Finally Friday Reads!

Kooning, Willem de (1904-1997) © Museum of Modern Art, New York Painting 150×109,3 Portrait, Genre Woman, II

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Everywhere I look, massive numbers of Trumpy wipipo are basically staging an overthrow of everything that makes rules they don’t want to follow, even if it protects their children and others from death and suffering from COVID-19 or virulent gun violence.  This is accompanied by blatant unconstitutional attacks on women’s moral agency and the voting rights of everyone who is not them in skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religious persuasion.

Mike Allen puts it bluntly. He calls it “America’s civil war of 2021” in response to President Biden’s expanded efforts to get folks to stop killing themselves and others by refusing a simple vaccine.

Top Republicans are calling for a public uprising to protest President Biden’s broad vaccine mandates, eight months after more than 500 people stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the election.

Why it matters: It has been decades since America has witnessed such blatant and sustained calls for mass civil disobedience against the U.S. government.

J.D. Vance — author of “Hillbilly Elegy” and a candidate for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in Ohio — urged “mass civil disobedience” to Biden’s plan to use federal authority to mandate vaccination for roughly two-third of America workers.

  • “I have a simple message for America’s business community,” Vance wrote. “DO NOT COMPLY.”

Biden said in his remarks: “Today, in total, the vaccine requirements in my plan will affect about 100 million Americans — two thirds of all workers.”

  • Several Republican governors say they’ll go to court to try to stop the mandate for federal employees, contractors and private employers with 100+ workers (enforced by OSHA).
  • South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem told Sean Hannity on Fox News: “In South Dakota, we’re going to be free. … We will take action. My legal team is already working.”

A top House Republican aide tells me: “Every Republican in the country — especially those running to the right in primaries — is salivating over Joe Biden [igniting] the vax debate.”

  • “Republicans think that he’s made even pro-vax conservatives into ‘anti-vax mandate’ Americans.”

An official close to Biden tells me the West Wing “knew there would be strong backlash. But unless someone took this on, we’d be in a pandemic forever.”

  • “Biden beat Trump by promising strong action based on science. He can’t let Abbott/DeSantis block tough action.”

Invoking a civil-rights parallel, the official added: “Basically Biden is staring down Southern governors (and some Northern allies). … Is America divided? Yes. But Biden is uniting the 75% vs. the 25% that is in opposition.”

  • The official’s bottom line: “That is unity politics in a divided nation — unifying the overwhelming majority threatened by an unruly minority.”

🐦 Twitter’s top U.S. trends last night had “#IwillNOTComply” at No. 6 — with the NFL’s season kickoff in the top four slots, followed by “Big Brother” on CBS at No. 5.

  • #VaccineMandate was No. 8, with #DoNotComply as a trend.

What’s next: Fencing will be reinstalled around the Capitol before a Sept. 18 rally, “Justice for J6,” supporting those charged in the Jan. 6 riot. Far-right extremist groups plan to attend.

Dana Schutz’s “Swim Smoke Cry”, 2009

You may read The Biden Covid-19 Plan at the White House site.

There are several places to read some analysis and summaries.  Will this end the forever plague? Will more Republicans seek an end to our democracy and go back to the entire state’s right’s approach that sanctioned slavery and other heinous episodes in US history?

From WAPO: “Biden announces sweeping new vaccine mandates for businesses, federal workers.”

President Biden announced sweeping new coronavirus vaccine mandates Thursday designed to affect tens of millions of Americans, ordering all businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be immunized or face weekly testing.

Biden also said that he would require most health-care facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to vaccinate their employees, which the White House believes will cover 50,000 locations.

And the president signed an executive order compelling all federal employees to get vaccinated — without an option for those who prefer to be regularly tested instead — in an effort to create a model he hopes state governments will embrace. He is also ordering all staffers in Head Start programs, along with Defense Department and federally operated schools for Native Americans, to be vaccinated.

“We’re in a tough stretch, and it could last for a while,” Biden said in an address from the White House. He added, “What makes it incredibly more frustrating is we have the tools to combat covid-19, and a distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials, are keeping us from turning the corner.”

