Two weeks after the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, reported Covid infections in the state have risen nearly sixfold.
South Dakota counted 3,819 new cases in the past two weeks, including seven deaths, up from 644 cases in the 14 days preceding it. That makes it the state with the largest percent increase in Covid cases in the past two weeks.
The state’s rate of Covid-19 infections per capita in the past two weeks is in the bottom half of the country, but it’s the sharp and sudden increase in case counts that sets it apart.
Meade County, home to Sturgis, has counted 330 new cases in the last two weeks, up from the 20 reported in the two weeks before the rally, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case count. The 1,550 percent increase comes after the motorcycle rally, which usually draws around half a million people, possibly had its biggest year ever, according to County Sheriff Ron Merwin.
I’m struggling to get going with this post. There is so much negative and even crazy coverage out there. If only there could be a week or two of boring news! But the media is still beating up on Biden for ending a 20-year war, Republicans are still claiming 2020 was a “rigged election,” and the pandemic is still worsening because wacko right wingers insist on taking a horse de-wormer instead of just getting vaccinated and wearing masks. And we can’t forget the powerful hurricanes and wildfires that are linked to our refusal to deal with climate change. So here’s a sampling of what’s out there in the media today.
At the Washington Post, Matt Viser has a piece on angry families who recently lost sons and daughters in Afghanistan: ‘Don’t you ever forget that name’: Biden’s tough meeting with grieving relatives.
In Florida, where Covid-19 is running rampant, Governor DeSantis has decided to ignore a court decision that his anti-mask orders are unconstitutional. The New York Times: Florida withholds money from school districts over mask mandates.
The Florida Department of Education has withheld funds from two school districts that made masks mandatory in classrooms this fall, state officials announced on Monday, making good on a threat that local school boards that required students to wear masks would be punished financially….
Richard Corcoran, the state education commissioner, said in a statement that the department would fight to protect parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children, adding: “They know what is best for their children.”
The penalty applies to two school districts — Alachua County and Broward County — that went ahead with mask mandates in defiance of the governor’s order.
The department had indicated that it would withhold a monthly amount equivalent to school board members’ salaries. In Alachua County, members make about $40,000 a year, and in Broward County about $46,000, according to the State Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
However, because the state does not pay the salaries of local officials, it cannot withhold the salaries directly. Mr. Corcoran had previously said that he might recommend withholding funds “in an amount equal to the salaries of the superintendent and all the members of the school board.”
Also at The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie asks: Do Republicans Actually Want the Pandemic to End?
Joe Biden, in his 2020 campaign for president, promised to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. With additional aid to working families and free distribution of multiple effective vaccines, he would lead the United States out of its ongoing public health crisis….
Rather than work with him to vaccinate the country, Biden’s Republican opposition has, with only a few exceptions, done everything in its power to politicize the vaccine and make refusal to cooperate a test of partisan loyalty. The party is, for all practical purposes, pro-Covid. If it’s sincere, it is monstrous. And if it’s not, it is an unbelievably cynical and nihilistic strategy. Unfortunately for both Biden and the country, it appears to be working.
Naturally, some of the loudest vaccine-skeptical Republicans are in Congress. “Think about what those mechanisms could be used for,” Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina said of the Biden administration’s plan for door-to-door vaccine ambassadors. “They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could go door-to-door to take your Bibles.”
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has similarly criticized the president’s effort to reach the unvaccinated. “People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations,” she tweeted. “You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”
Cawthorn and Greene are obviously fringe figures. But these days, the fringe is not far from the center of the Republican Party (if it ever was to begin with). Their rhetoric is not too different, in other words, from that of their more mainstream colleagues in the Senate.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has attacked vaccine mandates — “There should be no mandates, zero, concerning Covid,” he said in a recent interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity — while Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has urged Americans to “resist” efforts to stop the spread of the virus. “It’s time for us to resist,” Paul said in a video posted to Twitter. “They can’t arrest all of us. They can’t keep all of your kids home from school. They can’t keep every government building closed, although I’ve got a long list of ones they might keep closed or ought to keep closed.”
Republican rhetoric in Washington, however, is a sideshow to the real fight over Covid, in states like Florida and Texas.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Hurricane Ida has moved on, but Louisiana with be dealing with the aftereffects for a long time. Read about it and see photos at NPR: These Images Show Just How Bad Hurricane Ida Hit Louisiana’s Coastline.
Hurricane Ida’s fierce Category 4 winds and torrential rain left the Louisiana coastline badly beaten.
Images of the effected areasdays after the storm show crushed homes, debris scattered across streets, and flooded neighborhoods.
As cleanup is underway, officials are warning residents who evacuated not to return to their homes just yet due to the severe damage.
Out West, the devastating drought and resulting wildfires continue. The New York Times: Evacuations Ordered Near Lake Tahoe as the Caldor Fire Chokes Region.
