Monday, October 11, 2021

Last Call For Cruz Control, Con't

Part of the "Biden's incompetence!11!!" argument is the fact that the Biden administration has yet to fill hundreds of executive agency nominations that require Senate approval. But Republican senators like Rand Paul, Tom Cotton, and especially Ted Cruz have been blocking nominations for months over petty stupidity.

The U.S. Treasury is being held hostage by Republican Senator Ted Cruz's efforts to halt a Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline, blocking critical appointments when the federal debt limit remains a pressing issue, White House officials and Democrats in Congress say.

Only four confirmed nominees are in place in the top ranks of the Treasury, of about 20 slots for presidential picks, officials say. More than eight months after Democratic President Joe Biden took office, his nominees across the government are being approved at a slower rate than the past three presidents, federal data shows.

In addition to the toll that Cruz's actions are taking on the Treasury's ability to tackle the federal debt limit, they are hurting the Biden administration's ability to address other big problems, senior officials say, including a global minimum tax, terrorism and financial intelligence.

Cruz has wielded power by being a lone holdout on a fast-track confirmation process that requires consent by all 100 senators for non-controversial nominees - a description the White House says fits many of the Treasury picks as well as others awaiting Senate confirmation, including numerous ambassadors.

Cruz wants Biden to impose sanctions that would halt Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Biden, despite his opposition to the pipeline, has said he waived sanctions because the project was nearly complete and he wanted to rebuild strained ties with Germany, a key U.S. ally.

As far as Cruz is concerned, a spokesman for the senator said, the solution is simple: he will remove the holds if the Biden administration sanctions the company behind the pipeline project, something he insists is required under U.S. law.

Failure to do so "hands Vladimir Putin a geostrategic victory" and "entrenches corrupt Russian influence in Europe" Cruz said in a letter on Sept. 13, referring to the Russian president.
Suddenly, Ted Cruz cares about punishing Russia over a gas pipeline, but that's strictly because he thinks it would hurt US energy companies in Texas. Otherwise, Cruz is happy to give Putin a pass
But it also gives Cruz the excuse he needs to block Biden nominations in the Senate, and he's been blocking them for more than six months. 

In fact, multiple Republican senators are currently blocking Biden nominations.

But somehow, this is Joe Biden's fault.

Nobody Should Be Supplies By This

It's becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 broke the global "just in time" supply chain, and that things aren't going to be fixed anytime soon without, say, major infrastructure investments, and major pay hikes by logistics companies always looking to cut costs.

Like toy blocks hurled from the heavens, nearly 80,000 shipping containers are stacked in various configurations at the Port of Savannah — 50 percent more than usual.

The steel boxes are waiting for ships to carry them to their final destination, or for trucks to haul them to warehouses that are themselves stuffed to the rafters. Some 700 containers have been left at the port, on the banks of the Savannah River, by their owners for a month or more.

“They’re not coming to get their freight,” complained Griff Lynch, the executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority. “We’ve never had the yard as full as this.”

As he speaks, another vessel glides silently toward an open berth — the 1,207-foot-long Yang Ming Witness, its decks jammed with containers full of clothing, shoes, electronics and other stuff made in factories in Asia. Towering cranes soon pluck the thousands of boxes off the ship — more cargo that must be stashed somewhere.

“Certainly,” Mr. Lynch said, “the stress level has never been higher.”

It has come to this in the Great Supply Chain Disruption: They are running out of places to put things at one of the largest ports in the United States. As major ports contend with a staggering pileup of cargo, what once seemed like a temporary phenomenon — a traffic jam that would eventually dissipate — is increasingly viewed as a new reality that could require a substantial refashioning of the world’s shipping infrastructure.

As the Savannah port works through the backlog, Mr. Lynch has reluctantly forced ships to wait at sea for more than nine days. On a recent afternoon, more than 20 ships were stuck in the queue, anchored up to 17 miles off the coast in the Atlantic.

