Cup of Joe – March 28, 2023

President Biden will be in North Carolina, a 2024 swing state, on Tuesday to tout his innovation agenda and job creation successes at Durham semiconductor manufacturer Wolfspeed. Vice President Harris and Doug Emhoff are in Africa all week, traveling to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia. The First Lady addressed the National League of Cities 2023 Congressional City Conference on Monday.

The State Department Summit for Democracy, featuring the President, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, and the leaders of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea, Zambia, and others, takes place virtually Tuesday through Thursday.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and other top officials will testify before Senate committees on the Biden Administration’s FY 2024 budget requests. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will appear at similar hearings on the House side.

Also Tuesday, the House Administration Committee holds a hearing on “Government Voter Suppression in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania” — something that Luzerne County officials say did not happen.

The Manhattan grand jury in the Stormy Daniels hush-money case resumed work on Monday.

Announced presidential candidates will be spread out across several early voting states, with Nikki Haley in New Hampshire, Vivek Ramaswamy in Iowa, and Marianne Williamson in South Carolina. Mike Pence addresses the National Review Institute 2023 Ideas Summit on Friday.

New York Times: “Asia and the Pacific are steering into an anxious, well-armed moment with echoes of old conflicts and immediate risks. Rattled by China’s military buildup and territorial threats — along with Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and doubts about U.S. resolve — nations across the region are bolstering defense budgets, joint training, weapons manufacturing and combat-ready infrastructure.”

“For decades, Asia’s rise made it an economic engine for the world, tying China and other regional manufacturing hubs to Europe and America. The focus was trade. Now, fear is setting in, with China and the United States locked in a volatile strategic contest and with diplomatic relations at their worst point in 50 years.”

“The postponement of a state visit to France by King Charles III had become almost inevitable: The optics of President Emmanuel Macron dining with the British monarch at the Château de Versailles as Paris burned were not just bad, they would have looked like a brazen provocation to the blue-collar workers leading a wave of demonstrations and strikes across the country,” the New York Times reports.

“Those huge protests have shifted in character over the past week. They have become angrier and, in some cities, more violent — especially after nightfall. They have been less about the fury felt over the raising of the retirement age to 64 from 62, and more about Mr. Macron and the way he rammed the law through Parliament without a full vote.”

“Finally, they have broadened into something approaching a constitutional crisis.”

Politico: After Macron, le déluge.

Michele Barbaro in Foreign Policy magazine says that French President Emmanuel Macron may get his controversial overhaul of the French pension system but has lost France in the process.

“Gone are the days when Macron sought to appease the yellow vests by backtracking on the fuel price hike that sparked their revolt and launching a “grand national debate” with civil society. “He is a far cry from his talk, typical of his first term, about a more horizontal, consensual decision-making,” Rouban said. “What we are seeing now is unilateral action.” (French presidents are limited to a maximum of two five-year terms, so Macron’s legacy is in the balance.) […]

Beyond Macron’s political woes, there are fears that recent events will further alienate France from the democratic process—and it was already distrustful. In 2021, only around 30 percent of the French said they had confidence in the government, more than 10 points lower than the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development average. Now, 7 out of 10 people say the way the pension reform was approved was undemocratic, and the same percentage feel “anger” about it.

This kind of situation “can produce a rejection of the political class as a whole, which translates into abstentionism as well as an attraction to the extremes, particularly the extreme right,” said Michel Wieviorka, director of research at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris. According to polls, Le Pen is the public figure that best embodies the opposition to Macron’s pension reform, closely followed by radical left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon. More than 60 percent of respondents believe Le Pen is emerging from this crisis stronger than before.”

Kuper traces the history of France’s Fifth Republic from its foundations in the Algerian crisis to the 1962 referendum that allowed for the direct election of the French President, to the apparent disliking that many French people have for the technocratic class ( “a sort of French-Confucian rule by the cleverest boys in the class“) to the anemic popularity of the last three presidents (Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and Macron) to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s 2022 campaign promise of a “Sixth Republic” and, finally, to a tantalizing e-mail sent out by Macron’s own Renaissance Party that asked “…on which subject(s) do you think it would be useful to organise a citizen’s convention?”

Interesting and provocative read. Although the decentralization of French politics from Paris to allow for more local control has its drawbacks, as well.

Johannes Moehrle of The Article is also worried about what happens after Macron finishes his presidential term.

In his second term, Macron does not need to worry about reelection prospects, yet the country needs to worry about what comes after him. Although Macron’s term still runs until 2027, this pension reform may be his last significant domestic policy, as both his position in the assembly and his popularity on the streets will not give him much room for further legislation. For most of the French, Macron has now fully become the out-of-touch Jupiterian ruler they had always suspected him to be. It is likely that even if he attempts to unite the French people, as he initially set out to do, all efforts will be in vain.

In 2017, Macron eclipsed the traditional parties that had dominated the French political system, when he founded his En Marche movement and won the election. With the Socialists and Républicains left in tatters, Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and Mélanchon’s Corbynist France Unbowed have experienced a steady rise in popularity. Both in 2017 and 2022, Macron has been the only one able to defeat Le Pen and prevent the National Rally from ruling the country. With Macron as President, the Socialist centre-Left and Républicain centre-Right have not come up with anyone able to rival the far-Right or far-Left. Macron’s party is most likely to wither away as he departs from the Élysée. So: what, or who, is going to prevent the 2027 election turning into a battle of the extremes?”

