Patterico's Pontifications

8/31/2021

California Dems Consider Banning the Non-Vaccinated from Work and Public Places, Shelve Bill Until After Recall Election

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:26 pm



[guest post by JVW]

In the never-ending attempt of California Democrats to impose East German-style regulations on citizens of the Golden State, Assemblywoman Buff Wicks (D-Oakland) proposed to turn California into the first state to restrict the ability of non-COVID-vaccinated residents to work or mingle indoors in public:

California Democrats are postponing a plan to require people to prove they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter indoor businesses and require workers to either get the shots or be regularly tested.

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, confirmed to The Sacramento Bee on Monday that the idea is dead for 2021. She was among the lawmakers who floated language for the concept last week, but did not formally introduce legislation to carry it out.

Lawmakers had less than two weeks to consider the bill in committee hearings and approve it by a two-thirds majority during floor votes before an end-of-session Sept. 10 deadline.

Wicks acknowledged last week that there would be staunch opposition to the measure, and that she wasn’t sure whether the coalition of lawmakers supporting the process wanted to pursue the idea this year or in January, when the Legislature returns from a break. The proposal would have gone immediately into effect upon the governor’s signature.

Wicks said on Monday she will continue working with all stakeholders to develop the “strongest possible policy” in 2022.

I am fine with the state government declaring that state employees must be vaccinated or tested (though there should be an opt-out for any employee who has already contracted COVID and thus developed natural antibodies). I am fine with county government requiring vaccinations or tests for county employees. City governments can require them for city employees. School boards can require them for school employees. Private employers can demand them for their own employees, subject to existing employee contracts. But I do not agree that the state government can demand that anyone and everyone in the state comply with this draconian order pushed by some high-strung Bay Area leftist.

And, of course, with the state legislative session ending on September 10 this bill would have been hastily pushed through the Democrat-dominated legislature without much debate or any real chance for opponents to organize against the bill. Apparently Ms. Wicks and her comrades in the majority were going to employ the time-honored underhanded tradition of taking a bill that had already been passed in the Assembly but was awaiting action in the state Senate (in this case a bill pertaining to Bay Area transportation), gutting it and replacing the text with the new COVID vaccination and testing requirements, then having a quick vote on the amended bill before then sending it to the Senate. This is how slick Democrat supermajorities operate in the Golden State these days.

Though we don’t know the real reason why Ms. Wicks and her allies chose to shelve the bill until next year — I doubt that claims that she wants to strengthen it as much as possible hold any water — I don’t think it takes too imaginative a mind to assume that the pending recall vote of Gavin Newsom made this bill toxic to all but the most extreme members of the California soviet. One can imagine this bill passing next week and landing on Newsom’s desk just as Californians are filling-out and mailing-in their votes. If this recall election (and I plan to write more about it later) accomplishes nothing else, at least it is curbing the more totalitarian instincts of the ruling Democrats, at least for the short while. I think recalling Governor Hair-Gel would be a fine way to smack some sense into them.

– JVW

8/30/2021

Good Night and Good Luck

Filed under: General — JVW @ 5:34 pm



[guest post by JVW]

The humiliation is complete:

The U.S. military completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday, the Pentagon announced.

“I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the military mission to evacuation American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans,” General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said in a video appearance at a Pentagon press conference.

The last American military plane took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport shortly after midnight in Afghanistan time. No American troops are left in the country, and members of the Afghan military helping to guard the airport, along with their families, were evacuated along with the last U.S. troops.

However, up to 250 American citizens attempting to leave Afghanistan were left in the country as of Sunday evening, a State Department spokesperson told ABC News on Monday. Thousands of Afghan allies of the U.S. also remain in the country.

I have been listening to some National Review podcasts recently. NR Editor-in-Chief Rich Lowry often points out that we spent decades after our withdrawal believing there were hundreds of POWs left behind — just think of all of the movies in the 1980s with a rescue-the-troops-from-the-Cong theme — even though today we now understand that it is pretty murky as to whether or not there were ever more than a handful, if even that many. But now we have the potential of 250 Americans stuck in the hellhole that is Afghanistan, dependent now entirely upon the smooth talking of the Biden Administration and the — please give me a moment here to retch — good graces of the Taliban. Perhaps all of them will be returned home unharmed, but what exactly are we going to have to promise the new rulers of the country in order to ensure their safe passage?

General McKenzie assures us that an extra week or so wouldn’t have mattered: “I think if we stayed another ten days we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out, and there still would have been people who would have been disappointed in that.” The most powerful military the world has ever known can’t do anything to bring home 250 stranded citizens? We don’t lack the ability; we lack the will. This will be an important part of the legacy of President Joseph Biden. Hopefully it will serve as a decision that our future Commanders-in-Chief will repudiate, in the same way that Jimmy Carter’s fecklessness was repudiated after he left office.

