Cup of Joe – 7/6/22

Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III, the 22-year-old suspected gunman in the July 4 shooting near Chicago, was arrested Monday evening in Lake Forest, Illinois.

The alleged shooter’s motive is unknown so far, but Crimo posted extremely violent and graphic content about mass shootings online, NBC News found. The suspected gunman didn’t seem to post much about politics aside from two posts about Trump (a photo of Crimo draped in a Trump flag dated June 2021 and a video posted on Jan. 2 last year that seemingly showed him with a crowd cheering for Trump’s motorcade outside an airport, according to NBC).

At least six people were killed during the shooting and more than two dozen were injured, according to the authorities.

Hours after the Highland Park shooting, there was another shooting in Philadelphia during July 4 festivities on Monday night. Two police officers were grazed by bullets but were treated at a hospital and released this morning. No arrests have been reported yet.

Darren Bailey, the Trump-endorsed Republican nominee for Illinois governor, put out a video about the July 4 parade shooting in Highland Park which urged people to “pray for justice to prevail,” and “then let’s move on and let’s celebrate the independence of this nation.”

The alleged shooter was still at large at the time Bailey posted the video, something the candidate himself noted in his message immediately before saying everyone needs to get over the shooting (which left six people dead): “The shooter is still at large so let’s pray for justice to prevail, and then let’s move on and let’s celebrate the independence of this nation.”

Bailey put out a statement (we’re not gonna call it an apology) later saying he apologized “if” he “diminished the pain being felt across our state today.”

“I’m confident that the bill we passed a week and a half ago is going to save lives. It will make a difference. But it is only the beginning. Today is a reminder of how much more work that we have to do. We have now broken the back of the gun lobby. We now have made possible changes in our gun laws that can keep our communities safer. Today is a reminder that we still have a long road to travel.”

— Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), quoted by Politico, in response to the July 4th mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois that left six dead and dozens injured.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the House Jan. 6 Committee, told CBS News on Sunday that the panel’s next public hearing will focus on “efforts to assemble that mob” that attacked the Capitol, looking at “who was participating, who was financing it, how it was organized” and the involvement of far-right extremist groups.

The committee hasn’t announced a schedule for the next slate of hearings yet.

More witnesses have come forward to testify, inspired to do so after Cassidy Hutchinson gave her bombshell testimony last week, according to committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) and panel member Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).

The Washington Post created a striking series of art that aligns with key moments of Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony.

Robin Givhan gives a performance review of Jan. 6 committee chairman Bennie Thompson.

“The witness called him “sir.” When Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House aide, testified before the Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday afternoon, she addressed Chairman Bennie G. Thompson with a word that afforded him respect as a man, not merely as an official. His tone during these hearings has not been that of a cold prosecutor or an enraged legislator. Thompson has been firm but gentlemanly. Even optimistic. He has been a point of stillness as the committee sorts through the chaotic cesspool of January 6.

He wouldn’t be the one questioning Hutchinson, drawing out the lurid details of a president in the throes of a diabolical temper tantrum, but he was the one setting the tone for the day’s hearing, just as he had done for the five preceding ones.[…]

Pull up a chair and have a listen; the stories will curl your hair.

The Jan. 6 hearings have been for the benefit of the American public and Thompson has been the dignified host inviting folks in. His tone is calm and slightly melancholy. But he never gives off even a whiff of resignation. He has been resolute in his belief that America is the greatest country in the world and that the insurrection was “a hiccup” in our history. For Thompson, democracy isn’t shattered beyond repair; it’s damaged, but fixable.

And somehow, Thompson is convincing.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) shared a compilation of around a dozen vulgar and threatening phone calls to his congressional office.

Former Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney writes in the Charlotte Observer that Republicans should be paying attention to the January 6 Committee.

“That is because, despite all of the flaws in the structure of the heavily Democrat committee, almost all of the evidence presented so far is coming from eminently credible sources: Republicans.”