Taken together, the moves represent a major escalation by Biden of the pressure against those who have resisted vaccination. The announcement comes amid growing signs that the highly contagious delta variant, and the persistence of vaccine resistance, are combining to drag out the pandemic, slow the economic recovery and prevent Biden from turning his focus to other matters.

Biden adopted a newly antagonistic tone toward the unvaccinated Thursday, underlining his shift from cajoling to coercion as he placed blame on those still refusing to get shots for harming other Americans. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said. “And your refusal has cost all of us.”

Kevin D Williamson writes this for the New York Times: “The Trump Coup Is Still Raging.”

What happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was not a coup attempt. It was half of a coup attempt — the less important half.

The more important part of the coup attempt — like legal wrangling in states and the attempts to sabotage the House commission’s investigation of Jan. 6 — is still going strong. These are not separate and discrete episodes but parts of a unitary phenomenon that, in just about any other country, would be characterized as a failed coup d’état.

As the Republican Party tries to make up its mind between wishing away the events of Jan. 6 or celebrating them, one thing should be clear to conservatives estranged from the party: We can’t go home again.

The attempted coup’s foot soldiers have dug themselves in at state legislatures. For example, last week in Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini introduced a draft of legislation that would require an audit of the 2020 general election in the state’s largest (typically Democratic-heavy) counties, suggesting without basis that it may show that these areas cheated to inflate Joe Biden’s vote count.

Florida’s secretary of state, a Republican, knows that an audit is nonsense and has said so. But the point of an audit would not be to change the outcome (Mr. Trump won the state). The point is not even really to conduct an audit.

The obviously political object is to legitimize the 2020 coup attempt in order to soften the ground for the next one — and there will be a next one.

It looks like South Carolina has fired the first shot again in the form of this twitter nonsense from its Governor.

‘Portrait of My Uncle,’ the 1910s, David Burliuk

ABC News reports that “Fence going up around US Capitol, as law enforcement braces for Sept. 18 protest. The fence, erected after the Jan. 6 riot, was removed in July.”

Fencing outside U.S. Capitol is expected to return ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally, a source familiar with the plans confirmed to ABC News.

The fencing, erected after the Jan. 6 riot, was removed in July.

“Justice for J6” is being billed by organizers as a protest for defendants who are being detained by the government in connection to the January insurrection at the Capitol.

The fencing is just the latest security measure for a rally that has some in law enforcement on high alert.

Meanwhile, schools and school boards are the targets of many angry parents.  This is one of the worst situations I’ve witnessed.  This is from Insider Paper: “Video shows Michigan parents encouraging kids to violate school mask mandate after the county updated its COVID-19 policy.”

A group of Michigan parents urged several unmasked high school students to defy the district’s mask mandate and bypass school officials to enter campus maskless, a viral video shows.

Video of the incident, which occurred at Manchester Junior & Senior High School in Washtenaw County, Michigan, on Tuesday, shows a sheriff’s deputy telling parents that he is unable to enforce the order in place requiring people entering the school to wear masks.

“I’m not going to force anybody. I’m not putting masks on anybody. That’s not my job,” the deputy can be heard saying. “This is a county health department order and a policy of this school.”

I have one other thing to share today, and it’s highly personal.  I have lost three friends this week. Will Samuels was a loving father who was unable to get his cancer treatment recently because of the state of the hospitals that created a worse situation the last two weeks.   We are overcrowded with out-of-parish  Covidiots.  Mardi Gras will not be the same without him.  Two of my friends died at home in the heat here in my neighborhood. Todd Mollock was the “Norm” of the local watering hole.  He’d enter and every one would shout “Todd!”.  He played a mean guitar and it was nearly always metal.

This is about my friend and neighbor Laura Bergerol.

“Neighbors of New Orleans photographer Laura Bergerol suspect her death is an Ida casualty. Neighbors fear heat amid extended power outage sealed her fate.” 

Laura Bergerol wanted to evacuate the city ahead before Hurricane Ida. And after. But she never managed to get out.

Without power, the 65-year-old photographer struggled in her Bywater house for days in brutal summertime conditions. Her migraines were persistent, she told neighbors who were checking on her.

Then, on Sunday, she stopped returning texts and didn’t answer a knock on the door. A neighbor found her lying on the floor of her apartment dead.

