Cup of Joe – June 20, 2023

President Biden will be in the San Francisco Bay area Monday through Wednesday.

The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on the nomination of Julie Rikelman to the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee holds a closed hearing to receive testimony from John Durham, who was the special counsel appointed to investigate the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. Durham will then appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers an address to a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday and is hosted at a White House state dinner that evening.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce opinions on Thursday.

Over the weekend we saw several former high level officials in Donald Trump’s administration speak out against their former boss and his handling of classified documents.

“John Bolton, who served as national security adviser to Donald Trump, said he’s “pretty confident” that allegations his former boss mishandled classified documents are true because he’s witnessed it firsthand,” the HuffPost reports. Said Bolton: “I think he was kind of a collector of things that he thought were of interest to him for some reason or another ― clippings, mementos, classified documents. And it was very disturbing.”

William Barr, who served as attorney general under President Donald Trump, excoriated his former boss on Sunday for “reckless conduct” that led to Mr. Trump’s indictment on charges of mishandling classified documents, saying that the case was “entirely of his own making,” the New York Times reports. Said Barr: “He’s like a defiant 9-year-old kid who is always pushing the glass towards the edge of the table, defying his parents from stopping him from doing it.” He added that “our country can’t be a therapy session for a troubled man like this.”

“Donald Trump’s former secretary of defense, Mark Esper, thinks that the ex-president should not be in charge of the country’s most closely-held information, considering he was storing classified documents at his resort,” Rolling Stone reports. Said Esper: “It’s just irresponsible action that places our service members at risk, places our nation’s security at risk. You cannot have these documents floating around. They need to be secured. We know how that happens, that only authorized persons are allowed to see documents or receive information from documents.”

And that’s just from interviews conducted yesterday.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly told friends that Trump was “of limited cognitive ability and of generally dubious character.”

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump’s ability to understand global events was “really limited.”

Former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump “compromised out principles” for “personal gain.”

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly told friends that Trump “is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life… The depths of his dishonesty is just astounding.”

I suspect Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley will have similar thoughts to add once he retires later this month. These are the highest ranking officials in Trump’s administration. They worked with him every day. And they are unanimous in their belief that Trump poses an existential threat to American interests. If they truly wanted to serve the country’s interests, they would get together — in one forum — to warn the country.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Beijing Sunday after his original visit in February was postponed. Blinken’s visit to China is the first for a US secretary of state since 2018. 

The nearly eight-hour talks between Blinken and Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, concluded Sunday with both sides signaling the meeting was constructive. The talks come amid continued disagreements over Ukraine and Taiwan, US sanctions of Chinese semiconductors, and an uptick in US military presence in Asia (see overview). The country’s leaders agreed to stabilize ties in November, but tensions renewed after the US discovered a Chinese spy balloon over its territory in February.

China faces an economic slowdown and increasing youth unemployment, announcing stimulus plans and cuts to interest rates this past week. See a timeline of US-China relations here.

“Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday, capping a string of discussions aimed at lowering tensions between the two superpowers while leaving unresolved their most bitterly contested issues,” the Washington Post reports.

“Still, the 35-minute-long meeting was the culmination of more than 10 collective hours of meetings Blinken held with Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and may at least stop the downward spiral in bilateral relations.”

Bloomberg: China and U.S. hit pause — for now — on tensions.

“As President Vladimir Putin of Russia has pursued enemies abroad, his intelligence operatives now appear prepared to cross a line that they previously avoided: trying to kill a valuable informant for the U.S. government on American soil,” the New York Times reports.

“The clandestine operation, seeking to eliminate a C.I.A. informant in Miami who had been a high-ranking Russian intelligence official more than a decade earlier, represented a brazen expansion of Mr. Putin’s campaign of targeted assassinations. It also signaled a dangerous low point even between intelligence services that have long had a strained history.”

“Abortion rights advocates and opponents are set to mark this week’s one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had legalized the procedure nationwide with events to rally voters and highlight the ongoing fights over access,” Reuters reports.

“The ruling, whose anniversary comes this Saturday, had a swift impact by freeing states to ban abortion. Republican-controlled legislatures in numerous states passed restrictive legislation, with near-total abortion bans now in place in 14 states even as opinion polls show that a majority of Americans want abortion legal in all or most cases.”

61% of Americans say overturning Roe v. Wade was a “bad thing,” while 38% said it was a “good thing.” 47% say abortion should be legal in all (34%) or most (13%) circumstances, while 49%, want it legal in only a few (36%) or illegal in all (13%) circumstances. (Gallup)

Most Americans knew that the end of Roe would be ugly. What they didn’t know was how far Republicans were willing to go to punish anyone who tried to fight back. 

A new internal report has revealed that the FBI opened nearly 10 times as many investigations into cases of abortion-related domestic terrorism in 2022 after the Dobbs decision as it had in 2021. The report does not provide a breakdown of how many of the incidents were from abortion-rights supporters and how many were anti-abortion, but over the past few years, Congressional Republicans—like smooth-brained Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)—have increasingly called for the FBI to investigate what they call “pro-abortion terrorism.” 

Rubio wrote in an opinion piece last June that “Pro-abortion terrorism is sweeping our nation,” and particularly targeted the small activist group Jane’s Revenge, which firebombed an anti-abortion pregnancy center in June 2021, but Rubio himself admitted that the other incidents of so-called “terrorism” he describes has not killed or seriously injured anyone. Kowtowing to Republican pressures (as they always do) Facebook later designated Jane’s Revenge as a terrorist organization in June 2022. 