Washington Post: “Hutchinson’s account of cleaning Trump-strewn ketchup off White House walls and pleading with her onetime boss, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, to get off his phone and help quell the Capitol riot was watched by more viewers than all but one of the NBA Finals games this year.”

Inflation may finally be easing across the board. Wholesale gasoline prices are down nearly 30 cents so far today, Bloomberg  reports. “A slide in all manner of raw-materials prices—corn, wheat, copper and more—is stirring hopes that a significant source of inflationary pressure might be starting to ease,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Natural-gas prices shot up more than 60% before falling back to close the quarter 3.9% lower. U.S. crude slipped from highs above $120 a barrel to end around $106. Wheat, corn and soybeans all wound up cheaper than they were at the end of March. Cotton unraveled, losing more than a third of its price since early May. Benchmark prices for building materials copper and lumber dropped 22% and 31%, respectively, while a basket of industrial metals that trade in London had its worst quarter since the 2008 financial crisis.”

“The U.S. economy has experienced 12 recessions since World War II, and each one included two features: Economic output contracted and unemployment rose,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Today, something highly unusual is happening. Economic output fell in the first quarter and signs suggest it did so again in the second. Yet the job market showed little sign of faltering during the first half of the year. The jobless rate fell from 4% last December to 3.6% in May.”

“It is the latest strange twist in the odd trajectory of the pandemic economy, and a riddle for those contemplating a recession. If the U.S. is in or near one, it doesn’t yet look like any other on record.”

“When inflation surged in the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter convened his top economic advisers for weekly lunch meetings in which they tended to offer overly optimistic forecasts of how high prices would rise,” the New York Times reports.

“But the political consequences of rising prices could not be escaped: By 1978, Democrats had lost seats in the House and Senate. A year later, Mr. Carter’s Treasury secretary, W. Michael Blumenthal, was ousted in a cabinet shake-up. In 1980, Mr. Carter lost his re-election bid in a landslide as the Federal Reserve, intent on bringing inflation down, raised interest rates so aggressively that it tipped the economy into a painful recession.”

“President Biden and the Democrats in power now face a similar predicament as they scramble to tame inflation after a year of telling Americans that price gains would be short-lived. In recent weeks, Mr. Biden has pressed oil refineries to ramp up production, proposed a three-month gas tax holiday and called on the Federal Reserve to do what is needed to cool an overheating economy. But to veterans of the Carter administration, the echoes of the past call for a greater sense of urgency from Mr. Biden despite his limited power to bring prices down.”

It could be worse: Inflation in Turkey rose close to 79% last month, the highest the country has seen in a quarter of a century, CNBC reports. The reason for this is that the autocrat authoritarian President Erdogan refuses to fight inflation by raising interest rates. Instead, he has cut them for years and devalued Turkey’s currency.

“From Wall Street to Washington, whispers about a coming economic slump have risen to nearly a roar as the Federal Reserve ramps up its battle against the highest inflation in four decades,” Politico reports.

“Price spikes and the Fed’s aggressive interest rate hikes sent the benchmark S&P 500 stock index tumbling to its worst performance in the first half of the year since 1970. Consumer confidence has sunk to record lows. And economists are increasingly worried that a downturn will not only happen but happen soon — a danger underscored by one widely watched Fed growth tracker.”

“Fed Chair Jerome Powell has begun saying the quiet part out loud: The central bank is willing to tolerate a recession if it means getting inflation under control.”

A Georgia grand jury has issued subpoenas to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and the attorney Rudy Giuliani as part of an investigation of possible criminal interference in that state’s 2020 election by former President Donald Trump, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

Others Trump confidants being summoned include John Eastman, Cleta Mitchell, Kenneth Chesbro and Jenna Ellis, all of whom advised Trump on strategies for overturning Joe Biden’s wins in Georgia and other swing states.

Politico has obtained the video trailer for Alex Holder’s “Unprecedented” documentary on the Trump family.

“The two-minute-plus trailer was included among the hours of footage that Holder turned over to the House Jan. 6 committee under subpoena. Holder gave testimony to the committee behind closed doors on June 23.”

