Cup of Joe – 4/12/22

“The next four weeks — leading up to an annual Victory Day celebration in Moscow — are a crucial and intensely dangerous period in Russia’s war on Ukraine,” Axios reports.

“May 9 is a major holiday in the Russian Federation, with the country closing down each year to mark its World War II victory over the Nazis. That makes it a deadline with significant symbolism in Russian domestic politics.”

“Russia either may be repelled in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region by then and forced to claim false victories — or have used a brutal assault to cinch a strategic win.”

Russia has made a “massive strategic blunder” as Finland and Sweden look poised to join NATO as early as the summer, the Times of London reports.

“Russia has warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO, arguing the move would not bring stability to Europe,” the BBC reports.  “Washington is believed to support the move which would see the Western alliance grow to 32 members.” LOL. Russia’s warnings are toothless. Russia has proven its military to be vastly incompetent and inferior. It is losing its war in Ukraine. All it has is nuclear threats, and the minute one Russian nuclear weapon is used anywhere in the world, the US will vaporize the whole of the Russian Federation. So please, Vladdy, if you don’t want to be laughed at, stop with your meaningless warnings.

“Ukraine’s defense ministry said it found 132 ‘tormented bodies’ of tortured, murdered citizens in the town of Makariv, after Russian forces retreated,” ABC News reports.

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol said that more than 10,000 civilians have died in the southeastern city since the Russian invasion in February, the AP reports.  He added the death toll could be more than 20,000. 

“I don’t want to make myself out to be a hero… I want to live many more years. But choosing between running or being with my people, of course I’m ready to give my life for my country.”  — President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on 60 Minutes.

“The credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has downgraded its assessment of Russia’s ability to repay foreign debt, signaling rising prospects that Moscow will soon default on external loans for the first time in more than a century,” the AP reports.

“Western sanctions and condemnations intended to pile pressure on Vladimir Putin instead seem to be rallying Russians behind him,” Axios reports.  “The more horrific the allegations against Russia — such as the apparent massacre of civilians in Bucha— the stronger the impulse to reject them as lies.”

“Hundreds of thousands of professional workers, many of them young, have left Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, accelerating an exodus of business talent and further threatening an economy targeted by Western sanctions,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Those leaving the country include tech workers, scientists, bankers and doctors, according to surveys, economists and interviews with emigrants. They are departing for countries including Georgia, Armenia and Turkey. More are expected to follow.”

Tom Friedman: “It is hard to believe, but now impossible to deny, that the broad framework that kept much of the world stable and prospering since the end of the Cold War has been seriously fractured by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In ways we hadn’t fully appreciated, a lot of that framework rested on the West’s ability to coexist with Putin as he played ‘bad boy,’ testing the limits of the world order but never breaching them at scale.”

“But with Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, his indiscriminate crushing of its cities and mass killings of Ukrainian civilians, he went from “bad boy” to “war criminal.” And when the leader of Russia — a country that spans 11 time zones, with vast oil, gas and mineral resources and more nuclear warheads than anyone else — is a war criminal and must be henceforth treated as a pariah, the world as we’ve known it is profoundly changed. Nothing can work the same.”

The New York Times has an extraordinary piece on the month of atrocities in Bucha, after reporters witnessed dozens of corpses and more than 100 body bags.   “The evidence suggests the Russians killed recklessly and sometimes sadistically, in part out of revenge.”

“Austria’s chancellor is set to meet Vladimir Putin on Monday, the Russian president’s first face-to-face meeting with an EU leader since ordering the invasion of Ukraine, amid warnings of a fresh offensive and shelling in the east,” The Guardian reports.

New York Times: “In the early days of the invasion, NATO countries were quick to send short-range, defensive weapons to take out tanks and aircraft, including Javelin, NLAW and Stinger missiles, which were light, portable, high-tech and easy to use with little training.”

“But now the allied governments have shown a willingness to send heavier weaponry more suited to the coming battle in Donbas, including tanks and longer-range defensive weapons such as the S-300s, a Russian-made surface-to-air system used mainly to attack enemy aircraft.”

