Cup of Joe – 2/17/22

“Ukrainians raised national flags and played the country’s anthem on Wednesday to show unity against fears of a Russian invasion that Western powers have said could be imminent,” Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, the AP reports that Russia said “it was returning more troops and weapons to bases, yet another gesture apparently aimed at easing fears it is planning to invade Ukraine.”

Tom Friedman: “The Biden team has mobilized enough solidarity among the NATO allies, enough advanced defensive arms transfers to Ukraine and enough potentially biting economic sanctions on Russia to put into Putin’s mind the only thought that matters: ‘If I go ahead with a full-scale invasion and it goes bad — wrecking Russia’s economy and resulting in Russian soldiers returning home in body bags from a war with fellow Slavs — could it lead to my own downfall?’”

“That is the only calculation that matters, and Biden has done the best job a U.S. president could do, given the asymmetry in interests between America and Russia on Ukraine, to frame it. Ukraine is not only right next door to Russia, but it’s also a country whose fate and future are vitally important to Putin personally. By contrast, most Americans could not find Ukraine on a map and feel zero emotional attachment to its future.”

Axios: If Putin invades Ukraine, the whole world will feel it.

“Rising oil prices and fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have created a dilemma for Saudi Arabia: Help the West by pumping more crude to tame the market, or stand by a five-year-old oil alliance that is helping Moscow at the expense of Washington,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“For now, the world’s largest crude exporter is sticking with Russia.”

“Russian speedskater Daniil Aldoshkin has apologized for displaying a middle finger following his team’s victory over the U.S. in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing,” The Hill reports.

Walter Shapiro: “Politics still stops at the water’s edge, but that’s because Americans don’t care about foreign policy unless U.S. troops are under fire. Voters would probably barely notice if Biden’s threats of sanctions helped convince Putin to take an off-ramp and slowly withdraw his troops from Ukraine’s borders.”

“It is possible that the threat of enhanced economic sanctions by America and our European allies might end up deterring Putin. That said, whatever the slow-moving Congress does on its own Russian sanctions will probably have about as much effect as putting an angry message in a bottle and dropping it in the Black Sea.”

Will Saletan: “Most Republicans in Congress have a clear understanding of Vladimir Putin: He’s a predator, and the only way to stop him is to stand up to him. They understand other tyrants the same way: China’s Xi Jinping, Iran’s Ali Khamenei, and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.”

“But when the predator is in their own country—when he’s the leader of their own party—their philosophy of deterrence melts into appeasement. The hawks become doves.”

President Biden has ordered the National Archives to hand over White House visitor logs from the Trump administration to the Jan. 6 select committee, the New York Times reports.

“The Christian crowdfunding site that helped raise $8.7 million for the anti-vax ‘freedom convoy’ in Canada was hacked on Sunday night, and the names and personal details of over 92,000 donors were leaked online,” Vice News reports.  “Analysis of the leaked data shows that while the majority of donors come from the U.S. (56%) and Canada (29%), there are also thousands of donations from overseas, including the U.K., Australia, and Ireland.”

“The Biden administration is telling Congress that it needs an additional $30 billion to press ahead with the fight against Covid-19,” the AP reports.

Politico: “While the administration anticipates it has enough vaccines and therapeutics to ride out the Omicron surge, three people with knowledge of the matter said the government doesn’t currently have enough money to respond if another dangerous variant emerges.”

“The CDC is reviewing its mask guidance, shifting its focus to Covid hospitalizations as a key measure of the severity of the outbreak and future guide for determining whether health safety protocols need to be tightened,” CNBC reports.

“The CDC currently recommends that people wear masks in indoor public places regardless of their vaccination status if they live in an area with high viral transmission. Nearly every county in the U.S. has high transmission right now.”

“Republicans are eyeing an ambitious legislative agenda if they flip the House in November’s elections, setting the stage for countless clashes with President Biden on a host of thorny issues, from COVID-19 protocols and Big Tech to border security and the national debt,” The Hill reports.

