Cup of Joe – 3/23/22

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson faces her first day of questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. One of the things we learned from Monday’s hearings: Republicans are still very mad about the Kavanaugh confirmation process (you know, the one that ended in them getting everything they wanted).  One of the things we learned yesterday: Republicans are just flaming Q-anon loving assholes.

Punchbowl News: “Senators will get a chance to question Jackson for 30 minutes during the first round that starts today, plus another 20 minutes during the second round. This questioning will last for two days, or roughly 18 to 19 hours in total. Half of that will be by Democrats, who aren’t likely to push Jackson anywhere near as hard as their GOP counterparts.”

“This means Jackson has to withstand roughly nine to 10 hours of questioning by (potentially) hostile senators over the next two days. And the reward for getting through this ordeal successfully could be a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.”

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson rejected misleading accusations by several Senate Republicans that she imposed lenient sentences in child pornography cases, asserting that “nothing could be further from the truth.”

On her second day of confirmation hearings, Judge Jackson pushed back on the notion that she was tolerant of child sex-abuse, calling the crimes “sickening and egregious” and that she imposed “strict sentence[s] and all of the additional restraints available in the law.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, called the misleading claims by Josh Hawley and Marsha Blackburn “extreme” and “meritless.” Ted Cruz, meanwhile, used his time to question Judge Jackson about her views of critical race theory and called the nomination of enslaver Bushrod Washington not “controversial,” while Lindsey Graham used his allotted time to air grievances about the treatment of past Republican Supreme Court nominees and to attack Biden and other Democrats. He then literally threw a tantrum and stormed out of the hearing in a huff. Really.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said that the U.S. Supreme Court was wrong to legalize interracial marriage decades ago, the Indianapolis Star reports.

He said that decision should have been left to individual states.

Five hours later, Braun released a statement saying he misunderstood “a line of questioning.” No, you didn’t. It is the logical conclusion of your beliefs.

Russia is sending “low-quality” reserves to the front lines in Ukraine to replace its losses, according to a military assessment released by the Institute for the Study of War, the Washington Post reports.

Times of London: “Russia is reported to have lost almost 10,000 soldiers since the start of the war in Ukraine less than a month ago, far above American estimates of the casualties.”

“The leading theory for why Russia launched hypersonic missiles into Ukraine last week is that it’s running out of precision-guided weapons to strike faraway targets,” Politico reports.

“Russia said it shot Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles at a weapons depot in western Ukraine on Friday, though it remains unclear if that was actually the target. Still, President Joe Biden confirmed Russia’s use of the weapons Monday, stating the Russian military launched them ‘because it’s the only thing that they can get through with absolute certainty.’”

New York Times: “Concern about these smaller arms has soared as Vladimir Putin, in the Ukraine war, has warned of his nuclear might, has put his atomic forces on alert and has had his military carry out risky attacks on nuclear power plants. The fear is that if Mr. Putin feels cornered in the conflict, he might choose to detonate one of his lesser nuclear arms — breaking the taboo set 76 years ago after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

“Analysts note that Russian troops have long practiced the transition from conventional to nuclear war, especially as a way to gain the upper hand after battlefield losses. And the military, they add, wielding the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, has explored a variety of escalatory options that Mr. Putin might choose from.”

“The US has been unable to determine if Russia has designated a military commander responsible for leading the country’s war in Ukraine, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter — something that current and former defense officials say is likely a key contributor to the apparent clumsiness and disorganization of the Russian assault,” CNN reports.

“Without a top, theater-wide commander on the ground in or near Ukraine, units from different Russian military districts operating in different parts of Ukraine appear to be competing for resources rather than coordinating their efforts.”

“Units participating in different Russian offensives across Ukraine have failed to connect, these sources say, and in fact, appear to be acting independently with no overarching operational design.”

“President Volodymyr Zelensky remained defiant Monday, saying he would never agree to an ultimatum from Russia or surrender Ukraine’s cities, even as the Kremlin continued its bombardment of the capital, the coast and elsewhere,” the Washington Post reports.

