the week at USAFacts on Instagram.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Notations On Our World (Weekly Edition): On the Week That Was in Our World....

 A new week is upon us as we were on our Virtual Prowl thru our Virtual Route66 this week.      Today, America celebrates the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the one year of  President Biden's Inauguration is also upon us.    This is the negotiations with Iran continue, Iran announced the formal activation of the 25 year agreement, China continued to make inroads throughout the World, Russia presses for demands regarding Ukraine and the UK continues with post-Brexit challenges.   This is as COVID continues to present a challenge to all.

We present a snapshot of the week that was courtesy The Economist of London, The Financial Times, the Washington Examiner, The Bulwark & Predicit Markets: 

Party animal

Boris Johnson has always been unfit to be prime minister

With him in office, Britain can expect a rough ride



→ Read more: What did you expect from Boris Johnson?


Joe Biden was set up to fail

The Democratic president is a flawed politician in an impossible job

White House Report Card: Biden's shrinking presidency stalling out

White House Report Card: Biden's shrinking presidency stalling out

This week’s White House Report Card finds President Joe Biden and his agenda stalled out, leaving him little to brag about on his one-year anniversary Thursday.

Read the full story here.

Mitt Romney: Biden has had '52 weeks of bad weeks'

Mitt Romney: Biden has had '52 weeks of bad weeks'

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney did not hold back when criticizing President Joe Biden’s first year in office.

Read the full story here.


Central Asia will remain unstable, however many troops Russia sends

Events in Kazakhstan are not what they seem


The smoking guns are all around us

The Pattern of GOP Voter Fraud
Photo by Ty O'Neil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Happy Sunday! Before you get immersed in a day of playoff football, I’d like to urge you to think about the implications of this story:

In the weeks after the 2020 election, then-President Donald Trump's allies sent fake certificates to the National Archives declaring that Trump won seven states that he actually lost. The documents had no impact on the outcome of the election, but they are yet another example of how Team Trump tried to subvert the Electoral College -- a key line of inquiry for the January 6 committee.

The fake certificates were created by Trump allies in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico, who sought to replace valid presidential electors from their states with a pro-Trump slate, according to documents obtained by American Oversight.

In other words, what we have here is attempted election fraud on a massive scale.

Some perspective: If an average voter lied on their registration forms or who forged an absentee ballot,m they would face criminal charges and world of legal hurt.

But this case is far worse because the forged electoral certificates were coordinated, and part of a larger conspiracy to overturn the presidential election.

And the smoking guns are littered all around us.

Bill Kristol waves the red flag:

This morning’s Wapo reports that the Biden DOJ “does not appear to be directly investigating the person whose desperate bid to stay in office motivated the mayhem — former president Donald Trump — either for potentially inciting a riot or for what some observers see as a related pressure campaign to overturn the results of the election.”

But attorney George Conway asks the key question: “how there could 𝙣𝙤𝙩 have been a conspiracy or attempt by Trump or Eastman and others to "corruptly ... obstruct[], influence[], or impede[]" the electoral-vote count proceedings within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2).

Twitter avatar for @gtconway3dGeorge Conway @gtconway3d
Makes you wonder how there could 𝙣𝙤𝙩 have been a conspiracy or attempt by Trump or Eastman and others to "corruptly ... obstruct[], influence[], or impede[]" the electoral-vote count proceedings within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2).…

Bill Kristol@BillKristol

Why the 7 forged certifications matter: Eastman memo: "Pence...announces because of the ongoing disputes...there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States...[So] there are 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden. Pence then gavels Trump re-elected.”

January 15th 2022

1,640 Retweets6,969 Likes

Here’s the statute Conway is citing:

(c)Whoever corruptly—

(1)alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or

(2)otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.


Nota bene: The forgeries were not a side-show — they were an integral part of Trump’s attempt to overturn the election.

And the plan was widely known.

On December 10, 2020, a group of prominent “movement” conservatives signed an open letter call for swing states to “appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump.” They wrote:

There is no doubt President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election. Joe Biden is not president-elect.

Accordingly, state legislatures in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan should exercise their plenary power under the Constitution and appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump. Similarly, both the House and Senate should accept only these clean Electoral College slates and object to and reject any competing slates in favor of Vice President Biden from these states.

Here’s a partial list of the signatories:

A week later, former White House spox Kayleigh McEnany talked about an “alternate slate of electors” that Congress would vote on, when it met on January 6.

Coop Scoop: Searching For The Democrats (resend)

Why would Democrats ignore a prime congressional pick off?

January 14-15, 2022

By Marc Cooper

I was pleased to see Thursday morning that the DOJ has finally shown some muscle by indicting the fascist leader of The Oathkeepers and ten of his collaborators for “seditious conspiracy.”  It’s the first real concrete sign from Justice that the investigation is now moving up from the bottom rung of the January 6 assailants.

That’s about the only good news out there. 

The six shills on the Supreme Court, meanwhile, decided that with the COVID infection levels reaching an all-time high (health officials estimating a mind boggling 5 million infections per day in the U.S.), this would be a good time to usurp all government power and prohibit the proposed vax mandate on big companies.  I have no way of explaining this. 

I’m not even sure this decision is a wet kiss to business as most Scotus decisions are.  I suppose industry likes the mandate as it would have given them cover to get their employees jabbed and back to work.

And it looks today that Biden’s push to pass voting rights has crashed on the shores of Lake Sinema… the Arizona senator actually pre-empting the president’s meeting with Democrats Thursday morn by taking to the floor and once again proclaiming her undying and absolute defense of the filibuster. Branding her as a conservative or whatever is off the mark.  My educated guess is that Sinema knows she has become electorally radioactive and is now laying the groundwork for a second career sitting on a number of corporate boards.  Politico reported this week that some of her former aides are already working as corporate lobbyists.

