Delaware

Cup of Joe – 3/27/22

“President Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘cannot remain in power’ in a forceful speech Saturday wrapping up a trip to Europe meant to bolster NATO’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the Washington Post reports.

“The president’s remark initially seemed to suggest support for regime change — something the Biden administration has taken pains to avoid — though the White House later said Biden only meant Putin should not be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.”

New York Times: “Mr. Biden also warned Mr. Putin that while the United States was trying to avoid direct confrontation with Russia, Washington would fulfill its obligation to defend its NATO allies.”

Said Biden: “Don’t even think about going on one single inch of NATO territory.”

New York Times: “The Russian soldiers have been plagued by poor morale as well as fuel and food shortages. Some troops have crossed the border with MREs (meals ready to eat) that expired in 2002, U.S. and other Western officials said, and others have surrendered and sabotaged their own vehicles to avoid fighting.”

“The United States assesses that Russia is suffering failure rates as high as 60% for some of the precision-guided missiles it is using to attack Ukraine,” Reuters reports.

“The disclosure could help explain why Russia has failed to achieve what most could consider basic objectives since its invasion a month ago, such as neutralizing Ukraine’s air force, despite the apparent strength of its military against Ukraine’s much smaller armed forces.”

“President Biden, stepping back from a campaign vow, has embraced a longstanding U.S. approach of using the threat of a potential nuclear response to deter conventional and other nonnuclear dangers in addition to nuclear ones,“ the Wall Street Journal reports.  “During the 2020 campaign Mr. Biden promised to work toward a policy in which the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal would be to deter or respond to an enemy nuclear attack.”

“Mr. Biden’s new decision, made earlier this week under pressure from allies, holds that the ‘fundamental role’ of the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be to deter nuclear attacks.”

New York Times: “Did the United States and its allies, through excess of optimism or naïveté, simply get Mr. Putin wrong from the outset? Or was he transformed over time into the revanchist warmonger of today, whether because of perceived Western provocation, gathering grievance, or the giddying intoxication of prolonged and — since Covid-19 — increasingly isolated rule?”

“Mr. Putin is an enigma, but he is also the most public of figures. Seen from the perspective of his reckless gamble in Ukraine, a picture emerges of a man who seized on almost every move by the West as a slight against Russia — and perhaps also himself. As the grievances mounted, piece by piece, year by year, the distinction blurred. In effect, he became the state, he merged with Russia, their fates fused in an increasingly Messianic vision of restored imperial glory.”

“Ukraine’s defence ministry says another Russian general, Lt Gen Yakov Rezantsev, was killed in a strike near the southern city of Kherson,” the BBC reports.

“A western official said he was the seventh general to die in Ukraine, and the second lieutenant general – the highest rank officer reportedly killed.”

“Russia’s economy is on course to contract in two consecutive years for the first time since the collapse that followed the Soviet breakup three decades ago,”  Bloomberg reports.

“Some payments arrived on time. Others hit several days late. And an increasing number are getting stuck in a web of financial intermediaries that are struggling to comply with international sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies,” Bloomberg reports.  “A month since the country’s invasion of Ukraine, investors are starting to realize just how narrow the path is for Russia — and some of its biggest corporations — to avoid default. That’s casting a pall over a country that was once a darling of emerging-market investors and now looks set to lose 15 years of economic gains by the end of 2023.”

“In what could signal an important narrowing of Moscow’s war aims, the US said Russian forces appear to have halted, at least for now, their ground offensive aimed at capturing the capital, Kyiv, and are concentrating more on gaining control of the Donbas region in the country’s southeast — a shift the Kremlin seemed to confirm,” the AP reports.  “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again appealed to Russia to negotiate an end to the war, but pointedly said Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territory for the sake of peace.”

Washington Post: Russia shows signs of changing course.

Politico: “The escalating warnings of a Russian cyberattack on the U.S. cut against one of the war’s most perplexing mysteries: Why has the Kremlin held back from unleashing its full hacking might against Ukraine?”

“Before Vladimir Putin launched his invasion a month ago, security experts warned that the coming conflict could redefine cyber warfare — both for Ukraine and for the United States. But so far, cyberattacks have been of limited importance in a war that Russia has waged using tanks, rockets, missiles and bombardments of civilians.”

“A venture capital fund backed by sanctioned Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich appears to be trying to wipe any trace of its operations since he was sanctioned by the United Kingdom and European Union as the Kremlin wages war on Ukraine,” CNBC reports.

