Cup of Joe – 8/27/21

The Pentagon has confirmed that multiple U.S. troops and “a number of Afghan civilians” were killed in an attack outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, Axios reports.

At least 10 U.S. service members have been killed outside the airport in Kabul, Fox News reports. Additional U.S. troops are being treated for injuries.

This attack is precisely why we are leaving, in case you needed a reminder. These troops are heroes, because the Administration had been warning of this kind of attack for the last 2 days, and still they stood by the gates trying to get people to safety.

Washington Post: “The deaths marked the first U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan since February 2020, when two American soldiers were killed in an insider attack by an Afghan soldier. The Trump administration signed a deal with the Taliban a few weeks later that included a promise that the militant group would not target U.S. troops.”

BBC: “People were in such a state of desperation that they’re not going to pay attention to this kind of information. They’re hearing all kinds of rumors and they’re just trying to focus on getting out of the country.”

President Biden said he has directed the Pentagon to develop plans to “strike” ISIS-K “assets, leadership and facilities” in response to the Kabul airport bombings, Axios reports.

Said Biden: “To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm know this: We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. has evacuated more than 4,500 Americans from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, is in touch with 500 more people who are trying to get out, and believes up to 1,000 more Americans may want to evacuate, Axios reports.

New York Times: “Early reports indicated that the explosion was caused by at least one suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest. It was unclear how many people were injured or whether anyone was killed, but large crowds have been gathering at the gate in recent days.”

Wall Street Journal: “An Afghan man who was on the edge of the crowd, near the Baron camp adjacent to the airport, said the explosion occurred in the middle of thousands of people. He said he saw many maimed, bloodied people being brought out and was told of many fatalities.“

“The Republican Party is united in its criticism of President Biden’s chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan. But the crisis has also exposed a deep internal divide between party leaders over relocating Afghan refugees at home,” the New York Times reports.

“Many Republican lawmakers have accused Mr. Biden of abandoning the Afghan interpreters and guides who helped the United States during two decades of war, leaving thousands of people in limbo in a country now controlled by the Taliban.”

“But others — including former President Donald Trump and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader — have sought to fold the issue of Afghan refugees into the anti-immigrant stance of the party’s far right.”

New York Times: “At least 250,000 Afghans who may be eligible for expedited American visas remain in Afghanistan, far too many for American forces to rescue before their deadline to leave next week, new estimates suggest.”

“But precise figures are impossible, as American officials have not said how many remain in the country.”

This definitely feels like a moving the goalpost issue. We were told there were about 6,000 Americans and around 60-80k Afghan SIVs we need to evacuate. We evacuated all the Americans that want to go (apparently there is about 1,000 that want to stay), and over 90k additional Afghans.

Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) defended their decision to travel to the Kabul airport this week and told the New York Times they had walked away with important insights.

“They said the trip had changed their minds about Mr. Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for a full withdrawal, which they had previously urged the administration to extend. Given that there is little chance that all Americans and Afghan allies can be evacuated in the next two weeks, they said, a swift departure is the only way for the United States to ensure that the Taliban will cooperate in eventually getting those left behind to safety.”

A private jet thought to be carrying another U.S. congressional delegation has been denied permission to land at Kabul airport, CNN reports.

Washington Post: “There are more than 100,000 people hospitalized with covid-19 in the United States, a level not seen since Jan. 30 — when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available — as the country grapples with the delta variant’s spread.”

Axios: Coronavirus cases are soaring, especially in the South.

“Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday announced an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates regardless of a vaccine’s approval status with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” the Texas Tribune reports.

“The order comes two days after the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. That raised questions about the fate of a previous Abbott order that prohibited vaccine mandates, but only for those under emergency authorization.”

Wisconsin state Sen. Andre Jacque (R), who sponsored bills to ban mask and vaccine mandates, is now on a ventilator after testing positive for COVID-19, the Associated Press reports.

Daily Beast: “In western South Dakota’s Meade County, more than one in three COVID-19 tests are currently returning positive, and over the last three weeks, seven-day average case counts have increased by 3,400 percent. This exponential growth in cases is likely attributable to the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew an estimated half a million visitors to Meade County and its environs from Aug. 6 through 15, potentially acting as a superspreader event.”

“The state more broadly has witnessed a 686.8 percent increase in daily case counts over the past three weeks, currently more than 10 times the nationwide rate.”

New York Times: “More people in Florida are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic, underscoring the perils of limiting public health measures as the Delta variant rips through the state.”

“This week, 227 virus deaths were being reported each day in Florida, on average, as of Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the most in the United States right now.”

Washington Post: “More than 17,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 in Florida, which has the most hospitalizations for Covid-19 of any state in the country.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told Fox News that President Biden had failed to “end COVID,” whereas his state was experiencing “great success” in treating patients.

Philip Bump: “DeSantis is doing the best he can to hold his position as the Republican Party’s leading voice and top non-Trump contender for the 2024 nomination. That means framing his handling of the pandemic as good-if-not-optimal and running down Biden as ineffective and unsuccessful.”

“It means appearing in the safe space of Fox News prime time to opine about how it’s better to try to rescue some of the people hanging by their fingertips from the edge of a cliff than to put up a stanchion asking people not to approach the cliff’s edge. It means telling a national audience of Republicans that he’s doing well on the pandemic even if Floridians are less likely to believe it.”

Stephen Wertheim: “Suppose President Biden came before Congress to announce that ending the war in Afghanistan was only the beginning. In recent years, the United States has used force on the ground or conducted strikes from the air in at least nine countries: not only Afghanistan, but also Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. These wars go on in part because one person wages them. Congress has abdicated its constitutional duty to determine whether, where and whom America should fight.”

