Cup of Joe – 5/14/22

New York Times: “Should the Supreme Court strike down Roe in the sweeping manner of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s draft opinion, it would unleash a ferocious state-by-state battle over abortion regulations — and introduce a powerful new issue into the calculus of voters who might otherwise be inclined to treat the midterm election as an up-or-down vote on Mr. Biden’s performance in the presidency.”

“Moderate women who have tilted back toward the Republicans might now have second thoughts; young people who feel let down by Mr. Biden could well find motivation to vote Democratic out of a feeling of fear and indignation about the Supreme Court.”

After nearly 50 years, Democrats supporting abortion rights want their allies to modernize their rhetoric when talking about abortion. The biggest change is using the word “decision” instead of “choice.”

“Choice” was the political framing that allowed Catholic politicians to support women having the freedom to make decisions they would not themselves choose. But there’s a feeling among abortion rights advocates that’s no longer necessary.

Other changes include avoiding terms like “back alley” or “coat hanger” abortions. Instead, they should say “criminalizing healthcare.” Instead of calling for abortions to be “safe, legal, and rare,” they should be “safe, legal, and accessible.” Instead of “unwanted pregnancies,” they should be “unexpected pregnancies.”

Overall, the main thrust is to move toward language that would make someone who thinks of themselves as someone who would never need abortion services as someone who might.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) defended the U.S. Supreme Court’s potential move to issue rulings that are in conflict with a majority of Americans’ views on abortion rights, telling NPR that is a feature of the system.

Said McConnell: “So for the Supreme Court to on any issue, to reach a decision contrary to public opinion it is exactly what the Supreme Court is about. It’s to protect basic rights, even when majorities are in favor of something else, that happens all the time.”

But he didn’t expect it to be a big issue in the midterm elections: “My guess is in terms of the impact on federal races, I think it’s probably going to be a wash.”

Margaret Atwood: “In the early years of the 1980s, I was fooling around with a novel that explored a future in which the United States had become disunited. Part of it had turned into a theocratic dictatorship based on 17th-century New England Puritan religious tenets and jurisprudence. I set this novel in and around Harvard University—an institution that in the 1980s was renowned for its liberalism, but that had begun three centuries earlier chiefly as a training college for Puritan clergy.”

“In the fictional theocracy of Gilead, women had very few rights, as in 17th-century New England. The Bible was cherry-picked, with the cherries being interpreted literally. Based on the reproductive arrangements in Genesis—specifically, those of the family of Jacob—the wives of high-ranking patriarchs could have female slaves, or ‘handmaids,’ and those wives could tell their husbands to have children by the handmaids and then claim the children as theirs.”

“Although I eventually completed this novel and called it The Handmaid’s Tale, I stopped writing it several times, because I considered it too far-fetched. Silly me. Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?”

The Lancet has a blistering editorial on the leaked Supreme Court draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade:

“If the U.S. Supreme Court confirms its draft decision, women will die. The Justices who vote to strike down Roe will not succeed in ending abortion, they will only succeed in ending safe abortion. Alito and his supporters will have women’s blood on their hands.”

“What is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th-century document ignorant of 21st-century realities for women. The route forward is unclear and perilous. This Court’s argument suggests possible future attacks on a raft of other civil rights, from marriage equality to contraception.”

New York Times: “Around the country — from South Texas to Chicago, Pittsburgh to New York — the looming loss of abortion rights has re-energized the Democratic Party’s left flank, which had absorbed a series of legislative and political blows and appeared to be divided and flagging. It has also dramatized the generational and ideological divide in the Democratic Party, between a nearly extinct older wing that opposes abortion rights and younger progressives who support them.”

“The growing intensity behind the issue has put some conservative-leaning Democrats on the defensive.”

“Louisiana’s state House gutted a controversial abortion bill that could have charged women who abort their pregnancies with murder, removing language that criminalized mothers and instructed the state to ignore any federal law making abortion legal,” the Lafayette Daily Advertiser reports.

“Sen. Rand Paul defied leaders of both parties Thursday and single-handedly delayed until next week Senate approval of an additional $40 billion to help Ukraine and its allies withstand Russia’s three-month old invasion,” the AP reports.

“Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday spoke with his Russian counterpart, the first such conversation between the two officials since the Kremlin’s attack on Ukraine began in February, according to the Pentagon,” The Hill reports.

Biden is thinking about and asking the right question: “[Putin] is a very, very, very calculating man. And the problem I worry about now is that he doesn’t have a way out right now, and I’m trying to figure out what we do about that.”

“U.S. and British officials believe that damaging international sanctions slapped on Russia over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine are hampering its ability to restock high-tech weapons, such as precision-guided munitions, though Russia still has plenty of conventional ammunition stocks at its disposal to continue to wage war,” Foreign Policy reports.

