Cup of Joe – November 4, 2022

“Signs of strain in the nation’s democratic system mounted Wednesday with less than a week left before the midterm elections, as President Biden warned that candidates who refuse to accept Tuesday’s results could set the nation on a ‘path to chaos,’” the Washington Post reports.

“Biden’s grim assessment in a speech Wednesday evening came as the FBI and other agencies have forecast that threats of violence from domestic extremists are likely to be on the rise after the election.”

Playbook: “Biden had already delivered a grand address on the issue, on Sept. 1 in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. But aides and allies said this week that Biden has become increasingly dismayed as more election deniers emerged from Republican primaries to wage competitive general election campaigns. And, as evidence emerged that democracy had moved up the list of voter concerns, he wanted to take another crack at it.”

“In a quickly assembled event Tuesday night at Union Station, the president delivered a sharp, clear message asking voters to put election lies and political violence at the top of their minds as they cast their midterm ballots.”

New York Times: “While Democrats largely agree with the argument in Mr. Biden’s speech, not every Democrat thought it was helpful to make the address when candidates are trying to distance themselves from Mr. Biden, whose approval ratings are in the mid-40s, and voters in polls are focused on [other] issues.”

Matthew Yglesias: “In general, I think the legislative difference between a narrowly Republican and a narrowly Democratic Senate would be very modest. Democrats are not queuing up any new reconciliation bills, and Republicans are almost certainly going to control the House anyway. But there is a world of difference between a 50-50 Senate and 51-49 GOP control when it comes to confirmations.”

“If Democrats retain control of the Senate then the judiciary will continue to tilt right on balance, but it will drift back toward the center thanks to Biden’s appointments to lower courts. If Republicans secure the majority, no new judges will get confirmed. This will overburden the courts as vacancies pile up, and we’ll see Democratic judges try to hold on despite age or illness reducing their effectiveness. Eventually, a new Republican administration will fill the vacancies and the balance of judicial power will shift further right.”

“Congressional Republicans, eyeing a midterm election victory that could hand them control of the House and the Senate, have embraced plans to reduce federal spending on Social Security and Medicare, including cutting benefits for some retirees and raising the retirement age for both safety net programs,” the New York Times reports.

“Prominent Republicans are billing the moves as necessary to rein in government spending, which grew under both Republican and Democratic presidents in recent decades and then spiked as the Trump and Biden administrations unleashed trillions of dollars in economic relief during the pandemic.”

Washington Post: “Some fiscal hawks are pushing dramatic spending reforms and overhauls of entitlement programs including Social Security and Medicare, while others are insisting that simply blocking future Democratic legislation and attempting to repeal some of President Biden’s signature achievements will represent enough of a shift toward fiscal responsibility to appease voters.”

“Either way, the GOP agenda would all but certainly lead to dramatic showdowns with Biden and his veto pen, and Democrats are warning of the potential for government shutdowns and dysfunction, while dreading the raft of oversight investigations Republicans will launch if they gain the gavels.”

Josh Marshall on what happens if Republicans win on Tuesday: “First, history doesn’t end. […] This isn’t happy talk or Pollyannaish thinking. It’s reality. History doesn’t end. No matter how bad things get there’s a next day when you have to figure out what you do next. Nothing is ever fully solved or fully lost.

[N]o matter what happens Tuesday the big thing is 2024. No matter how big GOP majorities might be after Tuesday, everything is backstopped for the next two years by Joe Biden’s veto. […] The Senate matters because of judges. There’s lots of ancillary nonsense a GOP Senate can do. But the key thing is judges. Get a GOP majority and judicial confirmations will essentially grind to a stop. And if by chance there’s a Supreme Court vacancy … well, you know what happens. That’s why the Senate is really important.

What about investigations? Mostly, whatever. We’ve seen a couple cycles of this where Republicans take control and launch a ton of phony investigations. It’s a big bummer for the minor figures who get saddled with insuperable legal bills. It’s a distraction for the administration. But it’s really mostly sound and fury. And what if they find something really bad? Well, that will suck for whoever did something really bad. I am very, very skeptical that will happen. If it does, that’s what oversight is for.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I want people to stop worrying about impeachment. Either of the President, or of cabinet officials. Unless Republicans pull together a 67 seat majority on Tuesday — enough to remove someone from office — I just don’t care, and neither should you.