As of Wednesday, at least 26 people had died in Louisiana as a result of Ida. Thirteen of those casualties occurred in New Orleans, including 10 who were killed by excessive heat during the extended power outages caused by the storm, state officials said.

Laura spoke French fluently. She had just lost her dog companion–Bianca–not long ago and was bereft without her. She lived in the Bywater Artist Lofts around the corner and down the street some. She moved here after Katrina and became a wonderful part of our creative culture. Her photography was key to understanding how she saw things as an activist. To know her was to love her. She and Bianca are together again.  I will miss you! Repose en paix.

So, there’s lots of other news out there today. I hope you’ll add some to the thread below.

I’m okay now.  I double-bleached the refrigerator, and now I just need to fill it!  My magnolia tree limb has been removed, and we’ll have to see if the tree makes it without a huge section of its branches. It was really cool last night.  I woke up to grab a long-sleeved shirt and PJ pants.  It got down to 72, and it’s still 75F right now.  It’s the first whiff of fall in the day that’s considered the peak of the hurricane season.  The backyard is still a small disaster, but I have a few other things like the mold on the ceiling in the bathroom to deal with today.  I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed by the scent of bleach around here.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Arthur's morning, by Vicky Mount

Arthur’s morning, by Vicky Mount

Good Morning!!

We’re heading into the long Labor Day weekend, but it isn’t quiet one on the news front. The angry reaction to the Texas abortion law continues, Louisiana and multiple states in the Northeast are still just beginning their recovery from Hurricane Ida, Covid-19 is worse than ever, thanks to GOP governors and antivaxxers, and right wing crazies are threatening another violent insurrection in Washington D.C. as well as further attacks on democratic elections.

Texas Abortion Law Stories

AP News: Judge shields Texas clinics from anti-abortion group’s suits.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A state judge has shielded, for now, Texas abortion clinics from lawsuits by an anti-abortion group under a new state abortion law in a narrow ruling handed down Friday.

The temporary restraining order Friday by state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin in response to the Planned Parenthood request does not interfere with the provision. However, it shields clinics from whistleblower lawsuits by the nonprofit group Texas Right to Life, its legislative director and 100 unidentified individuals.

A hearing on a preliminary injunction request was set for Sept. 13.

The law, which took effect Wednesday, allows anyone anywhere to sue anyone connected to an abortion in which cardiac activity was detected in the embryo — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy before most women even realize they are pregnant.

Ralph Black Cat painting by Dora Hathazi

Ralph Black Cat painting by Dora Hathazi

CNBC: Lyft, Uber will cover legal fees for drivers sued under Texas abortion law.

Lyft and Uber said Friday they would cover legal fees for drivers on their respective platforms who are sued under Texas’ restrictive abortion law that went into effect this week….

“Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you are breaking the law by giving someone a ride,” Lyft said in a release.

“Similarly, riders never have to justify, or even share, where they are going and why. Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a healthcare appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law. Both are completely unacceptable,” Lyft added.

Lyft said its defense fund would cover 100% of legal fees incurred by drivers because of the law, being the first rideshare company to do so. The company will also donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood.

Uber shortly followed by saying it would also cover fees.

The New York Times: TikTok Users and Coders Flood Texas Abortion Site With Fake Tips.

After a Texas law restricting abortion went into effect on Wednesday, the state’s largest anti-abortion group publicized a website that invited citizens to inform on the law’s violators.

The website, prolifewhistleblower.com, which was set up by the group Texas Right to Life, was designed to help carry out the new law. That’s because the law places enforcement not in the hands of state officials but with private citizens, who are deputized to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion in violation of the law.

Tips about the law’s potential offenders quickly flooded into the website, which features an online form so people can anonymously submit reports of those who are illegally obtaining or facilitating abortions.

But some of the tips were a little unexpected.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who was a leading proponent of the abortion law, was a violator, according to some of the tips. The fictional characters from Marvel’s Avengers were also apparently seeking abortions, the reports said. Other tips did not point to individuals but instead contained copies of the entire script to the 2007 animated film “Bee Movie.”

The reports, which were obviously bogus, were the work of activists on TikTok, programmers, and Twitter and Reddit users who said they wanted to ensnarl the site’s administrators in fabricated data.

Hurricane Ida Aftermath

The New York Times: Satellite Images Find Oil Spill in Gulf Left in Ida’s Wake.

