Cup of Joe – 3/24/22

“After all of the entreaties from top Republicans to show respect at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, Senator Ted Cruz on Tuesday afternoon chose to grill the first Black woman nominated for the Supreme Court on her views on critical race theory and insinuate that she was soft on child sexual abuse,” the New York Times reports.

“The message from the Texas Republican seemed clear: A Black woman vying for a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land would, Mr. Cruz suggested, coddle criminals, go easy on pedophiles and subject white people to the view that they were, by nature, oppressors.”

“The attack, the most dramatic of several launched from inside and outside the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing room, contained barely coded appeals to racism and clear nods to the fringes of the conservative world.”

“It’s Hawley, right? Take that for what it’s worth.”  — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), quoted by the Washington Post, on the GOP attacks against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at her confirmation hearings.

“Republicans know that they cannot unilaterally block Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson from confirmation if Democrats unite to support President Biden’s nominee in the 50-50 Senate,” the New York Times reports.

“But some of them are working to pick off votes for her in the president’s party, focusing in particular on Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the centrist Democrat who has broken ranks on major issues and whose state is solidly conservative.”

“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court, said Wednesday that if confirmed, she would recuse herself from a case examining Harvard University’s admissions policies,” the Washington Post reports.

“Jackson, whose term on Harvard’s Board of Overseers expires this spring, previously had not said publicly what she would do.”

Charlie Sykes: “As we contemplate the vetting process that gives us judges who are qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, perhaps we also ought to give some thought to the vetting process we use for the kind of people who serve in the U.S. Senate.”

“Because, I regret to inform you that, once again, they are not behaving well.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson “got into a heated exchange after the senator revived a line of attack on the judge’s sentencing record in cases involving images of child sexual abuse,” the New York Times reports.

“The flashes of temper were particularly striking coming from a senator who voted less than a year ago to confirm Judge Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Mr. Graham’s aggressive questioning of Judge Jackson over the past two days — which has included rapid-fire rhetorical questions, frequent interruptions and some lengthy, fiery lectures — suggested that he was unlikely to back her for the nation’s highest court.”

Washington Post: “She has been asked about critical race theory and the history of America’s slaveholding past and whether she has been too lenient in her sentencing as a trial judge — issues that are cultural flash points in today’s caustic political debate but the first two of which have little to do with the actual work of the Supreme Court.”

“The grilling she has experienced is a reminder that Black Americans are seen and often judged through a different lens than White Americans — and that they also have life experiences that White Americans do not share.”

“The questioning has ranged through a series of other predictable issues: abortion, gun rights, her representation as a public defender, court-packing, her judicial philosophy. But the most charged exchanges dealt with issues that have clear racial components.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky will give a virtual address to the NATO summit participants tomorrow, the Kyiv Independent reports.  He is expected to “speak about the need to stop Russia’s war crimes by closing the sky above Ukraine or supplying the country with air defenses.”

New York Times: “The most critical of the meetings, though, will be at NATO. For all the signs of unity, there is nervousness about Mr. Putin’s next move, and what happens if he makes use of chemical or biological weapons. And so far, officials say, while those possibilities have been debated, there is no unity on how the West would respond — a question Mr. Biden and his aides will have to take up, behind closed doors.”

Zelensky said in a televised address that about 100,000 people are enduring “inhumane conditions” in the southeastern port city of Mariupol as they contend with a relentless attack by Russian forces, Axios reports.

Zelensky said Mariupol’s citizens were completely blockaded by Russia’s military: “No food, no water, no medicine. Under constant shelling, under constant bombing.”

Politico: “Presidents rarely travel overseas empty-handed but, to this point, the administration has been cagey as to what more deliverables Biden can or will provide. Officials said additional sanctions against Russia were expected along with a joint effort to crack down on Russia’s ability to evade those economic measures. There also is a promise of more funding and military equipment for Kyiv. But there are limits as to what Biden can do and how far he’s willing to go.”

Playbook: “Most summits are organized over the course of months. Thursday’s meetings took shape in just days. Some allies balked at the idea of a gathering in Brussels, worried that there wouldn’t be much new to say. In the end, Biden personally prevailed over the doubters.”

ABC News: Biden heads to high stakes NATO summit.

“The Biden administration is preparing sanctions on most members of Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, as part of an effort to punish Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“President Biden intends to announce the sanctions on more than 300 members of the Russian State Duma as soon as Thursday during his trip to Europe, where he will meet with allies from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to formulate their next steps.”

“The sanctions will be announced in coordination with the European Union and members of the Group of Seven industrialized nations.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to attend the Group of 20 summit that is being hosted by Indonesia this year,” the Washington Post reports.  “Western nations are reportedly trying to exclude Moscow from the G-20, a group of the world’s largest economies.”

“Russian climate envoy Anatoly Chubais has stepped down and left the country, citing his opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, becoming the highest-level official to break with the Kremlin over the invasion,” Bloomberg  reports.

“Putin’s chief spokesman has conceded that Russia has yet to achieve any of its military goals in Ukraine and refused to deny that Moscow could resort to the use of nuclear weapons,” CNN reports.  “Dmitry Peskov repeatedly refused to rule out that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons against what Moscow saw as an ‘existential threat.’”