There is one looming possibility that is different from all of this. There’s a very good chance that a Republican House will drive the country into a debt default next year. They will likely set up a situation in which Joe Biden has to agree to repeal all the 2021 legislation and/or force big cuts to Social Security and Medicare or they push the country off the cliff. I sense there is zero appetite among Democrats nationwide or in the White House to even engage those discussions. I’m confident that Republicans will be willing to shoot the hostage. So I think a default will happen. The consequences of that will be cataclysmic, immediate and mostly unfixable. This isn’t something where people get furloughed for a few weeks. It’s the U.S. government declaring bankruptcy which will have all the impact you can imagine on its future ability to borrow money at low costs. And also, it’ll basically mean a global financial crisis.

There’s one thing to do about this: Solve the problem during the lame duck session of Congress if Democrats lose one or both houses. There will be a lot of handwringing. But it will absolutely have to happen. It will come down to Sinema and Manchin. It can be done through reconciliation. But they’ll have to agree. If they don’t, then frankly we’re totally screwed. Let’s hope they do.”

“Top Democrats are privately discussing the possibility of using the budget reconciliation process in the upcoming lame-duck session to raise the statutory debt limit if Republicans retake one or both chambers in the midterms,” Roll Call reports.

“No decisions have been made, and the path to enacting another filibuster-proof budget bill in the short time allotted between Nov. 14 and Dec. 16, when lawmakers would like to wrap up the 117th Congress, is procedurally treacherous.”

“A shortage of poll workers has concerned local election officials in some parts of the country as the midterm elections approach. Not so in Michigan,” the AP reports.

“Conservative groups and local Republican Party operatives who have pushed false claims about the 2020 presidential election have recruited poll workers here by the thousands. Similar recruitment efforts on the right have bolstered the ranks of poll workers in some other states with nationally watched races.”

“Seeding the ranks of front-line election workers with people recruited by groups promoting election conspiracies has raised alarms among some that the people at the foundation of the election system could try to undermine it.”

“Russian military officials discussed in mid-October how and when they might use nuclear weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine,” CBS News reports.

“The intelligence concerned U.S. officials because the relevant discussions came not long after Russian President Vladimir Putin, seeing Ukrainian forces claw territory back from his troops, hinted that he could resort to nuclear weapons.”

Masha Gessen: “When we say that someone isn’t acting rationally, what we mean is that we do not understand the world in which the person’s actions are rational. The problem is not so much that Putin is irrational; the problem is that there is a world in which it is rational for him to move ever closer to a nuclear strike, and most Western analysts cannot comprehend the logic of that world.”

“Robert Jay Lifton, the pioneering psychiatrist and historian who has written about nuclear arms for half a century, is fond of quoting the philosopher Martin Buber’s phrase ‘imagine the real.’ That is what we fail to do when we talk about Putin and his nuclear threat: we can’t imagine the very real possibility that he will follow through.”

“An audacious assault by unmanned exploding boats on Russia’s Black Sea fleet over the weekend has further exposed Moscow’s military’s shortcomings while ushering in what some analysts said was a new era of naval warfare,” the Financial Times reports.

“Russia said the raid on the Sevastopol naval port involved seven maritime and nine aerial drones and claimed to have intercepted all of them, though it admitted minor damage to a minesweeper and its harbor protection system. But naval experts said the attack, seen in unverified footage, demonstrated Ukraine’s skill at harnessing new technology, some of it readily available, to offset Russia’s superior firepower.”

“The majority of Americans support continuing aid to Ukraine in what will likely be a prolonged war with Russia, but support is becoming a partisan issue as Republican opposition grows to helping the country,” according to a new Wall Street Journal poll.

Some 30% of respondents overall said in the new survey they believe the administration is doing too much to help Ukraine, up from 6% in a March Journal poll. The change was driven by a big shift among GOP voters: 48% of Republicans now say the U.S. is doing too much, up from 6% in the previous survey.”

U.S. Embassy officials in Russia have met with imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner, the Washington Post reports.

“Donald Trump said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should be impeached if he backs a plan for the debt ceiling to be eliminated over fears that House Republicans could cause the U.S. to default on the nation’s credit,” The Hill reports.

“Members of the Senate and House cannot be impeached, though both chambers can remove a lawmaker with a two-thirds vote. The president is not involved in that process.”

