Cup of Joe – 3/9/22

“President Biden announced on Tuesday morning to ban the importation of Russian oil into the United States, making the move after pressure from lawmakers in both parties to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.

“The European Union presented a plan Tuesday to cut Russian gas imports by two thirds this year, steeply reducing — but not severing — energy ties to Moscow,” the Washington Post reports.

“The proposal, to be discussed by leaders at a summit in Paris later this week, is a dramatic shift for a bloc that remains heavily reliant on relatively cheap and abundant Russian energy. But it falls short of the full-scale boycott that some have called for in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“Moscow has stoked fears of an energy war by threatening to close a major gas pipeline to Germany after the US pushed its European allies to consider banning Russian oil imports over its invasion of Ukraine,” The Guardian reports.

“Energy giant Shell said Tuesday that it will stop buying Russian oil and natural gas and shut down its service stations, aviation fuels and other operations in the country amid international pressure for companies to sever ties over the invasion of Ukraine,” the AP reports.

The national average price of gasoline in the U.S. today hit an all-time high of $4.104 per gallon, according to Gas Buddy. Since Russia provides about 10% of the world oil supply, but oil prices are already up over 50% since the start of the conflict, many observers have been accusing oil companies of manipulating the market. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

While speculation can certainly drive the price of oil higher or lower, the market is generally a good demonstration of basic supply and demand.

At any given time, the global supply of oil is likely to be very, very close to global demand. Lowering prices can generate a higher demand (i.e. “hey, gas is cheap, let’s buy that SUV!”) but is also likely to idle exploration and other projects that could increase production. When demand touches production, prices rise until demand is checked (i.e. “gee, airline prices are so high!”) and projects that might increase supply are more likely to move.

The rapid removal of 10% of production from the market means that, for the moment, demand is exceeding supply. Because adding production, even from existing sources, takes some time, the first thing that will happen is that prices will rise until demand is checked. 

How high? Russia — and some economists rambling on CNN — are predicting $300 a barrel. However, the markets for future contracts don’t appear to agree with that sentiment. At the moment, oil is trading around $125 / barrel, up $5 on expectations that the U.S. will ban Russian oil imports. But futures prices are actually lower, suggesting that the market expects production and demand to meet within the next few weeks. 

“Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency claimed that the country’s forces have killed a second Russian general within days of a first general killed last week,” CNBC reports.

“U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the two-week long invasion of Ukraine — possibly more than the number of Americans killed in the 20-year war in Afghanistan,” NBC News reports.

The U.S. assesses that Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent into Ukraine “nearly 100 percent” of the combat forces that were amassed on the border,  Politico reports.

“Russia has vaulted past Iran and North Korea to become the world’s most-sanctioned nation in the span of just 10 days following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” Bloomberg reports. “The sanctions against Russia underscore the extraordinary unity between the U.S. and its allies in the face of Putin’s invasion and their determination to leverage their economic power to try to dissuade him from pressing his advance.”

“The odds of Russia making its foreign debt payments are diminishing as bond prices fall, recession in the nation looms and various payment restrictions pile up after the invasion of Ukraine,” Bloomberg reports.

Associated Press: “To a watching world, his message is this, in both his words and his resolute, sometimes haggard appearance: He stands as a mirror to the suffering and spirit of his people.”

“It appears to be getting through. Just days into the war engulfing his nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is drawing historical comparisons as an effective and stirring wartime communicator — yet with a distinctly modern touch inflected by the sensibilities of live television and the personal feel of social media.”

New York Times: Zelensky is seen in his office in Kyiv for the first time since invasion began.

“I’m not hiding. And I’m not afraid of anyone.”  — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a video on Facebook, filmed from his office.

“Evacuations of people fleeing embattled Ukrainian cities along safe corridors began Tuesday, while U.N. officials said the exodus of refugees from Russia’s invasion reached 2 million,” the AP reports,

“The Russian onslaught has trapped people inside cities that are running low on food, water and medicine amid the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II.”

“On land, in the air and across the sea, the Ukrainian military and civilian soldiers continued to bedevil and bog down Russian forces on Tuesday, protecting the borders of key cities and inflicting heavy losses against the larger and better equipped Russian army,” the New York Times reports.

“But as Russian forces largely rely on long-range missiles, the invasion has caused widespread and often indiscriminate damage, creating a humanitarian catastrophe that has left hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians with no heat, water or electricity, and struggling to find a path to escape. While the prospect of a cease-fire and “humanitarian corridors” was again being discussed on Tuesday, there was little evidence that conditions on the ground would allow for large-scale evacuations from areas of the heaviest fighting.”

“While the Pentagon and other allies largely agreed with the Ukrainian assessment that the Russian advance has been slowed, they cautioned that the Russians would soon regroup. Russia’s military is eight times the size of Ukraine’s and it has vastly superior firepower at its disposal.”

Gerard Baker: “It already seems that a possibly inconclusive struggle for Ukraine is a likely outcome, but history suggests there are only two alternatives for the Russian leader—a victory of some sort, at any cost, or the collapse of his regime.”

