Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 28 through Friday, September 3, 2021 [Vol.3 No.7]
Afghan War Ends
The Week’s Most Notable
This week the 20-year U.S. war in Afghanistan ended. Throughout that grinding spread of time, the U.S. lost service members (more than 2,400 + 3,800 contractors), money (more than $2 trillion), and all sense of why we were in Afghanistan. The Afghans lost more than 180,000 fighters and civilians. All around, it was a lost war, especially after Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. The war spanned four U.S. presidents, three party turnovers in Congress, two recessions, the beginning of the pandemic, and then an ending almost as ugly and shambolic as the end of the Vietnam War. Is there any wonder why in general Americans are more than willing to forget this war? Most of the time we were not conscious of it anyway. Now, unless the Taliban don’t care about forming a recognizable government and insist on committing atrocities the right-wing media can exploit, the issues of the Afghanistan war will have faded long before the 2022 midterm elections.
The decision (5-4) to allow the Texas antiabortion law to stand will not go away before the 2022 elections. The law will be in effect for at least six months. The Supreme Court has set the whirlwind in motion. In the months to come, other states will mimic the law, multiple cases will be generated to test it, and the media will thrash the narrative as often as possible. Abortion and its regulation were already the most divisive and sensitive issue in the country; the Texas law is perhaps the most bizarre and infuriating antiabortion legislation to ever receive Supreme Court attention. Abortion is not allowed after detection of the fetal heartbeat (about six weeks and likely to be a big legal bone of contention). The law provides no exceptions for rape or incest. The law uses vigilantism – anybody (not with the government) can track and report on cases of abortion, and the law provides for $10,000 in bounty for successful prosecution. The law is designed to target neither the mother, nor the father, but those who support the abortion. It avoids involving any level of government, which theoretically keeps it out of reach of the courts. It would be difficult to design something more devastating to the people involved, or to the rule of law.
Why did the conservative Supreme Court justices do this? So far, the only answer seems to be, because they can. It’s as if they were trying to find the most inflammatory, untenable, destructive case – and just didn’t care what happened. They could have put a hold on it, simply waiting for nearly a dozen other less draconian antiabortion cases to pass through the normal court procedures before ending Roe v Wade. But the conservatives on the court didn’t wait; they used the shadow docket mechanism, which was supposed to be a list of last-minute procedural decisions for routine court business; and they ruled at midnight with a skimpy memorandum on the most profoundly emotional, complex, and disruptive issue in the country. Bad case, bad ruling, terrible optics all around. They provided pro-choice proponents and the Democrats with enough highly emotional material to last for many months. It’s too early to tell, but it’s likely that the majority of American women, by the millions, are going to be outraged not only by this Texas case but by the prospect of something similar happening nationwide. It is also kicking loose much more vociferous arguing in favor of putting a bridle on the runaway court, such as by increasing the number of justices. That might not happen, but it’s going to be part of the debate from now until the midterm elections.
If Afghanistan and abortion weren’t enough to fill the topical platter, then add natural disasters such as Hurricane Ida, in both its Louisiana (hurricane) and New York (deluge) formats; the fires in California – particularly the Caldor Fire that threatens the Lake Tahoe area; and of course, the surge of COVID-19 cases in the South, thanks to the Delta variant and the Republican Party. Each of these would be sufficient for a major story in their own right, but taken together point to a situation where mother nature is throwing disasters at the human race, hard and fast, and we’re demonstrating a near-inability to deal with them. The problems are mounting not only at the local level, but the state and national levels, which is not even to mention global management. This was a week to appreciate how quickly one disaster turns into another, as, for example, the Louisiana storm turned into a record-breaking storm in New York, and the escape from Afghanistan turned from a comprehensible exodus into ad hoc chaos.
Saturday, August 28
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 39,723,754; Deaths: 657,354
[Coronavirus] Southern Hospitals Running Short of Oxygen, ICU Space, Critical Nurses and Doctors – The new wave of COVID-19 cases, caused by the radically more infectious Delta variant, has drained the resources of hospitals in the states of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. Some hospitals are instituting forms of triage, selecting which patients will receive treatment, and calls have gone out for supplies, nurses, and doctors. In some locations, this has been an ongoing full-out emergency battle for more than a year and those involved are wearing out.
