Cup of Joe – January 1, 2023

“The Republican Party, which entered 2022 with ambitions of recapturing both chambers of Congress and using discontent with President Biden to mount a strong case for retaking the White House in 2024, is entering 2023 in a state of uncertainty across the board,” The Hill reports.

David Byler: “Donald Trump’s Republican opponents seem worried.”

“Many believe GOP voters are ready to move on from the former president, but we all remember the 2016 primary. In that race, Trump had roughly 35 percent of Republican voters behind him, and multiple opponents split an anti-Trump majority. Trump won state after state — and the nomination — with just a plurality of the vote.”

“Trump’s foes are right to fear a repeat of 2016, but they’re thinking too small. There are so many other ways the primary could turn out badly for them.”

“New research on the Omicron subvariant of the coronavirus has suggested the pathogen could be changing how it attacks the human body — shifting from infecting respiratory systems to increasingly targeting the brain,” the South China Morning Post reports.

“The findings challenge the common belief that viruses usually evolve to become less pathogenic.”

Associated Press: “Moves by several countries to mandate COVID-19 tests for passengers arriving from China reflect global concern that new variants could emerge in its ongoing explosive outbreak — and that the government may not inform the rest of the world quickly enough.”

Tiffany Hsu of The New York Times reports on the continuing prevalence of COVID misinformation on social media.

What began in 2020 as rumors that cast doubt on the existence or seriousness of Covid quickly evolved into often outlandish claims about dangerous technology lurking in masks and the supposed miracle cures from unproven drugs, like ivermectin. Last year’s vaccine rollout fueled another wave of unfounded alarm. Now, in addition to all the claims still being bandied about, there are conspiracy theories about the long-term effects of the treatments, researchers say.

The ideas still thrive on social media platforms, and the constant barrage, now a yearslong accumulation, has made it increasingly difficult for accurate advice to break through, misinformation researchers say. That leaves people already suffering from pandemic fatigue to become further inured to Covid’s continuing dangers and susceptible to other harmful medical content.

ideas still thrive on social media platforms, and the constant barrage, now a yearslong accumulation, has made it increasingly difficult for accurate advice to break through, misinformation researchers say. That leaves people already suffering from pandemic fatigue to become further inured to Covid’s continuing dangers and susceptible to other harmful medical content.

“Learning loss could shave $70,000 off the lifetime earnings of children who were in school during the pandemic, according to a new study by a Stanford economist,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The sobering forecast is based on an analysis of the sharp declines in the scores of eighth-graders on national math tests taken between 2019 and 2022.”

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro won’t attend Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s inauguration as the country’s next president, and will instead spend New Year’s at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump.

Stefano Pazzebon and Tara John report for CNN that guns have been temporarily banned in Brazil’s capital city of Brasilla in advance of the inauguration of Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva this coming Sunday.

A Brazilian Supreme Court judge on Wednesday issued a four-day ban on carrying firearms in the capital as a precautionary measure ahead of the January 1 inauguration of President-elect Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva.

In his ruling that temporarily suspends the licenses of registered gun owners, Judge Alexandre de Moraes wrote that “terrorist groups financed by shameless magnates” have been committing crimes against the rule of law in recent weeks, which is why public safety had to be made secure via a temporary firearms ban.

[…] Lula da Silva’s team had requested a ban on firearms at the inauguration days after police arrested a man on suspicion of planting and possessing explosive devices at Brasilia International Airport.

The suspect, identified as 54-year-old gas station manager George Washington de Oliveira Sousa, is a supporter of incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and told the police in a statement, seen by CNN, that he intended to “create chaos” so as to prevent Lula da Silva from taking office again in January.

The firearms ban was to start on Wednesday at 6 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) and will run through the end of Sunday. It will not apply to active members of the armed forces, policemen and private security guards, Moraes wrote.

Alicia González of El Páis in English reports on some predictions and expectations for the global economy in 2023.

“Economists expect inflation to moderate in the next six months as the impacts of this year’s energy and food price shocks begin to fade. But more turbulence in energy markets cannot be ruled out, says Edoardo Campanella, an economist with UniCredit. “The global gas market is so stressed that it will be unable to accommodate any increase in European demand next year, assuming the expected recovery in Asian demand materializes,” he said. With no end in sight to the war in Ukraine, the coming months will bear heavily on energy prices next winter.