Like you, I am frankly exhausted by her antics and contortions, along with Manchin’s practiced “”I’m just a country shitkicker” routine with the media, as well as with the rest of the Democrats’ inability to forge a strategy. 

And while Biden is getting blamed for everything including bad weather reports, it’s not hard to see how his favorability has sunk to 33%.  Most alarming to Democratic insiders, though, are recent polls showing Black support for Biden has fallen to 56% -- a sub-arctic reading for a Democrat.

Anyway you cut it, much of the hullabaloo about “voting rights” is overdone. American democracy, indeed, is in deep danger.  But anybody who thinks it is going to be fixed by passing this or that law is not paying attention.

No question that the Democratic bills on voting rights would mark an improvement in balloting but big-D Democracy needs much more, it needs an engaged and committed public in order to function.  And all the trends are running in the wrong direction.

Daily life in the U.S. has become more dispersed, more angry, less civil, less democratic. The vitriol, nastiness and rank stupidity of American politics is infecting so many other precincts of our lives.  And all of the conditions that have contributed to the emergence of an organized, anti-democratic and authoritarian political movement are still present. And Arguably, they have only intensified over the last 5 years and doubled down in just the last 12 months.

It’s no accident that world wars and great natural disasters usually provoke earth-shaking social and political changes and there’s no reason to believe this pandemic will not do the same.  I think it already is.

This year is going to be all about the mid-terms, and I decided to get involved after last week’s newsletter in which I once again exhorted the toiling masses to do just that.

I took my own advice last week and decided to seek out the local congressional campaign.  I am not a big fan of doing campaign work but I thought this would be a good way to engage with other local political activists and see what we could get going.

Well… my field report is not very encouraging.  Here’s what I found:  In this very purple district I live in with what should be a very vulnerable Republican rep running for her seventh term, there is NO Democratic campaign even though we are less than 300 days away from voting. That’s right. None.

It’s sort of hard to believe.  Our congresswoman is Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, not exactly a Never Trumper but someone nevertheless detested by Trump

A low profile member, JHB came to prominence in the immediate wake of January 6 when she was one of the few Republicans who voted to move forward on Trump’s second impeachment (though she did not later vote to convict). 

She was also the congresswoman who stepped forward to rat out Kevin McCarthy and his January 6 phone call to Trump where they told each other to fuck off.  She was also willing to sit as a witness in the impeachment trial before the Democrats wimped out and decided to not call any.

Trump immediately turned on JHB. As did many local Republicans.  She has been chastised by the local GOP and Trump has endorsed one of the three hard-line Trumpies who are running against her (two of them with very high name recognition and some political experience).

Clark County, where we live and that JHB represents is a text book swing district.  Though we are nestled in deep blue west Washington and even though Portland is but 5 minutes away across the river, Clark was traditionally a heavy retirement and veteran community and, hence, has been more moderate than surrounding areas.

The trend line, however, is Blue. The county is growing and diversifying.  In 2020 a majority of 51% voted for Biden in Clark.  The mayor of Vancouver, the largest city, is a moderate Democrat. The head of the elected county council, however, is a Trump-adjacent Republican.

Since her public statements last year regarding McCarthy, JHB has been radioactive in local Republican circles.  Her social media postings draw hundreds of barbed comments calling her a RINO, a Communist and Traitor.

She has been busy fighting back with direct mail, positioning herself as a Total Trumper without mentioning his name.  Her abundant campaign lit has devolved to the usual sort of tactics, running a “poll” asking if you support defunding the police (a notion that has no support in this Portland suburb shaken by last year’s violent protests downtown).

One of two things are going to happen to Herrera Beutler in her primary. She is either going to get beaten by one of the insurrectionary upstarts or she will come out victorious but bloodied, hobbled and hated by much of the GOP base.

Either way, the Republican candidate for congress in this Washington third district will be a weak, vulnerable candidate, one that could be picked off on a district drifting away from Republicans.  And with the House currently dominated by a mere 4 seat majority, the value of each individual seat is obvious.

Here’s the weird part. For months now, I have been reading about the jostling among the different candidates for JHB’s seat.  And then it occurred to me, last week, that –duh—I don’t think I have seen a Democrat challenger named.

So I went looking.  What I found was Brent Hennrich, a movie theater tech with no name recognition, no past political experience and apparently no money has filed on the Democratic side.

He seems a nice guy who supports Medicare for all but he is definitely not a serious candidate and he does not have a visible campaign of any sort. And he probably never will.

All of which means that the Democratic party, writ large, is failing to even try to cash in on this vulnerable seat making one wonder just exactly what is the larger strategy of the party.

Now, there is something called the DCCC, better known as “the D-Triple C.”  This Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is the arm through which the Democratic Party, finds, recruits, and funds congressional candidates.

Apparently, they got lost or ambushed somewhere out on the Lewis and Clark trail and never made it here.

I am reporting this today as an alarmed citizen, not a reporter. So I have not (yet) called the DCCC or the local Dems to ask them what the fug.  I am interested in their answers though whatever they are they will be inadequate.  There is simply no excuse for the Dems not forcefully moving in here.

Nor am I about to judge the entirety of the Democratic midterm push based on this sort of anecdotal evidence. 

I will stay on it and report back.  But so far, it’s rather dreary. ++

Bubbling below the surface

Many Saudis are seething at Muhammad bin Salman’s reforms

Can they do anything about them?