Cup of Joe – 8/15/21

“The Taliban’s blitz across Afghanistan pushed closer to Kabul on Saturday, as U.S. diplomats appealed to the militants to stop the advance and President Biden warned that any moves to threaten American personnel or interests would be met with ‘a swift and strong’ military response from the thousands of U.S. troops flooding into the capital,” the Washington Post reports.

CBS News: U.S. Embassy in Kabul to be evacuated within 36 hours.

“Taliban fighters entered Kabul on Sunday and sought the unconditional surrender of the central government, officials said, as Afghans and foreigners alike raced for the exit, signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan,” the Washington Post reports.

“The beleaguered central government meanwhile sought an interim administration, but increasingly had few cards to play. Civilians fearing that the Taliban could reimpose a brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings. Helicopters buzzed overhead, some apparently evacuating personnel at the U.S. Embassy.”

Wall Street Journal: “The stunning meltdown of the Afghan state left the city in shock. The Taliban, who controlled none of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals just over a week ago, have seized the bulk of the country and are now readying to assume power.”

Keep in mind that this will be documented by the media in a way not possible during the fall of Saigon.

Wall Street Journal: “After 20 years of war, much of what the U.S. sought to accomplish in Afghanistan crumbled in just one week.”

New York Times: “This implosion comes despite the United States having poured more than $83 billion in weapons, equipment and training into the country’s security forces over two decades.”

“Building the Afghan security apparatus was one of the key parts of the Obama administration’s strategy as it sought to find a way to hand over security and leave nearly a decade ago. These efforts produced an army modeled in the image of the United States’ military, an Afghan institution that was supposed to outlast the American war.”

“But it will likely be gone before the United States is.”

President Biden blamed his predecessor, Donald Trump, for empowering the Taliban and leaving them “in the strongest position militarily since 2001” but said he had to make a choice and that he would not pass on the war to a “fifth” U.S. president, Axios reports.

Said Biden: “When I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.”

Politico: “The breathtaking failure to mold a cohesive and independent Afghan fighting force can be traced to years of overly optimistic assessments from U.S. officials that obscured — and in some cases, purposely hid — evidence of deep-rooted corruption, low morale, and even ‘ghost soldiers and police’ who existed merely on the payrolls of the Afghan Defense and Interior Ministries.”

Josh Marshall: “Several readers have written in telling me this will erupt into a political crisis for President Biden when Kabul falls. I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think Americans care that much about Afghanistan. In many ways, that’s been the story all along. The American public is highly insulated from our deployment in Afghanistan. That’s why we’ve been there as long as we have. Having said this, I’m also concerned about the political fallout to the administration. Republicans will try hard to make it an issue and it will fit tonally for Republicans trying to create a narrative of weakness, decline and chaos. But I’m not that concerned about it. And I’m not concerned enough to make me second guess the core policy decision or to believe that more planning and preparation would have made a difference.”

Playbook: “We finally got infrastructure week. Yet at the end of it, infrastructure is not the biggest story — and the ones that obscured it spell real trouble for the White House.”

“In part, that’s because they’re headaches on issues that are important to key constituencies for Biden. For many members of the Washington establishment, the collapse of Afghanistan is horrifying. For many younger voters and people on the left, the UN’s dire new climate change assessment is a call to action on an issue where they don’t see Democrats doing enough. And for many in the Democratic base — especially Black voters — the continued lack of urgency around voting rights feels discouraging and self-defeating.”

“The Biden administration is stepping in to offer financial assistance to Florida educators defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) law banning local K-12 mask mandates,” Axios reports.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration signaled earlier this week that it would slash the pay of Florida school superintendents and school board members who defy the governor on school masks,” the Miami Herald reports.

“But now — as two Florida districts, including Broward County Public Schools, remain defiant — the governor’s office is acknowledging the state has no control over local employees’ pay.”

“Hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients in their 30s have hit a new record, a sign of the toll that the highly contagious Delta variant is taking among the unvaccinated,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The U.S. is now averaging about 650 deaths a day, increasing more than 80 percent from two weeks ago and going past the 600 mark on Saturday for the first time in three months.”

Associated Press: “The COVID-19 death toll has started soaring again as the delta variant tears through the nation’s unvaccinated population and fills up hospitals with patients, many of whom are younger than during earlier phases of the pandemic.”

“Two-thirds of Americans in highly vaccinated counties now live in coronavirus hot spots, as outbreaks of the highly transmissible delta variant — once concentrated in poorly vaccinated pockets — ignite in more populated and immunized areas still short of herd immunity,” the Washington Post reports.

It seems the Delta variant is sparing no one who is not vaccinated — and it’s getting some who are.

New York Times: “With a stockpile of at least 100 million doses at the ready, Biden administration officials are developing a plan to start offering coronavirus booster shots to some Americans as early as this fall even as researchers continue to hotly debate whether extra shots are needed.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it will require more than 25,000 members of its health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Axios reports.

Bloomberg: “In recent weeks, Google and Facebook have announced that employees returning to their offices must be vaccinated. Walmart mandated vaccination for the mostly white-collar workforce at its corporate headquarters. Tyson Foods Inc., the meat processing giant, is requiring it of all its employees. In late July, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs made vaccination mandatory for its health-care personnel. This week Citigroup Inc. was the latest financial firm to require employees returning to its offices to be vaccinated, a day after the Pentagon announced a mid-September deadline for vaccinating all of the armed forces.”

“Today, vaccine holdouts still have a choice, but increasingly that choice is between keeping their jobs and losing them.”

Four Florida teachers working in the same school district died of COVID-19 within one day of each other this week, CBS Miami reports.  Three of the teachers were unvaccinated and that the vaccination status of the fourth was unknown.

“San Francisco will become the first major city in the country to require proof of full vaccination against the coronavirus for a variety of indoor activities, including going into bars, restaurants and gyms,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“The American Federation of Teachers stopped short of fully endorsing Covid-19 vaccine requirements for its roughly 1.7 million members, after union officials instead opted to encourage union workers to negotiate potential mandates with local governments and school systems,” Politico reports.

Said ATF President Randi Weingarten: “We believe that workplace policies should be done with working people, not to them.”

Weingarten previously said she backed a vaccine mandate.

Ron Brownstein: “While most state and national GOP leaders are focused on defending the rights of unvaccinated Americans, new polling shows that the large majority of vaccinated adults—including a substantial portion of Republicans—support tougher measures against those who have refused COVID-19 shots.”

“These new results, shared exclusively with The Atlantic by several pollsters, reveal that significant majorities of people who have been vaccinated support vaccine mandates for health workers, government employees, college students, and airline travelers—even, in some surveys, for all Americans or all private-sector workers. Most of the vaccinated respondents also say that entry to entertainment and sporting arenas should require proof of vaccination, and half say the same about restaurants.”

“All of this suggests that as the Delta variant’s ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ disrupts the return to ‘normal’ life promised by the vaccines, a backlash may be intensifying among those who have received the shots against those who have not.”

“A Covid outbreak that has partially shut one of the world’s busiest container ports is heightening concerns that the rapid spread of the delta variant will lead to a repeat of last year’s shipping nightmares,” Bloomberg reports.

“Health experts in Japan have said the country is confronting a coronavirus ‘disaster’ and urged the government to take immediate action to stem a surge in infections,” The Guardian reports.

Bill Gates told the Wall Street Journal he would spend $1.5 billion over three years on infrastructure projects aimed at slowing the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change.

However, he will likely shift funding for the biggest projects to Europe and Asia instead if the bipartisan infrastructure package doesn’t become law.

Politico: “Overall, Biden has nominated 405 people for Senate-confirmable positions across the government, including the State Department. Of those, 288 are still awaiting confirmation, far more than his modern predecessors. Before Biden, and dating back to Bill Clinton, no president had more than 178 nominees awaiting confirmation at this stage. (That was Donald Trump.)”

