Cup of Joe – 5/6/22

“Senate Republicans have fought for decades to end Roe v. Wade. Now, with victory in sight, they are discussing whether to pursue nationwide restrictions on abortion if they gain power,” NBC News reports.

New York Times: “For President Biden, the threat to the landmark Roe decision represents a singular challenge as he attempts to put aside a long history of evident discomfort with the issue of abortion to transform himself into a champion of the constitutional right that may soon be erased from the law books.”

“Over the course of a half-century in national politics, Mr. Biden has rarely been the full-throated backer of abortion rights that activists have sought, evolving from an outright critic of Roe early in his career to a seemingly reluctant and largely quiet supporter. While he has used the word ‘abortion’ in written statements as president, he had never spoken the word out loud since taking office until this week when the draft ruling leaked.”

“In the hours after a leaked Supreme Court document signaled the court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks, President Biden vowed to fight to protect access to abortion,” the Washington Post reports.

“But in marathon meetings and phone calls among White House officials, government lawyers, outside advisers and federal agency officials, a sobering reality settled in: There’s little the White House can do that will fundamentally alter a post-Roe landscape. While officials have spent months planning for the possibility the court would overturn the landmark ruling, the leaked document caught the White House off guard.”

“Republicans are going to be in a very tough place right now. They have to defend something that Republicans said would never happen. I think this is a very bad issue for them.”  — Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), quoted by Politico, on the likely forthcoming Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Washington Post: “That day now appears to be at hand. An extraordinary leak of a draft opinion this week indicated that the Supreme Court may be on the cusp of overturning Roe and probably triggering new restrictions on abortion in some two dozen states. Yet few Republicans have openly celebrated, even though Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s opinion would, if adopted by the court, fulfill what is perhaps the conservative movement’s single most enduring policy goal.”

“Instead, many GOP lawmakers — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, an architect of a conservative revolution in the federal courts — said they were more concerned about the leak and its implications than the substance of the opinion. Many ascribed the subdued reaction to mere wariness over celebrating a decision that has not actually been handed down.”

“Several other Republicans said they saw no advantage in engaging in the debate over abortion rights that Democrats have been eager to spark in recent days.”

“If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the legal and culture wars over abortion that have consumed the United States for decades would increasingly be fought on a new front: abortion pills,” the New York Times reports.

“Medication abortion — a two-drug combination that can be taken at home or in any location and is authorized for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy — has become more and more prevalent and now accounts for more than half of recent abortions in the United States. If the federal guarantee of abortion rights disappears, medication abortion would likely become an even more sought-after method for terminating a pregnancy — and the focus of battles between states that ban abortion and those that continue to allow it.”

A must-listen: The “Slow Burn” podcast will return next month with the new season focused on the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  Washington Post: Memories of pre-Roe America, from people who were there.

“Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has canceled an appearance at a judicial conference set to begin on Thursday after a draft decision he wrote indicating the high court would overturn its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed the right to abortion nationwide was leaked,” Reuters reports.

Joshua Prager: “The pro-choice movement did not foresee a war here. NARAL’s executive director in 1973, when Roe was ruled upon, told her board after the ruling, ‘The court has spoken and the case is closed.’ They saw this as, basically: It’s over. We’ve won.”

“The very, very opposite is true of the pro-life, who said: OK, now we have to think about this strategically, how will we go about overturning Roe? As a result of that imbalance, the pro-choice were playing catch up really for 49 1/2 years, as the pro-life (movement has) over and over again come up with many different ways to chip away at Roe and has been remarkably successful.”

Marc Johnson and Robert Saldin: “Republicans have effectively harnessed the grievance that comes with a feeling of being cheated, leaning on it to mobilize, organize and consolidate the conservative movement that has fueled the GOP ever since.”

“But if the court overturns its line of decisions protecting abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it will leave a very different set of Americans aggrieved. Supporters of abortion rights will fume over something long taken for granted being suddenly stripped away. And a fight in deeply conservative Idaho three decades ago indicates that their anger could scramble the politics of abortion.”

Washington Post: “A modern-day adaptation of underground abortion networks that helped people access care when the procedure was illegal, the Auntie Network stands alongside formal organizations like the Brigid Alliance and the National Network of Abortion Funds that coordinate travel and remove financial barriers to getting abortions.”

“But as the prospect of terminating a pregnancy in America faces staunch restrictions in large swaths of the country, the Reddit group offers a glimpse into a post-Roe era when getting an abortion will require an influx of community-based aid to organize and assist.”

Abortion rights groups are calling for coordinated marches on May 14th in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, Vice News reports.

William Saletan: “Morally, this reticence seems bizarre. For half a century, Republicans have campaigned on promises to expunge Roe. They said millions of unborn lives were at stake. Now victory is at hand, but McConnell won’t talk about it. Why not?”

“The answer is simple: He knows this issue is bad for his party. Roe infuriated pro-life Americans and made pro-choice Americans complacent. Republican candidates could use the issue to rile up their base without risking an electoral backlash. But if Roe goes down, Americans who want to keep abortion legal will have to vote that way. And those Americans are a political majority.”