Putin personally approved Roman Abramovich’s involvement in Russia’s peace talks with Ukraine – counter to the oligarch’s long-running claims he was never part of the president’s inner circle, the Financial Times reports.

“The Supreme Court on Friday allowed the Biden administration to take into account whether members of the military, including elite Navy SEALs, are vaccinated against the coronavirus when making deployment decisions,” the Washington Post reports.  “Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented from the short, unsigned order.”

“Shortly after the 2020 election, Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent an email to an aide to a prominent House conservative saying she would have nothing to do with his group until his members go ‘out in the streets,’” NBC News reports. “Thomas told an aide to incoming Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) that she was more aligned with the far-right House Freedom Caucus, whose leaders just two months later would lead the fight in Congress to overturn the results of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.”

New York Times: “A hard-line conservative activist, Ms. Thomas had long been viewed with suspicion by the Republican establishment. Yet her influence had risen during the Trump administration, especially after Mr. Meadows, who like Ms. Thomas has roots in the Tea Party movement, became chief of staff. Now, an examination of her texts, woven together with recent revelations of the depth of her efforts to overturn the election, shows how firmly she was embedded in the conspiratorial fringe of right-wing politics, even as that fringe was drawing ever closer to the center of Republican power.”

“The disclosures add urgency to questions about how Ms. Thomas may have leveraged her marriage to Justice Thomas, who would be ruling on elections cases throughout the battle over the 2020 vote and beyond.”

“The Biden administration is planning to give Americans age 50 or older the option of a second booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccine without recommending outright that they get one,” the New York Times reports.  “Major uncertainties have complicated the decision, including how long the protection from a second booster would last, how to explain the plan to the public and even whether the overall goal is to shield Americans from severe disease or from less serious infections as well, since they could lead to long Covid.”

“With America in a pandemic lull, communities across the country are choosing to shut down Covid testing and vaccination sites, even as experts warn that another wave could be on the horizon,” Axios reports.

“The Omicron surge showed how our defenses can be quickly overwhelmed, but many places are scaling back anyway.”

Washington Post: “With another pandemic surge possibly on the way, vaccination for the coronavirus in the United States has all but ground to a halt, with initial doses and boosters plummeting to the lowest levels since the program began in late December 2020.”

“Now, with authorities bracing for a possible increase in covid-19 cases caused by the BA.2 subvariant, 65.4 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and just 44 percent have received a booster shot. That is substantially less than the totals in many Western European nations — which nevertheless have seen a sharp rise in cases in recent weeks and months.”

The Utah State Legislature voted to override the Gov. Spencer Cox’s (R) veto and enacted a bill that would bar young transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports, making the state the 12th in the country to enact such legislation, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “has restarted talks with fellow Democrats about reviving the party’s climate and social spending bill, as administration officials search for oil and gas policies that could make the measure more palatable to him,” the Washington Post reports.  “Manchin, who has traveled in the past week with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, has told staff members and colleagues that the legislation must be voted on before senators leave town in August.”

“The Taliban on Wednesday backtracked on their announcement that high schools would open for girls, saying they would remain closed until a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic law for them to reopen,” Reuters reports.  “Teachers and students from three high schools around the capital Kabul said girls had returned in excitement to campuses on Wednesday morning, but were ordered to go home. They said many students left in tears.”

“The United States abruptly cancelled meetings with the Taliban in Doha that were set to address key economic issues, after Afghanistan’s Islamist rulers reversed a decision to allow all girls to return to high school classes,” Reuters reports.

“Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Thursday in an attempt to deepen political and economic ties between the two countries,” Deutsche Welle reports.

“The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building has been examining the role far-right militant groups played in efforts to overturn President Trump’s election loss and the violence that erupted that day,” Rolling Stone reports.

“As part of the investigation, the committee has obtained footage of Proud Boys leaders — including four minutes that may contain audio of a key meeting — and testimony linking the right-wing group First Amendment Praetorian to the organizers of the Jan. 6, 2021, rally on the White House Ellipse, where Trump urged the crowd to ‘fight like hell’ as his defeat was being certified at the Capitol.”

“The House majority seemingly within their grasp, Republican lawmakers huddling at a retreat in Florida this week turned to the architect of the ‘Republican Revolution’ nearly three decades ago — former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — for ideas on starting their own political revolt come November,” the AP reports.  “Needing only a handful of seats to recapture the House, Republicans are exceedingly confident of their chances.”

“Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is spearheading an effort to investigate 2020 censorship and suppression of news coverage about the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, previewing the kind of oversight House Republicans plan to engage in if they win back the House,” The Hill reports.