– JVW

Arming the Taliban

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:35 am



[guest post by JVW]

Over the weekend, The Times of London ran an article (trapped behind a paywall, alas) which included an accounting of how much equipment the United States Military likely left behind in their disastrously-executed withdrawal from Afghanistan. Prepared to be sickened:

Neither the Pentagon nor the Biden Administration is thus far willing to confirm or deny these numbers, but with Congressional hearings looming it’s at least somewhat likely the American people will gain a clearer picture of how ridiculously awful this truly is. That it took a newspaper based in the United Kingdom to report this is of course an indictment of the lazy and partisan major news media in our country, who seem either too busy beating up on Joe Biden or covering for his rank incompetence (and, to be far, it’s far more the latter) than to actually try to get a handle on what is going on.

Round up of Afghanistan news:

Victor Davis Hansen is having none of the Biden Administration’s sorry excuses.

Bing West wonders who will trust us after our botched abandonment.

David Loyn tries to figure out what Taliban rule means for Afghanistan this time around.

Bernard-Henri Lévy fears that this is a huge blow to all liberal democracies.

Charles C. W. Cooke notices that with a Democrat in the Oval Office, the media is back to broadly assigning shared blame for the fiasco and will certainly soon resurrect the notion that the Presidency is too big a job for just one man.

Hat tip to Powerline for the weapons graphic.

– JVW

8/27/2021

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:30 pm



[guest post by Dana]

With 13 dead U.S. troops, another 11 injured, and around 170 Afghans killed in the bombings in Kabul, it has been a brutal week. Watching it unfold from the safety and comfort of one’s home was bad enough, so I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for those Americans and Afghan collaborators still stranded in Afghanistan today. An update today reports that 5,400 people are inside Kabul’s airport still waiting for flights out of Afghanistan. While the evacuations have been nothing less than incredible when considering the sheer number of evacuees, there will be those who won’t be getting out and those who will likely die at the hands of the Taliban. Officials are saying that there are currently 1,000 Americans still on the ground in Afghanistan. And for any number of Americans stranded in the country after the August 31 deadline, there is no guarantee that they will get out:

And as for the families of those U.S. troops killed, I feel like anything I say would be trite. But I think this says it all:

First news item

I can’t even… :

U.S. officials in Kabul gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies to grant entry into the militant-controlled outer perimeter of the city’s airport, a choice that’s prompted outrage behind the scenes from lawmakers and military officials.

The move…was designed to expedite the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan as chaos erupted in Afghanistan’s capital city last week after the Taliban seized control of the country. It also came as the Biden administration has been relying on the Taliban for security outside the airport.

[T]he decision to provide specific names to the Taliban, which has a history of brutally murdering Afghans who collaborated with the U.S. and other coalition forces during the conflict, has angered lawmakers and military officials.

“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” said one defense official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. “It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean.”

On July 8, President Biden said that he does not trust the Taliban, yet nonetheless handed over the list of names to the group:

Q Mr. President — do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President?

Q Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it is not.

Q Why?

THE PRESIDENT: Because you — the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable.

Q Do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President? Do you trust the Taliban, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: You — is that a serious question?

Q It is absolutely a serious question. Do you trust the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I do not.

Q Do you trust handing over the country to the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I do not trust the Taliban.

Second news item

Pineapple Express saving lives:

With the Taliban growing more violent and adding checkpoints near Kabul’s airport, an all-volunteer group of American veterans of the Afghan war launched a final daring mission on Wednesday night dubbed the “Pineapple Express” to shepherd hundreds of at-risk Afghan elite forces and their families to safety…

Moving after nightfall in near-pitch black darkness and extremely dangerous conditions, the group said it worked unofficially in tandem with the United States military and U.S. embassy to move people, sometimes one person at a time, or in pairs, but rarely more than a small bunch, inside the wire of the U.S. military-controlled side of Hamid Karzai International Airport.

The Pineapple Express’ mission was underway Thursday when the attack occurred in Kabul…

There were wounded among the Pineapple Express travelers from the blast, and members of the group said they were assessing whether unaccounted-for Afghans they were helping had been killed.

As of Thursday morning, the group said it had brought as many as 500 Afghan special operators, assets and enablers and their families into the airport in Kabul overnight, handing them each over to the protective custody of the U.S. military.