Cleanup crews are working to contain what experts called a substantial oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to an examination of satellite and aerial survey images, ship tracking data and interviews with local officials and others involved in the spill response.

Manolo Ruiz-Pipo, 1957 Spanish, 1929–1998, The Little Girl with the Cat

Manolo Ruiz-Pipo, Spanish, 1929–1998, The Little Girl with the Cat, 1957

The spill, one of multiple plumes spotted off the Louisiana coast in the wake of Hurricane Ida, was identified in satellite imagery captured Thursday by the space technology companies Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies.

A black expanse and rainbow sheen of oil spanning at least 10 miles was spreading in coastal waters about two miles off Port Fourchon, an oil and gas hub. An aerial survey image of the spill was captured Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration….

It was unclear how much oil had spilled into the Gulf, according to a person with direct knowledge of the cleanup. The spill, possibly from an old pipeline no longer in use that was damaged by the storm, was first spotted on Monday from reconnaissance flights led by a number of Gulf Coast producers, and was reported to the Coast Guard, said the person who was not authorized to speak publicly about the cleanup effort.

Reuters: Why Hurricane Ida crippled the New Orleans power grid.

Hurricane Ida’s 150-mph winds crippled a Louisiana electric grid already vulnerable from aging transmission lines, electricity bottlenecks and $2 billion worth of damage caused by three hurricanes that hit last year.

Ida’s landfall on Sunday left a wake of destruction and suffering. More than 1 million customers were without electricity immediately after the storm – a hardship that, for some, could last weeks.

Entergy Corp (ETR.N), the largest Louisiana utility, is facing tough questions on whether it had done enough to harden the electric system, which lost eight major transmission lines delivering power to the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Entergy was in the midst of upgrades throughout its system after Hurricane Laura in 2020. From 2017 to 2019, Entergy’s Louisiana subsidiary spent about $1.2 billion on numerous projects to improve its transmission system.

A pivotal question now for Entergy and its consumers is how well those capital improvements survived the hurricane’s wrath compared to the company’s older infrastructure. Entergy declined to detail the age of the eight New Orleans-area transmission lines that failed.

Anatoly Merkushevvia

Painting by Anatoly Merkushevvia

NPR: Why Ida Hit The Northeast So Hard, 1,000 Miles Away From Its Landfall.

Hurricane Ida’s remnants created deadly havoc in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York days after the system hit the Gulf Coast — some 1,000 miles away.

There was “just the right mix of weather conditions” in place to fuel the system, according to Tripti Bhattacharya, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Syracuse University.

“A storm like this would have been exceptionally rare 20 or 50 years ago,” she told NPR. “But we have to start thinking about it becoming the norm as the climate warms.”

Bhattacharya’s research on regional rainfall and climate change was cited in the U.N.’s recent climate change report.

Click the link to read the interview.

Covid-19 News

The Washington Post: U.S. covid death toll hits 1,500 a day amid delta scourge.

Nationally, covid-19 deaths have climbed steadily in recent weeks, hitting a seven-day average of about 1,500 a day Thursday, after falling to the low 200s in early July — the latest handiwork of a contagious variant that has exploited the return to everyday activities by tens of millions of Americans, many of them unvaccinated. The dead include two Texas teachers at a junior high, who died last week within days of each other; a 13-year-old middle schoolboy from Georgia; and a nurse, 37, in Southern California who left behind five children, including a newborn.

What is different about this fourth pandemic wave in the United States is that the growing rates of vaccination and natural immunity have broken the relationship between infections and deaths in many areas.

The daily count of new infections is rising in almost every part of the country, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. But only some places — mostly Southern states with lower vaccination rates — are seeing a parallel surge in deaths. The seven-day average of daily deaths is about a third of what it was in January, the pandemic’s most deadly month, but it is forecast to continue rising as high numbers of patients are hospitalized.

Alberto Zampieri (Italian, 1903-1992) - Il bambino e il gatto (Boy with cat), 1952

Alberto Zampieri (Italian, 1903-1992) – Il bambino e il gatto (Boy with cat), 1952

Bloomberg: Florida’s Newly Reported Covid Deaths Jump to Pandemic Record.