“The White House will unveil a new minimum tax targeting billionaires as part of its 2023 budget Monday, proposing a direct tax on the richest 700 Americans for the first time,” the Washington Post reports.

“Many of America’s billionaires can pay far lower tax rates than average Americans because the federal government does not tax the increase in the value of their stock holdings until those assets are sold. Billionaires are able to borrow against their accumulated gains without triggering taxes on capital gains, enabling huge accumulations of wealth to go virtually untaxed by the federal government.”

“Biden will broadly endorse the climate, social safety net and tax-code changes the White House has pursued as part of his ‘Build Back Better’ agenda in his budget proposal Monday, but he won’t specify the costs or revenues in a bid to avoid disrupting congressional negotiations,” Bloomberg reports.

“Biden intends to propose a spending plan for the 2023 budget year that would cut projected deficits by more than $1 trillion over the next decade,“ the AP reports.

“In his proposal expected Monday, the lower deficits reflect the economy’s resurgence as the United States emerges from the pandemic, as well as likely tax law changes that would raise more than enough revenue to offset additional investments planned by the Biden administration.“

“The FBI is offering a $15,000 reward for information on a January 6 fugitive accused of assaulting multiple officers during the attack on the US Capitol, who the agency has been trying to arrest since June,” CNN reports.  “Jonathan Daniel Pollock — one of a group of Floridians accused of attacking police at the Capitol — faces multiple charges including assaulting several officers, theft of government property and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.”

Derek Thompson: “In April 2021, the Conference Board reported that job satisfaction in the first year of the pandemic was the highest that the organization had recorded since 1995. The Conference Board is a membership of corporations, and perhaps you’re disinclined to believe an organization of employers telling us about the sentiments of employees. Fair enough!”

“Let’s check with a gold-standard pollster, like the General Social Survey, which has been asking Americans about their working life since 2002. Every year of the survey, more than 80 percent of respondents have said that they’re ‘very’ or ‘moderately’ satisfied with their job. From 2018 to 2021—after an economic crisis, mass layoffs, and a surge in unemployment—the share of very or moderately satisfied workers fell from about 88 percent to … about 84 percent.”

People are leaving their jobs mainly because they are seeing more job openings — and that’s a good thing.

“Donald Trump’s luxury hotel near the White House, which drew diplomats, lobbyists and plenty of controversy while he was president, received government approval Friday to hand the keys to a Miami investment fund, a last hurdle to a sale that many industry experts doubted would ever go through,” the AP reports.

“The deal is a significant victory for the ex-president’s company after business partners cut ties following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters last year.”

“The United States military spent at least $147,000 at former president Donald Trump’s properties during his presidency,” the Washington Post reports.  “The newly released documents show again how Trump personally benefited from government spending at his properties, as Secret Service agents, military officials and others followed him as he frequently visited his hotels, clubs and golf courses. As some of those properties struggled during the coronavirus pandemic and because of the polarizing nature of his presidency, that government spending became a stable source of income.”

“Trump and his two adult sons have agreed to sit for depositions in May and June as part of a class-action lawsuit alleging they collaborated with a fraudulent marketing company,” CNN reports.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Should Texas punish abortions by putting teenage girls and women to death? Or not?”

“That’s the current debate in the Republican Party of Texas, where outlawing abortion is no longer a question of ‘if’ or ‘when’ but a question of whether to kill women for getting one.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “looked briefly into the future and saw a calamitous confirmation process for Supreme Court justices and other federal judge nominees: a near total blockade,” the Washington Post reports.

“With Republicans needing a simple one-seat gain in November to retake control of the Senate, Graham pointed to the Supreme Court fight in 2020 when not a single Democrat voted to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett as an ominous precedent for how a GOP majority would behave toward President Biden’s picks.”

Said Graham: “Is that the new norm? If that’s going to be the new norm, what do you do when one party has the Senate and the other party has the White House? How do you ever get anybody confirmed?”

“The White House is studying a range of potential responses to rising gas prices as top Democrats in Congress push the administration to embrace a new tax on large corporate profits ahead of the 2022 midterm elections,” the Washington Post reports.

“With the price of gas jumping after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and remaining high, Biden administration officials have in recent days conducted what is described as wide-ranging internal talks about potential ideas for bringing relief to consumers.”

“The ideas they have discussed include a major release of the nation’s oil reserves, loans and other incentives to energy producers to encourage production, and a federal gas tax holiday.”

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

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