Third news item

GET VACCINATED SO PEOPLE DON’T HAVE TO NEEDLESSLY DIE:

When U.S. Army veteran Daniel Wilkinson started feeling sick last week, he went to the hospital in Bellville, Texas, outside Houston. His health problem wasn’t related to COVID-19, but Wilkinson needed advanced care, and with the coronavirus filling up intensive care beds, he couldn’t get it in time to save his life.

[Dr.] Kakli told Begnaud [CBS News] that if it weren’t for the COVID crisis, the procedure for Wilkinson would have taken 30 minutes, and he’d have been back out the door.

“I’ve never lost a patient from this diagnosis, ever,” Kakli said. “We know what needs to be done and we know how to treat it, and we get them to where they need to go. I’m scared that the next patient that I see is someone that I can’t get to where they need to get to go.

“We are playing musical chairs, with 100 people and 10 chairs,” he said. “When the music stops, what happens? People from all over the world come to Houston to get medical care and, right now, Houston can’t take care of patients from the next town over. That’s the reality.”

Fourth news item

Unconstitutional and unenforceable:

At least 10 school districts — including some in many of the largest cities — had been defying state rules set by Gov. Ron DeSantis banning mask mandates.

Judge John Cooper ruled on a lawsuit brought by parents who say DeSantis overstepped his authority when his administration said school districts couldn’t order students to wear masks. DeSantis had warned that “there will be consequences” for districts that defied the ban.

Ruling from the bench at the conclusion of a five-day trial, Cooper said that face mask mandates that follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are “reasonable and consistent with the best scientific and medical opinion in this country.” He found that the DeSantis administration violated the law when it banned school districts from requiring masks.

Related (from Texas):

In one instance, a parent physically grabbed the mask off of a teacher’s face. In a separate incident, a teacher was repeatedly yelled at by a parent who requested the teacher take off their mask, claiming they couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying. The events have made waves across the district that consists of nearly 8,000 students and is tucked in the wealthy suburban outskirts of Austin.

Also related:

A Texas man who helped organize protests against pandemic restrictions is fighting for his life after being hospitalized for nearly a month with COVID-19, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported.

His wife, Jessica Wallace, wrote Wednesday on Facebook that she had a “heartbreaking update” about her husband, Caleb.

“He’s not doing good. It’s not looking in our favor,” she said. “His lungs are stiff due to the fibrosis. They called and said they’ve run out of options for him and asked if I would consent to a do not resuscitate. And it would be up to us when to stop treatments.”

Fifth news item

A blow to Newsom and state Democrats:

Vice President Kamala Harris has canceled a planned campaign appearance alongside California Gov. Gavin Newsom aimed at boosting Democratic turnout in the final weeks of the recall election that could force him out of his job.

The vice president’s decision to cancel her trip to her native state followed attacks in Afghanistan that killed at least 12 U.S. service members. She and Newsom were set to appear at a rally south of San Francisco.

Interestingly:

Democrats have tried to nationalize the race, linking the recall effort to Republicans including former President Donald Trump, who has not publicly commented on the contest.

[Ed. I guess now Republicans should try to nationalize the race, linking the recall effort to Democrats including current President Joe Biden and the debacle in Afghanistan...]

Anyway, FiveThirtyEight reports that the latest polls make it too close to call for either side and are well within the margin of error:

The analysis says that 48.8% of California voters oppose the recall. Removal of first-term Gov. Gavin Newsom is backed by 47.6%.

And how is the governor feeling about things these days:

“I’m now feeling the weight of this decision, and a weight of responsibility to defeat this, and also the responsibility that if we fall short, I’m going to own that,” he said. He mentioned to me some of his recent initiatives, including the injection of billions of dollars of federal relief money into the state budget and signing a bill to expand health care to undocumented workers. “If I do fall short, I’ll regret every damn one of those decisions. And I don’t want to have any regrets for putting everything out there and doing … what I think is right and what I think is in the best interest of California.”

Oh, and about the people of California? Well, because of the Delta surge and the calamity in Afghanistan, he’s apparently now able to actually able to reach out to Californians outside of the Bay Area bubble:

He unfolded from his chair at the end of our interview, and buttoned his suit jacket for a picture with the café staff. He left the banana peel and the coffee, barely touched, on the little table beside him. He was supposed to go on a bus tour and hold rallies with Democratic stars such as his old San Francisco–politics rival Harris, but that plan was derailed by Delta too. (After several delays, she announced that she would campaign for him this week, before canceling the appearance hours after an attack in Afghanistan killed U.S. service members.) Still, he had to get moving—he was driving to Los Angeles, not flying, so that he could make stops along the way and talk with voters on his own. Flying over California his whole life, he had “never fully absorbed and appreciated it,” he told me. He’s hoping that the state cares enough to appreciate him, at least a little longer.