Such lines have become common around the globe, from the more than 50 ships marooned last week in the Pacific near Los Angeles to smaller numbers bobbing off terminals in the New York area, to hundreds waylaid off ports in China.

The turmoil in the shipping industry and the broader crisis in supply chains is showing no signs of relenting. It stands as a gnawing source of worry throughout the global economy, challenging once-hopeful assumptions of a vigorous return to growth as vaccines limit the spread of the pandemic.

The disruption helps explain why Germany’s industrial fortunes are sagging, why inflation has become a cause for concern among central bankers, and why American manufacturers are now waiting a record 92 days on average to assemble the parts and raw materials they need to make their goods, according to the Institute of Supply Management.

On the surface, the upheaval appears to be a series of intertwined product shortages. Because shipping containers are in short supply in China, factories that depend on Chinese-made parts and chemicals in the rest of the world have had to limit production.

But the situation at the port of Savannah attests to a more complicated and insidious series of overlapping problems. It is not merely that goods are scarce. It is that products are stuck in the wrong places, and separated from where they are supposed to be by stubborn and constantly shifting barriers.

The shortage of finished goods at retailers represents the flip side of the containers stacked on ships marooned at sea and massed on the riverbanks. The pileup in warehouses is itself a reflection of shortages of truck drivers needed to carry goods to their next destinations
Basically everything that could have gone wrong with supply chain management in the last 20 months has gone wrong: retirements of experienced ship captains and truckers, necessary pandemic regulations, all the slack ruthlessly burned out of the supply chains, overworked everybody, very real and very pressing climate change concerns, and rapidly increasing demand as global economies come out of hibernation.

All that is too much for the current system to handle, and it's broken, very possibly beyond repair.

The question now is what replaces it, and how much it's going to cost the globe.

Orange You Glad He's Back

After the weekend's rally in Des Moines, it's painfully clear that The Former Guy™ is now the Only Guy for the GOP, whether they want it or not.

Nine months ago, Republicans were questioning Donald Trump’s place as the lead fixture of their party. Saturday night provided the clearest evidence yet that they want him right there.

Not one year removed from surviving a second impeachment, the former president rallied before thousands of his most loyal supporters across the Iowa State Fairgrounds on a balmy Midwestern evening. He regaled them with his stories from the White House, his falsehoods and complaints about the 2020 election results, and his criticisms of the Biden administration on everything from immigration to the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The bulk of Trump’s speech was devoted to his baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen — a false belief that was supported by the crowd, who broke out into chants of “Trump won! Trump won! Trump won!”

But the notable elements were not what was said by Trump, but who was there with him. Appearing alongside the former president was a who’s who of influential Republicans in the Hawkeye state, including Sen. Chuck Grassley and Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson, former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker and Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann.

Trump has held rallies since leaving the White House. But never have elected Republicans of such tenure and stature appeared with him. And the presence of Grassley in particular signified that whatever qualms the GOP may have had with Trump are now faded memories; whatever questions they had about the direction of the party have been resolved.

Trump himself seemed to recognize as much, as he focused intently on relitigating the results of the 2020 elections even while admitting his own party members wished he would just move on.

“Sir, think to the future, don’t go back to the past,” Trump said some Republican members of Congress have advised him.

“I’m telling you the single biggest issue, as bad as the border is and it’s horrible, horrible what they’re doing they’re destroying our country, but as bad as that is the single biggest issue the issue that gets the most pull, the most respect, the biggest cheers is talking about the election fraud of the 2020 presidential election,” Trump said.

It was not that long ago when there was more uncertainty about Trump’s future within the party. Back in January, Grassley offered a stinging condemnation of Trump’s behavior in the aftermath of the 2020 election — the type of statement that, at its heart, suggested a desire to rid himself of the messiness.

“The reality is, he lost. He brought over 60 lawsuits and lost all but one of them. He was not able to challenge enough votes to overcome President Biden’s significant margins in key states,” Grassley said in a statement offered after voting against Trump’s second impeachment. “He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count.”

But Grassley is in a different place now. He recently announced, at age 88, that he is running for an eighth term. And with it, Trump has gone from nuisance to needed.

