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?