[Voting Rights] More Than 50,000 Demonstrate in D.C. Voting Rights March – Part of a larger national effort to draw attention to voting rights legislation now in Congress.
[Afghanistan] Biden Warns of New ISIS Attack near Kabul Airport – While military airlifts have resumed, with the Tuesday deadline looming U.S. intelligence services have detected a strong possibility of a renewed attempt at suicide bombing near the airport. [Update: U.S. forces thwart purported attempts at suicide bombing by using drones to destroy suspected vehicles.]
Sunday, August 29
[Hurricane Ida] Ida Slams into Louisiana as Category 4 Hurricane – It is the strongest storm to hit Louisiana since 1850, with 150 mile-per-hour winds, 30-foot storm surge, and inches of rain. It appears that New Orleans will be in the path of the storm, which will be a severe test of its new emergency flood management system. (Katrina hit New Orleans 16 years ago today.)
[Afghanistan] Biden Meets with Families of 13 Service People Killed in Kabul – Elsewhere, the U.S. and 97 other countries negotiated a deal with the Taliban to continue evacuations up to and in some cases beyond the August 31 deadline.
[Coronavirus] Fauci Indicates Vaccines for Children under 12 May Be Available in October – He indicated that he was in favor of mandating the vaccines, most likely from Pfizer and Moderna, as soon as safely possible. On the other hand, the CDC and FDA have put the brakes on the administration’s overly enthusiastic endorsement of a booster shot by September 20; not going to happen, mostly for manufacturing reasons.
[North Korea Nuclear] North Korea Restarts Nuclear Reactor for Fissile Material – Lest we forget other problems in the world, North Korea is taking advantage of chaos elsewhere to restart its reactor used to produce materials for plutonium bombs. It had been shut down since 2018 and was a centerpiece of the verbal agreements with Pres. Trump.
Monday, August 30
[Afghanistan] Biden Declares Final U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan – the War Is Over – The final military transport plane left Kabul airport on Monday. Theoretically all military personnel and U.S. government employees have been evacuated, but it’s estimated that around 200 U.S. citizens remain, as well as tens of thousands of Afghan citizens who have been identified as supporting the U.S. and allies during the 20 years of occupation. It’s expected that negotiations and operations with the Taliban will continue while they support U.S. efforts to attack ISIS-K. Finding and removing other key Afghan personnel remains highly problematic.
[Tropical Storm Ida] Ida Pushes through Louisiana Heading for East Coast – Although downgraded to a tropical storm, Ida continues to produce enormous quantities of rain, and threatens to swing back into the Atlantic Ocean for a run at the New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island coasts. Damage and schedule delays caused by Ida are expected to raise the cost of oil and gas for much of the U.S.
[Coronavirus] Court Forces Hospital to Administer Ivermectin – In a ruling likely to be overturned, and considered of extreme danger by the American Medical Association and other groups, a Butler County Common Pleas Court in Ohio ordered a local hospital to administer the antiparasitic treatment ivermectin for a COVID-19 infection. This has been strongly advised against by the CDC and the FDA, as being both noneffective and potentially dangerous. The case is representative of attempts to use ivermectin as a substitute for vaccines, and has been highly promoted by right-wing media.
[Coronavirus] EU Recommends Banning Nonessential Travel by Unvaccinated Americans – The move will take the U.S. off the European “White List,” and end any possibility of more freely traveling between continents. The U.S. is still continuing to limit travelers from Schengen areas of Europe (most of the EU).
[Wild Fires] California Caldor Fire Forces Evacuation of South Lake Tahoe – More than 22,000 residents are being evacuated ahead of the fast-spreading fire. [Update: Changing winds seem to have spared the area.]
Tuesday, August 31
[Afghanistan] Biden Calls Evacuation of Afghanistan Successful – The U.S. military did remove more than 120,000 American and Afghan citizens during the two weeks of the evacuation. There was even an agreement with the Taliban that they would escort Afghans safely to the airport. On the other hand, few but the administration would call the operation a success, as it appeared as chaotic as the evacuation from Saigon during the Vietnam War, and 13 American military personnel, along with about 150 Afghan citizens, were killed in the process. Republicans are likely to try to make this a campaign issue for 2022, probably without much success.