This week, Grassley and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee released a report that claimed Trump’s reported pressure on the Department of Justice to change election results was not just overblown but consistent with the commitments of the office of the president to uphold the Constitution. And on Saturday night, Trump brought Grassley on stage to offer his “complete and total endorsement for reelection.”

“If I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart,” Grassley said

Going forward, Republicans have to run with, towards, and cheering Donald Trump. Nothing has changed for the GOP heading into 2022. Trump's ego was always going to eventually mean he was going to take the spotlight and pick just about every eventual primary winner. They're all going to be loyal to Trump, they're all going to try to get away from "The election was stolen" but Trump won't let them, and neither will the majority of Republican primary voters.

And they may actually find a way to lose in 2022 because of it.

Everyone they run in the next 13 months is going to be Trump. Some of them will win House and Senate races.

But not all of them. The one thing that could sink their midterm hopes is happening as we speak. And Trump's going to remind everyone why he lost in 2020, along with a whole lot of GOP candidates. He won't be able to help himself. The networks and cable shows will cover every word of his racist rallies and people will suddenly have a very clear comparison to Biden.

W. Mondale Robinson spent a large chunk of last fall in clubs and bars and concert venues in Georgia, trying to convince disenchanted Black men that casting a ballot — in the 2020 general election, then the Georgia runoffs for the U.S. Senate — could finally mean real change in their communities.

But Robinson, founder of the Black Male Voter Project, thinks the case would be a lot harder to make now. He remembers the exact moment his optimism that President Biden would be different began to fade: when Democrats in May said they were willing to significantly weaken a policing reform bill to get Republican support.

More disappointments followed. Robinson was dismayed that Biden did not push for filibuster reform to enact a $15 minimum wage. He was upset that the president did not try to halt a raft of voting restrictions passed by Georgia’s GOP-led legislature.

“I think the frustration is at an all-time high, and Biden can’t go to Georgia or any other Black state in the South and say, ‘This is what we delivered in 2021,’ ” said Robinson, whose group believes it reached 1.2 million Black men in Georgia. “Black men are pissed off about the nothingness that has happened . . . Does it make the work harder? It makes the work damn near impossible.”

After an initial burst of support, Biden has seen his approval ratings fall significantly in recent months. A Washington Post average of polls since the start of September shows 44 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s job approval, while 49 percent disapprove.

And polls suggest support for Biden has sunk notably among key Democratic constituencies — Blacks, Latinos, women and young people. Pew Research Center polls found Biden’s approval rating among Black Americans fell from 85 percent in July to 67 percent in September, while also falling 16 points among Hispanics and 14 points among Asians.

Interviews with nearly 20 advocates, activists and politicians in the crucial state of Georgia — which Biden won narrowly, in large part due to support from Black voters, after decades of Republican dominance — give a sense of the sentiments behind those numbers. At the center are Black and other minority voters who helped fuel Biden’s victory, but who now see what they consider unfulfilled promises and dwindling hope for meaningful change.

In some sense, the “benefit of the doubt” portion of Biden’s presidency is over. While the president gained initial goodwill among many from simply not being Trump, especially when it came to the coronavirus, now those who supported him are demanding results, and his lack of a devoted base is starting to show.

“If midterms are about enthusiasm and turnout, who do you think is excited to vote on November 2 at this moment?” said Nsé Ufot, chief executive officer of the New Georgia Project, which has registered more than a half-million voters. “Because it ain’t Democrats. It ain’t Black folks. It ain’t young people.”
It's not 100% Biden's fault. He's getting stabbed in the back (and the front) daily by President Joe Manchin and Vice President Sinema. Biden's not the one blocking filibuster reform or removal. But the Republican plan for an overwhelming midterm win requires Donald Trump to not be in the news daily, either.
Don't get me wrong, the headwinds against Biden and the Dems are still overwhelming. It'll take a miracle to keep Congress.
Perversely, that miracle may just have shown up, is what I'm saying.


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