A wildfire that had burned through remote areas in the Sierra Nevada for two weeks crested a ridge on Monday and began descending toward the major population centers along Lake Tahoe.
As the Caldor fire intensified amid dry and windy conditions, thousands of people along the lake’s southern and western shores were ordered to evacuate. Crews of firefighters sped to put out spot fires only miles from South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Tourists normally swarm the lake on the California-Nevada border in the summer months for boating, fishing, hiking, eating and drinking. But by sunset on Monday, the community seemed to stand still.
On streets that were clogged only hours earlier, shops and businesses — motels, restaurants, supermarkets — were deserted. Roads were empty except for fire engines and television reporters documenting the eerie calm.
It was impossible to know when, if at all, the fire would reach the town. But people did not stay to test the fury of a blaze that fire officials estimate could threaten more than 20,000 structures.
Public safety officials warned that the Caldor fire, the latest to grip California during a particularly unforgiving summer for fire crews in the West, showed no signs of relenting. It had scorched more than 186,000 acres and was 15 percent contained on Monday.
The mandatory evacuation zone extended from Tahoma, Calif., on the western shore of the lake, to the Nevada border.
So those are the highlights of today’s news from my point of view. What stories are you following?
News just broke of an explosion outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. The New York Times: An explosion is reported at Kabul airport, after warnings of a security threat.
An explosion rattled an area outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed, just hours after Western governments had warned of a security threat there.
Since the Taliban takeover of the city earlier this month, thousands of Afghan civilians and foreign citizens have gathered at the airport, which has a military and civilian side, desperate to be airlifted out of the country.
“We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport,” John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a post on Twitter. “Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can.”
A U.S. military official confirmed that at least one explosion had occurred at the Abbey Gate, a main entryway to the international airport. Early reports indicated that the explosion was caused by at least one suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest. It was unclear how many people were injured or whether anyone was killed, but large crowds have been gathering at the gate in recent days.
I guess we’ll hear more details as the day goes on.
In other news, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have decided to interfere with the U.S. President’s immigration powers. Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Opinion: Thanks to the Supreme Court, a federal judge in Texas is making foreign policy decisions.
Too bad all those Hillary haters refused to vote for her in 2016.
I hate to write about the pandemic again, but it’s still dominating the news because it’s getting worse.
The Washington Post: Hospitalizations hit 100,000 in United States for first time since January.
This is interesting, but not surprising from Joshua Green at Bloomberg News: Vaccinated Democratic Counties Are Leading the Economic Recovery.
With Covid-19 cases once again rising across the country, the U.S. is struggling to curb the latest, delta-driven surge, as hospitalizations and deaths have steadily climbed. But at least so far, the economy has proved highly resilient. There are many reasons for this, ranging from generous stimulus checks to the Federal Reserve’s commitment to buying bonds and holding interest rates low.
But some interesting new data on the overlap of electoral politics and economic dynamism suggest another reason: The geography of America’s economic engine is heavily concentrated in counties that Joe Biden won in 2020. These counties are much more heavily vaccinated than the rest of the country and thus better able to withstand the economic effects of Covid’s delta variant.
Read the rest at the link.
In the red counties and states, people are poisoning themselves rather than get vaccines. Miami Herald: Calls about animal dewormer as COVID treatment soar in Texas, poison center says.
The Texas Poison Center Network has received dozens of calls this month about people exposed to ivermectin, an animal dewormer some are using for COVID-19 treatment.
But the drug, which is flying off the shelves in many parts of the United States, is not a suitable treatment and health organizations are warning against its improper use….
Of the 150 people who have called the center this year regarding exposure to the drug, 54 said they intentionally misused it.
Common side effects of the drug are allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and hypotension, the center said.
“Patients who take concentrated forms that are used for large animals like horses and cows are more likely to experience severe side effects and toxicity,” Texas Poison Center said in a statement to McClatchy News. “Accidental poisonings in children may also occur when this medication is kept in the home and is improperly stored. As a result, the Texas Poison Center Network does not encourage the use of ivermectin outside of its intended use.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization have all also advised against using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 outside controlled clinical trials, McClatchy News reported earlier this month.
A large dose of ivermectin intended for a horse could cause a human to have complications that include “low blood pressure, rapid heart rates, seizures” along with damage to the liver and layers of skin falling off, Dr. Shane Speights, site dean at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, told KAIT8.
Florida has become the Coronavirus epicenter of the U.S. The New York Times: In Florida, the pandemic is worse now than it has ever been before.
More people in Florida are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic, underscoring the perils of limiting public health measures as the Delta variant rips through the state.