First Read: How do we know that the early political read from Roe v. Wade’s likely demise looks dangerous for the GOP? Because while conservative activists have been over-the-moon happy about Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe, elected Republicans and GOP candidates have been much more cautious. Even a bit nervous.”

“Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is facing backlash after questioning how many ‘over-educated, under-loved’ women have participated in protests supporting abortion rights after a draft ruling from the Supreme Court showed that the bench is poised to roll back Roe v. Wade,” The Hill reports.

“If men could get pregnant, this wouldn’t even be a conversation. This decision isn’t about strengthening families — it’s about extremism. It’s about control.”  — California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), on Twitter, defending abortion rights.

“The United States has provided intelligence that has helped Ukrainians target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war,” the New York Times reports.

“Ukrainian officials said they have killed approximately 12 generals on the front lines, a number that has astonished military analysts.”

“The targeting help is part of a classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine. That intelligence also includes anticipated Russian troop movements gleaned from recent American assessments of Moscow’s secret battle plan for the fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the officials said. Officials declined to specify how many generals had been killed as a result of U.S. assistance.”

Associated Press: “Amid all the horrors that have unfolded in the war on Ukraine, the Russian bombing of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol on March 16 stands out as the single deadliest known attack against civilians to date.”

“An Associated Press investigation has found evidence that the attack was in fact far deadlier than estimated, killing closer to 600 people inside and outside the building. That’s almost double the death toll cited so far, and many survivors put the number even higher.”

Playbook: “It’s a major piece of investigative journalism that essentially documents what could be one of the worst war crimes of the 21st century.”

Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko defended Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in an AP interview, but he said he didn’t expect the 10-week-old conflict to “drag on this way.”

U.S. surpasses one million Covid-19 deaths, according to data compiled by NBC News — “a once unthinkable scale of loss even for the country with the world’s highest recorded toll from the virus.”

The WHO estimates that there have been 14.9 million “excess deaths” associated directly or indirectly with the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide.

CNN: “There were 5.4 million Covid-19 deaths reported to WHO during that timeframe, resulting in an excess mortality estimate of 9.5 million more deaths than what was reported.”

“A pair of new Omicron subvariants has emerged, raising the possibility that survivors of earlier Omicron strains can get reinfected,” the South China Morning Post reports.

Said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong: “It really came out of the blue over the weekend. We were already settling down with BA.2.12.1, and then BA.4 and BA.5? It just seems like the latest chapter of a never-ending saga.”

Eric Topol: Covid vaccines need to be evolving much faster.

“European business leaders in China have warned that Beijing’s zero-Covid policy is threatening foreign investment, as the Chinese services sector plunged to its weakest level of activity in over two years because of strict lockdown measures,” the Financial Times reports.

“China’s fight against Covid reached new extremes after officials in the northern Hebei province were shown sealing residents’ doors with wires and bolts to prevent them from going outside,” the Telegraph reports.

“Covid workers used wires to barricade doors and installed iron bolts on the floors in order to prevent residents from leaving their homes… The measures applied to those who refused to voluntarily hand over their apartment keys so they could be locked in from the outside.”

The South China Morning Post has video of iron bolts being installed on the outside of apartment doors.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) responds to a purported gay “sex tape” of him being shared on social media: “A new hit against me just dropped. Years ago, in this video, I was being crass with a friend, trying to be funny. We were acting foolish, and joking. That’s it.” He added: “I’m not backing down. I told you there would be a drip drip campaign. Blackmail won’t win. We will.”

“Overpaying a staff member hardly seems like Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R-NC) biggest scandal these days, but a Daily Beast investigation into Cawthorn’s compensation for his chief of staff reveals a cut-and-dried ethics violation—one his office appears to have tried (and failed) to skirt.”

I’m quite certain there’s never been a congressman involved in as many scandals as Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC).

Here are the illegal — or potentially illegal — things he’s been accused of:

  • Driving with a revoked license (Twice).
  • Bringing guns to the airport. (Twice).
  • Making unwanted sexual advances.
  • Insider trading.
  • Misuse of official funds (Twice).
  • Violating House rules.

But in the world of political scandal, we must also include the embarrassments, some of which are listed simply because they show him to be a hypocrite in his expressed views:

  • The cocaine and orgy story.
  • The sex tape.
  • The lingerie photos.
  • The crotch video.
  • The Nazi vacation.

It’s a remarkable list for someone who still hasn’t even finished his first term in Congress.

Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano (R) abruptly ended an interview with Delaware Valley Journal, “angry over questions about his participation in a rally linked to QAnon conspiracy advocates.”

He also “objected to questions about his participation in the infamous January 6 protest that preceded the riot at the U.S. Capitol. More than 750 people have been arrested for their role in the assault on the Capitol building.”

Said Mastriano: “I resent the fact that you want to castigate anyone who went down to Washington D.C. on January 6th as some kind of enemy of the public. That is dangerous. You’re talking like an East German there.”

Donald Trump Jr. interviewed with the Jan. 6 committee “for several hours” on Tuesday, Politico reports.