According to the nonprofit American Library Association, Republicans attempted a record 1,269 library-book bans and restrictions in 2022. Another record, 2,571 individual book titles were targeted for censorship in 2022, up from 1,858 in 2021. Attempts to ban materials were directed at school or classroom libraries and public libraries alike. In an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stressed the Biden administration’s opposition to book bans as Florida becomes ground zero for censorship and counterfactual curriculum. 

Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed legislation requiring Florida schools to seek community input on the materials available to children in their libraries. In many ways, Florida has become a sort of sanctuary state for right-wing parents and reactionaries who believe that they, not scholars or education experts, know best when it comes to curriculum in every subject, don’t want their children to learn the truth about the world, and take a particularly censorious view of education. Last summer, the DeSantis administration led an overhaul of the state’s civics curriculum, stressing American exceptionalism, “patriotism,” and downplaying the shameful history of the Founding Fathers’ own role as slave owners and slavery supporters. 

Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Trump has kept a normal schedule at his Mar-a-Lago resort. He dined Thursday night with friend and actor Jon Voight. In conversations with advisers last week, he has talked about his polling advantage over Mr. DeSantis, and has been exploring new avenues to attack the governor.”

“His legal operation stands in contrast to his campaign, which so far has lacked the internal disorganization and drama of the past, and is led by two veteran operatives, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita.”

A former Trump organization executive said she thinks Donald Trump isn’t living in fear of being imprisoned and might actually be “enjoying” his many legal battles, Insider reports.

Said Barbara Res: “He’s feeling pressure but not the kind of pressure that a normal person would feel. I don’t think he’s fearing jail or anything like that.”

“A group of more than 175 former federal prosecutors released an open letter denouncing Donald Trump’s incendiary attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who’s investigating the former president for hush-money payments to a porn star,” Bloomberg reports.

Tim Naftali: “If a grand jury does indict Donald Trump, it will finally confirm, as the Founders expected, that ordinary citizens have the power to treat former commanders in chief like anyone else.0

New York Times: “It was the commission of a lifetime for this artist, who grew up poor in El Salvador with no formal training: Paint a portrait of the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump.”

“His personal mission? Make it larger than life, to show a great man, doing great things, with God on his side. Now, Democrats want to know where the eight-foot portrait of the former president disappeared to, but that is anybody’s guess.”

“Nearly three years after the painting was delivered to Mr. Trump, the artist says he is honored that the artwork is one of several gifts given to the former president and his family during his presidency that are unaccounted for.”

Former employees say an “exiled Chinese tycoon indicted in New York earlier this month in a billion-dollar fraud case controls the conservative social media platform Gettr and used it to promote cryptocurrencies and propaganda,“ the Washington Post reports.

“They said the arrested expatriate, Guo Wengui, and his longtime money manager, William Je, called the shots at the company while Donald Trump senior adviser Jason Miller was its chief executive and public face.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) took to TikTok to defend TikTok against a wave of bipartisan scrutiny on Capitol Hill.  Said Ocasio-Cortez: “To me, the solution here is not to ban an individual company, but to actually protect Americans from this kind of egregious data harvesting that companies can do without your significant ability to say no.”

The four most downloaded apps over the past month are owned by Chinese companies, Axios reports.

Helen Lewis: “DeSantis is a politician who preaches freedom while suspending elected officials who offend him, banning classroom discussions he doesn’t like, carrying out hostile takeovers of state universities, and obstructing the release of public records whenever he can.”

“And somehow Florida, a state that bills itself as the home of the ornery and the resistant, the obstinate and the can’t-be-trodden-on, the libertarian and the government-skeptic, has fallen for the most keenly authoritarian governor in the United States.”

 “A specter is haunting Austria—the prospect of a government led by Herbert Kickl, boss of the far-right Freedom Party (fpö),” The Economist reports.

“According to a poll on March 11th for Profil, a weekly, the fpö is now comfortably the strongest party in the Alpine republic, with 31% of the vote, followed by the Socialists (spö) at 25% and the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (övp) with 22%.“

 “Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has dispensed lately with the usual platitudes of U.S.-Mexico diplomacy,” the Washington Post reports.

“He called a State Department human rights report ‘trash’ and its authors ‘liars.’ He has insisted that his country’s drug cartels do not produce deadly fentanyl, attributing the U.S. opioid epidemic to a lack of hugs from American parents. López Obrador even appeared to hint last week that the Biden administration may have been behind last year’s bombing of the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea.”

“The Mexican leader’s barbs have left the Biden administration in an awkward place. U.S. lawmakers are clamoring for more pressure on López Obrador over trade disputes, drug trafficking and democratic backsliding. But the Biden administration has made López Obrador a bulwark of its strategy to curb illegal border crossings, depending on him to take back tens of thousands of migrants every month from nations that don’t accept U.S. deportees.”

 “The head of Israel’s largest trade union group says it is launching a general strike in protest over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul the judiciary,” the AP reports.

“The decision on Monday by the Histadrut, which represents more than 700,000 works in numerous sectors, from banks to transportation to health workers, could paralyze large parts of Israel’s economy.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has branded Donald Trump’s dinner with anti-Semitic rapper Kanye West and white supremacist Nick Fuentes as “horrible” in a stinging new attack on the former president, the New York Post reports.

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

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