This week, 227 virus deaths were being reported each day in Florida, on average, as of Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the most in the United States right now. The average for new known cases reached 23,314 a day on the weekend, 30 percent higher than the state’s previous peak in January, according to a New York Times database. Across the country, new deaths have climbed to more than 1,000 a day, on average….
And hospitalizations in Florida have almost tripled in the past month, according to federal data, stretching many hospitals to the breaking point. The surge prompted the mayor of Orlando to ask residents to conserve water to limit the strain on the city’s supply of liquid oxygen, which is needed both to purify drinking water and to treat Covid-19 patients.
Even as cases continue to surge, with more than 17,200 people hospitalized with the virus across Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has held firm on banning vaccine and mask mandates. Several school districts have gone ahead with mask mandates anyway.
I wonder if DeSantis reads the newspapers or watches anything other than Fox News?
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. (WESH) — At West Side Crematory in Winter Garden, they’re overwhelmed with the remains of people that need to be cremated.
There’s an influx of bodies like they’ve never seen, worse than the first wave of COVID-19. The area where bodies are stored prior to being cremated is stacked to the ceiling. The staff is working day and night to honor the dead.
WESH 2 called 20 funeral homes and crematories and many were too busy to be part of our story. Some were too busy to even talk on the phone. One funeral director said that in a 30-minute period where he talked to his partner, four new cases came in.
Mike Marchetti, the area manager for Newcomer Funeral Homes, says as much as they don’t want to, sometimes they have to delay meetings with families and delay funerals because they only have so much staff.
“So the family comes in and they say we would like to have the funeral on Friday and we have to tell then ‘I’m sorry we can’t accommodate a funeral on Friday because our schedule is full,” Marchetti said.
A death care industry struggling to meet demands at a level they’ve never seen before, and families struggling to cope with grief at a level a community has ever seen before.
And then there’s South Dakota, where Governor Kristi Noem welcomed about 700,000 unmasked bikers to party in a a small town named Sturgis.
The Daily Beast: Warnings About the Sturgis Rally Have Come Tragically True.
In western South Dakota’s Meade County, more than one in three COVID-19 tests are currently returning positive, and over the last three weeks, seven-day average case counts have increased by 3,400 percent. This exponential growth in cases is likely attributable to the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew an estimated half a million visitors to Meade County and its environs from Aug. 6 through 15, potentially acting as a superspreader event….
…while Southern states have been the main drivers of this surge thus far, the recent spike in cases in South Dakota warrants special concern.
The state more broadly has witnessed a 686.8 percent increase in daily case counts over the past three weeks, currently more than 10 times the nationwide rate. Meade County’s post-Sturgis uptick is certainly a contributor to this state-level increase, but neighboring counties have experienced a sharp incline in cases, too—ranging from a 1,900 percent increase in the past three weeks in Butte to a 1,050 percent increase in Lawrence.
Those two counties are also key focal points for the rally, which is not, in reality, confined to Sturgis. And because the rally is widely attended by residents all across South Dakota, it’s not surprising that counties further away—like Charles Mix County, which saw a 1,500 percent increase—are experiencing an incline in cases, too.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents the perfect storm for a superspreader event across this region: a large gathering with no testing, no masks, and no vaccination requirements. Though many (but not all) of the goings-on occurred outdoors and thus offered more protection against SARS-CoV-2 transmission than if they hadn’t been, the South Dakota Department of Transportation reported that 525,768 vehicles entered Sturgis over the 10 days of the rally. The sheer number of people in attendance paired with a lack of additional precautions presented prime conditions for viral transmission.
There’s much more at the link.
Sorry about all the bad news. Take care and hang in there, Sky Dancers!!
There’s a lot of news out there today and none of it is good. The press is still dumping on Biden for Afghanistan and his Covid response too. And so-called “centrist Democrats” are still trying to sabotage Biden’s infrastructure plans. And of course, the Covid-19 Delta variant is still spreading like wildfire. So this will be a mish-mash of reads. Before I get started with that, here’s one bit of good news from New York.
The New York Times: Kathy Hochul Is Sworn In as New York’s First Female Governor.
ALBANY, N.Y. — Kathy C. Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, became the 57th governor of New York early Tuesday, making history as the first woman to ascend to the state’s highest office.
She was sworn in at the State Capitol by the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore, in a private ceremony, capping a whirlwind chain of events that followed a series of sexual harassment allegations made against the outgoing governor, Andrew M. Cuomo.
Ms. Hochul, 62, assumes office three weeks after a state attorney general investigation concluded that Mr. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women. A week later, Mr. Cuomo announced his resignation, bringing his 10-year reign to an abrupt end after rising to national fame during the pandemic last year.
Governor Hochul, a Democrat, has vowed to lead the state through a still surging pandemic and economic uncertainty, while ushering in a new era of civility and consensus in state government.