“The midterm cycle is historically brutal for the party of first-term presidents, and that track record — combined with Biden’s approval rating, which is underwater, and consumer inflation, which is soaring — has created a golden opportunity for Republicans to win back the lower chamber after just four years in the minority wilderness.”

Ron Brownstein: “The pressures of the coronavirus pandemic are reconfiguring the politics of education, dividing Democrats and creating new openings for Republicans.”

Said GOP strategist Will Marshall: “Republicans are tapping into frustrations real and imagined, but we have left a vacuum. We have no reform agenda. Our party is seen as propping up a bureaucratic status quo that many parents thought didn’t perform well during the pandemic. You can’t just point to Republican demagoguery about race and books and win the argument. You have to make voters a counteroffer.”

“If he gets away from this, there’s no God and no reason to live.” — Barbara Res, a former executive at the Trump Organization, quoted by the Daily Beast, on Donald Trump’s accountants abandoning him.

“A Washington, DC, court reinstated the Trump Organization as a defendant in a lawsuit the DC attorney general brought against former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee,” CNN reports.

Philip Rotner: “Being fired by your accounting firm is never a good thing. When the accounting firm not only walks away from you but does so loudly with an express warning to users of your financial information that they can no longer rely on its accuracy, that’s even worse. When access to loans is the lifeblood of your business, it’s worse yet. And when all of this happens in the midst of civil and criminal investigations into your financial dealings, you could be in big trouble.”

“The Biden administration is preparing strict new limits on pollution from buses, delivery vans, tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks, the first time tailpipe standards have been tightened for the biggest polluters on the road since 2001,” the New York Times reports.

“The new federal regulations are drawn from truck pollution rules recently enacted by California and come as the Biden administration is moving to restore that state’s legal authority to set auto emissions limits that are tighter than federal standards.”

“The developments represent a revival of California’s influence on the nation’s climate and clean air policies, following four years in which President Donald J. Trump waged legal, political, and, at times, seemingly personal battles with the state.”

“The Supreme Court said Wednesday that it will consider a renewed request from New York City teachers and staff to block a vaccine mandate due their religious objections, despite an earlier denial by Justice Sonia Sotomayor,” CNN reports.

“The teachers had previously asked Sotomayor — who has jurisdiction over lower courts in New York — to consider their emergency request. Sotomayor denied the request without referring the matter to the full court, likely because she did not think her colleagues would be interested in granting the application.”

“But the New York group then took the unusual step of directing a new request to conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, who referred it to the full court to consider.”

Punchbowl News: “The partisan stalemate over Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination to a top regulatory post at the Federal Reserve may drag on for a while. Democrats say this could impact the Fed’s ability to fight inflation.”

“But the real issue here is whether Republicans could use similar tactics – starving Democrats of a quorum – to tie up other nominations they oppose, including the upcoming Supreme Court nominee.”

“And this GOP tactic – allowed under the power-sharing agreement for the 50-50 Senate – has already worked inside the Small Business Committee. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) led GOP efforts for months to block Dilawar Syed’s nomination for the number two post at the Small Business Administration.”

David Leonhardt: “Crashes — and deaths — began surging in the summer of 2020, surprising traffic experts who had hoped that relatively empty roads would cause accidents to decline. Instead, an increase in aggressive driving more than made up for the decline in driving. And crashes continued to increase when people returned to the roads, later in the pandemic.”

“Per capita vehicle deaths rose 17.5 percent from the summer of 2019 to last summer… It is the largest two-year increase since just after World War II.”

“This grim trend is another way that two years of isolation and disruption have damaged life, as this story — by my colleague Simon Romero, who’s a national correspondent — explains. People are frustrated and angry, and those feelings are fueling increases in violent crime, customer abuse of workers, student misbehavior in school and vehicle crashes.”