Sixth news item

Leave it in place for those who need it:

The Waukesha school board opted out of a federal program giving all students free lunch this year.

It is the only district in the state to do so, and some parents are not happy about the decision.

The federal government offered free school lunches for all nationwide last year because of COVID-19.

The parents who are upset with the district said it helped students whose families are struggling financially and ended the stigma of signing up for free lunches…

The federal pandemic-era lunch program, the Seamless Summer Option, created a level playing field for students to get a free lunch for the whole school year despite family income.

It especially helped those families still suffering financial hardships.

But the Waukesha School District said, “When you compare last summer’s number of meals served to the current summer’s level of participation, it is down 40%. This indicates a lowering in the demand for this program. … When looking at the free breakfast program, especially at the high school level, each student was handed a meal as they walked in the door. This led to a significant amount of uneaten food and meal-related materials ending up in the trash.”

The district also said there’s been a more than 60% decrease in families taking advantage of the permanent free and reduced lunch program.

(IMO: If parents need the help because of financial hardship, pandemic related or not, they should be able to fill out any required paperwork for free meals because no kid should go hungry. But if parents are not suffering financial hardship or unemployment and have the means to feed their kids, then why wouldn’t they do so? I thought feeding our kids was a basic responsibility. No matter the reason, no kid should ever go hungry.)

Also, I don’t know for sure but it sounds like Waukesha School District doesn’t have a program in place in which leftover cafeteria meals are collected daily by local food banks or organizations to hand out to the public needing meals.

Seventh news item

FOR GODSAKE, GET VACCINATED AND WEAR A MASK INSIDE YOUR CLASSROOM!!!:

The outbreak location was an elementary school in Marin County, California, which serves 205 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade and has 24 staff members. Each grade includes 20 to 25 students in single classrooms. Other than two teachers, one of whom was the index patient, all school staff members were vaccinated… The index patient became symptomatic on May 19 with nasal congestion and fatigue. This teacher reported attending social events during May 13–16 but did not report any known COVID-19 exposures and attributed symptoms to allergies. The teacher continued working during May 17–21, subsequently experiencing cough, subjective fever, and headache. The school required teachers and students to mask while indoors; interviews with parents of infected students suggested that students’ adherence to masking and distancing guidelines in line with CDC recommendations (3) was high in class. However, the teacher was reportedly unmasked on occasions when reading aloud in class. On May 23, the teacher notified the school that they received a positive result for a SARS-CoV-2 test performed on May 21 and self-isolated until May 30. The teacher did not receive a second COVID-19 test, but reported fully recovering during isolation.

The index patient’s students began experiencing symptoms on May 22. During May 23–26, among 24 students in this grade, 22 were tested. A COVID-19 case was defined as a positive SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or antigen test result.* Twelve (55%) of the 22 students received a positive test result, including eight who experienced symptom onset during May 22–26. Throughout this period, all desks were separated by 6 ft. Students were seated in five rows; the attack rate in the two rows seated closest to the teacher’s desk was 80% (eight of 10) and was 28% (four of 14) in the three back rows

Eighth news item

Democrat Seth Moulton on his quick trip to Afghanistan:

Seth Moulton saw things during his trip to Afghanistan that were “truly out of this world.” He spent about 15 hours on Tuesday at the airport in the capital city of Kabul, the epicenter of America’s messy withdrawal from the nearly 20-year war there. The Massachusetts congressman described the scene as “the most visceral, raw view of humanity that I will probably ever see in my life,” with “thousands upon thousands” of refugees camped out and “desperate” to fly out of the country, which was overtaken by fundamentalist Taliban forces. The experience left Moulton more convinced than ever that President Joe Biden made grave mistakes in his handling of the exit.

Moulton was on his way back from Kabul in the wee hours of Thursday morning when he spoke to New York about the trip, during a layover in Madrid.

“The thing that everybody needs to understand, even if you completely agree with the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw, the way they have handled this has been a total fucking disaster,” said Moulton, who traveled to the country with Representative Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan. “It will be measured in bodies, because a lot of people are dying because they can’t get out.”

MISCELLANEOUS

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Untitled

Have a good weekend.