“I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders and I will tell New Yorkers I’m up for the task,” Ms. Hochul told WGRZ-TV, a Buffalo-based news station, shortly after she was sworn in. “I thought about all the women that came before me, including my mother who was not there, but a lot of women through history, and I felt they passed the torch to me.”
Andrew Cuomo is gone for now. That’s one good thing that happened.
Afghanistan News and Opinion
Two good opinion pieces:
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: The Afghanistan War Was Lost Before Biden Ended It.
Andrew Latham at The Hill: The coming collapse of the Taliban.
Covid-19 News and Opinion
Eleanor Clift at The Daily Beast: It’s the Virus, Not Afghanistan, That’s Dragging Biden Down.
For all of the media attention here on President Biden’s handling of Afghanistan, the latest poll numbers show that it’s his handling of COVID-19 that’s been most damaging to his standing with the American public— and that could get worse, fast, if the Delta variant disrupts the school year.
The American people are sick of the pandemic and they’re taking it out on Biden while a handful of red-state governors reap short-term political gains by blocking mask mandates and other public health measures, and allow the virus to spread.
Their intransigence in the face of a widening health crisis is costing Biden politically. On Monday, with the news that the Pfizer vaccine had gotten full FDA approval, he called on private sector companies to do what he has done with the military and federal health workers and make the vaccine mandatory or require frequent testing to employees who refuse it. “It’s your lucky day,” the president told the people who say they were waiting on the FDA.
There may be a relatively small number of people who wanted full clearance instead of emergency authorization before getting the jab, but the FDA’s move may motivate companies to take a more aggressive approach to protecting their workforces and facilities now that they may be on a legally sounder footing for doing so.
Biden had promised that the country could return to something resembling normal once 70 percent of the population was vaccinated, which he believed could be achieved by July 4, aptly named Independence Day. The numbers fell short but the new president was on a roll, and he and the first lady celebrated with a big party on the South Lawn, prematurely as it turned out.
Even before the authorization, vaccination rates have continued to tick up but not fast enough to beat the Delta variant into submission, and not fast enough to reclaim Biden’s standing.
Sarah Zhang at The Atlantic: This School Year Is Going to Be a Mess—Again.
Since early summer, three pandemic clocks have been ticking. The first pertains to the coronavirus’s Delta variant, which has sent daily case numbers soaring more than tenfold since June. The second clock is more predictable: The school year starts, as it always does, in late August or early September. The third clock counts down to the authorization of vaccines for children under 12, which was optimistically supposed to come this fall. After the FDA pushed for a larger trial to collect more safety data in kids, it will likely take longer.
These three timelines have now managed to converge in the worst way possible: Just as Delta is climbing to a new peak, millions of children who still cannot be vaccinated are going to spend hours a day indoors at school. And many of them will do so without masks, thanks in part to mask-mandate bans in some of the same states that are currently experiencing the worst outbreaks. “Are you allowed to use swear words?” is how Sean O’Leary, a pediatrician at the University of Colorado, replied when I asked him how he felt going into the school year.
This fall was supposed to herald the return of in-person classes everywhere. After the virus brought the 2020 spring semester to an abrupt halt, schools fumbled through another year with a mix of in-person and virtual learning. Now Delta threatens to wreak havoc on a third school year.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
Infrastructure Bill News
Confronting moderates, House Democratic leaders tried to muscle Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar budget blueprint over a key hurdle, working overnight to ease an intraparty showdown that risks upending their domestic infrastructure agenda.
Tensions flared and spilled into early Tuesday as a band of moderates threatened to withhold their votes for the $3.5tn plan. They were demanding the House first approve a $1tn package of road, power grid, broadband and other infrastructure projects that has passed the Senate.
Despite hours of negotiations at the Capitol, the House chamber came to a standstill and plans were thrown into flux as leaders and lawmakers huddled privately to broker an agreement. Shortly after midnight, leaders announced no further votes would be taken until Tuesday’s session.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, implored Democrats not to miss this chance to deliver on the promises Biden and the party have made to Americans.
“Right now, we have an opportunity to pass something so substantial for our country, so transformative we haven’t seen anything like it,” Pelosi said, according to a person who requested anonymity to disclose the private comments.
Pelosi told the party it was “unfortunate” they were discussing the process when they should be debating the policy.
“We cannot squander this majority and this Democratic White House by not passing what we need to do,” she said.
An update from Politico: ‘Not that far apart’: Democrats near deal to break budget impasse.
Democratic leaders are finalizing a deal that would clear the way for passage of the $3.5 trillion budget framework and set a House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill for Sept. 27, an offer they hope ends a weekslong standoff with moderates.
After several hours of furious negotiating Monday night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team are finishing the compromise, which they hope to put on the floor as soon as Tuesday afternoon. Democratic members believed a deal was imminent, based on Pelosi’s tone, but the caucus will meet Tuesday morning to discuss the contours of the agreement.
