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Cup of Joe – 5/19/22

Breaking decades of their well-established neutrality policies, Finland and Sweden officially submitted their applications to join NATO on Wednesday, a historic move that Russian leader Vladimir Putin can take full credit for with his unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

“A 21-year-old Russian tank-unit officer pleaded guilty to shooting an unarmed civilian in Ukraine’s first war-crimes trial since Russia’s invasion of the country,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

In a rare moment of candor on Russian state TV, retired Russian colonel Mikhail Khodaryonok said the invasion of Ukraine “is not going the way Russia is portraying it, and that the global isolation facing the country is more daunting than Russian leaders are letting on,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Khodaryonok: “After all, the main deficiency of our military-political position is that, in a way, we are in full geopolitical isolation, and that, however much we would hate to admit this, virtually the entire world is against us. And it’s that situation that we need to get out of.”

Politico: “Congress’ nearly $40 billion package of help for the war-torn nation is taking heat from a growing number of conservative lawmakers, candidates, activists and even former President Donald Trump. Their case against spending on Ukraine’s battle against Russia is all about redirecting taxpayer money to domestic problems — but it’s alarming fellow Republicans who see it as a flawed argument and part of a disturbing trend toward isolationism.”

“That tension is putting the sprawling aid package, which is set to clear the Senate later this week, at the center of the ongoing battle to define the modern GOP. Much of the party, from the rank and file all the way up to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is forcefully rejecting the MAGA wing’s opposition to the aid as misguided.”

“Yet the nationalist camp, determined to create a questionable either-or choice between foreign assistance and help for Americans in need, is growing ever larger and louder.”

The Justice Department has requested the House Jan. 6 committee send transcripts of its interviews with witnesses, including people in Trump’s inner circle, according to the New York Times.

The assistant attorney general for the criminal division and the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia reportedly said in their letter to the committee that the transcripts “may contain information relevant to a criminal investigation we are conducting.”

“The move, coming as Attorney General Merrick Garland appears to be ramping up the pace of his painstaking investigation into the Capitol riot, is the clearest sign yet of a wide-ranging inquiry at the Justice Department.”

Robert Destro, a senior State Department official during in the Trump administration, met with ‘Stop the Steal’ activists on Jan. 6 at the State Department, the Washington Post reports.

Little is known about the origins of the meeting, but it came as Donald Trump’s allies were pressing theories that election machines had been hacked by foreign powers and were angling for the president to employ the vast powers of the national security establishment to seize machines or even rerun the election.

“The Justice Department sued casino mogul Steve Wynn Tuesday to force him to register as a lobbyist in connection with his 2017 efforts to obtain a diplomatic favor long sought by Chinese authorities,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

During his visit to Buffalo, New York in wake of the deadly shooting, the President gave a fiery speech decrying the “poison” of white supremacy that allegedly inspired the suspected shooter to open fire in the grocery store in a Black neighborhood.

After just three weeks, the panel President Biden created to help fight misinformation ended up being victim of misinformation and was at least temporarily suspended, the Washington Post reports.

“The American experiment in democracy is in a danger like it hasn’t been in my lifetime. It’s in danger this hour. Hate and fear are being given too much oxygen by those who pretend to love America but who don’t understand America.” — President Biden, in remarks given in Buffalo.

Jonathan Chait: “Inflation has become the Biden administration’s biggest political problem. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has complained the most vocally about inflation and is also doing the most to block the administration’s agenda. Given all the above, it might seem Manchin has been a helpful force.”

“The reality, however, is that Manchin has done a lot to complain about inflation and very little to fight it. Indeed, he has accomplished very little at all.”

President Biden announced yesterday that he is invoking the Defense Production Act in an effort to make baby formula readily available once again. In addition to that big step towards reversing the formula shortage he stated he has also made moves towards the creation of a program called Operation Fly Formula that will allow for the import of formula from abroad with the use of U.S. military aircraft.

In a recorded statement made from the White House, Biden said that the team assembled for these new measures have been instructed “to do everything possible to ensure there’s enough safe baby formula and that it’s quickly reaching families that need it the most. This is one of my top priorities,” according to CNN

“Gasoline pump prices have risen above $4 a gallon in all states in the US for the first time ever as the last holdouts — Kansas, Oklahoma and Georgia — saw prices rise overnight,” Bloomberg reports.

