Why Obama’s former ethics czar is highly critical of Hunter Biden’s lucrative art sales

“The recommendation I’ve been pushing all along is you should be promising that if you happen to learn who one of the buyers is, you’re gonna immediately tell the public, “We learned this.” And then if that buyer gets a meeting with any political appointee in the government, or any community — email, telephone, letter, in-person meeting, Zoom meeting, teleconference — that they will notify the public every time that buyer has an interaction with a political appointee in this administration.

Now they may feel that’s ridiculous, because they don’t feel that anybody is gonna get preferential treatment. And it certainly seems like the president’s supporters on Twitter think that. The problem is that that is absolutely the opposite of government ethics. Government ethics isn’t, “Let’s assume everybody is good and will never do anything wrong and trust blindly that they will never do anything wrong with no mechanisms or safeguards to check on that.”

And frankly, half the country — nearly half the country — voted against this guy, and if [Biden] wants to be the president of the entire country — unlike the last president, who seemed to only want to be the president of his supporters — then he owes it to those people who don’t necessarily trust him that he’s gonna be transparent and they can gauge for themselves whether these people are gaining access to government.”

Be Real. Afghanistan Victory Would Have Taken Two Centuries. VIDEO SOURCES

Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars Ellen Knickmeyer. 8 14 2021. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-business-afghanistan-43d8f53b35e80ec18c130cd683e1a38f Exploring the Cost of the War in Afghanistan Neal Freyman. 8 15 2021. Morning Brew. https://www.morningbrew.com/daily/stories/2021/08/16/exploring-cost-war-afghanistan Vietnam War U.S. Military Fatal Casualty Statistics National Archives.

Biden will allow Venezuelans who fled the Maduro regime to live and work in the US

“The US will offer temporary legal protection to an estimated 320,000 Venezuelans who came to the US after fleeing the brutal dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro, fulfilling one of President Joe Biden’s campaign promises.

A senior Biden administration official said Monday that Venezuelans currently residing in the US will be able to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is typically conferred on citizens of countries suffering from natural disasters, armed conflict, or other extraordinary circumstances.

For an 18-month period, it will allow Venezuelans who pass security and background checks to continue to live in the US free of fear of deportation, and to obtain work permits. Those who arrive after March 8, however, will not be eligible.”

“Former President Donald Trump previously offered Venezuelans in the US the opportunity to apply for another kind of humanitarian protection called “Deferred Enforced Departure,” shielding them from deportation and allowing them to apply for work permits for a period of 18 months starting in January. Biden’s decision to also extend TPS status to Venezuelans gives them another way to seek protection.”

Biden’s new climate orders to reshape U.S. energy policy

“In a sharp contrast to the Trump administration’s focus on increasing fossil fuel production, Biden’s orders will press pause on auctions of federal lands and waters to oil and gas companies, expand conservation protections for large swathes of federal land, create a new civilian conservation corps and promise to deliver economic help to coal-producing regions suffering from the industry’s decline.

Biden will still need Congress to accomplish his target of spending $2 trillion on climate change to help reach the goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2035 and across the economy by 2050. But the orders to be issued Wednesday show Biden taking aggressive steps to launch a government-wide effort toward tackling climate change.”

“Last week, on his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order calling for reconsidering methane emission rules from new oil and gas sources, reversing Trump rules that rolled back vehicles’ tailpipe carbon dioxide limits, and canceling a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, the subject of pitched political battles for a decade.
Wednesday’s orders fill in many of the details left out of last week’s orders, including setting the date that Biden will convene a promised climate change summit with world leaders for April 22, Earth Day.

The new orders will also address “environmental justice” issues, such as by establishing new commissions to address the concerns of so-called fenceline communities that are disproportionately people of color or low-income families that live near pollution sources. Biden is also directing agencies to weigh the climate change effects of all their decisions, a move that could affect procurement strategies for government vehicle fleets or electricity production.”

“The order that has generated the sharpest opposition from oil companies is one that promises to re-write the relationship between the industry and public lands. The Biden administration will order an open-ended freeze on offering public land for oil and gas drilling and coal mining, pending reviews of whether such leases were in the public interest. Under that review, the administration is expected to consider whether to add language to new government lease agreements to tighten standards on greenhouse gas emissions and increase the royalties that companies must pay for minerals they produce on public land.”

“Wednesday’s move will not affect production currently underway or the oil and gas leases and permits that companies had stockpiled under Trump administration in expectation of new restrictions. That means oil and gas production on federal land, which contributes about one-fifth of overall U.S. production, will not stop immediately, with activity likely to continue for at least another year, energy analysts have said.”

“a pause on new activity could come back to take major bite out of some state budgets, especially those with an out-sized dependence on oil production for revenue, such as New Mexico, which gets more than 10 percent of it revenue from the activity.

New Mexico Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Rob Black said the moratorium would simply lead companies to shift their operations to neighboring Texas, a state with little federal property and a state oil industry regulator who has called concerns about greenhouse gas emissions “misplaced.”

“It won’t further our shared goals on carbon emissions,” Black said during a call with reporters. “It would just cause production to move a few miles down the road to private oil and gas leases [in Texas] or will incentivize it to go overseas to Saudi Arabia and Russia.””

