Cup of Joe – 3/5/22

“Job growth accelerated in February, posting its biggest monthly gain since July as the employment picture got closer to its pre-pandemic self,” CNBC reports.

“Nonfarm payrolls for the month grew by 678,000 and the unemployment rate was 3.8%… That compared to estimates of 440,000 for payrolls and 3.9% for the jobless rate.”

The U.S. job market is actually in the best shape it’s been in for more than a decade. Employees have far more leverage than they’ve ever had and are using it to change jobs or demand raises. So why are so many people gloomy?

The fact that most Americans think the economy is in bad shape is a shining example of how partisanship — and partisan media coverage — can dramatically skew perceptions of reality.

Inflation is certainly a problem, but wage increases are roughly keeping pace with or outpacing inflation for most working Americans. But it’s also important to remember that most Americans are debtors. They have mortgages on their house and they’re paying back student loans. Inflation is actually good for debtors. Inflation lets debtors pay loans back with money that is worth less than it was when they originally borrowed it. That doesn’t mean the government should actively pursue inflationary policies, but suggesting inflation is disastrous for ordinary Americans is just not true.

With a major war in Europe and continued supply chain disruptions, there are plenty of risks to the U.S. economy. But right now it’s humming.

“The Biden administration is considering once again extending the freeze on federal student loan payments and interest for roughly 40 million Americans before it expires at the beginning of May,” Politico reports.

“Russia is on course for an economic collapse that will rival or even eclipse the size of the 1998 slump which followed its debt default, although the financial fallout may be less than then,” Bloomberg reports. “JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s economists told clients in a report on Friday that they expect a 7% contraction in gross domestic product this year.”

Ratings agencies Fitch and Moody’s downgraded Russia by six notches to “junk” status, saying Western sanctions threw into doubt its ability to service debt and would weaken the economy, Reuters reports.

“Russia spent seven years building a financial ‘fortress’ that could help it withstand the impact of sanctions imposed by the West — and the keystone was $630 billion in central bank foreign exchange reserves,” Axios reports. “Presumably, Russia didn’t expect the G7 nations to go so far as to freeze those reserves — which they did this week — a move nearly unprecedented in scope.”

The Economist: Russia’s attempt to sanction-proof its economy has been in vain.

“Ripping Russia, the world’s 11th largest economy, out of the global financial system is bound to cause collateral damage for other countries, people and systems,” Axios reports. “Even the most targeted bombing campaign can strike bystanders, and an economic war is perhaps more indiscriminate — and harder to control.”

“Russia’s top billionaires have lost more than $80 billion in wealth in recent weeks, with more to come as sanctions and seizures start to bite,” CNBC reports.

“Russians could face prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading information that goes against the Russian government’s position on the war in Ukraine, a move that comes as authorities block access to foreign media outlets,” the AP reports.

New York Times: “As President Vladimir Putin wages war against Ukraine, he is fighting a parallel battle on the home front, dismantling the last vestiges of a Russian free press.”

“The production company behind the American version of the Russian state-funded network RT laid off most of its staff on Thursday,” CNN reports.

“Thousands of Russians are rushing to flee the country ahead of this weekend, as rumors swirl that Vladimir Putin could soon declare martial law, close the borders and crack down even harder on domestic dissent,” Axios reports.

“For as devastating as the humanitarian situation in Ukraine has become, widespread suffering is rapidly arriving at Russia’s own doorstep.”

The Washington Post reviewed more than 20 hours of video filmed for the documentary, A Storm Foretold, which is expected to be released later this year.

“Roger Stone allowed the filmmakers to document his activities during extended periods over more than two years. In addition to interviews and moments when Stone spoke directly to the camera, they also captured fly-on-the-wall footage of his actions, candid off-camera conversations from a microphone he wore and views of his iPhone screen as he messaged associates on an encrypted app.”

Former attorney general William Barr said that he believes that former president Donald Trump is “responsible in the broad sense of that word” for for the Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2021, the Washington Post reports.

Said Barr: “I do think he was responsible in the broad sense of that word in that it appears that part of the plan was to send this group up to the Hill. I think the whole idea was to intimidate Congress, and I think that that was wrong.”

Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr told NBC News that then-President Donald Trump became furious after Barr told him there was no evidence that the 2020 election was fraudulent. Said Barr: “I told him that all this stuff was bullshit… about election fraud. And, you know, it was wrong to be shoveling it out the way his team was.”

He told Trump: “I understand you’re upset with me. And I’m perfectly happy to tender my resignation.”  Trump then slapped his desk and said: “Accepted. Accepted.’ And then — boom. He slapped it again. ‘Accepted. Go home. Don’t go back to your office. Go home. You’re done.’”

At least 11 aides and close confidants told Donald Trump directly in the weeks after the election that there was no fraud and no legal way to overturn the result, the Washington Post reports.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has survived at least three assassination attempts in the past week, the Times of London reports.

“Two different outfits have been sent to kill the Ukrainian president — mercenaries of the Kremlin-backed Wagner group and Chechen special forces. Both have been thwarted by anti-war elements within Russia’s Federal Security Service.”