“This lesson emphasizes the peril for all of us. We watch in awe the bravery of the Ukrainian people in resisting Russian aggression. But the stakes for Mr. Putin are so high that they create a terrifying paradox of Russian weakness: The longer the fight goes on, the greater his incentive to escalate. The fear of full nuclear war may be overdone, but we are already a couple of rungs up the ladder that leads to it.”

Walter Mead: “We should not underestimate the power of Putin’s belief in the efficacy of the iron fist.”

“When it comes to war, generals say that ‘mass matters,’” the New York Times reports.  “But nearly two weeks into President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — Europe’s largest land war since 1945 — the image of a Russian military as one that other countries should fear, let alone emulate, has been shattered.”

“Ukraine’s military, which is dwarfed by the Russian force in most ways, has somehow managed to stymie its opponent.”

Poland’s government announced that it will hand over all its MIG-29 fighter jets to a U.S. air base in Germany, the AP reports.

In return, Poland asked the U.S. “to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities.”It’s still not clear how they get into Ukrainian hands.

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, a leader of the extremist group the Proud Boys, has been indicted on a conspiracy charge in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, the Washington Post reports. Tarrio joins Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes as the two most high-profile individuals charged by the Justice Department in connection with the attack.

Apparently taken by surprise, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was handcuffed in his underwear early this morning, as police arrived at his home to arrest him on conspiracy charges.

North Carolina and Pennsylvania are keeping the neutral district maps that were drawn by state courts after striking down Republicans’ gerrymandered district lines in the two states: The Supreme Court declined to take up state Republicans’ challenges against the maps on Monday, dashing hopes for another Alabama.

Democrats are likely to gain a seat in North Carolina under the new map, the Associated Press notes.

However, SCOTUS’ decision isn’t necessarily the victory for voting rights groups that it appears to be on its face.

“The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an attempt to reinstate the sexual assault conviction of Bill Cosby, which was overturned last year by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,” the Washington Post reports.

Ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), after backing Amy Coney Barrett’s two-minute confirmation right before the 2020 election, says Democrats need to hold their horses with Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation process, which they plan on starting on March 21. After all, there’s “the integrity of our constitutional advice” and “thoroughness of the vetting process” to think about, crucial things that shouldn’t be sacrificed for an “arbitrary timeline,” according to Grassley.

If Republicans on the Judiciary Committee back Grassley, they could boycott Jackson’s confirmation to stall or even derail it. Republicans are currently employing this tactic to block President Biden’s Federal Reserve Board nominees.

“Democrats have begun to pick up the pieces of President Joe Biden’s stalled domestic agenda, working in concert with the White House to rebrand it as a push to cut costs for families and zero in on a package that can win the decisive vote of Sen. Joe Manchin, the mutinous West Virginia centrist,” NBC News reports.

Politico: “Democrats’ most at-risk senators want to transform the artist formerly known as ‘Build Back Better’ into an inflation-buster, just in time for the midterms.”

“It’s a gambit that could jump-start President Joe Biden’s stalled domestic agenda by helping Democrats cut a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), sell the legislation as a cost-cutting package and run on it in the fall. That would give the party’s most vulnerable incumbents a potent message to help keep their seats, and keep the majority for two more years as a result.”

Jonathan Chait: “Trump’s rise introduced to the Republican Party a figure who shared Putin’s perspective toward Ukraine and often echoed his propaganda. When Putin ginned up demonstrations in eastern Ukraine as a pretext to hive off chunks of land in 2014, Trump gushed, ‘So smart, when you see the riots in a country because they’re hurting the Russians, Okay, we’ll go and take it over…  You have to give him a lot of credit.’ After winning the nomination, Trump promised to consider recognizing Putin’s land seizure because ‘the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.’”

“Trump brought on Manafort to run his campaign, which further linked Ukraine’s conflict with Russia to the American domestic struggle. Ukrainians released a ‘black book’ of evidence of secret payments by the previous, pro-Russian regime, which implicated Manafort in an embezzling scandal for which he was eventually convicted. After it hacked Democratic emails and released them to aid Trump’s candidacy, Russia claimed it had been framed by Ukraine. Trump subsequently endorsed this theory.”

After hours of debate on the Senate floor, the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill has passed through the Florida senate and now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) desk, Axios reports.

“The bill would ban classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through 3rd grade. For higher grade levels, the bill says instruction should be ‘age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate’ by state academic standards.”

Washington Post: “The measure also allows parents to sue school districts if they feel their child has received an inappropriate lesson. Democrats warned that could lead to a wave lawsuits against cash-strapped school systems.”

Daily Beast: “When Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was promoting a new release of his 2007 memoir last October, he made an interesting choice for his public relations firm, a company run by one of the most influential figures in conservative legal circles: Leonard Leo.”

“The interesting part of this choice is not that Leo’s firm was incapable of handling the work—far from it. What makes Thomas’ decision notable is that Leo happens to have a vested interest in the Supreme Court, and his dark money network actively tries to influence rulings.”