–Dana

The Perfect September Storm Threatens Democrats

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:10 am



[guest post by JVW]

September is setting up to be a horrid month for the Biden Administration and his fellow Democrats. Earlier this evening, the Supreme Court, to the surprise of no one at this blog, ruled that the administration’s cynical flip-flop in allowing the CDC to extend the rental eviction moratorium does not in fact pass Constitutional muster. Both Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Kavanaugh, who this past spring had joined with the liberals to allow the eviction ban to be extended a few extra months, joined this time with their conservative colleagues in ruling 6-3 that the CDC simply does not have the authorization from Congress to direct housing policy in over 80% of the country. The majority’s unsigned per curiam opinion made clear that Justice Kavanaugh was deadly serious when he wrote this past spring that any extension beyond August 1 would require Congressional authorization:

Careful review of [the] record makes clear that the applicants are virtually certain to succeed on the merits of their argument that the CDC has exceeded its authority. It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken. But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts [. . .]

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent, joined by the other two left-wing members of the Court, which focused more on the idea that rather than summary judgement, the Court should have had a full hearing on the issue and rendered their decision in — oh, I don’t know — November or December. He also placed a great deal of emphasis on the idea that COVID rates are rising, and that the hardship suffered by landlords who are not receiving rent money can’t be all that bad since (1) tenants have been ordered to pay “as much as they possibly can” in the interim and (2) Congress has allocated $46.5 billion to go to landlords to make up the lost revenue. Justice Breyer either elides or is completely ignorant of the fact that (1) the idea that tenants are going to make partial payments when they have no obligation to do so is pretty far-fetched and (2) that money allocated by Congress has been held up by red tape at the state level and to date only about $5 billion of that $46.5 billion (a whopping 11%) has made its way to the pockets of landlords.

So landlords will now presumably be free to begin the eviction process anew, or, to put a finer point on it, tenants will once again be on the hook for paying up. This brings us to our next crisis point for President Biden and the Democrat Congressional leadership: the looming expiration of federal unemployment benefits. Matt Weidinger explains [bold emphasis added by me]:

On Labor Day, an estimated 7.5 million individuals are expected to see their temporary federal unemployment benefits come to an abrupt end. But even though that will mark the largest shutoff of such benefits in American history, two political dynamics have made mention of the approaching benefits cliff all but taboo in progressive policy circles: The cliff was designed by the Democratic authors of the March 2021 American Rescue Plan, and it will disproportionately affect residents of blue states.

[. . .]

One of the ironies of the coming cliff is that it was intentional. The Democratic authors of the March 2021 American Rescue Plan that extended benefits through Labor Day insisted on replacing the “soft phaseouts” created in a bipartisan December 2020 law, which would have allowed current recipients to continue collecting benefits for some time after the program closed to new applicants, with a “hard cutoff” that took away all recipients’ benefits at the same time. Why? Because in the bizarre logic of some liberal policymakers, hard cutoffs improve the odds that Congress will approve another extension. The more acute and widespread the pain of a program’s expiration, the malign thinking goes, the greater the political pressure to extend it.

That logic has been undercut by many states’ decision to simply opt out of paying federal benefits in recent weeks. The opt-outs include most red states, whose leaders argue that expanded federal unemployment benefits have kept people from returning to work. And as a result, they have reduced many red-state representatives’ incentive to support another extension of benefits, since the checks wouldn’t be going to their constituents regardless.

That contributes to the second irony behind the coming benefits cliff: The vast majority of those about to lose benefits as a result of the Democrat-designed law are residents of blue states, including populous California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey. In the week ending July 24, over 80 percent of those receiving major federal benefits were in states led by a Democratic governor.

With vaccines widely available and record job openings, it is well past time for these extraordinary benefits to end. President Biden dismissed the possibility of another extension in May. Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) recently seconded that, when he suggested “I’m done with extensions.” Just last week, the Biden administration formally pulled the plug on further federal funding, stating in a letter to Congress that the $300 bonuses “will expire” as scheduled. The fact that it is Democrats who are nixing any chance of another extension has undoubtedly contributed to what some call the “current silence of federal policymakers” about the upcoming benefits cliff. But two lesser-known truths — that the cliff was designed by Democrats, and that it will disproportionately affect the residents of blue states — also explain why Washington lawmakers who usually cheer on more benefits have been notably silent about the “hard cutoff” to come.

So, yet again, the ultra-clever Democrats — the “adults in the room,” the “competent professionals,” etc. — have out-smarted themselves. And we now face a September in which not only will plenty of blue state residents (and some red state residents too of course) lose their federal jobless benefits, but they will also likely be required to start forking over the rent money too. And all of this just as the party leadership wants to pile on over $4 trillion in new spending. Pity the poor purple or red state Democrat who has to try to explain this mess to his or her constituents, a wound the party has inflicted entirely upon themselves.

– JVW

8/26/2021

Attacks Near Kabul Airport (UPDATES ADDED)

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:53 am



[guest post by JVW]

It’s starting to get worse:

This is a developing story. It is not yet known whether the “civilian casualties” are Afghan or U.S., nor whether they are injuries or deaths, though apparently three U.S. Marines have been injured. I will try to update this as new information is released.