“I’m sorry that we couldn’t land the plane last night, and that you all had to wait. But that’s just part of the legislative progress,” Pelosi said Tuesday morning. “I think we’re close to landing the plane.”
Many rank-and-file members of the Democratic caucus are furious at Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and his group of centrists, who have halted progress on the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s social spending plans over their insistence the bipartisan bill receive a vote first. It’s unclear if the broader bloc of moderates has signed off on the emerging deal hashed out with Democratic leaders, as some of them are still trying to secure more assurances from leadership about the scope and details of the party-line budget framework.
That’s all I have for today. What stories are you following? Any good news?
As usual, the news is pretty depressing today–Covid-19 is still raging and the media is still viciously attacking President Biden on Afghanistan while ignoring the roles of Trump, Pompeo, and Stephen Miller in setting up the current state of affairs. I have a mix of reads to share, beginning with the obituary of a brilliant author and anti-racist who worked to change Americans’ understanding of our history.
The New York Times: James W. Loewen, Who Challenged How History Is Taught, Dies at 79.
James W. Loewen, a sociologist and civil rights champion who took high school teachers and textbook publishers to task for distorting American history, particularly the struggle of Black people in the South, by oversimplifying their experience and omitting the ugly parts, died on Thursday in Bethesda, Md. He was 79.
His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by Ellen Adler, his publisher at the New Press, who said he died after an unspecified “long illness.”
“Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat the 11th grade,” Dr. Loewen wrote in “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” (1995), the best known of his dozen books attacking historical misconceptions.
Dr. Loewen was a relentless contrarian who challenged anyone who imagined academic life as a passage through genteel lectures on settled matters for drowsy students on leafy campuses. He charged through history like a warrior, dismantling fictions and exposing towns for excluding minorities; teachers and historians for dumbing lessons down; and defendants in 50 class-action lawsuits who, according to his expert testimony, victimized people in civil rights, voting rights and job discrimination cases.
A Northerner fascinated with Mississippi, he wrote his first book about the Chinese population there. He wrote another about how America’s historic sites distort our knowledge of the past. And it was a mistake to get him started on the origin of Thanksgiving: Plymouth was already a village with cleared fields when the Pilgrims found it deserted by plague victims. No turkey was served in 1621 — perhaps it was duck. And there was no pie. The settlers had no wheat flour for crust and no oven for baking. The holiday Americans celebrate has nothing to do with the Pilgrims. It was invented 242 years later by Abraham Lincoln to celebrate the North’s victory at Gettysburg.
“History is by far our worst-taught subject in high school,” Dr. Loewen told The Atlantic in 2018. “I think we’re stupider in thinking about the past than we are, say, in thinking about Shakespeare, or algebra, or other subjects. Historians tend to make everything so nuanced that the idea of truth almost disappears.”
Loewen’s work is more important than ever with the current rise of disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Trumpists are organizing a pro-January 6 rally in Washington D.C. on September 18, and this time the Metropolitan Police are taking the warnings seriously. The purpose of the rally is to free the “political prisoners” who are being prosecuted for attacking the U.S. Capitol building.
WASHINGTON — In a flash notice sent to all officers and members of the department Thursday, Metropolitan Police activated the entire force and postponed vacation days, in anticipation of a Sept. 18 protest organized by supporters of Jan. 6 defendants.
The rally, known as “Justice for J6,” is planned for the Union Square area of the Capitol grounds, the section of the west front encompassing the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and Capitol reflecting pool.
The full activation alert, sent as Thursday’s Capitol Hill bomb threat investigation continued, assigned specific notice to MPD civil disturbance units trained for First Amendment demonstrations. The department-wide notification has not been previously reported.
When asked for comment, MPD responded with this statement:
“In anticipation of First Amendment activities on Saturday, September 18, 2021, the Metropolitan Police Department will be fully prepared. As with all First Amendment demonstrations, MPD will be monitoring and assessing the activities and planning accordingly with our federal law enforcement partners. MPD will have an increased presence around the city where demonstrations will be taking place and will be prepared to make street closures for public safety.”
Read more about the known goals for the event at the link, but here’s a brief summary from The Daily Beast:
The event, organized by former Donald Trump flack Matt Braynard, hopes to seek justice for those who stormed and defiled the Capitol on Jan. 6. Braynard announced the rally on former Trump adviser and current crackpot Steve Bannon’s podcast. “As we continue to raise the profile of these individuals, it makes it harder and harder for the left’s phony narrative about an insurrection to stick,” Braynard said, according to WUSA9. “What’s going to define [the rally] is where it’s going to take place: we’re going back to the Capitol.” He said the event has obtained permits. U.S. Capitol Police said it was aware of the event, but declined to comment.
