Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

I’m very pleased to report that today’s top story isn’t about Trump or his Republican enablers. That’s a very good thing for me because I’ve reached peak Trump exhaustion once again. Today Nancy Pelosi leads the politics news.

Reuters: Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, voicing U.S. ‘solidarity’ as China fumes.

TAIPEI, Aug 2 (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday on a trip she said was intended to express American solidarity with the Chinese-claimed island, the first such visit in 25 years and one that risks pushing relations between Washington and Beijing to a new low.

Pelosi and her delegation disembarked from a U.S. Air Force transport plan at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei and were greeted by Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu and Sandra Oudkirk, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan.

“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi said in a statement shortly after landing. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.” read more

China immediately condemned Pelosi’s visit, with the foreign ministry saying it seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The ministry said it had lodged a strong protest with the United States.

Chinese warplanes buzzed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday before her arrival, and Chinese state media said People’s Liberation Army would hold exercises near Taiwan from Thursday through Sunday.

More info from CNN: 

Pelosi and the congressional delegation that accompanied her said in a statement on Tuesday that the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”

“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

Pelosi is traveling with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks of New York, Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano of California and Reps. Suzan DelBene of Washington state, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Andy Kim of New Jersey.

The House speaker is expected to visit Taiwan’s presidential office and parliament on Wednesday morning (local time), a senior Taiwanese official told CNN. She will first visit the parliament before heading to the presidential office for a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, the official said….

The American Institute in Taiwan said Pelosi’s delegation will meet with senior Taiwanese leaders “to discuss US-Taiwan relations, peace and security, economic growth and trade, the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights, democratic governance, and other significant issues of mutual interest,” the institute said in a statement.

Pelosi also wrote an op-ed explaining why she chose to go to Taiwan, despite criticism. You can read it at The Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi: Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan.

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Yesterday the White House announced the death of the leader of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: U.S. kills al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike in Kabul.

The United States has killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda and one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists, who, alongside the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden, oversaw the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Biden announced Monday evening.

Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Kabul over the weekend, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

When U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan last August, Biden administration officials said they would retain capability for “over-the-horizon” attacks from elsewhere on terrorist forces inside Afghanistan. The attack against Zawahiri is the first known counterterrorism strike there since the withdrawal.

Speaking in a live television address from a balcony at the White House, Biden announced that days ago he had authorized a strike to kill Zawahiri. “Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said.

The strike occurred at 9:48 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the operation. A drone fired two Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri as he stepped onto the balcony of a safe house in Kabul, where he had been living with members of his family, the official said.

Read more at the WaPo.

At NBC News, Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff report on a non-violent Biden success story: Biden administration task force reunites 400 migrant families separated under Trump.

The Biden administration has reunited 400 children with their parents after they were separated as migrants crossing the southern border under the Trump administration, said Michelle Brané, the executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force.

More than 5,000 families were separated under Trump’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy and a 2017 pilot program and advocates estimate over 1,000 remain separated. Because the Trump administration did not keep records of which children were separated and where they were sent, the task force and lawyers working on behalf of separated families have had a difficult time identifying families to offer them the chance of reunification.

In the majority of recently reunited cases, Brané said, the parents were deported while the children remained in the U.S. Now, parents are given the opportunity to come to the U.S. on paid travel, bring other members of their family who are dependent on them, and live and work in the U.S. legally for three years.

Lawyers for the families have advocated for legal permanent status on behalf of separated families, but so far the Biden administration has not agreed to that provision.

Brané said the reunification also includes mental health services for families both before and after reunification. She said many of the families have suffered from profound mental health issues after their separation and counseling is often needed before they reunify. 

“You don’t want to just throw kids into an environment with a parent they may not have seen for five years,” Brané said. 

Click the link to read the rest.

Republicans are licking their wounds after the public reaction to their votes against health care for veterans exposed to burn pits. Politico: Senate GOP backtracks after veterans bill firestorm.

Senate Republicans are reversing course on a veterans health care bill, signaling they’ll now help it quickly move to President Joe Biden’s desk after weathering several days of intense criticism for delaying the legislation last week.

Republicans insist their decision to hold up the bill, which expands health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances while on active duty, was unrelated to the deal on party-line legislation that top Democrats struck last week. The GOP blocked the bill hours after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced an agreement on a health care, climate and tax package — angering Republicans who thought the Democrats-only plan would be much narrower.

Regardless of their reasoning, the GOP was quickly forced to play defense against both Democrats and veterans’ advocates who were caught off-guard by Republican delaying tactics after the party greenlit a nearly identical bill in June.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to respond to a question Monday about why the legislation was held up.

“It will pass this week,” he said.

