Patterico's Pontifications

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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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


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