“More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week but the total number of people collecting jobless aid is at its lowest level in more than 50 years,” the AP reports.

Bonuses on Wall Street will be lower this year, according to a closely watched early projection released this morning, Axios reports.

A new CNN poll finds only 23% of Americans rate economic conditions as even somewhat good, down from 37% in December and 54% last April.

“Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that Texas would consider challenging a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring states to offer free public education to all children, including those of undocumented immigrants,” the Austin America-Statesman reports.

“Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers militia group leader charged with seditious conspiracy over the January 6 attack on the Capitol, tried to get a Donald Trump confidant to ask the former US president to allow his group to forcibly stop the peaceful transfer of power,“ The Guardian reports.

“The previously unknown phone call with the unidentified individual appears to indicate the Oath Keepers had contacts with at least one person close enough to Trump that Rhodes believed the individual would be a good person to consult with his request.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) met with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago yesterday, the New York Times reports.  They held a three-hour meeting, during which Trump called people on the phone and kept referring to sitting with “Speaker McCarthy.”

With the publication of This Will Not Pass by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns today, the authors released another audio tape of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) criticizing Donald Trump just after the January 6 Capitol riot.

Said McCarthy: “What the president did is atrocious and totally wrong.”

McCarthy also discussed using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office but concluded the process “takes too long.”

Louisiana lawmakers “advanced a bill that would make abortion a homicide, opening the door for mothers who terminate a pregnancy in the state to be charged with murder,” Rolling Stone reports.

Said state Rep. Danny McCormick (R): “We can’t wait on the Supreme Court.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “Depending on who is doing the counting, the U.S. either just has or is about to hit a milestone: 1 million Covid-19 deaths.”

“This seems like as good a time as any for Congress to put together a serious commission focused on what went right, what went wrong and what needs to change about the way the country handles pandemics. It’s going to be hard to do, because the current presidential administration isn’t going to want a thorough examination of its mistakes and the previous administration is hostile to the whole concept of oversight, accountability, transparency, and, for that matter, professionalism in government.”

“So it’s probably up to a bipartisan group in Congress to take the initiative.”

Jonathan Last: “And as we pass this horrific milestone, the Republican party—the party which made 1 million deaths possible—is ascendant. Republicans will almost certainly retake control of the House and probably the Senate six months from now. Donald Trump is the odds-on favorite to be elected president again in 2024.”

“And the million death mark is, at most, a secondary news story. It will have no bearing on the future of our politics.”

“Today, think about the dead. Think about the people responsible for their deaths. And think about what sort of future a democracy can have when the political system is designed to soften accountability in one direction and heighten it in the other.”

Washington Post: Voters increasingly credit Democrats for pandemic turnaround.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that “he planned to move on Wednesday to bring up a bill that would codify abortion rights into federal law, moving quickly in the wake of a leaked Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, despite clear evidence that the measure lacks the support to be enacted,” the New York Times reports.

Politico: “The Senate already took a failed vote in February on nearly identical legislation and there’s no reason to think that Wednesday’s outcome will be any different — the previous vote didn’t even receive support from all 50 members of the Democratic caucus.“

Tom Goldstein makes a good case that were actually (at least) two leakers and three leaks from the Supreme Court over the last week.

The bombshell leak this week — of Samuel Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade — was probably a response to one of the previous leaks.

A Newsmax host suggested — without evidence or logic — that future Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson may be responsible for the leak of a draft ruling that would dismantle abortion rights even though she isn’t on the Supreme Court yet, the HuffPost reports.

LOL, no. She has no access to the Court or its deliberations right now. It was Alito. He was trying to lock down the votes to prevent Roberts from convincing one or two of the Radical 5 to uphold the Mississippi law but not overturn Roe and Casey.

“John Roberts is heading a Supreme Court in crisis,” the AP reports.  “The chief justice has already ordered an investigation of the leak this week of a draft opinion suggesting the court could be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case legalizing abortion nationwide. What comes next could further test Roberts’ leadership of a court where his vote already appears less crucial in determining the outcome in contentious cases.”

“Karine Jean-Pierre will take over as President Biden’s next White House press secretary within weeks, replacing Jen Psaki who plans to depart for a job in cable news,” the Washington Post reports.

“Jean-Pierre, who has served as Psaki’s top deputy since the start of the administration, will immediately become the public face of the Biden White House and the first Black person to hold the high-profile job of delivering the president’s daily message and fielding questions from an often skeptical press corps.”

Axios notes she will also be the first openly LGBTQ woman to hold the position. 

David Leonhardt: “When Covid-19 began to sweep across the country in March 2020, schools in every state closed their doors. Remote instruction effectively became a national policy for the rest of that spring.”

“A few months later, however, school districts began to make different decisions about whether to reopen. Across much of the South and the Great Plains as well as some pockets of the Northeast, schools resumed in-person classes in the fall of 2020. Across much of the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast, school buildings stayed closed and classes remained online for months.”

“These differences created a huge experiment, testing how well remote learning worked during the pandemic. Academic researchers have since been studying the subject, and they have come to a consistent conclusion: Remote learning was a failure.”

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

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