“As Moscow sought its first strategic victory in a war that appears to be approaching a stalemate in many places, it issued a warning to leaders in Mariupol: flee, or face further attacks. Ukrainian officials rejected the demands, and the fate of the southeastern port city is uncertain.

Wall Street Journal: “Russian attacks struck Kyiv, Odessa and other locations across Ukraine as Moscow appears to be shifting its battle plan to compel Ukraine to relinquish claims to its southern and eastern territory.”

Axios: “U.S. wages are increasing, but not nearly enough to keep up with the soaring cost of gasoline and rent, according to a new analysis by the Urban Institute.”

“The economy has plenty of problems, both home-grown and imported from a volatile geopolitical situation. But wherever the leaders of the Federal Reserve look right now, they’re seeing flashing green lights that the world wants them to get moving on raising interest rates,” Axios reports.

“Yes, the Fed acts independently based on its best analysis of economic data. But other factors inevitably shape the tone of internal debates — for instance, discussions by outside economic thinkers, and financial market reactions to Fed moves.”

“Right now, those are almost uniformly pointing toward more aggressive action to try to rein in inflation.”

“Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank was prepared to raise interest rates in half-percentage-point steps and high enough to deliberately slow the economy if it concluded such steps were warranted to bring down inflation,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Financial Times: “The US government bond market is suffering its worst month since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, as high inflation pushes the Federal Reserve to aggressively pull back monetary stimulus from the economy.”

Former President Donald Trump’s personal assistant in the White House, Nick Luna, appeared virtually on Monday before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, ABC News reports.

During a trial of one of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrectionists on Monday, Secret Service inspector Lanelle Hawa testified that the Secret Service took then-Vice President Mike Pence to a loading dock, a restricted area underneath the plaza on the Senate side of the Capitol, as the pro-Trump mob ransacked the building.

Jonathan Bernstein: “The House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack has pushed its public hearings back again and again, now to sometime in May — that is, some 16 months after the insurrection and Trump’s final attempts to subvert the 2020 presidential election. The panel is reportedly still unsure of the ‘the structure or topic’ of those hearings.”

“There’s simply no good excuse for this. Both the delay and the obsessive focus on the report instead of full public hearings are mistakes. (The committee took testimony last year from the law-enforcement officials who repelled the attack, but hasn’t followed up in public.) It’s easy to overstate the potential of hearings, which are subject to some of the same inattentiveness and partisan screens that limit the impact of the report. Even the Senate Watergate hearings were only part of what eventually produced President Richard Nixon’s resignation. And those were the most successful such hearings in the TV era. What’s more, they took place at a low point in partisanship, and at the peak of the dominance of the broadcast TV networks and their news departments.”

“But hearings at least have a chance. Live testimony can produce great TV. And while even a successful rollout of a report will be hard to keep in the news for more than a few days, a series of hearings can produce weeks of developments.”

Wall Street Journal: “Since 2018, the Pentagon’s strategy has defined China and Russia as primary concerns and North Korea, Iran and violent extremism as secondary threats. That “two-plus-three” approach—two chief adversaries with three secondary ones—was expected to be supplanted by a ‘one-plus-four’ strategy, which put China first and placed Russia among the lesser threats.”

“Despite the heightened focus on Moscow, a new U.S. defense strategy, which was due to be released earlier this year, had been held up as the Russia crisis brewed. Policy makers all but finished the document late last year and tweaked the language slightly after the invasion, officials said. But they didn’t do a wholesale rewrite of the document, and when it is released in the coming months, the strategy will still assign Russia a secondary priority behind China, according to the Pentagon official.”

“The effort to revive the 2015 nuclear deal agreement now hinges on perhaps the most politically sensitive issue in the negotiations: whether to remove the U.S. terrorism designation for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, the country’s powerful security force,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The issue is galvanizing opposition to the nuclear deal in Washington and among Middle East allies such as Israel, where the government issued stinging public criticism of any attempt to remove the terrorism designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

The Hill: “Legislation to make daylight saving time permanent passed the Senate last week, but the House is not ready to be a rubber stamp, spelling potential trouble ahead for its passage in the lower chamber.”