“The U.K.’s annual rate of inflation jumped to a forty-year-high in April, the highest level recorded by an industrialized nation since the start of the global price surge last year,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The broad optimism that Americans felt about the economy in the spring of 2021 — optimism that even a global pandemic and hundreds of thousands of COVID deaths couldn’t squelch — has finally been undone by inflation, and health worries that are getting worse rather than better,” Axios reports.

“The sharp rise in food and energy prices over the past year has had a particularly harsh effect on the finances of suburban and rural Americans.”

“The U.S. government is bracing for a potential surge in political violence once the Supreme Court hands down the ruling that’s expected to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Axios reports.

“Law enforcement agencies are investigating social-media threats to burn down or storm the Supreme Court building and murder justices and their clerks, as well as attacks targeting places of worship and abortion clinics.”

“The Supreme Court has boosted high-dollar donors’ abilities to personally enrich candidates — including ones like the wealthy individuals pouring millions into their own campaigns this year — if they prevail on Election Day,” Axios reports.

“The court’s ruling Monday is one more decision bypassing post-Watergate and other campaign finance restrictions.”

It looks like Tesla CEO Elon Musk is out of “goblin mode” and is now in “oops I made a $44 billion deal to buy a gigantic social media company that I don’t actually want to buy when I was in goblin mode” mode: The billionaire declared on Tuesday that his deal with Twitter “cannot move forward” until the social media giant can prove that less than five percent of Twitter accounts are spam bots.

That’s a hilariously fake pretense: Musk has griped about Twitter having too many spam bots and claimed one of his reasons for buying Twitter was “defeating the spam bots” (of which there are far too many), and now he’s whining that he doesn’t want to buy Twitter because it has too many spam bots.

Bloomberg Opinion columnist Matt Levine explains Musk’s Kabuki theater better than I can.

Twitter’s board said that it plans to “close the transaction and enforce the merger agreement” between Elon Musk and Twitter, the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Musk’s increasingly skeptical — and erratic — comments about the takeover have kept investors, bankers and Twitter itself guessing about his motives. Some analysts figure that the 50-year-old is trying to drive down the acquisition price or walk away from the deal altogether. Many were unnerved by his methods, with market-moving pronouncements made off the cuff at conferences or in emoji-laden tweets in the middle of the night.”

The Daily Beast reports that Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), who’s running to replace outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), will unveil a resolution today seeking to “expunge” the House’s second impeachment of Trump for inciting the Capitol insurrection.

After all, “the Democrats’ weaponization of impeachment against President Trump cannot go unanswered in the history books,” Mullin declared in an email to his GOP colleagues that was obtained by the Daily Beast.

Mullin’s reported resolution also mentions “the legitimate concerns held by protesters” in context of Trump’s 2020 election lies that led to the Capitol attack, language that sounds mighty familiar.

Such a resolution faces no chance of even receiving a vote in the Democratic-led House.

“House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and more than two dozen of her colleagues are supporting a resolution to ‘expunge’ former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment — as pro-Trump Republicans push to rally voters ahead of the midterms,” Fox News reports.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill that will make protesting outside of a person’s home illegal.

Nicholas  Weaver: “So the stock market and the bond market are a positive-sum game. There are more winners than losers. Cryptocurrency starts with zero-sum. So it starts with a world where there can be no more winning than losing. We have systems like this. It’s called the horse track. It’s called the casino. Cryptocurrency investing is really provably gambling in an economic sense. And then there’s designs where those power bills have to get paid somewhere. So instead of zero-sum, it becomes deeply negative-sum.”

“Effectively, then, the economic analogies are gambling and a Ponzi scheme. Because the profits that are given to the early investors are literally taken from the later investors. This is why I call the space overall, a ‘self-assembled’ Ponzi scheme. There’s been no intent to make a Ponzi scheme. But due to its nature, that is the only thing it can be.”

John Gruber: “There just isn’t any there there other than burning an unconscionable amount of electricity.”