Jonathan Bernstein: “That’s before the last handful of confirmations were processed leading up to the Senate’s August recess, but unlike in previous administrations there was no large list of nominees agreed to before the break. The result? While Barack Obama had 293 of his important nominations confirmed at this point, and George W. Bush had 283, Biden has only 127.”

“A federal judge cleared the way Wednesday for a defamation case by Dominion Voting Systems to proceed against Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Lindell, allies of former President Donald Trump who had all falsely accused the company of rigging the 2020 presidential election,” the AP reports.

Bloomberg: “A federal judge in Washington ruled that Donald Trump must disclose certain financial records held by his accounting firm Mazars in response to a subpoena from congressional Democrats.”

“But in an order on Wednesday, the judge stopped short of calling for the handover of all the financial records that Democrats have requested, saying that disclosure of some of the materials would raise separation-of-powers concerns. Instead Mazars will have to turn over largely records relating to Trump’s lease on the Old Post Office in Washington and certain emolument questions.”

“The White House is shifting its approach to selling President Biden’s $4 trillion domestic spending plans, as the administration responds to polling data suggesting the threat of inflation represents a potent political risk,” the Washington Post reports.

“While he still maintains inflationary concerns are exaggerated and short-lived, Biden is now taking pains to show he recognizes the public’s fears over rising prices while arguing his spending plans are best-suited to combat them. These public concerns helped fuel a dramatic one-month plunge in consumer confidence for early August, reported Friday by the University of Michigan.”

HuffPost: “Union members could benefit from a tax break that Democrats are considering as part of their new $3.5 trillion budget plan.”

“Labor groups are pushing lawmakers to include a provision that would allow workers to deduct the cost of union dues from their taxable income. Such a tax break could defray the cost of union membership and, the thinking goes, encourage more workers to join unions.”

“U.S. border agents stopped more than 188,000 immigrants trying to cross the southern U.S. border in June, marking a 21-year high in monthly border crossings, as the Biden administration considers lifting Covid-19 restrictions and allowing more immigrants to claim asylum in the U.S.,” NBC News reports.

Washington Post: “The most sought after marijuana being trafficked across the U.S.-Mexico border is now the weed entering Mexico, not the weed leaving it.”

“Cannabis sold legally in California is heading south illegally, dominating a booming boutique market across Mexico, where buying and selling the drug is still outlawed.”

“Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) put blame for the release of election system passwords last week on the internet squarely on Mesa County officials, saying the breach could have allowed someone to access the settings of the county’s voting equipment, all of which may now have to be decertified,” the Colorado Sun reports.

“At the center of the case is Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican who as the investigation into her office heated up on Tuesday appeared at a ‘cyber symposium’ hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.”

Denver Post: “Mesa County must replace its election equipment because it is no longer secure after an unauthorized person allegedly took photos of its passwords that were later posted online.”

Washington Post: “Nine months after the 2020 election, local officials across the country are coping with an ongoing barrage of criticism and personal attacks that many fear could lead to an exodus of veteran election administrators before the next presidential race.”

“As Trump continues to promote the false notion that the 2020 White House race was tainted by fraud, there is mounting evidence that his attacks are curdling the faith that many Americans once had in their elections — and taking a deep toll on the public servants who work to protect the vote.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told New York Magazine that he would have been vindicated in an impeachment probe and that he would have made the state assembly “look like a ship of fools.”

Said Cuomo: “I feel like I did the right thing. I did the right thing for the state. I’m not gonna drag the state through the mud, through a three-month, four-month impeachment, and then win, and have made the State Legislature and the state government look like a ship of fools, when everything I’ve done all my life was for the exact opposite.”

He added: “I’m not doing that. I feel good. I’m not a martyr. It’s just, I saw the options, option A, option B.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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