Cup of Joe – July 13, 2023

Inflation fell to 3% in June, its slowest pace in more than two years, the Wall Street Journal reports.  On a monthly basis, the consumer price index, which measures a broad swath of prices for goods and services, rose 0.2%.

“If core inflation came in just below 3%, the Federal Reserve would breathe a huge sigh of relief, stocks would head to the races and consumers could relax about the rising cost of living,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“It isn’t merely a dream: Measure U.S. price changes the way Europe does, and inflation was already there in May. Measure them as the U.S. does, and on Wednesday new figures are predicted by economists to show core inflation far higher, at 5% for June.”

“Florida is America’s inflation hotspot because of a persistent problem with sky-high housing costs,” CNN reports.

“The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area has the highest inflation rate of metro areas with more than 2.5 million residents, with a 9% inflation rate for the 12 months ended in April.”

“House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is facing his first major test since hardline GOP rebels ground the House floor to a halt last month in protest of his handling of the debt ceiling negotiations,” Axios  reports.

“Whether — and how — McCarthy successfully shepherds the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act through the House will dictate the next phase of his speakership.”

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s attempts to muscle must-pass Pentagon policy legislation through the House has reached a familiar, tough test: a band of conservatives on the House Rules Committee,” Politico reports.

“Republican leaders are trying to clear the $886 billion bill through the House this week, no small feat as they navigate a five-seat majority and a group of GOP hardliners who have already threatened McCarthy’s speakership. Conservatives want a slew of amendments in the legislation on hot-button policy issues ranging from abortion and LGBTQ troops to artificial intelligence and racial identity.”

“If any of those changes is included, it risks turning off Democrats who GOP leaders will almost certainly need to pass the National Defense Authorization Act.”

Politico: McCarthy summons GOP factions to counter threat of a new conservative rebellion.

Let me state up front that it’s hard to govern the House of Representatives with just a five seat majority.  It’s also hard to follow Nancy Pelosi, who was one of most effective speakers in U.S. history. But Kevin McCarthy is proving once again he’s not up to the job.

House Republicans are struggling mightily to try to pass the annual defense spending bill, which normally passes on a bipartisan basis each year.

Punchbowl News explains: “After 11 hours of internal GOP clashes over controversial amendments to the annual defense authorization package, the House Rules Committee late Tuesday night approved a bifurcated rule that will give Republicans more time to figure out how to handle a number of controversial amendments.

Basically, McCarthy and GOP leaders have stalled until they can figure out what kind of deals are possible with their own rank-and-file.

While this goes on, McCarthy is working furiously to prevent another House floor takeover by the far-right members of his caucus. But nothing captures the current state of the Republican-led House than the story of the missing “witness” in the House Oversight Committee’s effort to prove corruption in the Biden family. It turns out the GOP’s keystone witness is a fugitive from justice. He faces 100 years in prison if convicted.

“Ukrainian troops firing a British-supplied Storm Shadow missile have hit a Russian barracks in occupied territory, reportedly killing the most senior general yet to die in the conflict,” the Times of London reports.

“Russian social media accounts confirmed the death of Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov, which had been claimed by the Ukrainian authorities earlier in the day.”

“A Russian submarine commander shot to death while jogging on Monday may have been targeted by an assailant tracking him on a popular running app,” CNN reports.

Ivan Krastev: “The Kremlin’s response to the recent mutiny of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary boss, forces us to reconsider this picture. It was not Putin but the “collective Putin” (a mystical figure including, among others, Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus) that decided the outcome of the crisis. Putin the individual was irate and humiliated by Wagner’s betrayal and went on TV threatening ‘to be harsh.’ But the ‘collective Putin’ concluded that it would be wiser to negotiate with the rebels and find an exit strategy. We now know Putin met Prigozhin and other Wagner commanders on June 29. For someone obsessed with treason and betrayal, this was a bitter pill to swallow.”

“What has changed? Primarily, the relationship between Putin and the Russian elites. He now fears them no less than they fear him. He fears less their voice than their exit. Many of his closest collaborators blame him personally for the current state of affairs. It was Putin’s decision to instrumentalise the competition between Wagner and the defence ministry that ultimately led to Wagner’s march towards Moscow.”

During a House Rules Committee hearing, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) called on President Biden to pull the United States out of NATO, saying the alliance is “not a reliable partner.”

Nothing quite captures the current state of the GOP like the story of the “missing” witness in the House GOP’s effort to drum up a Biden scandal who turned out to be under federal indictment all along and on the lam.

“House Republicans on Tuesday said they still hope to call a man indicted on charges of arms trafficking and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Chinese entities as a witness in their investigations of President Biden and his son Hunter,” the Washington Post reports.

“Senior Republicans dismissed the importance of the charges against the fugitive defendant and instead accused the Justice Department, the FBI and other authorities of orchestrating a vast conspiracy on behalf of the first family, providing no documentation or other evidence to support their accusations.”

“Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), facing a barrage of criticism over a Monday night television interview in which he refused to say white nationalists are racists, relented Tuesday afternoon, acknowledging to reporters on Capitol Hill that they in fact are,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Tuberville: “White nationalists are racists.”

Politico: “Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), a first-term Republican and former college football coach, has earned a steady spot in Biden’s fundraising pitches, social media and official speeches. While it’s unusual for a junior senator to draw such ire, the reality this summer is Tuberville’s one-man notoriety show has become a Washington must-watch.”

“Tuberville is single-handedly blocking military promotions over the Pentagon’s policy to pay expenses for women in the military who must travel for abortion care. He’s leaving fellow senators agog at his remarks on white nationalism, which he at times refused to explicitly condemn. And then there’s his praise for federal infrastructure money — even though he voted against the bill that approved it.”