Just like it takes six to 18 months for an economy to feel monetary policy impacts, fiscal stimulus measures also have lagging effects. Rescue packages such as the €200 billion German fund to help ease the energy crisis and the bulk of the Next GenerationEU recovery funds have yet to trickle down into the economy. The US experience is similar. After the government sent stimulus checks to US households and expanded unemployment benefits, household savings soared from a $1 trillion pre-pandemic level to $4.7 trillion in the second quarter of 2022, according to Bloomberg.

Stefan Hofrichter, head of economics and strategy at Allianz, believes that other factors will feed high inflation, including the underlying rate – the rate of inflation that would be expected to eventually prevail in the absence of economic slack, supply shocks, idiosyncratic relative price changes, or other disturbances. Hofrichter notes factors like the expected wage increases in key countries; the fragmentation of the global economy, which makes supply chains more expensive and reduces supply in key products such as semiconductors; and the fight against climate change, which causes energy prices to spike during the transition to a more sustainable and efficient model. In this light, it seems almost certain that central banks will continue to tighten monetary policy throughout 2023.”

Jeannie Sue Gersen of The New Yorker reviews the year 2022 at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This was a year that was split into before and after—the dividing line being when the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. Following the shocking leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, on May 2nd, we fully entered the era of conservative dominance, with aggressive rulings on abortion, guns, and religion. Doubts about the Court’s legitimacy reached a fever pitch, and its unpopularity hit alarming lows. Soul-searching about the Court and the rule of law has rarely been as cynical or as fundamental.

Law professors asked one another, “What do we say to students now?,” with many questioning the distinction between law and politics, or even the Court’s final authority to interpret the Constitution—which the Court first claimed for itself about two hundred years ago. The Justices appeared to understand that they are presiding over a historic decline in public trust, as several of them have made public remarks insisting on the importance of the Court’s retaining its legitimacy. “Everybody in this country is free to disagree with our decisions,” Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the Dobbs majority opinion, said. But he warned that someone “crosses an important line when they say that the Court is acting in a way that is illegitimate.”

When the Court returned for its new term in the fall, the Justices dove into another set of blockbuster cases, on affirmative actionvoting rights, and religious liberty. But cracks have emerged in the commitment to originalism that conservatives wielded last term to tie the meaning of the Constitution to “history and traditions” from periods when women couldn’t vote and segregation was the law. Liberal Justices made us wonder whether we’re all supposed to be originalists now—or strategically pretend to be.

Take, for example, this term’s debates about the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In a case asking whether Alabama created enough majority-Black electoral districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act, and whether the use of race in districting violates the Fourteenth Amendment, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson refused to cede originalism to conservatives, instead describing it as “our normal assessment of the Constitution.” Professing to have “drilled down” and looked at “the history and traditions of the Constitution, at what the Framers thought about,” Jackson, in one of her first hearings as a Justice, lectured counsel extensively on how the original meaning of equal protection was not race-neutral, since “the Framers themselves adopted the equal-protection clause . . . in a race-conscious way.” (Jackson explained that “the entire point of the amendment was to secure rights of the freed former slaves”—which is clearly correct but likely to be ignored by conservative originalists.)

Similarly, at oral arguments in the cases on affirmative action in college admissions, Justice Elena Kagan asked, “What would a committed originalist think about the kind of race-consciousness that’s at issue here?”—knowing that a “committed originalist” would reject the view that her conservative colleagues will likely adopt this term, that racial classifications are wrong. The debate—or, perhaps, liberal judicial trolling—highlighted the Justices’ waxing and waning adherence to originalism, depending on whether it produces the desired result in a given case. That only confirmed the sense of a crisis of legitimacy.”

Meryl Kornfield and Camila DeChalus of The Washington Post report that the social media app TikTok is now banned on government-owned mobile devices.

“The barring of TikTok from government mobile devices — which will barely scratch the surface of TikTok’s global reach of more than 1 billion users — comes after the app was banned from official devices at the White House, in most branches of the military and in several federal agencies, including the Homeland Security and State departments.

But people who work for the government still can use TikTok on their personal devices — as the social media app widely popularized during the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped culturealtered how the digital world operates and birthed a new language. There are more than 100 million TikTok users in the United States, roughly a third of the country’s residents.

The political crackdown on TikTok arises from concerns that the app could be used by Beijing to spy on or influence Americans. Skepticism toward China pushed by Republicans has gained bipartisan traction after news about TikTok’s security practices. On Thursday, TikTok fired four employees after an internal investigation found that the workers had tracked two American journalists and their associates to see if they had been in contact with ByteDance employees.”