[Texas Voting Rights] Texas GOP Passes Delayed Voting Rights Restrictions – Finally overriding the opposition, including the Democrats’ breaking quorum for more than a month by traveling to Washington DC, the additional legislation, such as banning drive-through and 24-hour voting, enhances Texas’s reputation as the most difficult state in which to cast a vote.
[1/6 Investigation] McCarthy Threatens Communications Companies over 1/6 Phone Calls – Should companies like AT&T and Verizon comply with a legal subpoena from Congress, McCarthy made it clear that the Republican Party would come down hard on them; quite possibly an illegal threat, in any case a stupid empty threat, which has no basis in any law. Congressional committees routinely subpoena phone records, the difference here is that some of the records being requested by the House Select Committee on January 6 pertain to Republican members of Congress.
Wednesday, September 1
[Texas Abortion Law] Supreme Court Allows Texas Abortion Law to Stand – Seldom has doing nothing done more harm. By using the so-called “shadow docket” to ram through a highly controversial non-decision, the conservatives on the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Texas could continue with implementation of its antiabortion law. In effect, because the Texas law bans abortions after six weeks, it is a total ending of abortion in the state and signals the probable end of Roe v Wade. It will be many months before any further Supreme Court rulings on the issue. Meanwhile, the Texas law is novel – designed to evade court rulings – in that it allows anyone, except government officials, to initiate prosecution of anyone aiding and abetting abortion. The law even provides for a bounty of $10,000 for information leading to successful prosecution. Basically, it pits citizen against citizen, and is guaranteed to hyperventilate the issue.
[Hurricane Ida] Ida Remnants Ransack New York and New Jersey with Record Rain – Transit systems were disrupted and flooding, particularly of basement apartments, was responsible for more than 50 deaths by the end of the week. The storm is called one of the worst, even though it was no longer a tropical system. Meanwhile back in Louisiana more than a million people are still waiting for power to be turned back on, as Ida exposed critical problems with the electrical grid of the area. On the other hand, New Orleans’ new $15 billion emergency flood control system worked.
Thursday, September 2
[Abortion] Biden Promises “Whole of Government Effort” to Oppose Anti-Abortion Laws – The Texas abortion law left in place by the Supreme Court, as predicted, is generating seismic waves. Whether Biden and the Democrats can actually coalesce behind some action, such as Pelosi’s efforts to put Roe v Wade into written law, remains to be seen. More likely, Democrats as a body of voters will join with others for large-scale demonstrations targeting political abortion activists for the 2022 election. Abortion is always going to be a tricky topic for Democrats. In fact, neither Republicans nor Democrats wanted the issue to be the focus for 2022. The surprise action by the Supreme Court has changed the realities on the ground.
[Climate Change] EPA Report: Greatest Burden of Climate Change Falls on People of Color – Between extreme heat and loss of property through flooding, the EPA report said that the ill-effects of climate change predominantly will affect urban dwellers of color. Because of poverty, culture, and geographical location, many minority groups will not be in a position to counteract the effects of climate change.
Friday, September 3
[Abortion] Texas County Judge Temporarily Blocks Suit under New Abortion Law – Travis County Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled that the law banning abortions after six weeks produces “probable, irreparable, and imminent injury” for medical providers. She placed a temporary restraining order on Texas Right to Life, which promptly noted that individuals would probably pick up the charge against Planned Parenthood. And so, the real judicial process begins, at the lowest possible court. It didn’t take long to get started; the same probably cannot be said for the end.
[Economy] Economy Produces Only 235,000 New Jobs in August – Economists had expected 720,000 jobs; the disappointing difference is said to be because of the surge in coronavirus cases. Nationwide, it has been noted that retail sales are down, elective travel is down, and that the overheating labor market seems to be cooling. Not all bad, but the drop in consumer confidence because of the increased presence of the Delta variant is worrying economists and Wall Street.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 40,765,356; Deaths: 665,858
Pinned Trend: This week the Mu variant, originating in Colombia, became a virus of concern, due to its ability to circumvent vaccine immunity of certain kinds.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Somewhat more mainstream voices have also chimed in. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) described the Taliban as ‘more legitimate than the last government in Afghanistan or the current government here’.
Ishaan Tharoor, “The U.S. Far Right Has a Curious Affinity for the Taliban,” The Washington Post, 09/02/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]