“Wagner mercenaries in Kyiv have sustained losses during their attempts and are said to have been alarmed by how accurately the Ukrainians had anticipated their moves. A source close to the group said it was ‘eerie’ how well briefed Zelensky’s security team appeared to be.”

Eurointelligence: “The reason Vladimir Putin has the power to invade a country the size of Ukraine is western money. Each day the west is importing energy from Russia to the tune of $700 million. We even increased our reliance on Russian energy after he annexed Crimea. At no point did we ever solve the problem. Going after the yachts of some oligarchs is one of many ways of not solving the problem. Inviting President Volodymyr Zelensky to a grand-standing session in the European parliament is another one. We are not going to make Ukraine a member of the EU.”

“We now see a clear path for Putin to win this war. He encircles and destroys. He will do to Kiev what he did to Aleppo, Grozny, and most recently to Kharkov. Putin is a very predictable military strategist.”

After a tense night in which a Russian attack on a nuclear power plant raised alarm bells around the world, the fire at the complex has been extinguished and experts say the plant seems stable. Both sides in the conflict now say that Russia had taken control of the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Bloomberg: “What We Know About Ukraine’s Shelled Nuclear Plant”

New York Times: “Russians Seize Europe’s Largest Nuclear Plant, but Fire Is Out”

Washington Post: “U.N. nuclear watchdog says no radiation release after Russian projectile hit Ukrainian plant”

BBC: “Global outcry after Russia seizes nuclear plant”

CNN: “Ukraine’s president says Russia’s attack on a nuclear plant is “terror of an unprecedented level”

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson Sid the “reckless actions of President Putin could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe,” the BBC reports.

Two White House officials said their latest information shows “no indications of elevated levels of radiation” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex in Ukraine, CNN reports.    

Washington Post: “The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog soon said the blaze had not affected ‘essential’ equipment and that Ukraine’s regulator reported no change in surrounding radiation levels.”

New York Times: “Across Ukraine, Russian forces are pressing ahead, laying siege to cities and trying to control vital ports, and Western officials said Moscow’s forces were targeting civilians and critical infrastructure. Russia’s continuing gains in the south could make it harder for Ukraine’s army to fight in other parts of the country.”

“Ukraine’s spirited defense has slowed the Russian advance, notably near Kyiv, the capital, where its forces have attacked a vast armored convoy bearing down on the city. But Russia is adding forces from the south and west in its efforts to take Kyiv, which the Ukrainian military said Friday remained a ‘key’ Russian objective.”

“Though Russia is facing a tougher resistance than expected, as well as logistical setbacks during the first week of its military offensive in Ukraine, U.S. and European officials warn that the darkest days of the invasion lie ahead,” NBC News reports.  “As the Biden administration prepares for the worst to unfold in Ukraine in the coming days and weeks, it is internally discussing possible sanctions on Russia’s energy sector.”

Senior White House officials designing the strategy to confront Russia have begun quietly debating a new concern: that the avalanche of sanctions directed at Moscow, which have gained speed faster than they imagined, is cornering President Vladimir Putin and may prompt him to lash out, perhaps expanding the conflict beyond Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.

“In Situation Room meetings in recent days, the issue has come up repeatedly.”

“The US has multiple channels open and is sharing intelligence with Ukraine at a ‘frenetic’ pace, disputing criticism that the Biden administration is not sharing battlefield intelligence fast enough,” CNN reports.

“The Supreme Court on Friday reinstated the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted in the 2013 attack that killed three people and left hundreds injured,” the Washington Post reports.

“The vote was 6 to 3, with the liberal justices in dissent.”

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the United States to recognize Taiwan as a “free and sovereign country.”

Donald Trump told Fox Business that he expected China to invade Taiwan sooner rather than later.  Said Trump: “I do because they’re seeing how stupid the United States is run. They’re seeing that our leaders are incompetent. Of course they’re going to do it. This is their time.”

Mona Charen: “Trump essentially inviting a hostile power to destroy a vibrant democratic ally, kill God knows how many innocents, and crush freedom . . . to make his successor look bad?”

Pew Research study shows how the pattern of total deaths from Covid-19 in the United States changed over the course of the pandemic.

“The Idaho Senate on Thursday passed a bill that seeks to deter most abortions by allowing family to sue providers after about six weeks of pregnancy — before many woman know they’re pregnant,” the Idaho Statesman reports.

Tennessee Republicans have backed a bill that could criminally charge librarians for providing access to what they call “pornography and inappropriate content in books,” WKRN reports.

Kentucky state Rep. Danny Bentley (R) invoked Jews and the Holocaust as he made false claims about the origins of a medication used to induce abortions, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.  “Bentley falsely said RU-486, or Mifepristone, one of two pills taken to induce abortion, was developed during World War II and was called Zyklon B, the gas that killed millions of Jews in the Holocaust.”

“Bentley then opined on his perception of the sexual habits of Jewish women.”

“The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out. You would be doing your country – and the world – a great service.”  — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), on Twitter.