“Mr. Biden inherited this situation, but he need not perpetuate either the ongoing wars or the legal evasions that enable them. He could tell Congress this: It has six months to issue a formal declaration of the wars it wants to continue, or else the troops (and planes and drones) are coming home.”

“Were he to deliver such an ultimatum, Mr. Biden would, in a stroke, usher in a new era of U.S. foreign policy.”

Washington Post: “The bounty of U.S.-provided weapons and vehicles, long paraded by Taliban insurgents after capturing or stealing them from Afghan forces, has grown to alarming proportions, well beyond the ability of U.S. officials to casually dismiss.”

“And while throughout the war, militants prized rifles and other sophisticated personal equipment as individual trophies, the sudden and stunning collapse of the Afghan military has allowed for armored vehicles, helicopters and a glut of heavy weapons to be commandeered by militants now running the country.”

Wall Street Journal: “Iran this week restarted fuel exports to Afghanistan that had been disrupted by fighting between the Taliban and forces under the now deposed Afghan government, traders in Tehran and former U.S. officials say, with the Taliban now providing critical dollars to the sanctions-crushed Iranian economy from its lucrative narcotics operations.”

“The burgeoning trade relationship between Tehran and the Taliban threatens to undermine key U.S. pressure campaigns against both.”

New York Times: “Just days after the Taliban took Kabul, their flag was flying high above a central mosque in Pakistan’s capital. It was an in-your-face gesture intended to spite the defeated Americans. But it was also a sign of the real victors in the 20-year Afghan war.”

“Pakistan was ostensibly America’s partner in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Its military won tens of billions of dollars in American aid over the last two decades, even as Washington acknowledged that much of the money disappeared into unaccounted sinkholes.”

“But it was a relationship riven by duplicity and divided interests from its very start after 9/11. Not least, the Afghan Taliban the Americans were fighting are, in large part, a creation of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the I.S.I., which through the course of the war nurtured and protected Taliban assets inside Pakistan.”

Jonathan Chait: “The mainstream media certainly gave Trump harsh and even overtly hostile coverage. But the mainstream media only describes roughly half the media landscape. The other half of the media is a right-wing messaging apparatus that makes no effort to follow traditional journalistic norms.”

“Republicans communicate to their base through a media that functionally operates as part of their party, while Democrats communicate to their base through a media that still exerts substantial independence.”

“If you want to understand the strange difficulty that Joe Biden’s sane, competent administration has in yielding measurably higher approval than Trump’s insane, incompetent presidency, the asymmetrical relationship between the two parties and their respective media environments is the most important place to start.”

This is perhaps the most important structural asymmetry in American politics today.

 “A Michigan man who admitted taking part in an extremist group’s plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in retaliation for Covid restrictions was sentenced Wednesday to over 6 years in prison,” NBC News reports.

“Ty Garbin, 25, is the only person to plead guilty out of the more than a dozen men facing state and federal charges stemming from the plot. Five of those charged in federal court pleaded not guilty and face trial in October.”

Bloomberg: “A supply chain crunch that was meant to be temporary now looks like it will last well into next year as the surging delta variant upends factory production in Asia and disrupts shipping, posing more shocks to the world economy.”

New York Times: “The White House economic team has lowered informal internal forecasts for growth this year, citing supply constraints and possible consumer response to the renewed spread of the virus.”

Bloomberg Businessweek: “The geography of America’s economic engine is heavily concentrated in counties that Joe Biden won in 2020. These counties are much more heavily vaccinated than the rest of the country and thus better able to withstand the economic effects of Covid’s delta variant.”

“The 520 counties Biden won account for fully 71% of U.S. gross domestic product, while the 2,564 that Trump carried produced just 29%. In other words, America’s economic engine is bluer than ever.”

A federal judge in Michigan ordered sanctions to be levied against nine pro-Trump lawyers, including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, ruling that a lawsuit laden with conspiracy theories that they filed last year challenging the validity of the presidential election was “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process,” the New York Times reports.

“Two conservative hoaxers face a record $5.1 million fine for allegedly making illegal robocalls to wireless phones without the owners’ consent in the 2020 election,” the Associated Press reports.

“The proposed fine for Jacob Wohl, Jack Burkman and Burkman’s lobbying firm would be the largest ever for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.”

Wall Street Journal: “Federal prosecutors are investigating Barry Bennett, a Republican lobbyist and one-time unpaid campaign adviser to former President Donald Trump, over allegations that he secretly set up and funded a U.S.-based advocacy group without disclosing its ties to the government of Qatar.”

“With only a month until voters determine Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor, her party has lost what had seemed a near certain path to victory, breaking open the German election and raising the chances of a government led by the centre-left Social Democrats,” the Financial Times reports.

“Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed rumblings that he will run next year for vice president, in what critics say is an attempt at an end-run around constitutional term limits,” the Associated Press reports.

“Polls suggest that running Duterte in tandem with his daughter, Sara Duterte, currently the mayor of Davao City, as the presidential candidate would be a strong pairing.”

“As countries around the world debate whether mandatory vaccinations would help defeat Covid-19, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is betting they will also help him win re-election,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Unveiling one of the world’s strictest vaccine policies for transportation, Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal government said on Aug. 13 that it would ban people from boarding any plane, train or cruise ship in Canada unless they were fully vaccinated.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) continued his attacks on the coronavirus vaccine while promoting several debunked Covid-19 “treatments” on a Washington Times podcast.

Said Johnson: “I’ve been an advocate for early treatment. I’m very agnostic. I don’t care what drug will work. Try a bunch of them.”

After Johnson promoted an anti-parasitic animal drug for animals as part of a cocktail of repurposed drugs for early treatment of Covid-19, the FDA issued a warning: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) deleted a tweet last night comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.

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

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