Covid-19 is raging all over the country, but especially in the South. CNN reports: Governor sees ‘astronomical’ number of new Covid-19 cases.
Overall hospitalizations are continuing to increase across Alabama as the “pandemic of unvaccinated people continues,” state health officer Dr. Scott Harris said on Friday. Alabama hospitals have a negative capacity of ICU beds available, he said, and the state is seeing the highest number of Covid-19 cases among children than at any other time during the pandemic.
Louisiana has seen an “astronomical” number of Covid-19 cases during the latest surge, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, as infections are increasing particularly among younger populations.
“I can tell you that for the last couple of days, 28% of all the new cases that we’re reporting are in children zero to 17,” he said on Friday.
In Orlando, Florida, Mayor Buddy Dyer warned residents to conserve water. Orlando Sentinel: Orlando urges reduced water usage as liquid oxygen used to purify water goes to COVID patients.
The city of Orlando and its water utility made an urgent appeal Friday afternoon for residents to cut back sharply on water usage for weeks because of a pandemic-triggered shortage of liquid oxygen used to purify water.
If commercial and residential customers are unable to reduce water usage quickly and sufficiently, Orlando Utilities Commission may issue a system-wide alert for boiling water needed for drinking and cooking. Without reductions in water usage, a boil-water alert would come within a week, utility officials said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer asked residents to immediately stop watering their lawns, washing their cars and using pressure washers. Landscape irrigation consumes about 40% of the water provided by OUC….
Medical authorities have reported that along with a spike in hospitalizations for COVID cases, hospitals are relying increasingly on treatment involving high flows of supplemental oxygen for patients.
That has spurred a nationwide shortage for liquid oxygen, which has been exacerbated by a lack of available tanker trucks and drivers.
In Mississippi, many people have been using a livestock deworming medication to treat or prevent Covid-19 that has been promoted on Fox News. ABC News: Mississippi officials warn against using livestock ivermectin to prevent COVID-19 after rise in poison control calls.
Mississippi’s poison control center has seen an increase in calls of people taking ivermectin, including versions of the deworming drug intended for livestock, to treat or prevent COVID-19, according to state health officials.
The Mississippi Health Department took to social media Friday to issue a warning about the phenomenon, which has been reported throughout the pandemic.
“Do not use ivermectin products made for animals,” it said in a Facebook post.
The Mississippi Health Department also issued an alert Friday to health care providers in the state regarding the increase in poison control calls due to potential ivermectin toxicity.
“At least 70% of the recent calls have been related to ingestion of livestock or animal formulations of ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers,” stated the alert, which did not specify the number of total calls.
Meanwhile, there’s a free vaccine readily available that has emergency approval from the FDA.
Also in Mississippi: Mississippi threatens fines, jail time for Covid patients who don’t isolate.
Mississippi’s top health official Friday threatened jail time for people diagnosed with Covid-19 who don’t isolate in their homes.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs issued an “isolation order” that states, “All persons residing in Mississippi must immediately home-isolate on first knowledge of infection with COVID-19.”
Failure to do so could result in fines and jail time. Dobbs’ order mentions two possible levels of violation. One, a refusal to obey a health officer, comes with a $500 fine and, possibly, six months behind bars.
But the order says that where a life-threatening disease is involved in a refusal to obey, violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 and possibly five years behind bars.
State epidemiologist Paul Byers said Mississippi has the highest number of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the nation. “These numbers are staggering guys,” he said during a weekly Mississippi pandemic update.
Big media is still focused tearing down Joe Biden, so much so that they hardly paid any attention to bomb threat standoff in DC.
John Stoer at Raw Story: How the media enables a political minority to steal the majority’s freedoms.
Peter Baker is a reporter for the Times. He said this yesterday: “The Biden team’s cold political calculation is that Americans won’t care what happens in Afghanistan as long as Americans are safe. To their point, today there are no front-page stories on Afghanistan in cities like Boston, Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Fresno or Miami.”
This is in keeping what I’ve been saying in the Editorial Board. Most people most of the time have something better to do than pay attention to politics. This goes double for August, that time of the year when normal people are thinking about vacations or preparing for the reopening of school. The Washington press corps barely paid any attention at all to Afghanistan, because most people most of the time stopped paying attention to it a decade ago, after the US killed the man responsible for murdering nearly 3,000 Americans a decade prior.
But Baker’s use of “cold political calculation” carries with it at least one presumption. It’s that Joe Biden is doing something obviously morally wrong; that “informed people” (i.e., elites) know he’s doing something obviously morally wrong; and that the obvious moral wrong is rooted in the fact that US forces are leaving Afghanistan. Moreover, it’s that Biden is betting he won’t pay a price for that obvious moral wrong given that voters have short attention spans and short memories, especially in August. It’s a presumption that itself presumes everything is as good or bad as everything else and nothing really matters.
