Cup of Joe – 8/19/21

Gen. Mark Milley said that intelligence assessments showed the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and security forces was a possibility, but they ranged from weeks to months to even years following U.S. departure, CNN reports. Said Milley: “There was nothing that I, or anyone else, saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days.”

The Independent: “Current and former national security officials and experts… describe a dysfunctional situation at the National Security Council, in which top aides did not fully grasp the seriousness of the intelligence being delivered to them by those on the ground because they lacked the operational experience to recognize the situation for what it was.”

“Others say the failure of the U.S. project in Afghanistan stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the motivations of America’s erstwhile Afghan allies… People in Biden’s orbit who were contacted for this story pushed back on the characterization of ‘panic’ within the NSC.”

Reuters: “About 5,000 diplomats, security staff, aid workers and Afghans have been evacuated from Kabul in the last 24 hours… The evacuations by military flights will continue around the clock, he said, adding that clearing the chaos outside the airport was a challenge.”

Iran has closed its border with Afghanistan, the BBC reports.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has released a security alert informing Americans still in Afghanistan that it “cannot ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai International Airport.”

“Please be advised that a significant number of individuals have registered and space on these flights is available on a first come, first serve basis.”

“Taliban promises of ‘safe passage’ to the Kabul airport for Afghans trying to flee the country have been undermined by reports of women and children being beaten and whipped as they try to pass through checkpoints set up by the militants,” The Guardian reports.

Washington Post: “The Taliban erected checkpoints throughout the capital and near the airport’s entrance, beating some Afghans who attempted to cross and intimidating others from leaving.”

New York Times: Taliban violently crush first public protest.

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN that he was concerned that then-President Donald Trump “undermined” the U.S. agreement with the Taliban by pushing for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan without the Taliban meeting the conditions of the deal. Said Esper: “My concern was that President Trump, by continuing to want to withdraw American forces out of Afghanistan, undermined the agreement.” He added: “Otherwise, we would see a number of things play out, which are unfolding right now in many ways.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said he would hold hearings into the “flawed” U.S. troop withdrawal of Afghanistan, Axios  reports. “Menendez, who blamed both the Biden and Trump administrations for the crisis unfolding in the Taliban-controlled country, is one of three top Democrats who head Senate committees who’ve vowed to investigate the Afghanistan crisis.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA.) also pledged hearings and investigations.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled his country as its capital Kabul was being overtaken by Taliban fighters, is now in the United Arab Emirates, CNBC reports.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports the Afghan ambassador in Tajikistan says Ghani escaped with bags full of $169 million dollars.

David Ignatius: “The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban was like watching the collapse of the twin towers. In an instant, the edifice crumbled into a pile of rubble.”

“But it didn’t happen quickly, really. The structure of the Kabul government has been rotting from within for all 20 years of the United States’ war. And every U.S. commander knew its weakness. They worried about the corruption and incompetence of the government, devised elaborate strategies to fix it, kept convincing themselves they were making progress. Hope is not a strategy, as every commander knows. In this case, it was.”

“Too often, the generals brought the media along with them in this exercise of self-delusion. Looking back over a dozen years of my own reporting from Afghanistan, that’s one painful recognition. These columns often expressed skepticism about the larger enterprise, but they kept recording, year after year, the generals’ ambitions for success. It wasn’t a big lie so much as a series of little bubbles of false optimism.”

“To understand President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan against the advice of the US military establishment, you need to go back to a debate that played out more than a decade ago, during the early years of Barack Obama’s presidency,” Vox reports.

“In 2009, the new Obama administration debated whether to ‘surge’ troop levels in Afghanistan after nearly eight years of war had failed to quell the insurgency from the overthrown Taliban forces. Top generals asked early that year for 17,000 more US troops and then, having gotten those, asked for an additional 40,000 to try to weaken the Taliban and strengthen the Afghan government.”

“Then-Vice President Biden was consistently one of the biggest skeptics of the military’s recommendations. Throughout months of debate, he repeatedly raised the inconvenient point that the generals’ preferred strategy seemed extremely unlikely to lead to actual victory.”