Playbook: “The new video highlights Holder’s unique access to the former president and his family.”

The wife of Brittney Griner told CBS News that President Joe Biden still has not responded to the handwritten letter that the basketball star sent to him from a Russian prison.

Said Cherelle Griner: “I still have not heard from him. And honestly, it’s very disheartening.”

She added that U.S. officials “are not doing anything.”

“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.” — WNBA star Brittney Griner, quoted by ESPN, in a handwritten letter to President Biden.

Washington Post: “More than a year after Congress approved a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Republicans in nearly two dozen states have ratcheted up efforts to tap some of those funds for an unrelated purpose: paying for tax cuts. The moves have threatened to siphon off aid that might otherwise help states fight the pandemic, shore up their local economies or prepare for a potential recession.”

“The intensifying Republican campaign targets one of the signature programs Democrats approved as part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan last year. At the urging of the nation’s mayors and governors, Congress delivered what largely amounted to a blank check for every city and state to bolster their budgets.”

Washington Post: “Rising housing costs, combined with persistent inflation for basic necessities such as gas and food, have left more Americans newly homeless and millions more fearing they’ll soon lose their homes. Shelters across the country are reporting a sudden increase in numbers of people looking for help as they struggle to cover basics.”

“Inflation has reached 40-year highs just as many vulnerable families are readjusting to life without a boost from government stimulus or protections to keep them from being evicted.”

“Boris Johnson was left fighting for his political life after two senior Cabinet ministers, including his powerful chancellor, quit with a blast at his integrity,” Politico reports.

“Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, the finance minister and second most senior figure in the U.K. government after Johnson, resigned minutes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s own dramatic exit. Other more junior government figures swiftly followed.”

The Guardian: “It could all be over for Boris Johnson – although quite how long it will take his enemies to finish him off is not at all clear and his defenestration does not look immediate.”

New York Times: “It also raises serious questions about how long either side can keep going like this, particularly the battered and vastly outgunned Ukrainian forces, forced to rely on raw recruits and suffering heavy casualties, along with the mental strain of combat, retreat and constant Russian shelling.”

“Russia’s invasion has taken a brutal toll on its own forces as well, but they continue their slow advance, and with the seizure of Lysychansk this weekend, they have taken control of the entirety of Luhansk Province, putting them in position to push on toward Ukrainian-held cities in Donetsk Province.”

Associated Press: “Ukrainian soldiers returning from the front lines in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region — where Russia is waging a fierce offensive — describe life during what has turned into a grueling war of attrition as apocalyptic.”

Wall Street Journal: “Some lessons aren’t all that new, such as the value of strong leadership and resilient supply lines. Others are: The modern battlefield has no hiding places and no boundaries. Drones, electronic surveillance and space-based observation make concealment harder than even a few years ago.”

An intercepted phone call reveals that Russians believe their own commanders are selling troop location information in Ukraine for money, the Daily Beast reports.

New York Times: “More than four months into the war, Ukrainians remain angry and defiant. But among civilians — millions of them displaced, out of work and living in fear, some lacking adequate food, water and electricity — the mood is increasingly somber. As the Russians gain ground and losses mount, with no end in sight, some Ukrainians accuse their government of minimizing the challenges ahead in a bid to raise morale.”

Michael Sauga of Der Spiegel asks: are the sanctions against Russia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine working?

What is certain is that the policy of boycotts and embargoes has profoundly changed the union itself. The EU has adopted six sanctions packages since the Kremlin began rolling its tanks.

It has frozen the assets of more than 1,100 aids of Russian President Vladimir Putin and 30 oligarchs. Most Russian banks have been cut off from Europe’s financial markets. Coal from Siberia may no longer be imported, and jet engines or truffle butter can no longer be exported to Moscow or St. Petersburg. Nearly a hundred billion euros worth of trade goods are blocked in what officials at the European Commission now openly call the “militarization of export controls.”