“A day after Finland’s leaders declared unequivocally that the nation would join NATO, the Swedish government signaled on Friday that it could soon follow suit, issuing a scathing report outlining how Russian aggression in Ukraine had fundamentally altered the security equation in Europe and saying that only NATO membership would offer the nation stability and protection,” the New York Times reports.

“Moscow appears to be withdrawing forces from around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where it has been losing ground, in one of Russia’s biggest setbacks since its retreat from Kyiv last month,” the New York Times reports.x

“White House Covid-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha issued a dire warning Thursday that the U.S. will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments,” the AP reports.

Said Jha: “As we get to the fall, we are all going to have a lot more vulnerability to a virus that has a lot more immune escape than even it does today and certainly than it did six months ago. That leaves a lot of us vulnerable.”

Politico: “Among the sacrifices being weighed are limiting access to its next generation of vaccines to only the highest-risk Americans — a rationing that would have been unthinkable just a year ago.”

“The House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into the nationwide shortage of baby formula, and demanding records and information from four of the largest manufacturers,” ABC News reports.

CNN: “While this has become a bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are pointing fingers at different parties for the issue, with Democrats blaming the companies and Republicans blaming the Biden administration and FDA.”

Wall Street Journal: “Baby-formula manufacturers and retailers say they are working to address a long-running shortage in products on store shelves, but the hardships facing U.S. families may take months to abate…”

“Meanwhile, everyone from frustrated parents to lawmakers on Capitol Hill have called for inquiries into why shortages that initially emerged earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic have been difficult to resolve. A House committee has scheduled a hearing on May 25 about the formula shortage.”

Washington Post: Biden, lawmakers rush to address formula shortage.

Just like that you can turn the baby formula shortage into a … racist attack on immigrants? It played out quickly Thursday. The “credit” for the bank shot from baby formula shortage to xenophobic attack on immigrants to blaming Biden for it all appears to belong to Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL). Well played, well played.

But she wasn’t alone. The NYPost was ON IT: “Border detention center looks stocked with baby formula despite shortage.” It gets 4 Pinocchios from the WaPo factchecker.

New York Times: “The crypto world went into a full meltdown this week in a sell-off that graphically illustrated the risks of the experimental and unregulated digital currencies. Even as celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and tech moguls like Elon Musk have talked up crypto, the accelerating declines of virtual currencies like Bitcoin and Ether show that, in some cases, two years of financial gains can disappear overnight.”

“The moment of panic amounted to the worst reset in cryptocurrencies since Bitcoin plummeted 80 percent in 2018. But this time, the falling prices have broader impact because more people and institutions hold the currencies.”

“Traders’ flight from risky investments has halved the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, wiping out more than $1 trillion worth of digital money since November,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Wild swings are fairly common with cryptocurrencies, but even seasoned investors were left reeling as bitcoin dropped 29% over a seven-day losing streak that just ended as a stablecoin—one part of the crypto world that touted its stability—unexpectedly crashed.”

Politico: “The scope of Cawthorn’s troubles is broad, the implications transcending mere politics. More than 70 interviews with people who know Cawthorn … paint a picture of a man in crisis. Cawthorn, they say, is an immature college dropout with a thin work resume, a scofflaw and serial embellisher who was neither qualified nor prepared for the responsibility and the scrutiny that comes with the office he holds.”

“They describe him as a person whose ongoing physical pain and insecurities have made him unusually susceptible to the twisted incentives of a political environment and a Trump-led GOP that prizes perhaps above all else outrage and partisan attack.”

“Republicans are publicly and privately rooting for Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) to lose his North Carolina primary race on Tuesday. But they’re also preparing for an alternate scenario: how to deal with the embattled freshman if he returns to Congress after becoming a party pariah,” CNN reports.

“In private discussions, GOP lawmakers are debating ways to keep Cawthorn on the sidelines should he prevail in his North Carolina reelection race, from relegating him to less favorable committees to warning the punishments could get even stiffer should his controversial antics continue.”

Derek Thompson: “The American economy isn’t looking great right now. U.S. GDP shrank last quarter, despite a hearty showing from American consumers. Inflation is high; markets are down; both wages and personal-savings rates show some troubling statistical signals. Is the U.S. destined to have a recession in 2022? I don’t know for sure. But here are nine signs that worry me.”

Wall Street Journal: “China’s deceleration represents a double whammy for the global economy. The country isn’t just a huge market for the rest of the world’s goods, components and raw materials, but it is the manufacturing dynamo at the center of global trade.”

William Cohan: “The blame this time around lies squarely with the Federal Reserve, and the policies the central bank enacted after the 2008 financial crisis and that the Fed has kept in place pretty much since then.”

new investigative front has opened on the Trump White House’s handling of classified materials and presidential records that ended up at Mar-A-Lago post-presidency.