“House Democratic leaders told members of their caucus on Tuesday that they plan to press ahead with a vote advancing a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint next week, disregarding warnings from moderate Democrats who said they will oppose that legislation without first voting on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill,” the New York Times reports.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her deputies “this is no time for amateur hour.”

She added: “For the first time America’s children have leverage — I will not surrender that leverage. There is no way we can pass those bills unless we do so in the order that we originally planned.”

Punchbowl News: “House Democratic lawmakers and aides privately believe the moderates have gone too far, but at this point, the group isn’t backing down. With only a three-vote margin to play with, Pelosi will need this issue resolved before the House takes up the rule for the budget resolution on Monday night.”

“There are some similarities to the schism inside the House Democratic Caucus now and that which occurred in 2009 and 2010, when the party’s factions were clashing over Obamacare. Yet at that point, there were also far more moderates and Blue Dogs than now, and Pelosi had a much bigger majority. So there’s a limit to how much room both she and the moderates have to operate. That plays in Pelosi’s favor, not the moderates. We’ll see how she handles it in the end.”

Axios reports that Pelosi and White House officials met for 90 minutes to strategize how to ensure passage of the bill.

Pelosi’s genius was to tie the two pieces of legislation together. That meant that each ideological side of the Democratic caucus has the votes to sink the other side’s priorities. If the nine House moderates follow through on their threat to vote against the budget resolution, the bigger group of House progressives will retaliate and vote against the bipartisan bill. Pelosi knows both sides desperately want something in the bills. But that will only happen if both bills pass.

Josh Huder explains: “Democrats’ narrow majorities leave almost no room for error. Theoretically, this empowers almost every member as the pivotal actor capable of driving congressional decision making. In practice, however, it’s the opposite. When everyone has power, no one does. Presuming various factions believe these deals are in their interest, the only feasible path forward is a detente between them.”

What does that mean? Pelosi has all the leverage. There’s no path in which either extreme can block the other without simultaneously blowing up their own policy goals. By linking the two bills, Pelosi turned her narrow House majority from a weakness into a strength.

U.S. health officials recommended Covid-19 booster shots for all Americans to boost their defenses amid delta variant, the AP reports.

Beginning the week of September 20, Americans who received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will be offered a booster shot eight months after their second dose.

NBC News: “The plan does not yet include those who received Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, the rollout of which started several months after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.”

Former President Trump in a Fox Business interview: “That sounds to me like the money-making operation for Pfizer. OK? Think of the money involved… Let’s give them another shot. That’s another $10 billion of money coming in. The whole thing is just crazy.”

President Trump claimed in a Fox News interview that the Taliban, which formed in 1994, has been “fighting for a thousand years.”

Sean Hannity plugged MyPillow on his radio show to Americans with family stranded in Kabul:

“How would you like to be in Kabul today, as an American, and you can’t get to the airport? Where are you thinking your life is headed? If you’re one of those family members, I bet you’re not sleeping. I don’t even think My Pillow can do it. That’s where I go. I fall asleep faster, I stay asleep longer. These are going to be a lot of sleepless nights for so many of our fellow Americans. We’ve got to get them home.”

“There are more intensive care patients in Alabama than there are ICU beds in the state to treat them,” the Washington Post reports.  “Hospitals in the South have for weeks been overrun by covid-19 patients as cases surged across the Sun Belt. But now, health-care workers across the country are also struggling to manage the waves of cases brought on by the delta variant.”

Three studies published by the CDC “show that protection against the coronavirus from vaccines declined in the midsummer months when the more contagious delta variant rose to dominance in the United States,” the Washington Post reports.  “At the same time, protection against hospitalization was strong for weeks after vaccination, indicating the shots will generate immune fighters that stave off the worst effects of the virus and its current variations.”

Politico: “The evidence, compiled by federal scientists over the past several months, showed a decline in the initial round of protection against Covid-19 infection that’s coincided with a resurgence in cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant. The data looked at vaccine effectiveness in individuals across age groups, with varying medical conditions and who received the shot at different times.”