Florida reported 2,345 additional Covid-19 deaths in its latest weekly report, the most ever in a similar period.

The daily average rose 36% to 335, according to calculations based on the report. That would surpass the high for the entire pandemic in Johns Hopkins University data. The data is based on when the death was reported, not when it occurred.

People 65-and-over accounted for 63% of the deaths reported in the period. Cumulatively over the entire pandemic, Florida seniors have made up 79% of deaths.

Raw Story: 15 Miami-Dade school staffers die of COVID in 10 days: report.

On Friday, NBC 6 Miami reported that 15 staffers and educators in the Miami-Dade County school system have died of COVID 19 — just in the past ten days.

“Sonia Diaz, a spokesperson for several unions in the school district, confirmed the number of deaths to NBC 6,” reported Johnny Archer. “Miami-Dade County Public Schools resumed classes on Aug. 23, and it’s unknown when the employees contracted COVID-19.”

The news comes as school districts and state governments around the country wrestle with how to handle the continued spread of the Delta variant.

The Washington Post: Here’s what we know about the mu variant.

A coronavirus variant known as “mu” or “B.1.621” was designated by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest” earlier this week and will be monitored by the global health body as cases continue to emerge across parts of the world. It is the fifth variant of interest currently being monitored by the WHO….

The variant was first detected in Colombia in January 2021, where cases continue to rise. It has since been identified in more than 39 countries, according to the WHO, among them the United States, South Korea, Japan, Ecuador, Canada and parts of Europe….

About 2,000 mu cases have been identified in the United States, so far, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), the largest database of novel coronavirus genome sequences in the world. Most cases have been recorded in California, Florida, Texas and New York among others.

However, mu is not an “immediate threat right now” within the United States, top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci told a press briefing on Thursday. He said that while the government was “keeping a very close eye on it,” the variant was “not at all even close to being dominant” as the delta variant remains the cause of over 99 percent of cases in the country.

More Coronavirus stories:

Cincinnati.com: CDC classifies every Ohio county as ‘red’ for high levels of COVID-19 transmission.

Katherine J. Wu at The Atlantic: What We Actually Know About Waning Immunity.

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic: The Masks Were Working All Along. Now we have definitive proof that masks really are effective.

Trump Supporters’ Threats on Democracy

Ellie Silverman at The Washington Post: Former Trump campaign operative plans rally for those charged in Capitol riot.

Law enforcement authorities are monitoring plans by supporters of former president Donald Trump to rally outside the U.S. Capitol later this month to argue that the hundreds of people charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection are political prisoners, an assertion that has exploded beyond far-right rallying cries and into mainstream conservatism.

A girl with a black cat - Frida Holleman Dutch 1908-1999

A girl with a black cat – Frida Holleman Dutch 1908-1999

Look Ahead America, a nonprofit group founded and led by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign operative, is planning a “Justice for J6” rally on Sept. 18 to bring its message to Washington. Braynard’s followers believe many of the more than 570 people who have been charged with federal crimes in the attack were nonviolent and “reasonably believed they had permission” to enter the Capitol, according to a Jan. 29 letter Braynard sent to the Department of Justice and FBI. Braynard’s letter demands prosecutors drop all charges.

Braynard’s group requested to hold its rally at Union Square, the public park by the Capitol Reflecting Pool, according to a permit application his group submitted to the U.S. Capitol Police Board and provided to The Washington Post. Although local authorities have not provided crowd estimates, Look Ahead America estimates that 700 people will attend — up from an earlier estimate of 500 in a previous permit application. Plans for a counterprotest began to circulate online this week.

D.C. police, Capitol Police and U.S. Park Police met with the group on Wednesday so that the group could answer questions about its permit request. The conference call seemed to be the next phase in the process, but authorities have not yet granted a permit for the event, Kimmie Gonzalez, the group’s director of government affairs who attended the meeting, said in an interview Thursday.

The permit application described the event as “a peaceful demonstration of our First Amendment rights.”

The planned rally comes as the city is still recovering from three attacks in eight months in the nation’s capital. A violent mob stormed the seat of the U.S. government on Jan. 6, disrupting Congress from confirming President Biden’s election victory and resulting in the deaths of five people. In April, a man rammed his car into a barricade outside the building, killing a Capitol police officer, and last month, a man threatening that he had a bomb parked a truck near the Capitol and demanded to speak to Biden

ProPublica: Heeding Steve Bannon’s Call, Election Deniers Organize to Seize Control of the GOP — and Reshape America’s Elections.