Russian businessman Alex Konanykhin has placed a $1 million bounty on Vladimir Putin’s head and urged the country’s military officers to arrest him, The Independent reports.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called Donald Trump’s recent praise of Vladimir Putin a “mistake,” CNN reports.  Said Graham: “I think that was a mistake. I think I know what he was trying to say, you know, going into the Donbas. But, no. Let’s just make it clear, Putin’s not a genius, he’s a war criminal.”

“Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancée of Donald Trump Jr., who provided fundraising assistance for the Jan. 6 rally, was subpoenaed to testify and provide documents to the special House committee investigating the Capitol attack,” USA Today reports.Punchbowl News: “Guilfoyle is required to turn over documents to the select committee by March 11 – next Friday – and appear for a deposition on March 15.”

“Guilfoyle cut off an interview with the committee last week after she was upset by the presence of elected officials. She wanted the meeting to be staff only.”

“Former Trump White House spokesperson Judd Deere is set to meet behind closed doors Thursday morning with the Jan. 6 committee,” Politico reports.

“Deere, according to a book by the Wall Street Journal‘s Michael Bender, had taken part in a Jan. 5, 2021, meeting with then-President Donald Trump and social media manager Dan Scavino. At that meeting Trump had reportedly discussed the next day’s rally with his aides.”

“Two weeks before Jackson Reffitt’s father traveled to Washington and took part in the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, the 18-year-old sat in his bedroom in his parents’ Wylie, Texas, home and searched his phone for information about the FBI’s tip line,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “His father, Guy Reffitt, had sent what appeared to be increasingly menacing messages about lawmakers to a family group chat.”  Said the father in the text messages: “Too many lines have been crossed. Too many years this happened. We are about to rise up.”

“Florida legislators voted to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy on Thursday, a move that would severely restrict access to the procedure in a state that for decades has been a refuge for women from across the South,” the New York Times reports.

“The bill — modeled after a similar abortion ban in Mississippi that the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to uphold — now heads to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis as part of a sweeping push by Republicans to put the state at the forefront of the nation’s culture wars.”

Washington Post: “The 15-week ban makes no exception for rape, incest or human trafficking.”

DeSantis “is fundraising off a recent viral video depicting the Republican governor bluntly asking a group of high school students to take off their masks ahead of a public event, which drew outrage among Democrats,” Politico reports.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Thursday she supports banning oil import from Russia in response to Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Axios reports.  Said Pelosi: “I’m all for that. Ban it. Ban the oil coming from Russia.”

“I think they should just shut up.”  — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), quoted by The Hill, on Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO).

Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) returned to the U.S. Senate on Thursday, a little over a month after suffering a stroke, Axios reports.

Politico: “In addition to the great news for his health, it will also be a sigh of relief for Democrats in the 50-50 Senate. They’ll likely need his vote on important nominees, including Ketanji Brown Jackson’s selection to the Supreme Court.”

The head of the world’s atomic watchdog said his trip on Saturday to Tehran could “pave the way” to reviving the Iranian nuclear deal, an agreement that would return the country’s oil exports to global markets, Bloomberg reports.

Wall Street Journal: “Iranian and U.S. officials are entering a crucial week of negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, with significant differences remaining on several key issues and new concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could complicate the talks.”

“Google Maps users are uploading dozens of photos of destruction, injured civilians, and captured Russian soldiers in Ukraine to the Google Maps listings of popular locations within Russia’s major cities,” Vice News reports.

“Russian president Vladimir Putin has blocked or limited access to foreign news coverage of the war in Ukraine, including Facebook and Twitter, some of the few places people within Russia that citizens could get non-state sanctioned news. Google Maps allows users to upload photos of places—usually as part of a review of the spot—but people are using this feature to get images from Ukraine into Russia.”

Washington Post: “A besieged Ukraine has adopted a gruesome tactic in hopes of stoking anti-government rage inside Russia: posting photos and videos of captured and killed Russian soldiers on the Web for anyone to see.”

An estimated 38.2 million people tuned in to watch coverage of the State of the Union address, Nielsen reports.

“World leaders, environment ministers and other representatives from 173 countries have agreed to develop a legally binding treaty on plastics, in what many described a truly historic moment,” the Guardian reports.

“Turkish prices rose at their fastest rate in 20 years in February as the lira tumbled and food and energy prices surged, stirring discontent about the state of the economy,” the Financial Times reports.  “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who calls himself an ‘enemy of interest rates,’ triggered a collapse in the currency at the end of last year when he ordered the central bank to aggressively cut borrowing costs despite soaring inflation.”

“Jack Hanick, a onetime producer at Fox News, has been indicted on charges of working for a sanctioned Russian oligarch to establish TV networks in Russia and in other European countries,” Variety reports.

“Democrats who hoped they’d have transformational new health legislation in place by next year could instead be facing one of the largest increases in the U.S. uninsured rate in recent history,” Axios reports.  “Temporary pandemic-era reforms to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act marketplaces caused enrollment in each to swell, but these policy changes are due to end soon, and millions of people could lose their health coverage.”

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

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