Bloomberg: Nations eye modern arms for Ukraine as Soviet-era stocks dwindle.

District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez of Starr County, Texas announced on Sunday that he wouldn’t be pursuing prosecution of a woman who had been indicted for murder after allegedly being involved in a “self-induced abortion.”

The circumstances of the alleged incident remain unclear, including whether the woman was inducing her own abortion or assisting in someone else’s.

Ramirez said the woman “cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her” after he reviewed her case. The prosecutor still defended her arrest, however, saying that the county sheriff’s office “did their duty in investigating the incident brought to their attention by the reporting hospital.”

The woman was arrested on Friday. It’s unclear how far along the pregnancy was or under which statue she was indicted, given that none of Texas’ new anti-abortion bans directly target people actually carrying the fetus.

Both abortion rights groups and some anti-abortion advocates hailed the decision not to prosecute.

Vox: “According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-reproductive rights research group, and to news reports tracking recent anti-abortion legislation, 22 states already have laws on the books that either ban abortion outright or ban it very early in a pregnancy.”

“These aren’t just the so-called ‘trigger laws,’ which are designed to quickly take effect with minimal to no legislative effort if Roe is overturned. Oklahoma and several other states still have abortion bans from before 1973, when Roe was originally handed down, that were never repealed during the half-century in which Roe prevented them from operating. Other states have passed new abortion bans since 1973.”

“The reason these extant bans haven’t been enforced is that anyone charged with violating them would have won in court, because Roe forbids states from banning abortions. Without Roe, however, that would no longer be the case.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who recently became Twitter’s biggest shareholder after buying a 9.2% stake in the company, won’t be joining Twitter’s board of directors, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal announced on Sunday.

Agrawal didn’t explain exactly why Musk decided not to join the board, but apparently the move was “for the best,” according to the Twitter chief.

Republicans had been hoping that Musk’s appointment to the board would lead to Trump’s Twitter account being restored given the Tesla leader’s previous complaints about the social media giant supposedly stifling “free speech” by banning elected officials.

“Six months after leaving the White House, Jared Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, a close ally during the Trump administration, despite objections from the fund’s advisers about the merits of the deal,” the New York Times reports.

“A panel that screens investments for the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund cited concerns about the proposed deal with Mr. Kushner’s newly formed private equity firm, Affinity Partners, previously undisclosed documents show.”

“But days later the full board of the $620 billion Public Investment Fund — led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and a beneficiary of Mr. Kushner’s support when he worked as a White House adviser — overruled the panel.”

Politico: “As another round of talks on a climate and spending bill ramps up, aides and advocates are under strict orders to keep their mouths shut — lest they antagonize the all-important senator.”

“One speaks with a thick Boston accent, the other is a proud daughter of California. One has distinct Irish roots, the other has ancestors in India and Jamaica. One proudly wears pearls, the other has a declared love of cargo shorts,” the Washington Post reports.

“In what has become one of the more unusual pairings in the Biden administration, Vice President Harris and Marty Walsh, the secretary of Labor, have struck up a tight bond that started with policy and has evolved into a personal connection that has surprised those close to them.”

“They talk on a weekly basis and Harris has spent more time one-on-one with Walsh than any other Cabinet member… Walsh now has drop-in privileges at the VP’s office, allowed to swing by unannounced anytime he chooses.”

“The Biden administration is bracing for Tuesday’s key consumer inflation report to show that the prices Americans pay soared in March, as Russia’s assault on Ukraine caused energy prices to jump,” CNBC reports.

“White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the Labor Department’s previous report – which showed prices rising at a dramatic rate in February – failed to include the majority of the jump in oil and gas costs caused by the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion.”

CNBC: “Few areas of the country have seen inflation as bad as the South, where prices have risen across the 16-state region by an average of 8.4% from a year ago. That compares with year-over-year inflation of 8% in the Midwest, 8.1% in the West and 6.6% in the Northeast, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Here’s how the U.S. Code defines “seditious conspiracy”: “If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”

Is there any doubt — based on what we already know — that Donald Trump is guilty of seditious conspiracy?