Other Republicans in Senate leadership struck a similar tone. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told POLITICO he would “expect it to pass” and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell’s No. 2, echoed that at “some point this is going to pass and it will pass big.”

In another potential win for Democrats in Congress, Joe Manchin finally came through with something good. William Saletan at The Bulwark (link above):

Joe Manchin has rescued the Democratic agenda. After blocking President Biden’s Build Back Better plan for nearly a year—as well as subsequent, pared-down versions of the legislation—the West Virginia senator has reversed course. Last Thursday he endorsed a revised $400 billion package that focuses on health insurance subsidies, cutting the cost of prescription drugs, and funding new energy technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

With Manchin’s vote, the bill is likely to pass. But he isn’t just voting for it; he’s selling it. Over the weekend, he appeared on all five Sunday morning talk shows—a rare feat often referred to as a “full Ginsburg”—to make his case for the bill. It was an eye roll-worthy display of political spin. Here’s a summary of his talking points.

(Abridged–You’ll need to go to the Bulwark to read all the details.)

1. It’s not Build Back Better. It’s the Inflation Reduction Act.

The vast majority of the new bill comes from Biden’s BBB framework. Most Democrats liked BBB and would be happy to celebrate the passage of these elements of it. But Manchin, who represents a conservative state, doesn’t want to be associated with BBB. He doesn’t want to look like he’s saving the Democratic agenda. He wants to look like he’s killing it.

2. It’s not spending. It’s investment.

“I couldn’t get there with Build Back Better. It was $3.5 trillion of spending,” Manchin explained on CNN’s State of the Union. In contrast, he argued, the Inflation Reduction Act knocked “$3.5 trillion dollars of spending down to $400 billion of investment.” On Face the NationFox News Sunday, and This Week, he made the same pitch: BBB was a “spending bill,” but the IRA was an “investment bill.”

3. It doesn’t raise taxes. It closes loopholes.

On Fox News Sunday, Manchin insisted that his bill’s establishment of a 15 percent minimum tax for billion-dollar companies—up from zero percent—wasn’t really a tax increase. “It does not raise taxes,” he told Bret Baier. “All we did was close loopholes.” Thirty seconds later, Manchin repeated, “We did not raise taxes. We’ve closed loopholes. . . . I made sure there was no tax increases in this whatsoever.

4. It’s not a green bill. It’s red, white, and blue.

In much of the United States, being “green” is poCpular. Restaurants, grocery stories, and retailers advertise it. But Manchin, who represents a coal state, seems to have decided that among his target audience, “green” is a dirty word. So he’s pointedly rejecting it.

“This is not a green deal. It’s not a Republican deal. It’s not a Democrat deal. It is a red, white, and blue deal,” Manchin declared on CNN. A few minutes later, he repeated: “It’s definitely not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.” On Fox, he delivered the same message: “It’s not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.

There are a few Trump investigation stories today. 

CNN: Retired DC cop who testified before January 6 committee says Trump ‘adamantly’ wanted to go to Capitol.

A retired Washington, DC, police officer who was part of Donald Trump’s motorcade on January 6, 2021, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday night that the then-President was adamant about going to the US Capitol as the riot unfolded.

The comments by Mark Robinson, who has testified to the January 6 committee, further corroborate key details first revealed by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who spoke at length about Trump’s behaviorto the House select committee. Hutchinson said that she was told that Trump became “irate” when informed by security that he would not be going to the Capitol on January 6, because the situation was not secure.

Robinson was not physically with Trump on January 6. He was in the lead car of the motorcade and said that he learned Trump wanted to go to the Capitol through communications from the Secret Service.

“We’ve heard it several times while it was on the motorcade. I think during the speech, shortly thereafter, he had finished the speech, that the President was getting into the motorcade and he was upset. And he adamantly wanted to go to the Capitol,” Robinson told Lemon. “And even when we departed from the Ellipse it was repeated again. … It was a heated argument in the limo. And he wanted to definitely go to the Capitol.” [….]

“I think it would have probably encouraged more rioting. And (the rioters would have) felt supported. If the presidential motorcade came in support of them. So I think the insurrectionists probably would have felt as though they had the support of the President,” Robinson said.

More details at the CNN link.

Two more Trump investigation stories to check out:

Politico: Judge rejects Trump effort to toss lawsuits accusing him of Jan. 6 conspiracy.

The New York Times: Top Democrats, Alleging Cover-Up, Seek Testimony on Secret Service Texts.

I hope you all have a great Tuesday!


Tuesday Reads

landscape-under-a-stormy-sky-1888, Vincent Van Gogh

Landscape Under a Stormy Sky, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh

Good Morning!!