Playbook: “Well-placed sources tell us that Cheney — who was booted from her post as No. 3 Republican in the House one year to the day before the subpoenas were issued — was among those pressing hardest for this move, arguing that these GOP members had relevant information and they couldn’t just let them skirt without questioning.”

“President Joe Biden is agonizing over ordering a sweeping cancellation of student loan debt, despite pressure from Democrats — including Vice President Kamala Harris — eager for a political win before midterm elections,” Bloomberg reports.

“The White House’s hesitance on the issue represents the latest fracture within the Democratic party, which Biden has failed to unite around his ambitious economic agenda. But this time it’s the Democratic rank-and-file who haven’t yet persuaded the president to use his power for broad loan relief.” 

“Elon Musk tweeted Friday morning that his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter is ‘temporarily on hold’ as he seeks more details on the platform’s new estimate that spam and fake accounts make up less than 5% of users,” Axios reports.

“Donald Trump has found a new way to milk his ex-presidency — and test another — hitting the lucrative motivational speaking circuit with more fervor than any other active U.S. politician in history,” Axios reports.  “It’s a way to build support for a possible 2024 presidential bid while potentially pocketing large speaking fees as many of his iconic properties are struggling.”

“Trump stands to benefit on both ends. He headlines a rally-type event with a third party footing the bill, and stands to gets a hefty payout for his time.”

“The Senate confirmed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to a second four-year term that is shaping up to be every bit as trying as his first term as the central bank faces the highest inflation in 40 years,” the Wall Street Journal reports. 

“Mr. Powell’s nomination, approved Thursday on an 80-19 bipartisan vote, has been on track for months to win bipartisan approval despite unease over inflation and aggressive interest-rate increases that the Fed has urgently commenced to cool price pressures.”

On Thursday, “North Korea says it has detected a case of the BA.2 omicron subvariant in its capital, Pyongyang, the first time the country has acknowledged a positive coronavirus infection since the pandemic began more than two years ago,” the Washington Post reports.

On Friday, “Six people have died and 350,000 have been treated for a fever that has spread ‘explosively’ across North Korea, state media said Friday, a day after the country acknowledged a Covid-19 outbreak for the first time in the pandemic,” the AP reports.

“North Korea likely doesn’t have sufficient Covid-19 tests and said it didn’t know the cause of the mass fevers. But a big coronavirus outbreak could be devastating in a country with a broken health care system and an unvaccinated, malnourished population.”

The Economist: “North Korea lacks the testing and tracing infrastructure that other countries have built over the past two years. Its health-care sector suffered from serious underinvestment even before the pandemic. It does not have enough equipment and medical staff. Hospitals do not have regular power, clean water or proper sanitation. Two years of closed borders have depleted supplies of medicine, much of which is imported. It is unclear how much oxygen or how many ventilators the country has available. And pre-existing conditions make North Koreans especially susceptible to covid-19. Tuberculosis, which worsens the effects of the virus, is rampant. So is malnutrition.”

“China risks a ‘tsunami’ of coronavirus infections resulting in 1.6 million deaths if the government abandons its long-held Covid Zero policy and allows the highly-infectious omicron variant to spread unchecked,” Bloomberg reports.

“Shanghai’s lockdown has kept tens of millions of residents trapped indoors for a month and a half. Thousands of others in China’s wealthiest city have found themselves in the opposite predicament: living in the street,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“A public outcry at perceived efforts from China to stop people from leaving the country has erupted, reflecting growing unhappiness over the government’s punishing lockdowns and strict measures to fight Covid,” Bloomberg reports.  “In addition to the domestic lockdowns that underpin the strategy, the country has essentially sealed itself off from the world for the past two years, leaving it isolated as global peers shift to living with the virus.”

When asked about being named the “Worst Boss” on Capitol Hill, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) told Indy Politics that “a lot of these young people need to toughen up.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “It’s been almost two centuries since a vice president has cast so many decisive votes on Capitol Hill, and her pace reveals a lot about how a 50-50 Senate actually works.”

“One of the biggest donors to Britain’s Conservative Party is suspected of secretly funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party from a Russian account,” the New York Times reports.

“The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has told a lower appeals court to take another look at the controversial illegal voting conviction of Crystal Mason, who was given a five-year prison sentence for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election while she was on supervised release for a federal conviction,” the Texas Tribune reports.

“White House press secretary Jen Psaki leaves her post on Friday having held more formal press briefings in the past 15 months than former President Donald Trump’s press secretaries held in four years, a sign that the tradition that once faced an uncertain future has been restored to its usual prominence,” Insider  reports.

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

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