“It’s all drawing lots of attention from the president.”

Playbook: “Why target a lesser-known senator when Biden can choose from a whole host of big-name 2024 rivals like Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis? It underscores how Democrats think they can benefit politically from Tuberville’s unprecedented blockade, which has effectively frozen promotions for some 250 military officers.”

“Returning from a two-week recess, House Freedom Caucus members refused to say Tuesday whether they had kicked Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene out of the group of conservative hard-liners,” NBC News reports.

Politico: Greene says Freedom Caucus hasn’t told her whether she’s out.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) backed up Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) following news that she’s been voted out of the House Freedom Caucus, Axios reports.

Said McCarthy: “I think Marjorie Taylor Greene is one of the best members we have, I think she’s the one of the most conservative members and one of the strongest legislators. I support Marjorie Greene very strongly.”

He added: “I don’t know why they would do something like that from any perspective. I think it’s a loss for the Freedom Caucus.”

“Donald Trump was dealt a blow in writer E. Jean Carroll’s remaining case against him, as the US Justice Department said there isn’t enough evidence to conclude that he was acting within the scope of his employment as president in 2019 when he allegedly defamed her by claiming she had lied about an alleged sexual assault,” Bloomberg reports.

“The government revisited the issue after a District of Columbia appeals court clarified a key issue about the law and a federal jury in Manhattan found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll in a parallel lawsuit she filed against him last year.”

“Fulton County court officials selected two grand juries Tuesday, one of which is expected to decide whether to hand up an indictment against former President Donald Trump and other well-known political and legal figures for alleged criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“Lina Khan became chair of the Federal Trade Commission two years ago on a promise to bring bold action against the biggest tech companies,” the New York Times reports.

“For too long, Ms. Khan said at the time, the agency had been a weak cop and needed to challenge behemoths like Microsoft, Amazon, Meta and Google in the courts to stem their growing power. Even if the F.T.C. lost the cases, she later added, they would be a partial victory because the agency would signal that antitrust laws needed to be updated for the modern internet era.”

“But on Tuesday, Ms. Khan suffered the biggest blow yet to her hallmark agenda. A federal judge rejected the F.T.C.’s attempt to stop Microsoft’s $70 billion acquisition of the video game maker Activision Blizzard from closing, saying the agency failed to prove the deal would reduce competition and harm consumers.”

“Several lawyers who have had business before the supreme court, including one who successfully argued to end race-conscious admissions at universities, paid money to a top aide to Justice Clarence Thomas, according to the aide’s Venmo transactions,” The Guardian reports.

“The payments appear to have been made in connection to Thomas’s 2019 Christmas party.”

“Massachusetts lawmakers are weighing a near total ban on buying and selling of location data drawn from consumers’ mobile devices in the state, in what would be a first-in-the-nation effort to rein in a billion-dollar industry,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Location data is typically collected through mobile apps and other digital services and doesn’t include information such as a name or a phone number. But often, a device’s movement patterns are enough to derive a possible identity of its owner.”

ProPublica: “AdStyle ads are often displayed on a network of more than a dozen U.S. conservative outlets connected to a lawyer whose clients have included former President Donald Trump. Advertisers pay AdStyle to show their ads to web users, and the company splits the revenue with its publisher partners. Its ads are easy to spot because they carry the AdStyle logo.”

“The prevalence of scam ads on AdStyle and its many partnerships with right-wing sites around the world exemplify how conservative publishers, politicians and operatives profit from fleecing their fellow right-wingers — and how some players take the strategy global. Even the editorially conservative National Review has acknowledged ‘the right’s grifter problem.’”

“For thousands of years, Lake Okeechobee pumped life into Florida’s swampy interior. Summer rains swelled the shallow inland sea, creating seasonal overflows that sustained the Everglades and its alligators, panthers, spoonbills and snail kites,” the New York Times reports.

“But a vast re-engineering over the past century has transformed Okeechobee into something life-threatening as much as life-giving. Toxic algal blooms now regularly infest much of its 730-square-mile surface during the summer, producing fumes and waterborne poisons potent enough to kill pets that splash in the contaminated waters, or send their owners to the doctor from inhaling the toxins.”

Wall Street Journal: “Travel analysts and advisers say traffic to Disney’s U.S. parks, and some rival parks, has slowed this summer. Data from a travel company that tracks line-waiting time at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., shows that the Independence Day weekend was one of the slowest in nearly a decade.”

“Disney faces a unique set of challenges right now, from streaming losses to executive succession to a political and legal fight with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Revenue from its parks division has long been a bright spot for the company, buoying overall earnings.”

“Some of the nation’s largest tax-prep companies have spent years sharing Americans’ sensitive financial data with tech titans including Meta and Google in a potential violation of federal law — data that in some cases was misused for targeted advertising,” CNN reports.

“Delays at naval shipyards mean that nearly 40% of US attack submarines are out of commission for repairs, about double the rate the Navy would like,” Bloomberg reports. “As of this year, 18 of the US Navy’s 49 attack submarines — 37% — were out of commission… That leaves the US at a critical disadvantage against China’s numerically superior fleet.”

Montana Senate President Jason Ellsworth (R) is under orders not to contact or come near a resident after she filed a petition for an order of temporary protection against him, accusing the Republican lawmaker of physically abusing her during their six-year relationship, the Montana Free Press reports.

“A man accused of kicking a fellow Republican in the groin at a Michigan GOP state committee meeting Saturday has been suspended by his congressional district committee while an investigation is conducted into the incident,” the Detroit News reports.

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

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