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.

President Biden made his way on Sunday around a quiet room at Dover Air Force Base, a chamber filled with couches and chairs, with dignitaries and grieving families huddling together as the president came to speak to them privately, one family at a time.

Mark Schmitz had told a military officer the night before that he wasn’t much interested in speaking to a president he did not vote for, one whose execution of the Afghan pullout he disdains — and one he now blames for the death of his 20-year-old son Jared.

But overnight, sleeping in a nondescript hotel nearby, Schmitz changed his mind. So on that dreary morning he and his ex-wife were approached by Biden after he’d talked to all the other families. But by his own account, Schmitz glared hard at the president, so Biden spent more time looking at his ex-wife, repeatedly invoking his own son, Beau, who died six years ago.

Shore wiht red house, Edvard Munch

Shore with Red House, Edvard Munch

Schmitz did not want to hear about Beau, he wanted to talk about Jared. Eventually, the parents took out a photo to show to Biden. “I said, ‘Don’t you ever forget that name. Don’t you ever forget that face. Don’t you ever forget the names of the other 12,’ ” Schmitz said. “ ‘And take some time to learn their stories.’ ”

Biden did not seem to like that, Schmitz recalled, and he bristled, offering a blunt response: “I do know their stories.”

It was a remarkable moment of two men thrown together by history. One was a president of the United States who prides himself on connecting with just about anyone in a moment of grief, but now coming face-to-face with grief that he himself had a role in creating. The other was a proud Marine father from Missouri, awoken a few nights before at 2:40 a.m. by a military officer at his door with news that nearly made him faint.

Obviously the anger of these families is understandable. What I find offensive is the media’s determination to blame Biden for everything that has happened in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. Read more at the WaPo.

The Los Angeles Post Editorial Page editor Sewell Chan defended Biden: Editorial: The latest tragedy in Kabul.

The killing of at least 13 U.S. service members, mostly Marines, and dozens of civilians in a pair of suicide attacks outside the Kabul airport on Thursday is an outrageous act of terrorism — in this case, at the hands of ISIS-K, an Islamic State affiliate that is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

President Biden was right to vow vengeance. “We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and we will make you pay,” he said at the White House.

The attacks are not, however, the work of the Taliban, which has retaken Afghanistan in mere weeks as the Western-backed government and security forces collapsed with scarcely a fight.

Nor are the attacks a sign of failure by the Biden administration, as a host of armchair critics, Washington commentators and Republican cynics have suggested.

We support Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Aug. 31, and his insistence on sticking to that deadline.

Gloucester Harbor, Winslow Homer

Gloucester Harbor, Winslow Homer

In the 11 days before the president addressed the nation Thursday afternoon, the U.S. military had evacuated 100,000 people from Kabul — 7,000 in the previous 12 hours alone. These airlifts have been one of the most complex logistical undertakings in military history, reminiscent of the British evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940 and the Berlin airlift of 1948-49.

No one will soon forget the chaos that accompanied the fall of Kabul, including the heart-wrenching scenes of desperate Afghans holding onto the sides of military aircraft, some later falling from the sky (or dying inside the landing gear). Those moments captured the desperate measures Afghans were willing to take to escape the threat posed by the Taliban to an entire generation’s worth of progress — in education, women’s rights, literacy, health outcomes and personal freedoms.

Critics of the evacuations have made entirely disingenuous, self-serving or simply misleading arguments over the last two weeks. 

Click the link to read the rest.

On the GOP crazy front, over the weekend, North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn threatened “bloodshed” if the “rigged elections” continue and said he wants to “bust out” the “political prisoners” who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

The Washington Post: Rep. Madison Cawthorn falsely suggests elections are ‘rigged,’ says there will be ‘bloodshed’ if system continues on its path.

Cawthorn, a freshman lawmaker and pro-Trump star of the far right, made the remarks during an event at the Macon County Republican Party headquarters in Franklin, N.C., on Sunday night.

“The things that we are wanting to fight for, it doesn’t matter if our votes don’t count,” Cawthorn told the crowd, according to a video of the event posted by the county party on its Facebook page and circulated on Twitter by a Democratic congressional staffer. “Because, you know, if our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it’s going to lead to one place — and it’s bloodshed.”

moroccan-landscape-henri-matisse

Moroccan Landscape, Henri Matisse

Cawthorn suggested that he was prepared to take up arms against his fellow Americans if necessary to combat voter fraud. There is no evidence that widespread fraud took place in the 2020 election.

“I will tell you, as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there is nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American. And the way that we can have recourse against that is if we all passionately demand that we have election security in all 50 states,” Cawthorn said, to applause from the crowd.