While that’s not going to happen, lawmakers are bracing for a bruising fight over the debt ceiling — a prospect that’s “alarming administration officials, Democrats in Congress and some investors who fear a stalemate that could roil financial markets at a precarious time for the global economy,” the New York Times reports.

“Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit in Florida state court trying to stop the New York attorney general from obtaining records from the trust that holds ownership of the Trump Organization,” CNN reports.

“The civil lawsuit was filed hours after a New York judge denied an effort to move New York Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million lawsuit against Trump, his eldest children and others into another division of New York State court.”

“A tirade of a lawsuit that Donald Trump filed on Wednesday against one of his chief antagonists, the New York attorney general, was hotly opposed by some members of his legal team, who attempted an intervention hours before it was submitted to a court,” the New York Times reports. “The faction opposed to the suit told the Florida attorneys who drafted it on the former president’s behalf that it was frivolous and would fail.”

Trump’s lawyers have a lot on their plate right now with New York, the Justice Department, and Congress, so maybe it’s not a surprise that the Trump Organization abruptly settled with the protesters who were suing over the then-candidate ordering his security team to violently crack down on their protest against his racist comments outside Trump Tower in 2015.

The settlement came after a mere three days of trial, when Trump’s legal team struggled to find jurors in the Bronx who didn’t already feel a certain kind of way about the ex-president.

What are the terms of the settlement? No idea. Neither party disclosed them.

Kash Patel, a Trump loyalist installed at the Defense Department late in the Trump administration, is slated to testify in the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump hoarding government documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Patel is reportedly getting immunity for his testimony, meaning that so as long as he is truthful in front of the grand jury the DOJ can’t use his testimony against him.

Patel was the first Trump official to claim the ex-president had already declassified the documents the FBI found at Mar-a-Lago.

“Former president Donald Trump’s advisers have spent much of this year talking him out of announcing a third White House bid before the midterms, arguing that it could get drowned out by the ongoing campaigns, invite the Democrats to focus the races on him and complicate compliance with campaign finance rules,” the Washington Post reports.

“So Trump has stopped short of a formal announcement, but in many ways, he is already acting like a 2024 candidate.”

Associated Press: “Aides to the former president are making quiet preparations for a 2024 presidential campaign that could be launched soon after next week’s midterm elections as Trump tries to capitalize on expected Republican wins to propel himself toward becoming the front-runner for his party’s nomination.”

“Trump, according to people close to him, is eager to be back in the political game. While he has been talking up a bid since before he left the White House, aides and allies are now eyeing the two-week stretch after the Nov. 8 midterms as a possible window for an announcement, though they caution that he hasn’t made a decision and that — as always when it comes to Trump — things could change, particularly if the election results are delayed due to recounts or a possible runoff election in Georgia.”

“Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for the first time on Wednesday asked protesters blocking roads nationwide to lift blockades as demonstrations are restricting people’s right to come and go and bringing losses to the economy,” Reuters reports.

Benjamin Netanyahu will with near certainty be Israel’s next prime minister after approximately 90% of the votes counted, the Jerusalem Post reports.

“Shots were fired at a protest rally in Pakistan held by opposition leader Imran Khan,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Yasmin Rashid, a provincial lawmaker from the political party, said that Mr. Khan had been shot in the leg.”

“North Korea added to its barrage of recent weapons tests on Thursday, firing at least three missiles including an intercontinental ballistic missile that forced the Japanese government to issue evacuation alerts and temporarily halt trains,” the AP reports.

Soon after completing his $44 billion Twitter purchase, Tesla CEO Elon Musk discovered that advertisers aren’t interested in playing along with his vision of “free speech” — not if that vision means gutting the platform’s content moderation policies that kept neo-Nazis from turning Twitter into 4chan.

Musk’s new solution for convincing skittish advertisers to pay for the toy he bought on impulse: Mock them for allegedly supporting “political ‘correctness’” if they pull out from the platform.

The billionaire also knows his plan to make verified users pay $8 a month for blue checkmarks (“Power to the people!”) isn’t going over so well either, so he’s trying to change their minds with D-tier memes he undoubtedly stole from some corner of the internet.

Remember that Musk tried to worm his way out of this purchase. He finally went through with the deal because his court battles with Twitter to walk back the deal were going poorly for him.