“Drug overdoses now kill more than 100,000 Americans a year — more than vehicle crash and gun deaths combined,” the New York Times reports.   “No other advanced nation is dealing with a comparable drug crisis. And over the past two years, it has worsened: Annual overdose deaths spiked 50 percent as fentanyl spread in illegal markets, more people turned to drugs during the pandemic, and treatment facilities and other services shut down.”

Rolling Stone profiles an FBI agent who infiltrated a bunch of right-wing groups:  “Scott was in Phoenix to train online coverts when he ran into a compadre from Ohio. He and ‘Jim,’ a veteran cop assigned to Joint Terror, were the Hans and Franz twins of undercover: two hyper-muscled men with full-dress Harleys and enough tats to start a biker gang. Each of them had heard the buzz about the Base and wanted to get a case going fast.”

“So one night, they bought a fifth of their favorite poison and stayed up building Scott an alias. Using fascist pen names, they made his social media a fount of Holocaust slurs. But try as they might, it proved problematic to get booted off Facebook, or ‘Jewbook,’ as young racists like to call it. A screenshot of your ouster is a very useful chip if you’re seeking instant cred with terror groups.”

Officials in Florida have opened an investigation into Melania Trump selling tickets to an April “high tea,” to benefit an initiative of her “Be Best” effort called “Fostering the Future,” the New York Times reports.  However, no charity with the name “Fostering the Future” or “Be Best” has been registered in Florida.

Former President Donald Trump told the authors of This Will Not Pass that New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick made up with him on the Trump International golf course in March 2021 after he had “chickened out” and refused to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the aftermath of the January 6 riots, Yahoo Sports reports.  Said Trump: “He came up to me on the seventeenth. He hugged me and kissed me.”   The authors noted that the story stretched credulity “for anyone familiar with Belichick’s gruff persona.”

“Former New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, once vilified by Donald Trump as a ‘druggie’ and ‘joke’ unworthy of wearing the pinstripes, is now a key part of an investment group seeking to buy the rights to the ex-president’s marquee Washington, D.C., hotel,” the AP reports.

“A Pennsylvania man who hosted what he described as ‘the alt-right’s favorite firearms-related podcast’ was, along with his father, indicted on several gun charges, including possessing machine guns and unregistered silencers,” the New York Times reports.

Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the Washington Post of an instance in which she expressed concern to then President Donald Trump about violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in some forms of political activity.  Grisham said that Trump told her: “Who’s the boss of the Hatch Act? It’s me. So say whatever you want.”

Axios: “It was only two years ago that former President Trump struck a mega trade deal with China, containing commitments by the Chinese to purchase vast sums of American exports. So how’s it going?”

“U.S. exports to China have only been 57% of what was pledged as part of the deal, below levels before the trade war even began.”

“Major League Baseball’s spring training won’t start this week as scheduled after a meeting Saturday between team owners and the players’ union to resolve the sport’s ongoing labor dispute resulted in little progress,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Jonathan Bernstein: “The problem here is that it’s a no-win situation. Suppose Biden was able to negotiate a deal. Most voters wouldn’t care; they’re either not baseball fans or only mildly interested. For them, a Biden-negotiated deal would at best be a story they see one or two times. Even dedicated fans would be unlikely to give Biden much credit to begin with, and it’s highly unlikely they’d still have the dispute on their minds by election time.”

“If the effort goes wrong, however, those serious baseball fans might well blame Biden for the continued lockout. Not only do people tend to remember the bad longer than the good, but in this case failing to broker a deal would mean that the work stoppage continues, creating a constant reminder of failure (while neither the league nor the players will want to remind anyone of labor trouble once it’s resolved).”

Robert Reich says he learned this lesson the hard way when he was Labor Secretary.

“Nearly 24 million taxpayers are still waiting for the Internal Revenue Service to process their tax returns from last year — a number far larger than previously reported by the agency — with many refunds being held up for 10 months or more,” the Washington Post reports.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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