About a minute earlier in his remarks, Cawthorn was holding a shotgun that he signed as part of a raffle conducted by the county Republican Party.

More on Cawthorn’s diatribe from Vice News: GOP Congressman Says He Wants to Bust Out Jan. 6 ‘Political Prisoners.’

When Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn was asked about what he’s doing to help the hundreds in jail awaiting trial for their roles in the violent January 6 riots, he called them “political prisoners”—and said he wanted to “bust them out.”

“The big problem is we don’t actually know who all the political prisoners are, and so if we were actually to go and try to bust them out—and let me tell you, the reason why they have taken these political prisoners is they’re trying to make an example, because they don’t want to see the mass protest going on in Washington,” he said at a Macon County Republican Party event on Sunday.

Someone in the audience then asked, “When will you call us to Washington again?”

“We are actively working on this,” Cawthorn responded. “We have a few plans in motion I can’t make public right now,” he said, before calling those facing charges for their role in the January 6 insurrection “political hostages”—for the second time.

The speech was streamed live on Facebook by the Macon County Republican Party on Sunday. 

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….

Always and Forevr, Ford Smith

Always and Forever, Ford Smith

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.

Suzanne Valadon, The Gardens at Cortot Street, Montmartre, 1916Out 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?


Thursday Reads

Man reading

Man reading, by Franco Americano

Good Morning!!

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.

It’s easy to miss amid the flood of other news, but thanks to the Supreme Court, a big chunk of our national immigration policy is now being run by a federal trial court judge in Texas. Oh, yes, also our foreign relations.

Not just any judge, by the way, but a Trump nominee named Matthew Kacsmaryk, who, before being named to the bench, described homosexuality as “disordered,” characterized being transgender as a “delusion” and “mental disorder,” and, of course, criticized Roe v. Wade.

My beef, though, isn’t with Kacsmaryk as much as with his superiors at the Supreme Court. In a brief order Tuesday evening, the justices — with the three liberals dissenting — refused to disturb Kacsmaryk’s ruling requiring the Biden administration to resume Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy at the southern border, first adopted in 2019.

That is bad policy. The Migrant Protection Protocols, as the program is officially named, have required tens of thousands of asylum seekers to stay in Mexico, often in squalid and dangerous conditions, as they awaited hearings. The Trump administration’s argument was that this approach would help speed up the process and reduce backlogs….

Santiago Rusiñol, Romantic Novel

Santiago Rusiñol, Romantic Novel

But who has the better policy, Trump or Biden, isn’t the real issue here. It’s what role the federal judiciary should play in flyspecking that policy and, in particular, what should happen while the legal questions are being sorted out….

As acting solicitor general Brian H. Fletcher told the justices, the order “requires the government to abruptly reinstate a broad and controversial immigration enforcement program that has been formally suspended for seven months and largely dormant for nearly nine months before that.” David Shahoulian, assistant secretary for border security at the Department of Homeland Security, said complying would be “near-impossible.” State Department official Ricardo Zúñiga said that “mandatory and immediate re-implementation of MPP on a wide-scale basis would undermine the U.S. government’s flexibility and discretion, negatively impact U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations and subject already-vulnerable individuals to increased risks.”

And then there are layers of hypocrisy. The conservative justices were remarkably solicitous of the Trump administration’s unprecedented and frequent pleas for emergency orders, especially in the immigration context.

As University of Texas School of Law professor Stephen I. Vladeck noted, of 28 emergency stays that the court issued in response to Trump administration requests, 11 involved lifting district court injunctions against Trump administration immigration policies. 

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.

More than 100,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in the United States, a level not seen since Jan. 30 — when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available — as the country grapples with the delta variant’s spread.

By Steve Christopher Seward

By Steve Christopher Seward

Hospitalizations are highest across the South, where every state in the region has a higher portion of its population currently hospitalized with covid-19 than the national level, according to a Washington Post database. More than 17,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in Florida, which has the most hospitalizations for covid-19 of any state in the country, followed by Texas, which has more than 14,000.

Amid a raging debate over mask requirements in schools, current pediatric hospitalizations for covid-19 have reached 2,100 nationally, topping 2,000 for the first time since August 2020.

New coronavirus cases are being reported across the country at similar levels to those seen in January. About 151,000 new daily cases were being reported on average on Jan. 30; on Wednesday, that figure was 148,000. However, even as many hospitals are under strain and report shortages of intensive care unit beds, overall deaths are far lower; the daily average of deaths at the end of January was 3,100 and about 1,100 as of Wednesday.

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.