One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump’s supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. “We’re on the point of attack,” Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. “All hell will break loose tomorrow.” The next morning, as thousands massed on the National Mall for a rally that turned into an attack on the Capitol, Bannon fired up his listeners: “It’s them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?”

Sekino Jun'ichirô (Japanese, 1914 - 1988) Boy holding a cat

Sekino Jun’ichirô (Japanese, 1914 – 1988) Boy holding a cat

When the insurrection failed, Bannon continued his campaign for his former boss by other means. On his “War Room” podcast, which has tens of millions of downloads, Bannon said President Trump lost because the Republican Party sold him out. “This is your call to action,” Bannon said in February, a few weeks after Trump had pardoned him of federal fraud charges.

The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. “It’s going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don’t have an option,” Bannon said on his show in May. “We’re going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct.”

Precinct officers are the worker bees of political parties, typically responsible for routine tasks like making phone calls or knocking on doors. But collectively, they can influence how elections are run. In some states, they have a say in choosing poll workers, and in others they help pick members of boards that oversee elections.

After Bannon’s endorsement, the “precinct strategy” rocketed across far-right media. Viral posts promoting the plan racked up millions of views on pro-Trump websites, talk radio, fringe social networks and message boards, and programs aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Suddenly, people who had never before showed interest in party politics started calling the local GOP headquarters or crowding into county conventions, eager to enlist as precinct officers. They showed up in states Trump won and in states he lost, in deep-red rural areas, in swing-voting suburbs and in populous cities.

Read the rest at ProPublica.

That’s my news summary for today. Take care Sky Dancers!!


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?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Gathering storm, Karen Comber

Gathering Storm, by Karen Comber

Good Morning!!

Hurricane Ida is bearing down on Louisiana on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, the seawall protections are better now and Joe Biden is president instead of George W. Bush.

AP News: Ida aims to hit Louisiana on Hurricane Katrina anniversary.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Ida struck Cuba on Friday and threatened to slam into Louisiana with devastating force over the weekend, prompting evacuations in New Orleans and across the coastal region.

Ida intensified rapidly Friday from a tropical storm to a hurricane with top winds of 80 mph (128 kph) as it crossed western Cuba and entered the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center predicted Ida would strengthen into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with top winds of 140 mph (225 kph) before making landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast late Sunday.

“This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren’t prepared,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said during a Friday news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The governor urged residents to quickly prepare, saying: “By nightfall tomorrow night, you need to be where you intend to be to ride out the storm.”

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation for a small area of the city outside the levee system. But with the storm intensifying so much over a short time, she said it wasn’t possible to do so for the entire city. That generally calls for using all lanes of some highways to leave the city.

Orange cat, vicky mount

Orange Cat, by Vicky Mount

“The city cannot order a mandatory evacuation because we don’t have the time,” Cantrell said.

City officials said residents need to be prepared for prolonged power outages, and asked elderly residents to consider evacuating. Collin Arnold, the city’s emergency management director, said the city could be under high winds for about ten hours.

Other areas across the coastal region were under a mix of voluntary and mandatory evacuations. The storm is expected to make landfall on the exact date Hurricane Katrina devastated a large swath of the Gulf Coast exactly 16 years earlier.

More from CNN: Gulf Coast braces for Sunday arrival of Hurricane Ida, potentially a Category 4 storm.

Ida is anticipated to reach at least Category 4 strength before landfall, the National Hurricane Center said, maintaining its earlier forecast.

“Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday,” National Hurricane Center forecasters said Saturday morning. At 8 a.m. ET, the storm sustained winds of 85 mph.

Officials throughout the state implored people to evacuate, with some issuing mandatory orders to do so.

A dangerous storm surge of 10 to 15 feet is expected from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Mississippi River on Sunday as Ida makes landfall, the NHC said.

Hurricane conditions are likely in areas along the northern Gulf Coast beginning Sunday, with tropical storm conditions expected to begin by late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. These conditions will spread inland over portions of Louisiana and Mississippi Sunday night and Monday.