“Cold political calculation” does not accurately represent reality, however. The Associated Press released this week the results of a new poll showing that two-thirds of the population does not think “America’s longest war was worth fighting.” That’s 67 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans. The poll, moreover, shows a gigantic switcher-roo over the duration of the “forever war.” In 2001, most people were worried about foreign terrorists. Now, according to the AP’s poll, most people see “major national security threats as being internal. Roughly two-thirds say they are extremely or very concerned about the threat of extremist groups based inside the United States.”
My point here isn’t to pick on Peter Baker. My point is to note how the press corps often overlooks, or ignores, majority opinion, especially as it relates to the dynamics of power in Washington. When put in its proper context, you can see the president and his team were not making a “cold political calculation.” To the contrary, they were acting in accord with the will of the majority. Everything is not as good or bad as everything else. Some things are good. Some things are bad. Some things are so clearly and morally one or the other, there’s a bipartisan consensus. A president is wise to take such preferences into account. I wouldn’t call this “cold political calculation.” I’d call it good politics.
Read more at Raw Story.
Here’s a link to Peter Baker’s article at The New York Times: Biden Ran on Competence and Empathy. Afghanistan Is Testing That.
More Afghanistan reads:
Franz J. Marty at The Guardian: I was in Kabul when it fell to the Taliban. The speed of the collapse stunned me.
As always, this is an open thread. I hope you all have a great weekend!
I’m really struggling to write a post this morning. I’ve been having a powerful sense of deja vu as the Afghanistan withdrawal and the media reaction to it have played out. I had a similar helpless, despairing feeling when I realized George W. Bush was going to push us into a war in Iraq that would very likely mire us in another Vietnam-type conflict and the mainstream media was going to help him.
I didn’t think we should have gone into Afghanistan, and now Bush wanted to start a completely unnecessary war in Iraq, based on obvious lies and exaggerations. Naturally, big media was thrilled and pushed hard for the war–particularly at The New York Times. Now I’m watching helplessly as the NYT and other outlets gleefully tear down Joe Biden and in the process possibly help Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022.
I don’t know if anyone here has been watching Lawrence O’Donnell this week on MSNBC, but I agree with his take on what’s happening in Afghanistan. On Tuesday night he talked about how people who weren’t even born yet when we withdrew from Vietnam are claiming that the Afghanistan situation is even worse. That’s insane. As O’Donnell said, “Everything about Vietnam was much worse than what has happened in Afghanistan.” It’s not even close.
“Here’s the link to O’Donnell’s commentary. I hope you’ll watch it if you didn’t see it already. He also argues that the Pentagon and military have no idea how to conduct a withdrawal after losing a war, and it would likely be chaotic no matter what we did to prepare. Also see this interview with marine captain Timothy Kudo, who served in Afghanistan.
Kudo wrote an op-ed for The New York Times that was published on Monday: I Was a Marine in Afghanistan. We Sacrificed Lives for a Lie. You really need to read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:
I see a report that the American Embassy will destroy its American flags to deny the Taliban a propaganda victory. I think of the star-spangled banner that flew over my old patrol base, called Habib, Arabic for “beloved.” Five men died under that flag, for what?
The hawks still circle and screech. The voices from the past 20 years who prodded us forward into battle return to the evening news to sell us on staying. “It’s not too late,” the former generals, secretaries and ambassadors say. “More troops can hold the line. Victory is just around the corner.”
But the speed of the Taliban’s advance makes clear that this outcome was always inevitable. The enemy had no reason to negotiate and no reputation for restraint. The only question before President Biden was how many American troops should die before it happened. But if leaving now was the right decision for America, it is a catastrophe for the Afghan people whom we have betrayed.
The Afghans are forced back into living under religious tyranny, an existence made all the more painful by their brief experience with freedom. Now they see the light from the far end of a dark tunnel. The school doors will close for girls, and the boys will return to their religious studies. For them, the arc of the moral universe will bend backward and break.
It’s my old unit, First Battalion, Eighth Marines, that is sent in to secure the airport in Kabul. I am jealous. I would give anything to return right now, to give what last full measure remains.
Yes, what is happening is unbearably tragic, but is it Joe Biden’s fault as the media “analysts” keep telling us? How can Biden, after 6 months in office, suddenly be responsible for 20 years of failures? It just makes no sense.
Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: The Media Is Helping Hawks Win the War Over Biden’s Withdrawal. This piece is critical of Biden’s Afghanistan policy, but even more critical of those who fought to extend the war for two decades and now want it to continue.
Biden’s failure of moral courage and contingency planning is this moment’s lesser scandal. The bigger one is the war that he is ending, which recent events have certified as an unmitigated disaster. Yet you might not know this from the many ostensibly objective news reports that have cast Biden’s troop withdrawal as the source of our nation’s “humiliation.”
