Tuesday January 18th, 2022

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metcalf
 Providing an on line Triage of the news since 1997

World & Nation

Trust erodes in everything from church to schools to the presidency during Biden’s first year
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris walk off stage after speaking in support of changing the Senate filibuster rules that have stalled voting rights legislation, at Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, Jan. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. Harris is capping off a controversial first year in office, creating history as the first woman of color in her position while fending off criticism and complaints over her focus and agenda. While she’s sought to make the office her own, Harris has struggled at times with the constraints of a global pandemic and the realities of a role focused squarely on promoting the president. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) **FILE**

Public schools? Americans are wary. Organized religion? Increasingly a big “No thanks.” Banks, big businesses, organized labor, tech companies and the media? Not much confidence in the lot of them, according to Gallup polling.

As President Biden enters his second year in office, former President Donald Trump enters his second year of forced retirement, and the coronavirus enters its third year plaguing the nation, Americans are questioning their institutions in new ways, sending academics scurrying to understand what it all means.

Politicians, meanwhile, are scrambling to figure out what to do about it, while sounding the alarm about the death of institutions, and frequently blaming their political foes for making the situation worse.

Gallup regularly polls on 16 different institutions and as of 2021, 13 of them were underwater, with less than 50% of the public expressing confidence.

Unusual Omicron warning sign in eyes to look out for as a painful Covid symptom

When Covid-19 first emerged, people were warned of three main symptoms. But with new mutations came many new symptoms of the virus.

The classic three signs of coronavirus are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

However, unlike previous variants, Omicron has presented with symptoms that affect different parts of the body.

Kamala Harris: I Won't 'Absolve' Senators Who Oppose Voting Bills

Vice President Kamala Harris, during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event, said she’s "not going to absolve" senators who oppose the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

When asked about Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who refused to back President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan and other pieces of the Biden administration’s legislative agenda, Harris replied: "As I've said before, there are 100 members of the United States Senate, and I'm not going to absolve — nor should any of us — absolve any member of the United States Senate from taking on a responsibility to follow through on the oath that they all took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Harris told NBC News last week, when asked about Manchin and Sinema, that "I don’t think anyone should be absolved from the responsibility of preserving and protecting our democracy. Especially when they took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution.”

Blinken headed to Ukraine, Germany as tensions with Russia continue to mount

                          Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares, not shown, Tuesday,  Jan. 18, 2022 at the State Department in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Ukraine on Tuesday and Germany later this week as the Biden administration scrambles to try to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The secretary’s travel and consultations are part of the diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the tension caused by Russia’s military buildup and continued aggression against Ukraine,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday in a statement.

Mr. Blinken‘s trip follows last week’s push by U.S. and European allies to present a united response to the threat of a Russian invasion. Recent days have seen tensions rise anew amid reports of Russian forces arriving in Belarus for joint military exercises with that country, which also borders Ukraine.

Mr. Price’s statement said Mr. Blinken will begin his trip in Kyiv, where the secretary of state will meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday to “reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine‘s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Schumer Hits Trouble After Earlier Wins in 50-50 Senate

Senate majority leader pushes ahead with votes on election legislation despite likely failure

Last month, the Democratic-controlled Senate failed to advance President Biden’s roughly $2 trillion economic plan. This week, the party’s push to overhaul election practices nationwide is set to fizzle out as well.

These twin setbacks have cast a harsher spotlight on the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), the lawmaker responsible for navigating President Biden’s agenda through the 50-50 Senate after he delivered a Covid-19 aid bill early last year and a bipartisan infrastructure bill in the summer.

With the signature issues for the Democratic Party stalled, neither Mr. Schumer nor other party leaders have outlined a path to legislative wins they might deliver in the short time left before campaign season begins for the midterms, with poll numbers suggesting their slender majorities are in significant jeopardy.

New Mexico Democrats want to expand mail-in voting, allow 16-year-olds and felons to vote

Democrats in New Mexico are rushing to change the state’s voting laws ahead of this year’s midterm elections that are expected to be particularly bruising for the party.

The proposal would lower the voting age to 16 for local elections, expand the use of mail-in ballots, create an option for straight party-line voting on ballots and remove a prohibition on voting by convicted felons, though felons would not be allowed to vote from prison.

Led by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Democratic state lawmakers are proposing a sweeping rewrite of elections laws to push back on what they say is a “wave of anti-democratic sentiment nationwide.”

Gallup: Support for Democrats plunged, GOP surged as Biden struggled with virus, Afghanistan

GOP's 5-point edge is its highest since 1995, though momentum may be slowing

Support for Democrats plunged during 2021 as President Biden struggled with the coronavirus pandemic and inflation, according to Gallup polling that found a dramatic swing in party preference handed the GOP a 5-point edge by the end of the year.

Democrats enjoyed a 9-point advantage at the start of 2021, when 49% of Americans identified as Democrat or leaning Democrat compared to 40% who identified more closely with the Republican Party.

Things changed dramatically during the second half of the year, and Republicans now hold a 47%-42% edge, the GOP’s biggest advantage in Gallup polling since Republicans took over the House in 1995.