Rainfall can amount to 8 to 16 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 20 inches possible across southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi through Monday– which will likely lead to significant flash and river flooding impacts.

A hurricane warning remains in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River and includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and New Orleans.

In Louisiana, a hurricane watch is in effect from Cameron to west of Intracoastal City and the mouth of the Pearl River to the Mississippi-Alabama border. Tropical storm warnings and watches are also issued stretching east to the Alabama-Florida border.

The city is anticipating impacts from damaging winds of up to 110 mph, according to Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

I found this article at Yahoo News interesting: EXPLAINER: Is New Orleans protected from a hurricane?

Storm has passed, Robert Tracy

Storm has passed, by Robert Tracy

New Orleans finds itself in the path of Hurricane Ida 16 years to the day after floodwalls collapsed and levees were overtopped by a storm surge driven by Hurricane Katrina. That flooding killed more than 1,000 people and caused billions in damage. But Ida arrives at the doorstep of a region transformed since 2005 by a giant civil works project and closer attention to flood control.

The system already has been tested by multiple storms, including 2012’s Isaac, with little damage to the areas it protects….

The federal government spent $14.5 billion on levees, pumps, seawalls, floodgates and drainage that provides enhanced protection from storm surge and flooding in New Orleans and surrounding suburbs south of Lake Pontchartrain. With the exception of three drainage projects, that work is complete.

“The post-Katrina system is so different than what was in place before,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Matt Roe.

Starting with a giant surge barrier east of the city, the system is a 130-mile (210-kilometer) ring built to hold out storm surge of about 30 feet (9 meters). The National Hurricane Center on Friday projected Ida would bring a surge of 10 feet to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) on the west bank.

At that level, it could come over the levees in some areas, said emergency manager Heath Jones of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District.

“They’re designed to overtop in places” with protections against worse damage, including armoring, splash pads and pumps with backup generators, he said.

“We’ve built all that since Katrina,” and they’re designed for a worse storm than the Ida is expected to be, he said.

Governments as of Friday were not ordering people protected by the levees to evacuate, showing their confidence in the system.

A number of floodgates are being closed as the storm approaches. That includes massive gates that ships can normally sail through, such as ones that close off the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal near the Lower 9th Ward. That has reduced the risk of flooding in an area long viewed as among the city’s most exposed. At least one smaller floodgate on land has been removed for maintenance, though, with officials planning to close the gap with sandbags.

Read more at the Yahoo link.

Afghanistan News

The Guardian: Afghanistan drone strike targeted Islamic State ‘planner’ in car, US says.

The US drone strike in Afghanistan targeted a mid-level “planner” from the Islamic State’s local affiliate who was travelling in a car with one other person near the eastern city of Jalalabad, US official sources said on Saturday.

The strike came two days after Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing outside Kabul airport, as western forces running the airlift braced for more attacks.

Erzhena with cat, by Indira BaldanoThe US president, Joe Biden, has promised to hunt down those responsible, striking in a place and time of his choosing.

The drone strike is likely to be in part aimed at reassuring a shaken US public that its government’s counter-terrorist capabilities in Afghanistan remain intact despite the chaotic withdrawal.

There is no indication that the target of the drone was involved in Thursday’s blast, which killed around 180 people, including 13 US marines.

The attack focused attention on ISKP, which had previously been seen as only a minor actor in Afghanistan and one of the weaker IS affiliates around the world.

The group was founded in 2014 by a few dozen disaffected Taliban commanders and defectors from other militants from the region and made early gains in districts close to the border with Pakistan in the eastern Nangarhar province, where the drone strike occurred around midnight on Friday night. The name Khorasan was given by medieval Islamic imperial rulers to a region including modern Afghanistan.

Read more about ISKP at the Guardian link.

The Washington Post: The 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport attack: What we know so far.

The U.S. toll from Thursday’s terrorist attack in Afghanistan came into sharper focus Friday, as the identities of 13 U.S. service members who were killed began to surface.

A suicide bomber detonated explosives at a Kabul airport gate where U.S. troops were searching evacuees rushing to depart the country. At least 18 other troops were wounded in the bombing that killed at least 170 people and the 13 U.S. service members. The attack was the single deadliest enemy strike against U.S. forces in Afghanistan since August 2011, when militants shot down a Chinook helicopter, killing 30 U. S. troops on board.