McConnell is already sabotaging Biden’s presidency

“Twelve of President Ronald Reagan’s nominees were confirmed in his first two days in office, as were 13 of President Bill Clinton’s nominees, seven of President George W. Bush’s, and nine of President Barack Obama’s. President Donald Trump’s cabinet was confirmed more slowly, but the Senate still respected the tradition of holding confirmation hearings prior to Trump’s inauguration.
But so far, no hearings have been held on President-elect Joe Biden’s nominees — meaning Biden could face a serious delay in getting his administration ready to begin governing.

The Senate, which will still be led by Mitch McConnell for a little over a week, is currently out of session and will remain out of session until January 19, the day before President-elect Joe Biden takes office (technically, the Senate will hold brief “pro forma” sessions on the 12th and the 15th, but no business is conducted at these sessions).

As CNN’s Kylie Atwood notes, this is the first time in at least 10 presidential transitions where the incoming president’s nominee to be secretary of state won’t even have a confirmation hearing before that president’s Inauguration Day. And it’s unclear whether any hearings will be held before the Senate is scheduled to reconvene on January 19.”

4 looming foreign policy crises that could derail Biden’s agenda early on

“President-elect Joe Biden may want his administration to focus on long-term issues like the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, rebuilding alliances, and America’s relationship with China, but some key near-term foreign policy problems will likely require his attention first.

After the assassination of its top nuclear scientist by an unknown attacker, Iran might be less willing to engage in diplomacy with America and instead seek revenge by targeting US officials. North Korea could test an intercontinental ballistic missile early in Biden’s term to try to gauge the new administration’s response. The last remaining nuclear arms control deal between the US and Russia is set to expire just over two weeks after Biden takes office. And the reduced number of American troops in Afghanistan could derail sputtering peace talks and worsen the country’s security situation.

Such a dilemma wouldn’t be unique to Biden. Every new president comes in with ideas on how to handle larger global problems, only to have the colloquial “tyranny of the inbox” monopolize their time. “If you assume that foreign policy is less than half, and maybe a quarter, of the president’s time, then that really shines a light on how serious this inbox problem is,” said Christopher Preble, co-director of the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council think tank.

Once he’s in the Oval Office, then, Biden will likely find his hopes of tackling grander foreign policy challenges dashed by the effort he’ll have to expend cleaning up more immediate messes.”

How fake news aimed at Latinos thrives on social media

“Democrats are increasingly worried about the influence of misinformation on social media aimed at Latino voters in the runup to the election. The misleading narratives continue to spread on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as well as in closed chat groups like WhatsApp and Telegram, in addition to the more traditional platforms like television, radio, and talking points coming directly from elected officials.

Several misinformation researchers told Recode that they’re seeing alarming amounts of misinformation about voter fraud and Democratic leaders being shared in Latino social media communities. Biden is a popular target, with misinformation ranging from exaggerated claims that he embraces Fidel Castro-style socialism to more patently false and outlandish ones, for instance that the president-elect supports abortion minutes before a child’s birth or that he orchestrated a caravan of Cuban immigrants to infiltrate the US Southern border and disrupt the election process.

“What I’ve seen during this election looks to be a multifaceted misinformation effort seeking to undermine Biden and Harris’s support amongst the Latino community,” said Sam Woolley, a misinformation and propaganda researcher at the University of Texas Austin. “I think that political groups understand that the Latino vote matters and they are showing they are willing to use any and all informational tactics to get what they want.””

“Some of the misleading messages — like that Biden is a radical socialist — aren’t uniquely aimed at the Latino community; Trump often made this claim during his campaign. But these comparisons take on a new intensity with some immigrants from countries like Cuba or Venezuela who have lived under socialist governments and may be deeply opposed to them.”

The debate over Joe Biden canceling student debt, explained

““No matter how it’s designed, student-debt forgiveness is very poorly targeted,” Bloomberg’s editorial board warned in November. “Even if relief could be better focused on the poor, severe drawbacks remain. For one, the vast majority of Americans who don’t have student debt would rightly feel left out. Many never had the opportunity to get a higher education; others put off financial goals (such as saving for retirement) to pay it down. Also, it would do little to improve the immediate cash flow of the many debtors who — because they’re in default or in income-based repayment plans — are making small or no monthly payments.””

“At the heart of the argument for canceling student debt, especially in the midst of the pandemic, is that it would be good for millions of people and, therefore, the economy. How good is where the disagreement resides — and because mass student debt forgiveness isn’t something we’ve seen in the past, the data on what could happen is relatively limited.
One 2019 working paper from Harvard Business School looked at what happened when students in default had their debt discharged because of a lawsuit. They found that borrowers reduced their overall indebtedness by a quarter and were also less likely to default on other accounts. That’s good for them and for the entities they owe money to.”

“People also demonstrated more mobility — they moved states, changed jobs, and took more risks that often translated to higher incomes.”

““If you give the same type of forgiveness to people that are not in that situation, one effect that we don’t capture is that your monthly payment is going down,” he said. The $300 people were putting toward loan payments every month could then be spent elsewhere.”

What the Yellen choice means for Biden and the economy

“In picking former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to serve as his first Treasury Secretary, Joe Biden is leaning on a well-known figure who is trusted and beloved by most Democrats, respected by many Republicans, acceptable to Wall Street and aligned with the no-surprises approach expected to be a hallmark of the incoming president’s tenure.

Yellen, widely seen as the obvious choice when Biden teased last week that he had made his pick, is slightly untraditional for Treasury. Her pre-government background came largely as an academic economist and monetary policy expert. The top Treasury slot often goes to people — until now all men — with extensive corporate backgrounds and high-profile international experience.”