Washington Post: Rise of delta variant and waning immunity are fueling breakthrough infections.

The Biden administration will require nursing home staff vaccinations as condition for federal funds, the AP reports.

The Independent School District of Paris, Texas will require masks as part of its dress code when school starts Thursday after action by the Board of Trustees to work around Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) executive order attempting to ban masking in schools, the Paris News reports.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who tested positive yesterday for the coronavirus, has told people he received a third booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, NBC News reports, which is not available to the general public. He is also receiving the rare treatment that Trump received but that is not available to the general public. Abbott was at a crowded and maskless indoor event last night.

Religious radio broadcaster Jimmy DeYoung Sr., who spread disinformation about the coronavirus vaccines, was killed by the virus, the Chattanoogan reports.

The Daily Beast reports DeYoung published an interview earlier this year “promoting the conspiracy theories that the Pfizer vaccine would make women sterile and that world governments were using the virus and vaccine to centralize power.”

“Issuing yet another plea for Kentuckians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as hospitals fill with unvaccinated patients around the state, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said the state is nearing a tipping point,” the Lexington Herald Ledger reports.

Beshear said the state is seeing the “most rapid rise in cases that we have seen to date. We’re at an alarming point, and we’re rapidly approaching critical.”

Wall Street Journal: “In 2001, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban, tried to arrange the group’s surrender to the new U.S.-backed Afghan government. It was rejected. He spent most of the past decade under arrest in Pakistan.”

“He returns to power 20 years later after the U.S. lobbied for his release when the Trump administration launched talks with the Taliban. At the helm of the group’s political office in Doha, its de facto embassy, Mullah Baradar led talks with the U.S. that culminated in a deal to end America’s engagement in the 20-year war.”

“The world still has little idea who Afghanistan’s new leaders are and how they will rule the country. If the movement has a face, today it is Mullah Baradar. He is the highest-ranking leader of the movement to appear in public since it took back control of Afghanistan.”

Quits as a percentage of total separations — which includes layoffs, firings and retirements — reached 69.3% in June. This measure, also known as the “take this job and shove it” indicator is at an all-time high, Axios reports.

Washington Post: “The United States is currently experiencing a surge in worker productivity that could rival that of the tech boom 20 years ago — if it lasts. As companies and customers embrace new technologies, making it easier for Americans to produce more with fewer workers, a growing number of economists say this is not a blip and could turn into a boom — or, at least, a ‘mini boom’ ― with wide-ranging benefits for years to come.”

“The optimism this time derives partly from Congress and the White House taking steps to make significant investments in physical and digital infrastructure, and partly from the coronavirus pandemic forcing rapid and widespread adoption of the digital economy, robots and artificial intelligence.”

The Texas Supreme Court ruled that House Democrats “who refuse to show up to the state Capitol in their bid to prevent Republican lawmakers from passing a voting restrictions bill can be arrested and brought to the lower chamber,” the Texas Tribune reports.

NBC News: “The court’s decision is a win for House Republicans and lifts a temporary restraining order issued by a county judge last week blocking arrest warrants — signed by GOP House Speaker Dade Phelan — targeting dozens of House Democrats who fled the state to block Republicans from passing a restrictive voting bill.”

Two former police officers from Virginia have rejected initial plea deal offers by the U.S. Justice Department to resolve charges stemming from their role in storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Reuters reports.

One of the men was ordered to remain in jail last month after prosecutors said he violated his bail arrangement by amassing a large arsenal of weapons after the Jan. 6 riot.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a court filing that the National Rifle Association “hasn’t cleaned up rampant financial and managerial misconduct as it claimed over the past year, illustrating the need for the gun-rights group to be dissolved,” Bloomberg reports.

“Iran has nearly doubled its enrichment capacity dedicated to purifying uranium close to the levels required for nuclear weapons, signaling it won’t de-escalate its atomic activities before meeting again with world powers,” Bloomberg reports.

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

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