The findings will enthuse Republican leaders, who see a good chance to retake control of the House in this year’s midterm contests and hope to wrestle back control of the evenly divided Senate.

Airline executives warn of ‘catastrophic disruption’ ahead of 5G rollout

Airline industry heavyweights are warning of chaos if Verizon and AT&T proceed with a full-scale rollout of 5G on Wednesday.

The two telecoms have twice delayed the rollout, originally slated for Dec. 5, over warnings that cell tower emissions near airports could interfere with aircraft automated landing systems and altimeters.

In the latest down-to-the-wire warning to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, CEOs from the U.S.’s top airlines said that “immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies.”

The airlines are requesting that Verizon and AT&T delay flipping the switch on towers within two miles of the airports that haven’t been cleared by the FAA.

Olympic Athletes Advised to Leave Phones at Home to Dodge Spying

Beyond Omicron and gold medal tallies, athletes arriving in China’s capital for the Winter Games next month may have one more thing to worry about: is it safe to access the internet?

Beijing has promised the world’s top athletes access to a partially unfettered internet during the Olympics starting Feb. 4, dropping the Great Firewall that blocks services like Facebook and YouTube at official venues and hotels. But security experts say there are reasons to exercise caution.

Chinese companies that specialize in data collection, surveillance and artificial intelligence are among the official sponsors and suppliers for the Winter Olympics. Washington and its allies have accused some of the corporations providing networking and data management, including Huawei Technologies Co. and Iflytek Co., of potentially being used for espionage or surveillance of minorities in Xinjiang. Huawei and its peers deny those allegations, but cybersecurity consultants warn that those systems will subject athletes to the same kind of surveillance, movement tracking and monitoring that most Chinese citizens deal with.

Democrats backing away from Manhattan DA’s new soft-on-crime approach

Congressional Democrats from New York are distancing themselves from the Manhattan district attorney’s “stay out of jail free” policy that downgrades some felonies and abandons prison sentences for other crimes, a move that is wildly unpopular with city police and business leaders.

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, who represents parts of Queens, said the edict by new District Attorney Alvin Bragg “might ultimately lead to even more serious offenses” when criminals realize they won’t be prosecuted for lower-level violations such as jumping a subway turnstile without paying the fare.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens and is considered a contender to become the next leader of House Democrats, said he is unfamiliar with the new policy, which has been highly publicized. Mr. Jeffries said he has faith in new Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, and new Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who espouses a “broken window” tough-on-crime stance.

More Top News

Biden’s lying lips

Empty supermarket shelves resemble poor and totalitarian countries, not America

How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: when his lips are moving. It’s an old joke, but it fits the Biden administration.

The president went to Atlanta last week, where he made claims that would have sent a lie detector off the chart. With a tableau of mostly Black people behind him, President Biden again asserted without credible evidence that Republicans are trying to stop minorities from voting.

That this is probably false on many levels does not deter Mr. Biden, other Democrats or fundraisers from making the claim. In addition to lying, they are also confirming their belief that too many voters accept whatever they are told from political leaders, especially Democrats. One reason is that the major media rarely questions their assertions, while Republicans and their policies are under constant media examination and assault.

The Atlanta speech apparently was viewed by the administration as a good way to change the subject from the economy and the worst inflation in 40 years, but polls show the public isn’t buying it. In major cities, they see supermarket shelves nearly empty of food and other staples. These are scenes more recognizable in poor and totalitarian countries, not America. Who should they believe, their “lying eyes,” or politicians? The verdict is in.

Glenn Youngkin, man of hope and change

Defeats death, deception and depression in Virginia

Bankrupt of ideas and blind of vision, Democrats spent months last year trying to smear Virginia’s new Gov. Glenn Youngkin as some racist reincarnation of former President Donald Trump. It was as desperate as it would prove to be ridiculous.

The caricature Democrats tried spinning did not stick, as was evident on election night and even more obvious Saturday under sparkling skies on the front steps of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Capitol where Mr. Youngkin took the oath of office as the state’s 74th governor.

Ever tall and always sunny, Mr. Youngkin was flanked by newly minted Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares, all three swept into office promising a new future for Virginia.

Democrats, meanwhile, were stuck looking backward. They spent the campaign obsessing over a past president, peddling racist division and defending archaic teachers unions from parents furious over the sorry state of education in Virginia.

" It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
-- Noel Coward
     (1899-1973) British playwright

Medal of Honor
Bill Conveys Special Honor to Last WWII Medal of Honor Recipient ...
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 


Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.

From the Archives

We Have Met the Enemy…

Geoff Metcalf
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
--Benjamin Franklin
“The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
--Louis Freeh
In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

It is kinda cool to finally see even The New York Times acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998.

In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA Treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional  'Patriot Act'.

It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

“Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring ll target information from the Eurv opean mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in th UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

An interesting sidebar appeared in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which was a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathered and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relati  vely new (legal) enterprise was known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

Most of this information is from y 1998 piece.  Echelon has developed, matured, and morphed into a much more powerful hybrid. ‘Carnivore’ was software to help triage the cacophony of data. Vault 7 and ‘Umbrage’ are logical (some would argue “insidious”) growth.

    More to follow…


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