– JVW

UPDATE ADDED (by Dana): The Wall Street Journal is reporting that four U.S. Marines were among those killed in the Kabul airport explosion. The report also states that another three were wounded.d

UPDATE II (by JVW, 11:28 am): This is really bad.

UDPATE III (by JVW, 12:31 pm): The New York Times ups the U.S. death toll to twelve, and reports they are among “scores” who have been killed.

UDPATE IV (by JVW 2:03 pm): Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin said today that only 500 U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan who desire evacuation. According to him, there were 6,000 of them who had informed the embassy that they desired to leave as of August 14, and to date 4,500 of them have departed. Of the other 1,000 left over after the math is done, Blinkin reports that they have not yet “made reservations” (my phrase, not the tortured explanation Blinken provides), and might be dual citizens who do not intend to leave. But I can’t help but get the feeling that the State Department is not telling us the full truth here.

8/25/2021

Biden’s Approval Rating Tanks, Right as His Controversial Reconciliation Package Comes Up

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:57 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Yesterday a poll commissioned by USA Today and Suffolk University was published in the newspaper’s pages, and it does not offer comforting news for President Biden. The President, buoyed for months by fatuous media reports that he would “unify” the country and “heal” our divisions post Trump, has seen his favorable approval ratings crash; the guy who spent the first six months of his Presidency with a majority of Americans approving of his performance now finds that rate down to 41%, with 55% of respondents expressing disapproval. (At Powerline, Paul Mirengoff points out that the survey says only 32% of independents approve of the President’s performance, which would indicate that a properly weighted number which doesn’t oversample Democrats is probably lower than 41%.) The disastrous exist from Afghanistan no doubt plays heavily into this assessment, but it’s likely too that Americans have noticed the resurgence of COVID (which this Administration was supposed to conquer), the mess at our southern border (the Supreme Court yesterday refused to block a federal judge’s order that the Biden Administration reinstate the Trump “Remain in Mexico” policy), and the continued rise of inflation thanks in no small part to the Democrats’ spending orgy.

And it is the last of these that is likely to be center stage next month (with sincere hopes, of course, that the Afghanistan mess has somehow worked itself out in the end). The Democrats this week succeeded in advancing their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation framework through both houses of Congress, setting up debate in mid-September when Congress returns from its Labor Day vacation. The framework delivers on some long-promised Democrat pledges such as universal pre-Kindergarten for children aged three and four; two years of “free” community college tuition; an expansion of affordable housing; money for “green” bureaucracies and subsidies for alternative energy companies; and, of course, and expansion of both the fiscally-unsustainable Medicare program (this time by adding new vision, hearing, and dental benefits) and the failed Obamacare program which, if you had forgotten, was supposed to by now not only be self-supporting but also was going to have saved us scads of money otherwise spent on the Medicare program. In other words, this framework codifies the notion that failed government initiatives will always be bailed out with more money rather than reformed in light of their unreasonable promises and excessive costs.

But with the sinking fortunes in the White House it isn’t entirely obvious that Democrats will find enough votes to pass their full wishlist, at least as it is currently configured. In the House, “moderate” Democrats initially held back their votes, quarreling with leftist Democrats over which unnecessary and unaffordable “stimulus” bill should be brought forth first, the bipartisan $1.2 trillion “infrastructure” bill (man, I’m using a lot of scare quotes today, aren’t I?) or the aforementioned Democrats-only boondoggle. Moderate Democrats want to first vote on a bipartisan bill to establish their credentials as cross-aisle dealmakers, before being asked to fall upon their swords for the Sandersesque multi-trillion dollar farce. Progressive Democrats fear that the moderates will abandon them on the larger reconciliation package, and in anticipation plan to hold the bipartisan bill hostage until they can negotiate a deal on the larger package which would keep the party together. The trick for Speaker Pelosi is that any concessions given to the moderates — for instance lowering the overall price tag below $3 trillion, or paring back the tax increases that leftists are demanding — risks alienating progressives and blowing the whole thing up. And this doesn’t even begin to acknowledge the power that Joe Manchin, Kristen Sinema, and, if he wants it, Jon Tester could wield in the Senate. Senators Manchin and Sinema are both on record declaring the $3.5 trillion to be too large, so it is going to take heroic efforts by the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer troika to work all of this out.