The first 20 years of America’s occupation of Afghanistan cost, by one estimate, 241,000 lives (including 2,448 U.S. troops and 71,000 civilians) and more than $2 trillion. The Taliban’s swift triumph has made it clear just how little all those deaths and dollars bought. Anyone paying attention already knew that the U.S. had engineered a kleptocracy in Kabul. But Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s decision to flee the country with $169 million in tow, even as his government was on the cusp of reaching a cease-fire agreement with the Taliban, made our client state’s depravity newly conspicuous.
Critical observers understood that the Afghan army was a paper tiger whose true ranks were far thinner than advertised and whose loyalty to the government was rooted less in patriotism than a mercenary’s interest in gainful employment. But the fact that America had invested $80 billion into training an army that was so incapable of independent action that it could not feed itself in the absence of U.S. air support — and so disenchanted with its own government that it would forfeit its capital with little fight — was not readily apparent until now.
Those who fought to extend America’s war in Afghanistan have every incentive to divert our attention from these revelations. They would like the public to miss the forest for the trees — by mistaking Biden’s tactical errors for strategic ones. The primary lesson of the past week could be that the U.S. war in Afghanistan was a catastrophe and that those who misled the public about the Afghan army’s strength deserve little input on future policy, no matter how many stars they have on their uniforms or diplomas they have on their walls. Alternatively, if news coverage focuses exhaustively on the shortcomings of Biden’s withdrawal, while largely ignoring what our client state’s abrupt collapse tells us about our two-decade-long occupation, then the lesson of Kabul’s fall could be quite favorable for Beltway hawks: Presidents shouldn’t end wars in defiance of the military brass unless they wish to become unpopular.
Unfortunately, we are currently hurtling toward that latter outcome. In recent days, much of the mainstream media has comported itself as the Pentagon’s Pravda. Reporters have indignantly asked the White House how it could say that America doesn’t have a vital national security interest in maintaining a military presence near Tajikistan. NBC’s Richard Engel has devoted his Twitter feed to scolding Biden for suggesting that America’s nation-building project in Afghanistan was always hopeless, and that the Kabul government was “basically a failed state.” CNN’s Jim Sciutto lamented on Twitter Wednesday, “Too many times, I’ve witnessed the US military attempt to dutifully carry out difficult & dangerous missions left to them by the miscalculations of civilian leaders.” This sentiment is disconcerting in the abstract, since it seems to suggest that civilian control of the military may be unwise. But it’s even stranger in context. As we learned just two years ago, American military leaders in Kabul systematically lied to the public about how well the war against the Taliban was going, so as to insulate their preferred foreign policy from democratic contestation.
For more context and the critique of Biden, read the whole thing at New York Magazine.
This piece is by Jed Legum, Tesnim Zekeria, and Rebecca Crosby at Popular Information: Where are the anti-war voices?
Yesterday’s newsletter detailed how the media is largely overlooking voices that supported Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Instead media reports are almost exclusively highlighting criticism of the withdrawal — often from people complicit in two decades of failed policy in Afghanistan.
We have reason to believe that this is not an accident. On Wednesday, Popular Information spoke to a veteran communications professional who has been trying to place prominent voices supportive of the withdrawal on television and in print. The source said that it has been next to impossible:
“I’ve been in political media for over two decades, and I have never experienced something like this before. Not only can I not get people booked on shows, but I can’t even get TV bookers who frequently book my guests to give me a call back…
I’ve fed sources to reporters, who end up not quoting the sources, but do quote multiple voices who are critical of the president and/or put the withdrawal in a negative light.
I turn on TV and watch CNN and, frankly, a lot of MSNBC shows, and they’re presenting it as if there’s not a voice out there willing to defend the president and his decision to withdraw. But I offered those very shows those voices, and the shows purposely decided to shut them out.
In so many ways this feels like Iraq and 2003 all over again. The media has coalesced around a narrative, and any threat to that narrative needs to be shut out.”
Who is on TV? As Media Matters has documented, there are plenty of former Bush administration officials criticizing the withdrawal.
Is it really about execution?
Much of the criticism of Biden’s decision to withdraw has focused on the administration’s “execution.” The critics claim the withdrawal was poorly planned, chaotic, and unnecessarily put Americans — and their Afghan allies — in danger.
Some of these claims may be true. It’s hard to know, for example, how many people have been left behind since evacuations are ongoing. But, with a few exceptions, the criticisms of Biden’s execution are being made by people who opposed withdrawal altogether.
Click the link to read the rest.
I’m honestly depressed and disheartened by what is happening in the Afghanistan coverage. That’s about all I can say about it for now. Here are some other stories to check out today:
Steve Inskeep at NPR: A Mission To Give Afghans Democracy Became A Bid To Repair America’s Own.
What else is happening? As always, this is an open thread.