Paul Krugman of The New York Times wonders what was so special about Tesla in the first place.

“It’s natural to attribute Tesla’s recent decline — which is, to be sure, part of a general fall in tech stocks, but an exceptionally steep example — to Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and the reputational self-immolation that followed. Indeed, given what we’ve seen of Musk’s behavior, I wouldn’t trust him to feed my cat, let alone run a major corporation. Furthermore, Tesla sales have surely depended at least in part on the perception that Musk himself is a cool guy. Who, aside from MAGA types who probably wouldn’t have bought Teslas anyway, sees him that way now?

On the other hand, as someone who has spent much of his professional life in academia, I’m familiar with the phenomenon of people who are genuinely brilliant in some areas but utter fools in other domains. For all I know, Musk is or was a highly effective leader at Tesla and SpaceX.

Even if that’s the case, though, it’s hard to explain the huge valuation the market put on Tesla before the drop, or even its current value. After all, to be that valuable, Tesla would have to generate huge profits not just for a few years but in a way that could be expected to continue for many years to come.

Now, some technology companies have indeed been long-term moneymaking machines. Apple and Microsoft still top the list of the most profitable U.S. corporations some four decades after the rise of personal computers.”

Jason Schofield, the Republican elections commissioner in Rensselaer County, New York, “is scheduled to plead guilty to federal criminal charges in January in connection with an ongoing investigation of voter fraud by the U.S. Department of Justice,” the Albany Times Union reports.

“Schofield’s scheduled guilty plea to felony charges on Jan. 11 would mark the second conviction in the federal investigation that’s being spearheaded by the FBI and has focused on the harvesting of absentee ballots in elections over the past two years. A source close to the case said Schofield’s plea agreement includes a pledge to cooperate in the wide-ranging investigation that has also examined the use of county resources and employees to gather absentee ballots.”

Heather Long says America’s teacher shortage will last until pay rises.

“In October, nearly half of public schools were still struggling to fill at least one teacher vacancy, according to a recently released Education Department survey. But schools in high-poverty neighborhoods were significantly more likely to have unfilled positions. Similarly, school districts report having an especially hard time finding special education, computer science and foreign language teachers, and bus drivers and custodial staff.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, but many signs indicate it worsened during the pandemic. Teachers experienced extreme levels of burnout from Zoom classes and safety concerns during the early days of the pandemic. Then came the culture wars that put teachers and staff under constant scrutiny over any conversations involving history, racism and sexuality. Throw in the Great Resignation, a tight labor market and rapidly rising pay in other professions, and the net result has been some teachers and staff retiring early. Others have quit and gone to work in different professions. And some recent graduates have decided not to enter education at all.”

“Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, viewed by some Republicans as a rising star in the party, will face a major test early next year when he tries to get a 15-week abortion ban and $1 billion tax cut package through a divided legislature, where Democrats narrowly control the Senate,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Republicans were elated when Mr. Youngkin, a political newcomer, defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe last year to become Virginia’s first Republican elected governor since 2009. Party strategists praised him for keeping Donald Trump supporters energized without making the former Republican president the focal point of the race.”

“A year into his term, Mr. Youngkin is trying another balancing act: notching legislative victories that require at least some Democratic support while keeping conservatives on his side.”

“Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday dismissed his fourth minister in two months to patch a scandal-tainted Cabinet that has raised questions over his judgment of staff credentials,” the AP reports.

“Kenya Akiba, minister in charge of reconstruction of Fukushima and other disaster-hit areas, has faced allegations of mishandling political and election funds and of ties to the Unification Church, whose practices and huge donations have raised controversy.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) has finally admitted he was on vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands during the extreme winter storm that hit the city last week.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) staff gave her a flamethrower for Christmas.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) “reportedly asked a top Trump White House aide to inform then-chief of staff Mark Meadows of his desire to receive a presidential pardon that would have kept him from facing any criminal charges,” the Independent reports.

“A President Joe Biden-allied nonprofit group aiming to investigate House Republicans next Congress has been almost completely bankrolled by an influential Democratic-linked dark money organization,” the Washington Examiner reports.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) “has been moonlighting as a student at George Mason University in pursuit of a master’s degree in machine learning while balancing his duties as a congressman,” the Washington Post reports.

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

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