And that brings us back to the increasing unpopularity of one Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. A President with a 55% approval rating might be able to finagle a wobbly Democrat to support his agenda by promising campaign appearances during next year’s midterm elections. A President with a 41% approval rating probably doesn’t have much to offer, and might in fact actually harm an incumbent Democrat’s chances. There are some suggestions that the vulnerable House Democrats realize that they are likely to lose in 2022, so they might be willing to sell their vote in exchange for an appointment to some sort of deputy White House position or an executive desk with some Democrat lobbying firm. The Hill reported last week that polls show 72% support for the smaller $1.2 trillion infrastructure but 57% opposition to the huge leftwing $3.5 trillion spending feast, which at once strengthens the position of the moderates yet also ensures that the arm-twisting from leadership will be intense.

Anyway, September promises to be lots of fun in our nation’s capital. Frankly I think the best-case scenario is that Democrats fall completely apart over these two bills, and as a result neither one manages to pass. But I have seen enough lunacy over the past decade-plus that I fully expect both of them to slide through in one form or another, though I doubt very much that either bill will come close to attaining its stated objectives.

– JVW

Afghanistan Observations

Filed under: General — Dana @ 3:19 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Two damning observations today:

This, this, this:

[A]t this very moment we’re facing a situation in Kabul in which (a) we’re abiding by a Taliban deadline because there’s no alternative that doesn’t end with lots of Americans dead, (b) we’re planning to abandon American citizens and many, many Afghan friendlies behind enemy lines, and (c) we’ll probably end up paying a king’s ransom to the jihadi degenerates now in charge of Afghanistan for the safe passage of anyone who doesn’t make it out before next Tuesday.

And, most certainly this:

If Americans are still in Afghanistan next Tuesday, Biden will be faced with a choice — either abandon our countrymen or ignore the deadline that he, under Taliban pressure, has now doubled down on.

If he leaves Americans behind enemy lines, it will be one of the most shameful derelictions of duty by a commander in chief in our nation’s history, a putrid act that will stain Biden’s memory forever. It was Biden’s recklessness and incompetence that stranded these Americans in Taliban-controlled territory, and it would be his cravenness and incompetence that would leave them there.

Meanwhile, today:

During a press briefing Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that there are only roughly 500 Americans remaining in Afghanistan who wish to be evacuated.

He noted that out of 6,000 U.S. citizens who stated that they wanted to leave as of August 14, when the evacuation effort began, 4,500 U.S. passport holders were rescued, leaving 1,500 people, approximately 500 of whom are still actively looking for passage out. The numbers Blinken cited do not include those in possession of a U.S. green card, reporters confirmed at the press conference.

The State Department is trying to ascertain the status of about 1,000 U.S. citizens who have not contacted the U.S. government explicitly requesting evacuation. At a subsequent briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration believes many of the 1,000 who are currently unaccounted for may be dual citizens of the United States and Afghanistan.

However, the secretary said that this number is fluid and “dynamic” given the rapidly evolving circumstances on the ground.

“The specific estimated number of Americans in Afghanistan who want to leave can go up as people respond to our outreach for the first time, and can go down when we reach Americans we thought were in Afghanistan but have already left,” he said.

Despite Jen Psaki telling us it was irresponsible to use the word “stranded” when referring to Americans um, stranded in Afghanistan, Sen. Romney didn’t call it what it is:

There can be no doubt that we have the mightiest and most capable military in the world, the most advanced technologies available, and an extraordinary amount of substantial resources to make sure that every last American and every one of our Afghan partners is safely evacuated from Afghanistan, but the question is: do our politicians have the will to do that?

–Dana

8/24/2021

Completing His Humiliation, Cuomo to Have Emmy Rescinded

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:38 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving asshole:

Disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was stripped of his Emmy Award on Tuesday due to sexual harassment allegations substantiated in the state attorney general’s probe that delivered the death knell to his gubernatorial reign.

“The International Academy announced today that in light of the New York Attorney General’s report, and Andrew Cuomo subsequent resignation as governor, it is rescinding his special 2020 international Emmy Award,” reads a statement from the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

“His name and any reference to his receiving the award will be eliminated from International Academy material going forward.”

Cuomo was bestowed the award in November 2020 for his COVID-19 pandemic press briefings.The scandal-scarred governor, who formally resigned Monday, was formerly recognized for his “effective use of television during the pandemic,” the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced.

You don’t have to be a Donald Trump fan to realize that Cuomo’s Emmy was meant to be a eff-you finger from the entertainment industry to the Trump Administration, so it’s high comedy indeed to watch them now behave in an utterly Pecksniffian manner. But given how fantastically awful Sonny Cuomo’s behavior was over the years, given how the Democrat establishment was happy to downplay his abusive behavior towards everyone in his orbit from staff to legislators to media, given the rampant corruption that occurred under his administration both in official policy and in Sonny’s own financial dealings, I welcome that one brief moment where the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences pretends to grow a conscience and endeavors to right a wrong.