What had once been envisioned as an economic community is transforming itself into a security alliance and is vigorously expanding its influence over the member states. In the course of its sanctions, the EU has enacted dozens of new laws, increased its staff and created a task force to track and confiscate Russian financial assets. “The Commission has cleverly used the situation to secure further powers for itself,” says one EU diplomat in Brussels.

Robin Wright of The New Yorker writes about NATO’s new strategy to confront Russia.

The new strategy reflects a dramatic shift in the West—from talk of Europe’s economic and security interdependence with Russia, in the post-Cold War era, to open confrontation with Moscow, Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO who now heads the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, told me. Stoltenberg called the summit “transformational.”

The NATO summit also marks a departure from the policies of Donald Trump, who said he “trusted” Putin, threatened to withdraw from nato, and left his fellow-leaders shaken at every encounter. NATO’s reach is instead expanding. It had just twelve founding members in 1949. With the invitations extended this week to Sweden and Finland, it will soon include thirty-two countries, and its frontline with Russia will double. “Putin thought he could break the transatlantic alliance,” Biden said at a press conference on Thursday. “He wanted the Finlandization of NATO. He got the NATO-ization of Finland.” The new strategic concept for the first time cites the challenges posed by China and the need to build “resilience” against political meddling, disinformation, energy shortages, and food insecurity. In another first, it pledged to deepen ties with allies in the Indo-Pacific. The leaders of Japan and South Korea met with NATO members, including Biden, on the sidelines in Madrid.

The new strategy is muscular and sweeping in ways that could play out for years, even decades, Doug Lute, a former Ambassador to NATO and retired three-star general, told me. Putin’s war, and NATO’s response, represents a historic “inflection point,” like the fall of the Soviet Union or the 9/11 attacks, he said. The summit, however, did not address how NATO envisions ending the war or what it will do about membership for Ukraine. On Wednesday, the director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, predicted that the war could grind on for an “extended” time. Putin intends to seize most of Ukraine, not just the eastern and southern regions he now controls, she said. In a speech to NATO leaders, the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, asked whether his nation had “not paid enough” to join NATO. More than ten thousand Ukrainians—up to two hundred a day—have been killed since Russia launched its invasion, in February. More than five million have fled the country; another seven million have been displaced inside it. More than a hundred billion dollars in civilian infrastructure has been destroyed, with the World Bank projecting that the Ukrainian economy will contract by up to forty-five per cent this year.

Matt Labash: “For as long as he’s been a public self-servant, the towel boy who served as Donald Trump’s fourth and last chief of staff has been a professional sleazebag.”

“He’s no cartoon villain, mind you. If Meadows were a color, he’d be beige. Blessed with the pleasantly dishonest face of a swampland timeshare hustler, the former congressman, who once described himself  as being a ‘fat nerd’ as a kid, rarely says anything funny or compelling, unlike his Lord & Savior Donald H. Christ. Yet he forever manages to be controversial without actually being interesting, the sinisterness equivalent of a white noise machine.”

FiveThirtyEight: “The data emphasizes that the court is deeply polarized along partisan lines — perhaps more than it’s ever been. There have always been ideological disagreements among the justices, and those have often pitted liberals against conservatives, but those divides weren’t consistently linked to the justice’s appointing party.”

“In 2018 just after he announced his retirement, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sat at the ideological center of the court for much of his 30-year tenure, met with a groups of reporters. Was he worried that some of the precedents he helped establish–the right to abortion and LGBT rights, for instance–might now be in jeopardy? No, he replied. He was confident that constitutional rights, once established would remain in place,” NPR reports.

“It took just four years, and the addition of one more Trump appointee to the Supreme Court, to prove him wrong.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) told CBS Philadelphia that he’s so fed up with having to worry about guns and “bad” things happening that he’ll be “happy” to not be mayor anymore.

Said Kenney: “This is a gun country, it’s crazy, we’re the most armed country in world history and we’re one of the least safest. Until Americans decide that they want to give up the guns, and give up the opportunity to get guns, we’re gonna have this problem.”

He added: “I’ll be happy when I’m not… mayor.”

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

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