By Franz von Defregger

By Franz von Defregger

Some doctors in Idaho and Arkansas are even prescribing this stuff. For Christ sake, why won’t these idiots just get the vaccine and wear masks?

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?

WFLA.com: Bodies stacked to the ceiling as COVID-19 surge creates backlog at Florida funeral homes, crematories.

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.

By Arthur John Elsley

By Arthur John Elsley

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.

NBC News: South Dakota Covid cases quintuple after Sturgis motorcycle rally.

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.

By Richard Boyer

By Richard Boyer

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!!


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

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

The Washington Post: CIA Director William Burns held secret meeting in Kabul with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar.

CIA Director William J. Burns held a secret meeting Monday in Kabul with the Taliban’s de facto leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, in the highest-level face-to-face encounter between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the militants seized the Afghan capital, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy.

The CIA declined to comment on the Taliban meeting, but the discussions are likely to have involved an impending Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. military to conclude its airlift of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

President Biden dispatched his top spy, a veteran of the Foreign Service and the most decorated diplomat in his Cabinet, amid a frantic effort to evacuate people from Kabul international airport in what Biden has called “one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history.”

The CIA declined to comment on the Taliban meeting, but the discussions are likely to have involved an impending Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. military to conclude its airlift of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

For Baradar, playing the role of counterpart to a CIA director comes with a tinge of irony 11 years after the spy agency arrested him in a joint CIA-Pakistani operation that put him in prison for eight years.

Read more about Baradar’s history at the WaPo link.

Reuters: State Dept says U.S. will continue to help at-risk Afghans leave past Aug 31.

The United States’ commitment to at-risk Afghans extends beyond President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw from the country, a senior State Department official said, adding that the promise of safe passage did not have “an expiration date.”

“Our commitment to at-risk Afghans doesn’t end on August 31,” the official told reporters in a briefing, without elaborating how Washington could continue its efforts to help people leave the country if it withdraws completely from the country by the end of the month….

“We’ve heard from the Taliban … that they want a functioning airport well after the U.S. military has left … The Taliban has also agreed to permit safe passage to the airport and this commitment doesn’t have an expiration date on it,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

She added that even when U.S. military’s presence is gone the United States had every expectation that at-risk Afghans would have an opportunity to leave the country.

But the reports from the ground already show potential evacuees face a perilous journey to the Kabul airport and chaos at the airport gates before they can soldier on through the crowds onto an aircraft.

Raw Story: Adam Schiff reveals startling facts after classified Afghanistan briefing.

According to CNN’s Ryan Nobles, Schiff said that he doesn’t believe everyone will be out by the Aug. 31 deadline. The Taliban has said that the United States has until that deadline, and they’ll make no concessions for dates beyond that. Speaking to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said that it would ultimately end with a showdown between the U.S. and Taliban.

“Maybe we’re going to have to call the Taliban’s bluff,” said Murphy.

“Given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders,” Schiff began. “It’s hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month.”

He said that he’s also concerned about the safety and security for the airport in Kabul, saying that the “threat to the airport is very real and very substantial.” He even said that it could be a target for ISIS….

Schiff went on to say that the intelligence community was aware that the Taliban had the ability to take over the country. “The intelligence agencies’ assessments of the Afghan government’s ability to maintain itself became increasingly pessimistic over the course of the last six months. And there were any number of warnings that the Taliban might take over, and some that included a potential of a very rapid, the Afghan government enforces.” (sic)

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

The Guardian: Tensions flare in Capitol as moderate Democrats hold up Biden budget plan.

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?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Britt-Ehringer_fridakatlobrow_oil+on+linen_48x38+(1)

Britt Ehringer, Frida Katlobrow

Good Afternoon!!

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.

Rose Freymuth-Frazier

Painting by Rose Freymuth-Frazier

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.

WUSA9.com: MPD fully activates department ahead of planned ‘Justice for J6’ protest on Sept. 18.

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.

Martin Wittfooth

Painting by Martin Wittfooth

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.

Mark Ryden, Amanda

Amanda, by Mark Ryden

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.

Marc Dennis, Night Out

Marc Dennis, Night Out

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.”

SmallGameHunter Rose Freymuth Frazier

Small Game Hunter, by Rose Freymuth

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.

HuffPost: Biden, Allies Frustrated With Media’s Hawkish Coverage Of Afghanistan Withdrawal.

William Saletan at Slate: Pompeo Is Lying About Afghanistan.  He laid the groundwork for the Taliban takeover. Now he’s blaming Biden.

Yahoo News: A former Pence adviser said Trump had 4 years to help Afghan allies leave the country but Stephen Miller’s ‘racist hysteria’ blocked it from happening.

As always, this is an open thread. I hope you all have a great weekend!