And, naturally, the former governor left office in the most self-pitying and obnoxious way possible. Kyle Smith at NRO sums up the disgraced governor’s farewell pretty well:

[. . .] Even to dedicated Cuomotextuals, the [speech] was a masterpiece of effrontery, arrogance, and Escher-style self-negating twists. The obfuscation! The blame-shifting! The conspiracy-theorizing! The denial! The sheer, sordid cheek of the thing! It was a positively Frankenian farewell.

Mr. Smith hearkens back two-plus decades ago to Cuomo’s former boss, Bill Clinton, in comparing Handsy Andy’s dismissal of the allegations against him with Bubba’s shameful rationalizations for why the Monica Lewinsky scandal was overblown. Quoth Cuomo:

There will be another time to talk about the truth and ethics of the recent situation involving me, but let me say now that, when government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts, you undermine the justice system — and that doesn’t serve women and it doesn’t serve men or society.

Of course, as Kyle Smith points out, “the facts” have never been on Sonny’s side. Not only did eleven women raise allegations against him, not only did several of them report this abhorrent behavior to family and friends immediately after it occurred, not only did more than one damming picture appear to show Sonny engaging in the alleged behavior, but the New York Attorney General, a nominal ideological ally if also a political rival, investigated the matter and determined the allegations had merit. Yet to Asshole Andy, this is all some big cultural misunderstanding and no doubt will at some point morph into an outlandish claim that the state with the largest total number and fourth-highest percentage of Italian-American residents is somehow biased against a son of Italy.

The body politic won’t miss a depraved character like Andrew Cuomo, though this entire affair isn’t going to amount to much unless the Empire State takes a long and difficult look at their political culture and resolves to address the huge influence that sleazy political machines wield. Both major parties have seen their leadership wind up in prison for various levels of malfeasance, so verily there aren’t too many — if any at all — virgins in the Albany brothel. But anyone who professes to believe in the general beneficence of government — and I’m looking at you as a prime example, New York Times editorial board — has to pay more attention to the cast of characters it is willing to support in order to achieve their ideological objectives, and perhaps wonder if it is truly worth suffering the Andrew Cuomos of the political sewer merely to promote abortion, gun control, and same-sex marriage.

– JVW

President Biden To Hold To Aug. 31 Deadline In Afghanistan

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:57 am



[guest post by Dana]

CNN is reporting that, despite pressure from our European allies and even from Congressmembers from his side of the aisle, President Biden has agreed to the Pentagon’s recommendation saying that the US will hold to the August 31 deadline:

President Joe Biden has decided, in consultation with his national security team, to stick with the August 31 deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official.

Biden made the decision mindful of the security risks in remaining the country longer, the official said, and he has asked for contingency plans in case he determines at a later date the US needs to remain in the country for longer.

On Monday, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff expressed doubts about being able to successfully evacuate all Americans remaining in Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 deadline:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff [D-CA] said it was “very unlikely” that the U.S. completes its evacuation of Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 deadline.

“I think it’s possible but I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated. It’s hard for me to imagine that all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month.

I am encouraged to see the numbers of people evacuated increasing readily to the point where we evacuated 11,000 people in a single day. Nonetheless given the logistical difficulties of moving people to the airport and the limited number of workarounds it’s hard for me to see that could be fully complete by the end of the month. I’m certainly of the view that we maintain a military presence for as long as is necessary to get all U.S. persons out and to meet our moral and ethical obligations to our Afghan partners.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and who have previously served in the military reacted with skepticism to the hard deadline decision:

(Just two days ago, Crow, along with other Congressmembers called on the Administration to extend the perimeter in order to safely relocate the Afghans who aided the US in Afghanistan.)

And here is Republican Representative Peter Meijer sharing similiar concerns about the deadline:

Although the Taliban warned the US about extending the deadline, Biden officials said on Monday that such rhetoric would not influence the President’s decision…

And according to ABC News:

As the deadline to evacuate looms, approximately 58,700 people have been evacuated from Kabul since Aug. 14, when the Taliban took control of the government, according to a White House official. Since the end of July, the U.S. has relocated approximately 63,900 people.

Officials have been vague when asked how many Americans still need to be evacuated, only saying that there are “thousands,” and blaming it on citizens not registering with the embassy when they arrive or deregistering when they leave.

The thing is, no one doubts the might and ability of the US military to go in and evacuate every last American stranded in Afghanistan. But clearly, there has to be the will to do so by those with real power. With that, I’ll leave you with this:

*we will get as many as it is possible to get out. Oh.

–Dana

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