But Rubio is not alone in this scheme to even further suppress pro-choice activism. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) also urged the FBI to “identify and investigate cases of abortion-related violence across our country,” in a June 27, 2022, letter he wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray. This time last year, Rubio and Grassley were senior members on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee, respectively, both of which oversee the FBI. Their complaints, although largely unfounded, were nevertheless taken very seriously by federal law enforcement. During that same period in which investigations into pro-choice activists skyrocketed, the FBI investigations into “racially or motivated extremists” and “anti government / anti-authority” groups declined precipitously. You know, the right-wing demographics who do actually kill and seriously injure people? Isn’t that interesting! I’m sure Chuck Grassley and Marco Rubio were appalled that investigations into their dear friends dropped.

Thousands of communities on the popular social message board site Reddit remain inaccessible to the general public as a protest over the company’s plan to charge for third-party integrations enters its second week. The standoff comes ahead of Reddit’s highly anticipated initial public offering, expected sometime this year.

Reddit is the world’s 20th largest website by traffic (see list), boasting an estimated 57 million daily users, with its content almost entirely generated by users of the platform and overseen by volunteer moderators. The site boasts around 140,000 active user-created “subreddits”—though only about 0.5% have more than 1 million subscribers.  

The company recently announced it would begin charging third party apps to interface with the site, which critics say will end ways to customize the platform without introducing fees. Some analysts have said the protest reveals an overreliance by Reddit on user-generated content and oversight, though the ultimate impact of the protest remains to be seen. 

Three of Reddit’s largest communities have reverted to posting mostly photos of talk show host John Oliver.

At least 37 students were killed and many others injured after an Islamic State-affiliated extremist group attacked a boarding school in western Uganda over the weekend. Four nonstudents were also killed, and six more pupils were abducted as the assailants fled across the nearby border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Officials said students were killed with machetes, while others died after the dormitories they took refuge in were set on fire. 

A group known as the Allied Democratic Forces claimed responsibility for the attack, which follows a church bombing by the rebel group in January that killed 17 people. The ADF was formed more than three decades ago with the ostensible purpose of overthrowing the Ugandan government. Despite believing to number in the few thousands, the group has persisted throughout the years by hiding in the mountainous border region, abducting children as recruits, and establishing links with other regional terrorist groups. 

Majority rule in the United States isn’t just about elected Republicans imposing wildly unpopular policies on the majority of Americans. It’s also about the handful of consultants and lobbyists who lead Republicans to those decisions. A small group of right-wing medical professionals called the American College of Pediatricians has gained enormous political influence over the past few years despite its research and conclusions being widely uncorroborated and even discredited by the medical establishment. Leaked meeting minutes from inside the organization describe how it has worked with religious groups to “affect the idea makers through the high courts, professional literature, and legislatures.” The group promotes conversion therapy, banning health care for transgender minors, and severe abortion restrictions. 

The American College of Pediatricians sounds pretty legitimate, doesn’t it? It’s intended to. The group wants to project itself as on-par with the actually legitimate 67,000-members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 95 percent of whom are physicians who disavow the former group’s “medical” conclusions. The right-wing ACP is, by contrast, composed of 700 members nationwide, and only 60 percent of those members attest to having medical degrees. The Southern Policy Law Center designated the American College of Pediatricians a hate group in 2012 for its anti-LGBT positions. It’s also the group behind the lawsuit seeking to ban the abortion drug mifepristone based on unfounded studies, and has become a key part of the right-wing disinformation machine generally, using scientific jargon and an official-sounding name to convey authority on medical issues where little, if any, exists. 

The union representing 340,000 UPS workers voted overwhelmingly (97 percent!) to authorize a strike on Friday if the company will not come to the table in contract negotiations to increase worker pay (in light of booming profits and productivity), improve driver safety, and end excessive hours. 

In the latest iteration of a truly draconian stunt, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) announced on Wednesday that he’d sent a busload of 42 migrants—including eight children—to Los Angeles on a 23-hour ride with no food, and baselessly blamed it on “President Biden’s refusal to secure the border.” The migrants originated from Central America, South America, and Africa. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement shortly after their arrival, saying, “It is abhorrent that an American elected official is using human beings as pawns in his cheap political games.” She added that she had been instructing departments to prepare for this kind of “despicable stunt that Republican governors have grown so fond of,” since she took office. The city’s Emergency Operations Center was activated on Wednesday to assist in coordinating local and state partners as well as community organizations. Los Angeles officials reported that among the migrants subjected to the day-long bus trip were babies, toddlers, and school-aged children. Greg Abbott: the heartless little bitch we always knew he was.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced during a cabinet meeting on Sunday that this week he will unilaterally resume the legislation process of the government’s controversial plan to weaken the Supreme Court and other democratic institutions,” Axios reports.

“Resuming the legislation process without an agreement with the opposition on the judicial overhaul is expected to give new momentum to the anti-government protests and reignite internal political tensions. It will also likely increase tensions between the Biden administration and Netanyahu’s far-right government.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was filmed disparaging colleagues in Parliament who have advocated for trans rights, Pink News reports.

Said Sunak: “You might have noticed Ed Davey has been very busy. Like me, you can probably see that he was trying to convince everybody that women clearly had penises.”

The group erupted into laughter, leading Sunak to add: “You’ll all know that I’m a big fan of everybody studying maths to 18, but it turns out that we need to focus on biology.”

FDA advisers unanimously recommend that the COVID-19 vaccine be updated to target emerging subvariants of omicron, as well as drop the original coronavirus strain from the formulation. The panel recommended that drugmakers abandon the bivalent design and instead use a “monovalent” vaccine that only targets omicron subvariants. The FDA is expected to make a final decision on which COVID-19 strain to target soon. (NPR / NBC News)

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

0 comments on “Cup of Joe – June 20, 2023

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: