Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 21 through Friday, August 27, 2021 [Vol.3 No.6]
Kabul Airport Bombing
The Week’s Most Notable
“Evacuees near Kabul Airport Bombed by Terrorists, U.S. Soldiers Killed” was the lead headline for the week. Prior to that, more than 100,000 evacuees looked like a successful airlift, at least from a U.S. PR standpoint. Suddenly having ISIS back in the picture (ISIS-K, an Afghan branch, took responsibility for the suicide attack) complicates the evacuation and diplomacy. Thirteen American military personnel were killed, forcing the Biden administration to acknowledge the grief and recognize that the chaos surrounding the Kabul Airport evacuation contributed to the tragedy of Americans dying at the last minute. As polls indicate, Biden’s favorability has dropped by almost 10 points. Polls continue to show more than 60% of Americans are in favor of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Nevertheless, some Republican politicians are calling for re-occupation. (It appears some of the right-wing admire the Taliban. Republican and right-wing media rhetoric will continue to span the outer reaches of hypocrisy and mendacity.)
Worn-out U.S. medical personnel question if not only politicians, but also many of the public are willing to sacrifice lives trying to preserve the appearance of a return to normality. As the U.S. again approaches record numbers of infected, hospitalized, and dying – especially in the under-vaccinated states – much of the right wing, including the Republican Party, seems to be taking an unstated position that doing nothing is the best policy. It’s back to the “herd immunity” concept, while at the same time essentially denying the use of vaccines to achieve it. That this will lead to skyrocketing numbers of sick people, overflowing hospitals, thousands of preventable deaths, and a generation afflicted with long-Covid is not a part of their argument. It’s enough to push pandemic professionals to despair.
Saturday, August 21
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 38,579,534; Deaths: 647,167
[Tennessee Floods] Tennessee Flash Flooding Kills at Least 22 – With more than 15 inches of rain in 24 hours, streams in Humphreys County rapidly overflowed, catching many people unprepared as their homes were washed into the maelstrom. Local officials were calling it the worst storm in decades.
[Hurricane Henri] Henri Weakens to Tropical Storm as it Hits East Coast – To the good fortune of Long Island and southern New England, Henri lost some of its punch before going ashore. Dropping from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm meant that the winds were not as destructive as they could’ve been. The storm carried an immense amount of rain inland but caused only minor flooding.
[Hurricane Grace] Grace Makes Landfall on Mexico’s East Shore, Eight Dead – The Category-3 storm quickly dissipated into a tropical storm with lower winds and mainly heavy rainfall.
Sunday, August 22
[Afghanistan] U.S., Taliban Attempt to Calm Kabul Airport – NATO officials report that 20 people have died in or near the airport due to the ongoing chaos. Refugee transportation out of the airport has been ramping up to more than 10,000 a day. The Biden administration activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to enlist civilian airline planes for the evacuation. These planes will not fly to Afghanistan, but serve to further transport refugees already out of the country. The U.S. is working against what appears to be a firm deadline of August 31. [Update: Taliban assert U.S. must leave by August 31, and that Afghan nationals will not be allowed to leave the country. If the last condition holds, the U.S. would no longer be able to get out former Afghan supporters; however, there is considerable doubt about the seriousness of the Taliban’s edict.]
Monday, August 23
[Coronavirus] FDA Grants Final Approval of Pfizer Vaccine – This is a big deal because it removes the final legal hurdle to making a case for vaccine mandates (at least with Pfizer). The FDA approval carries with it the assumption that the vaccine is safe (within certain limits), thoroughly tested, and effective. As of July 19, 2021, the Pfizer vaccine has been given to 190 million people in the U.S., with three known vaccine related deaths (0.00000157%). [Update: New York City requires all teachers to be vaccinated, the immediate result of FDA approval.]
[Proud Boys] Enrique Tarrio, Proud Boys Leader, Sentenced to Five Months in Prison – Convicted for burning a BLM flag and carrying illegal ammunition, the sentence seems calibrated to send a message but avoid an appeal as being excessive.
Tuesday, August 24
[Infrastructure Bill] House Passes $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Budget Plan – Despite all the handwringing and media coverage of opposition to the bill by corporate Democrats, Speaker Pelosi seems to have gotten her ducks and ugly ducklings in a row. All Democrats voted for the bill, all Republicans against it. Keep in mind, this was a budget plan for the bill, not the actual bill itself; the language of the bill is still being developed. Passage is expected somewhere toward the end of September or early October. There will be opposition to details and many changes, not counting what happens in the Senate, but the House will pass what is more generally known as the infrastructure reconciliation bill.
[Supreme Court] Supreme Court Upholds Trump “Stay in Mexico” Asylum Order – First, a little clarity: the Supreme Court ruling sends the case back to the appeals court for further adjudication. Depending on that ruling, the case will likely again come back to the Supreme Court for a final decision. In the meantime, the original court ruling which forces the Biden administration to reinstate Trump’s policy of asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico, is on the road to setting the precedent of courts deciding matters of international relations. That is its ultimate significance, the federal courts’ ability to affect foreign policy, an area previously reserved for the administrative branch.
[Coronavirus] CDC Report Details Risks for Unvaccinated – Highlights: Unvaccinated 29 times more likely to be hospitalized, 5 times more likely to be infected. The report assumes the Delta variant is the active virus.
[Wildfires] California Caldor Fire Approaches Lake Tahoe – In terms of threat to people and property, this is the worst fire in the U.S. It has already destroyed 632 structures, including 450 homes. Now it threatens thousands of homes in the popular vacation area.
Wednesday, August 25
[Coronavirus] Texas Governor Updates Ban on COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates – Governor Abbott [R] appears to be trying to head off the effect of FDA final approval of the Pfizer vaccine. His order seems in line with the general Republican stance that mandates for the COVID-19 vaccines are somehow illegitimate, when dozens of other vaccines have been mandated across the country for decades. More pandering to the propaganda.
[Coronavirus] Johnson & Johnson Announces Booster Shot Increases Antibodies – This confirmed the Phase 2 Trial status of the J&J booster but provided no timeline for either its delivery or viral targeting (which variants?).
[Lawyer Sanctions] Michigan Judge Sanctions Pro-Trump Lawyers Over Frivolous Election Lawsuit – Among a motley crew of lawyers that included Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, the judge found all nine defendants engaged in a “profound and historic abuse of the judicial process.” Previously, they had filed suit asking the judge to throw out the Michigan presidential election results. The judge had forthwith thrown the case out of court; however, the Michigan Atty. Gen. and several other lawyers asked the judge to discipline the lawyers for abusing their powers. The judge’s ruling, though expected, becomes an important landmark case.
[Jan. 6 Investigation] House Requests Trump Related Documents Pertinent to January 6 Insurrection – The list of materials parceled out to various federal agencies and especially the National Archives is enormous, thousands of documents. Presumably the House Select Committee has procedures in place to handle recalcitrant submissions (a.k.a. subpoena).
Thursday, August 26
[Afghanistan] Kabul Airport Suicide Bombings Kill More Than 150 Including 13 U.S. Troops – An Afghani branch of ISIS claimed responsibility, adding another factor of complexity to the already chaotic situation. The killing of U.S. troops (the first since February 2020), Afghan civilians, and Taliban officials will provoke reprisals. ISIS and the Taliban are sworn enemies. President Biden, speaking of the tragedy, promised vengeance. The threat of further bombings is ongoing.
[Supreme Court] Supreme Court Ruling Ends Latest COVID-19 Related Eviction Ban – The ruling that kicked responsibility back to Congress favored landlords, and will result in some half million renters’ and homeowners’ evictions between now and the end of the year. Almost simultaneously, the New York Times revealed that only $1.7 billion of the $46.5 billion allocated for the prevention of evictions had been dispersed by the end of July. Republicans might not make an issue of this – but Democrats should.
[Coronavirus] COVID-19 Hospitalizations Exceed 100,000, Highest since January – The Delta variant continues to exceed expectations and confound public policy. Florida has the worst record with more than 17,000 hospitalizations.
[Capitol Riot] Capitol Police Officer Goes Public on Jan. 6 Shooting – Facing demonization by right-wing media, politicians, and Trump, Lt. Michael Byrd went public to describe the circumstances under which he fired at and killed January 6 rioter Ashley Babbitt as she was forcing her way into the House chambers. He has previously been exonerated by two internal investigations, but the right wing has chosen him as a target of extralegal attack.
Friday, August 27
[Afghanistan] U.S. Claims Retaliatory Strike Kills ISIS Leader – A drone strike is reported to have taken out an ISIS tactical leader in eastern Afghanistan. Assuming the accuracy of this assessment, it provides a psychological boost for the beleaguered Biden administration.
[Afghanistan] Kabul Airport Reopens, U.S. Claims Over 110,000 Evacuees – The impressive, perhaps historical, 14-day evacuation got lost in the killing and chaos, and the fact that tens of thousands seeking to go will not be evacuated.
[Hurricane Ida] Potential Category 4 Hurricane Ida Aims for Louisiana Coast – Possibly the worst storm to strike Louisiana since Katrina is gathering for a Sunday landing. Populations are already evacuating and preparations are being made for considerable damage, loss of power, and loss of communications.
[Coronavirus] Florida Judge Strikes Down DeSantis Mask Mandate Ban – The ruling will be appealed, but by the time it takes for an appeal the issue may be moot because Florida schools will already have opened.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Intelligence Report on Coronavirus Origin: Inconclusive – Maybe COVID-19 got out of the lab, maybe it started with animals in the wild, plausible arguments can be made either way, which means that preferences and political factors will shape beliefs. It would be good for science to know how it really started, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for quite a while, at best.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 39,544,632; Deaths: 653,733
Many If not most Republicans really do believe that COVID-19 vaccines kill more people than they save. They believe this because of incessant propaganda, which says that the “facts” show COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous, politically motivated, and ineffective. You may have noticed this week numerous people were hospitalized from overdoses of ivermectin, mainly a veterinary anti-parasite drug which is not effective against COVID-19. Nonetheless, thousands of people believe the propaganda that it’s better than vaccines. If you tried, you may have noticed that arguing in person about the facts usually gets nowhere. Arguments get stuck in unverifiable details and, if pushed, boil down to a dismissal on the grounds of “fake news.” This is a familiar pattern, which may often be lamented but shrugged off. But in this case the discussion involves life-and-death, thousands of deaths. It cannot be dismissed. Do you blame the people? Do you blame the sources of the propaganda more? If you tend to blame the propaganda, then what can be done about Fox News, Facebook, and myriad other right-wing media outlets that continue to push the deadly disinformation?
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Here are some factors on the impact of Afghanistan for U.S. politics: If really bad things continue to happen in Afghanistan, it could still be an issue for the midterms. Republicans will thrash every aspect, legitimate or not, until even right-wing media get tired of it. For Republicans, Biden’s Afghanistan incompetence could become the demonizing kernel they’ve been lacking. The majority of Americans will be glad we left Afghanistan and will be happy to put the issue out of mind. Most solid political bet: Afghanistan will not be much of an issue for 2022, but might be for 2024.
Pinned Trend: Other COVID-19 variants seem to have disappeared from the media.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
A key tell in this regard [playing politics with tragedy] comes from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), a member of GOP leadership, [who]declared that the deaths were ‘solely’ due to Biden’s ‘incompetent leadership’. Solely. There you have it: Republicans would focus investigations only on the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal, to make sure his ‘numbers are dropping’ before the 2024 presidential race.
Greg Sargent, “GOP Reaction to Troop Deaths Shows What a Republican House Would Really Mean,” The Washington Post, 08/27/2021.
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