However, the New York Times reported over the weekend there’s a dispute among the members of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection about whether to file a formal criminal referral against Trump to the Justice Department. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is in favor, based on what she told CNN over the weekend: “It’s definitely clear what President Trump was doing. What a number of people around him were doing. That they knew it was unlawful. They did it anyway.”

She added: “I think what we have seen is a massive and well organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try and overturn an election.”

But there are supposedly Democrats on the committee who feel a criminal referral is “largely symbolic” and could “backfire” by “tainting” the Justice Department’s separate investigation.

I agree with Dan Pfieffer who thinks this is “head-in-ass” thinking: “Do these Democrats really believe Republicans and the Right Wing media machine are not going to politicize the charges brought forth by the Attorney General? After all, he was appointed by the man whose election the insurrection was trying to overturn.”

It’s true there’s still a lot we don’t know about Trump’s role in the insurrection — particularly during the 7-hour gap of phone records that seemed to have disappeared. But what we do know actually happened in broad daylight.

“The White House launched a rural infrastructure tour on Monday, which will send Biden administration officials into communities across the nation to tout the new infrastructure law ahead of the midterms,” The Hill reports.

Playbook: “The political context here is Democrats’ utter free fall in rural America, which helped keep election margins razor-close over the past few years even as Dems ran up the score in the suburbs. Nowhere does Dems’ rural wipeout threaten the party more than in the Senate, a body that skews significantly toward rural voters — and thus disproportionately advantages the current GOP. Even though the House may be more likely to flip Republican in the midterms, the Senate is where Democrats’ long-term political fortunes look bleakest.”

“With new coronavirus cases low but rising sharply in recent days, the city of Philadelphia announced on Monday that it will reinstate an indoor mask mandate a little more than a month after lifting it, becoming the first major U.S. city to do so,” the New York Times reports.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s new Covid-19 response coordinator, told the Today Show that extending the federal transportation mask mandate that applies to airplanes, buses and trains is “absolutely on the table.”

The White House Correspondents Association will require those attending its annual dinner to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, Axios reports.

“Former president Donald Trump, who has been caught lying about topics ranging from the size of the crowd at his 2017 inauguration to the 2020 election being ‘rigged and stolen’ (it wasn’t), claimed at a Saturday night rally that he is ‘the most honest human being perhaps that God ever created,’” Rolling Stone reports.

Said Trump: “I’ve gotta be the cleanest sheriff. I think I’m the most honest human being, perhaps, that God ever created, perhaps.”

President Trump hosted a private lunch with the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni a week after the 2018 midterms, during which she pushed the president to install her far-right allies and fellow activists at the White House as part of her reportedly “insane” hiring/firing recommendations, according to a new CNN report.

Washington Post: “In a speech in Sydney celebrating a new initiative at a conservative think tank, Lachlan Murdoch — now 50 and the co-chairman of the family’s News Corp., which owns the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, and chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation — took swipes at the ‘elites’ whom he believes disdain traditional values. He also blasted governments for imposing mandates and business shutdowns to control the pandemic and alleged conspiratorially that ‘practically all the media suppressed the discovery of Hunter Biden’s laptop.’”

“It was a monologue that could have fit in seamlessly with the lineup of right-wing commentary served up every night by Fox News’s prime time opinion hosts — including an obscure jab at the ‘1619 Project.’”

“A top American Army general in Europe is expected to be elevated to lead all U.S. and allied forces on the continent, U.S. officials said, marking the biggest change to NATO military leadership since Russia invaded Ukraine in February,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The Pentagon is also set to name a new general to lead Special Operation forces, the officials said. Both would replace commanders who are expected to retire this year as part of a normal rotation of commanders.”

“Overseas money is starting to pull out of Chinese markets after the risk of investing in autocratic countries was starkly highlighted by sharp drops in Russia’s currency and securities prices following its invasion of Ukraine,” Nikkei Asia reports.  “Market data shows foreign investors sold a net 38.4 billion yuan ($6.04 billion) of Chinese stocks and bonds in the January-March period, one of the highest such quarterly figures on record.”

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

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