“The revelations of Leo and Thomas’ business relationship offers new evidence of ties between a sitting justice and a man widely considered the most powerful conservative judicial activist in the country.”

Biden is poised to sign the anti-lynching bill, aka the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, after the Senate passed it unanimously on Monday. The House passed the measure by a 422–3 vote last month. Reps. Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Chip Roy (R-TX) voted against it.

There’ve been more than 200 attempts to pass a bill criminalizing lynching since 1918.

New Yorker: “The community was founded in 1833 by West Ford, who lived and worked at Mount Vernon for nearly sixty years, first as an enslaved teen-ager and continuing after he was freed. Following Washington’s death, in 1799, Ford helped manage the estate, and he maintained an unusually warm relationship with the extended Washington family.”

“Awareness of West Ford had faded both in Gum Springs and at Mount Vernon, but in recent years his story has been at the center of a bitter controversy between the two sites. His descendants have demanded that Mount Vernon recognize Ford for his contributions to the estate, which was near collapse during the decades after Washington’s death. They also argue—citing oral histories from two branches of the family—that Ford was Washington’s unacknowledged son, a claim that Mount Vernon officials have consistently denied.”

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo announced on Monday that the state’s health department will release guidelines recommending against vaccinating healthy kids against COVID-19.

It’s a flat rejection of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation that all children ages five and up get the vaccine.

Ladapo, who was appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), has been railing against governmental COVID measures to the point of claiming that masks aren’t saving lives and accusing the CDC of using “shaky studies, shaky methods” in its handling of the pandemic.

Franklin Foer: “Joe Biden hasn’t received the full credit he deserves for his statecraft during this crisis, because he has pursued a policy of self-effacement. Rather than touting his accomplishments in mobilizing a unified global response to the invasion, he has portrayed the stringent sanctions as the triumph of an alliance. By carefully limiting his own public role—and letting France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz take turns as the lead faces of NATO—he has left Vladimir Putin with little opportunity to portray the conflict as a standoff with the United States, a narrative that the Russian leader would clearly prefer. He’s shown how to wield American leadership in the face of deep European ambivalence about its exercise.”

“His handling of the domestic politics of the crisis has been just as savvy. Although he could justifiably have portrayed Republicans as the party of Putin apologists, he refrained from dinging his political enemies. During his State of the Union address, he actively encouraged Republicans to feel as if they were his partners in a popular front.”

“Iran’s chief negotiator at the nuclear talks in Vienna unexpectedly returned home Monday night, prompting European officials to say negotiations were at a standstill,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“A Saudi prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center who was suspected of trying to join the 9/11 hijackers has been sent back to his home country for treatment for mental illness,” the AP reports.

“With his release, there are now 38 prisoners left at the detention center. He is the second released under President Joe Biden, who has said he intends to close the facility.”

New York Times: “Mohammed al-Qahtani had spent 20 years at Guantánamo Bay, where he was tortured so badly that he was ineligible to be tried at the war crimes court.”

“Proposed U.S. aid for Ukraine and its European allies has grown beyond $12 billion, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday, as congressional bargainers worked toward a bipartisan government-wide spending deal that would also contain fresh sums for battling Covid-19,” the AP reports.

Punchbowl News: “The Ukraine aid package – perhaps the most important political issue in Washington right now – has increased from $6.4 billion last week to $10 billion over the weekend to $12 billion as of Monday night. There’s enormous support for this all across the Hill, and that popularity is being used as leverage to push through the broader omnibus package, which will be criticized from the right and left when it’s finally unveiled.”

“A powerful, bipartisan group in Congress announced Monday that it would craft legislation suspending normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and grant the White House the authority to increase tariffs on the two countries, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” CNN reports.

“Both sides of the abortion debate anticipate that come July, the Supreme Court will have overturned Roe v. Wade and with it the constitutional right to abortion, handing anti-abortion activists a victory they have sought for five decades,” the New York Times reports.

“But from Florida to Idaho, Republican-led state legislatures are not waiting: They are operating as if Roe has already been struck down, advancing new restrictions that aim to make abortion illegal in as many circumstances as possible.”

“Under Roe, states cannot prohibit abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb — around 23 weeks into pregnancy. But bills moving through legislatures are outlawing abortion entirely, or at six, 12 or 15 weeks of gestation.”

“Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said he wants to see the GOP repeal the Affordable Care Act if his party wins the White House and the House and Senate majorities again in 2024, a move that would resurrect a fight that Republicans had waged for nearly a decade, then largely abandoned in 2018,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Johnson: “For example, if we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare — I still think we need to fix our health care system — we need to have the plan ahead of time so that once we get in office, we can implement it immediately, not knock around like we did last time and fail.”

“A 17-year-old was arrested and another person got away after they drove through a checkpoint at the military base in Maryland that the president and the vice president use to travel to and from Washington,” the New York Times reports.

“The teenager, who was not identified, was armed when he was apprehended.”

“The security breach at Joint Base Andrews… happened Sunday night at about the time that Vice President Kamala Harris and four Cabinet members landed at the base, which was put on lockdown for several hours.”

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

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