“Russia’s stock market is set to have a partial reopening Thursday, nearly a month after it shut down following the invasion of Ukraine,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The challenge for Moscow is that the resumption of trading could simply send Russian stocks back into free fall.”

“To limit the fallout, Moscow has turned to some heavy-handed policies. It blocked foreign investors from dumping local stocks—a move that some market participants saw as retaliation for a Western freeze on Russian central bank assets since a big chunk of the Russian market is owned by foreigners. The Russian government ordered its sovereign-wealth fund to buy billions of dollars worth of shares.”

“A bipartisan group of senators is working with the Treasury Department to try to lock down Russia’s roughly $132 billion in gold reserves after its invasion of Ukraine,” Axios reports.  “The collaborative approach is a departure from congressional efforts to shame and blame the Biden administration to shape moves on Russian oil imports, or the SWIFT banking system. If successful, it could drive more work across the aisle and along both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, as the president balances diplomatic pressures abroad with political pressures at home.”

John White: “In an era when norms are often cast aside, one cardinal rule of the presidency remains intact: expect the unexpected. That rule is being vindicated once more. On Election Day 2020, few expected Russia to invade Ukraine and begin the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II.”

“But the war is here, and President Biden is dealing with an issue most Americans believed had been resolved by the norms established on the European continent since 1945. How Biden measures up, and what the political implications for his presidency are, remain unclear. But as John F. Kennedy reportedly said during the Cuban Missile Crisis, ‘I guess this is the week that I earn my salary.’ Biden is certainly earning his.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) “issued a blistering response to former President Trump’s decision to unendorse him in the Alabama Senate race, accusing Trump of asking him to remove President Biden from the White House following the 2020 election despite his protests,” The Hill reports.

Said Brooks: “President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency.”

A man who appears on the FBI’s wanted list for his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot has been granted asylum in Belarus, the Washington Post reports.

“The U.S. and U.K. struck a trade accord Tuesday that will remove U.S. tariffs on British steel and aluminum, while the U.K. will lift levies on American whiskey, motorcycles and tobacco,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“There have been signs recently that Sen. Joe Manchin is ready to resume negotiations on the massive climate and social spending package he torpedoed late last year,” E&E Daily reports.

“China has fully militarized at least three of several islands it built in the disputed South China Sea, arming them with anti-ship and antiaircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment, and fighter jets in an increasingly aggressive move that threatens all nations operating nearby,” the Los Angeles Times reports.  “Adm. John Aquilino, U.S. Indo-Pacific commander, said the hostile actions were in stark contrast to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s past assurances that Beijing would not transform the artificial islands in contested waters into military bases.”

The head of the United Nations warned that the world is “sleepwalking to climate catastrophe,” as the ongoing pandemic, the war in Ukraine and a lack of political willpower undermine humanity’s efforts to slow the warming of the planet, the Washington Post reports.  Said U.N. Secretary General António Guterres: “There is no kind way to put it. The 1.5-degree goal is on life support. It is in intensive care.”

New York Times: “Mr. Becerra has been sailing in rocky seas, battered by criticism that he appeared disengaged from the Biden administration’s pandemic response. Now he is seeking a reboot, aware that his tenure will be defined by how he handles the fallout from the pandemic, including the many ways it has affected Americans’ health and the health care system.”

“At the moment, he faces a big problem: His department is out of money to pay for tests, therapies and vaccines, even as many public health experts anticipate a resurgence of Covid in the fall if not sooner.”

“Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was convicted of fraud and contempt of court and sentenced to nine years in a maximum security prison on Tuesday, in a trial Kremlin critics see as an attempt to keep President Vladimir Putin’s most ardent foe in prison for as long as possible,” the AP reports.

“Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party and the opposition New Democratic Party have reached a tentative agreement that would see the Liberals keep power until 2025,” the Los Angeles Times reports.  “Trudeau’s Liberals won the most seats in Parliament in an election last September but failed to secure a majority, so they must rely on the opposition to pass legislation. The leftist NDP party will support the Liberals in exchange for deals on pharmaceutical and dental care plans, but it will not have a lawmaker in Trudeau’s Cabinet.”

“The chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm and some of the vulnerable members he’s charged with re-electing are voicing support for a Republican-led mask mandate repeal bill,” Axios reports.  “The backing also illustrates how Democrats — especially those facing tough re-election fights — are trying to distance themselves from the pro-mask policies that defined their party for the past two years.”

“With a vote of no-confidence looming over his government, Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, warned those planning to vote against him that they risk social disgrace, and that ‘no one will marry your children,’” The Guardian  reports.  “The no-confidence vote is expected to be tabled on Friday 25 March, backed by a coalition of politicians who accuse Khan of bad governance and economic incompetence. In January inflation reached 13% and the cost of fuel and food rocketed.”

Madeleine Albright, the first woman US secretary of state, who helped steer Western foreign policy in the aftermath of the Cold War, has died, CNN reports.

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