“Leaders on both sides of the aisle have made clear they are not in a rush to act on the legislation, with some citing the focus on the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, as well as the need for further review from members before taking up the proposal.”

“President Biden intends to announce a new Russia sanctions package during his visit to Europe this week, including measures to crack down on sanctions evasion,” Axios reports.

“Support for a European Union-wide ban on the purchase of Russian oil is growing inside the bloc, according to diplomats involved in the discussion, representing a significant shift in the continent’s stance toward how to ratchet up economic pressure on Moscow,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Agreement on any EU ban of Russian crude is far from locked in yet, and a rapid decision to move ahead isn’t likely.”

“Russian companies owned by sanctioned oligarchs say they are having trouble making payments to their foreign creditors, potentially setting them up for default even though they have the funds to pay,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

The White House on Monday urged private companies to bolster their cyber defenses, citing evolving intelligence suggesting the Russian government is exploring “options for potential cyberattacks” targeting U.S. critical infrastructure, The Hill reports.

Finnish customs officials have put a freeze on more than 20 luxury yachts docked or stored in Finland suspected to belong to Russian oligarchs, according to Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest newspaper.  You can follow our “Yacht-Watch” here.

“One of the world’s top chess players, Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin, has been banned for six months by the International Chess Federation for publicly declaring his support for Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine,” the Washington Post reports.

“Facebook has banned former president Donald Trump from posting on its platform, and he is barred by law from using his current fundraising to finance another campaign for the White House,” the Washington Post reports.

“But Trump has found a way around both barriers as he rebuilds his political operation to clear the way for a potential 2024 presidential campaign.”

“His primary political action committee, Save America, has been spending more than $100,000 a week this month on Facebook ads, according to the company, many of which seek donations with deceptive claims about corruption in the last election and public support for the belief that ‘Trump is the true president.’”

It’s been a full month and former President Donald Trump is not posting to his newly-unveiled social media platform, Mediaite reports.

“China has locked down an industrial city of 9 million people overnight and reported more than 4,000 virus cases, as the nation’s zero-Covid strategy is confronted by an Omicron wave,” The Guardian reports.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “got into a confrontation with employees of a Montana airport which grew so heated that law enforcement had to get involved, a new video showed on Sunday,” the Daily Mail reports.

“Cruz was spotted at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport shortly after noon on Sunday, apparently irritated by missing his flight.”

“The Biden administration lacks the funds to purchase a potential fourth coronavirus vaccine dose for everyone, even as other countries place their own orders and potentially move ahead of the United States in line,” the Washington Post reports.

Walter Mead: “In a development that suggests trouble ahead, China’s basic approach—not endorsing Moscow’s aggression but resisting Western efforts to punish Russia—has garnered global support. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa blamed the war on NATO. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, refused to condemn Russia. India and Vietnam, essential partners for any American strategy in the Indo-Pacific, are closer to China than the U.S. in their approach to the war.”

“Western arm-twisting and the powerful effect of bank sanctions ensure a certain degree of sanctions compliance and support for symbolic U.N. resolutions condemning Russian aggression. But the lack of non-Western enthusiasm for America’s approach to Mr. Putin’s war is a phenomenon that U.S. policy makers ignore at their peril.”

The rapper Kid Rock said Donald Trump once asked him for advice about U.S. policy on the Islamic State and North Korea, The Guardian reports.

Porn star Stormy Daniels must pay ex-President Donald Trump nearly $300,000 in attorneys’ fees, a federal appeals court said in a ruling upholding a judge’s order in her failed defamation lawsuit, CNBC reports.  However, Daniels said she “will go to jail before I pay a penny” to Trump.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that Vice-President Hamilton Mourao will not be his running mate in this year’s election, but declined to name his choice for the role, Reuters reports.

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

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