Politico: “Musk said that Twitter employees responsible for election integrity who had been locked out of their moderation tools during the company’s acquisition will have their access reinstated by the end of the week, three people on the call confirmed. Musk also said that users banned by the platform — including former President Donald Trump — will remain off the site ‘for at least a few more weeks.’”

Bloomberg: Musk plans to slash Twitter staff by half.

“The White House hasn’t decided whether it would pay $8 a month to maintain verification of its Twitter accounts,” Bloomberg reports.

Said Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre: “I don’t believe it’s an issue that made it to the president’s desk yet, not a conversation that the president is aware of. That’s something for the president that we need to talk to the president about.”

Bloomberg: Elon Musk aims to start charging for Twitter verification next week.

“Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes wrote a message intended for former President Donald Trump in the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, calling upon Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to stay in power and arrest members of Congress,” NBC News reports. Said Rhodes: “If you don’t then Biden/Kamala will turn all that power on you, your family, and all of us. You and your family will be imprisoned and killed.”

He added: “You and your children will die in prison.”

Trump lawyers John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro believed ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas would be their best chance for a favorable judicial ruling in their quest to overturn the 2020 election results, according to Eastman’s newly released emails.

“Realistically, our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress, is from Thomas — do you agree, Prof. Eastman?” Chesebro wrote on Dec. 31, 2020.

“I think I agree with this,” Eastman replied.

David Frum: “The lesson for the 2022 cycle is that the issues that seemed most salient as voters went to the polls will probably be long-forgotten in a few years’ time—but their choice will have had a huge bearing on what becomes of the United States. Voters can’t be expected to apprehend the longer-term consequences of the votes they cast. But their votes have consequences.”

“Ahead of this year’s elections, voters seem motivated above all by cost-of-living issues, with additional concerns about crime and illegal immigration, and possibly cultural issues such as transgender teen athletes seeking to play in girls’ sports leagues, also factoring in. Voters are not much preoccupied by threats to democracy.”

House Administration Committee chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), whose committee oversees the U.S. Capitol Police, wrote a letter to the USCP chief on Tuesday grilling him on the department’s security system for lawmakers in wake of the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) husband, Paul Pelosi.

Associated Press: “The upbeat heart of the president’s message is the same wherever he goes. In Detroit or Los Angeles. Syracuse, New York, or Hagerstown, Maryland. To throngs in an auditorium or a few dozen in a weathered union hall, the Democratic president declares he’s never felt more hopeful.”

“Yet this refrain of Biden’s presidency — this promise that things will get better — is butting up against his own dire political projections: A Congress potentially controlled by what he’s labeled ‘ultra-MAGA’ Republicans as he faces midterm elections that will define, and quite possibly stifle, the next two years of his term.”

“President Joe Biden on Monday will raise the possibility of imposing a ‘windfall tax’ on energy companies if they don’t boost domestic production, as his administration aims to combat high gas prices just days before the midterm elections,” the AP reports.

Many reformers have claimed that police departments have backed off enforcement in response to criticism of police or policy changes as a kind of silent strike or work stoppage. And new data from San Francisco adds real weight to these claims. As study conducted by economist from New York University’s Public Safety Lab in partnership with The San Francisco Chronicle found that after reform DA Chesa Boudin was recalled and replaced by mayoral appointee Brooke Jenkins, traffic stops rose by 30% and “public order” stops rose by 20%. The shift was more or less immediate.

The shift didn’t find any difference in response to serious violent crimes. And it wasn’t able to determine whether these stops led to more arrests. However, it did find that San Franciscans made fewer calls to police reporting public order infractions after Boudin’s ouster. That would appear to rule out any rise in actual criminal behaviors as an explanation for the expanded enforcement.

Ron Brownstein: “Control of the US Senate will be decided next week in cross-pressured states where most voters disapprove of President Joe Biden’s performance but also express unfavorable views about their state’s Republican Senate nominee.”

“Public polls show Biden’s job approval rating is consistently below 50%, and often well below that, in all the states most likely to determine the Senate majority – even though they’re almost all states he carried in 2020. Over the past three decades, it has become increasingly rare for Senate candidates on either side to win election in states where voters hold such negative views of a president from their own party.”

“In this stormy sea, the biggest lifeline still available for Democrats is the large number of voters in those battleground states who view the Republican Senate candidates as extreme, unqualified, or both. Recent public polls by CNN and other media organizations have found that more voters hold unfavorable than favorable views of virtually all the GOP nominees in the key states.”

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

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