“A House subcommittee opened a hearing on Tuesday on unidentified aerial phenomena observed by military pilots and others, pledging to bring transparency to an investigation of unexplained reports that have long been shrouded in stigma, confusion and secrecy,” the New York Times reports.

David Wallace-Wells: “For a few years, I’ve startled people by pointing out that over half of all of the emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that have ever been produced in the history of humanity have been produced in the past 30 years — since Al Gore published his first book on warming; since the U.N. established its climate-change body, the I.P.C.C.; since the premiere of ‘Friends.’”

“But it is perhaps even more astonishing to consider just how fast the temperature is rising. As recently as 2015, the 10-year average of global temperatures showed, according to the I.P.C.C., warming of 0.87 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average. Just five years later, it had jumped to 1.09 — 25 percent higher in half a decade.”

President Joe Biden warned that the country will likely see “another tough hurricane season” this year, and he pledged that his administration was prepared to respond to the storms and help Americans recover from them, the AP reports. Said Biden: “We know hurricanes are coming our way. They grow more extreme every season.”

Washington Post: “As President Biden makes his first presidential trip to South Korea and Japan in the next week, he faces shifting dynamics in Northeast Asia that pose steep challenges to U.S. efforts to shore up alliances to counter China’s rise. A key challenge is North Korea’s thawing relationships with China and Russia, aimed at reducing U.S. influence in the region.”

“In particular, China’s strategic overture to North Korea since the collapse of U.S.-North Korea diplomatic talks in 2019 has drawn the two countries closer. With tensions rising over the U.S.-China competition and a new South Korean conservative government that vows to take a harder line on North Korea and China, Beijing has more incentive to keep Pyongyang close, experts say.”

Washington Post: “Political volatility has become commonplace in a nation as deeply and closely divided as America today. Seven of the last eight elections qualify as change elections — a shift in the balance in some important way. And, if Republicans were to capture the House and Senate in November, Biden would become the fifth consecutive president to see his party lose both chambers of Congress on his watch.”

“But other than Democratic nervousness, what is the story of this year? What is motivating voters? What forces are steering the election, other than the tides of history”

“Analysts point to a nation weary at a time in which there seems no escape from disorder, whether it be the long bout with the coronavirus or soaring prices or rising crime rates in cities or surging crossings of undocumented immigrants at the southern border. Added to all of that is the brutal war of aggression in Ukraine launched without provocation by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a conflict that is redrawing the international order.”

“Kash Patel, a former Republican aide on the House intelligence committee who Donald Trump weighed installing as deputy CIA director, is publishing a children’s book that perpetuates the false claim the Steele dossier sparked investigations into Russian collusion,” The Guardian reports.

“The book features characters such as ‘King Donald’ and his enemy ‘Hillary Queenton.’”

The Georgia voters who are trying to get Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) kicked off the ballot filed an appeal on Monday to fight Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s (R) decision to reject their challenge.

“White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Sunday said if former President Trump wins the presidency again in 2024, Fauci will not return to serve Trump in the White House,” The Hill reports.  Said Fauci: “If you look at the history of what the response was during the administration, I think, you know, at best, you can say it wasn’t optimal. History will speak for itself about that.”

Ryan Kelley (R), who is running for governor in Michigan, says he won’t attend a debate because of the venue’s policy requiring conference attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“The Biden administration is preparing Monday to notify several Afghans currently waiting at a U.S. Army base in Kosovo that they’ll be denied entry to the United States,” Axios reports.

“The Federal Election Commission has decided not to take action against former President Donald Trump after commissioners deadlocked over whether his campaign broke the law by masking how it was spending cash during the 2020 campaign,” the AP reports.

Chris Wallace will host a Sunday evening show on CNN, Axios reports. The longtime Fox News host had recently moved to CNN to launch a show on its now-defunct streaming service, CNN+.

“President Biden plans to issue his highly anticipated executive order on police reform in the coming weeks,” Axios reports.

“Australia’s national election has become too close to call, polls released on Wednesday showed, as the ruling conservative coalition narrowed the gap with the main opposition Labor Party three days before the country decides on a new government,” Nikkei Asia reports.

“Is Google trying to fuck me?” — Donald Trump, quoted by Rolling Stone, complaining to friends and advisers that his social network still doesn’t have an Android app.

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

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