Woman with cat soul, Madalena Lobao-Tello

Woman with cat soul, Madalena Lobao-Tello

The Pentagon has yet to release the names of American service members killed. In a Friday briefing, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not say when the remains of the service members will arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the first transit place for U.S. service members killed overseas.

But names began to emerge in news reports, as family members confirmed the identities of the dead. Many of the slain service members were in their infancy in 2001, the year the 9/11 terrorist attacks triggered the U.S. war in Afghanistan, bookending their lives as the American effort comes to a close.

This story will be updated as more names are confirmed.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyo.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Mo.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Tex.

Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Riverside County, Calif.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, of Utah

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Knoxville, Tenn.

Read personal details about these young men at the WaPo link.

What SCOTUS Has Wrought

The Washington Post: Millions of Americans face financial cliff as eviction ban, unemployment aid lapse amid Washington inaction.

The clock is now ticking for millions of Americans who are set to face a series of stinging financial hardships in a matter of days, with the loss of federal protections against eviction and looming cuts to their weekly unemployment checks.

The two developments arrive at a moment of great tension in Washington, where the White House and Congress have grappled over the state of the country’s pandemic aid — and confronted their limited ability to authorize more of it — even as the economy shows potential signs of strain in the face of a resurgent coronavirus.

Beryl-Cook-Feeding-the-Tortoise-with-Siamese-Cat-Looking-On-1250x996

Feeding the Tortoise with Siamese Cat Looking On, by Beryl Cook

The first blow arrived Friday, as landlords now can more easily begin removing tenants who have fallen behind on their monthly payments. The potential wave of evictions comes after the Supreme Court found the Biden administration’s recent eviction moratorium to be unconstitutional, leaving the White House powerless to issue its own new directive protecting as many as 6.4 million households that are not current on their rents, according to federal survey data. Many Americans also have struggled to obtain federal rental aid from state and local programs that were allocated tens of billions of dollars in past stimulus packages.

Ten days later, some of those same families could face additional financial peril as enhanced unemployment insurance benefits are set to lapse. Congress repeatedly has extended these weekly checks, but President Biden and some of his congressional allies have not sought to renew them ahead of their planned expiration Sept. 6. That could threaten 7.5 million people with the loss of much-needed income, according to a recent estimate from the Century Foundation.

The developments portend a potential shock to the economy, and they highlight the difficult political realities even in Democratic-dominated Washington. Biden has only so much power to act on his own to provide pandemic relief, and lawmakers in his party do not always see eye to eye about the need for additional economic stimulus.

Caught in the middle are millions of Americans who have relied on these generous but temporary federal programs to pay their bills since the coronavirus first swept the nation in March 2020. With fewer federal protections at their disposal, the financial hardships they face may only intensify, especially as new variants threaten to shutter businesses and schools — and overrun hospitals with patients — in communities already ravaged by the pandemic.

Major News from NBC

With all that is happening, this is what NBC is using as clickbait today: ‘Minor’ Major issues: Emails show Biden dog was nippier than White House said.

The Biden family dog was a bit more of a problem pooch than the White House initially acknowledged, according to Secret Service emails obtained by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch.

The White House said at the end of March that Major, the Bidens’ 3-year-old German shepherd, was involved in a pair of “nipping” incidents, but the emails show he was involved in several more.

“At the current rate an Agent or Officer has been bitten every day this week (3/1-3/8) causing damage to attire or bruising/punctures to the skin,” one of the emails said.

When asked on Friday why the administration had provided reporters with a misleading account of the dog’s difficulties, White House press secretary Jen Psaki sidestepped the question.

“As we’ve stated previously, Major has had some challenges adjusting to life in the White House. He has been receiving additional training as well as spending some time in Delaware where the environment is more familiar to him and he is more comfortable. I don’t have any additional specifics but I think that speaks to where Major is located, to be fully transparent in your ongoing interest in the dog,” Psaki said.

The emails were released after a FOIA request from right wing nut organization Judicial Watch. NBC is being mocked on Twitter for hyping this ridiculous story.

What’s happening in your neck of the woods? If you’re in the path of Ida, please stay safe!