From Brian (Crooked) <[email protected]>
Subject What A Day: Raging Kabul
Date August 16, 2021 11:59 PM
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...a striking reminder that neither Bezos nor Musk pay enough money in taxes.

Friday, August 16, 2021

** -Kevin McCarthy ([link removed]) [link removed], ([link removed]) truly passionate; sincerely angry ([link removed])

The government of Afghanistan collapsed in rapid fashion over the weekend, ceding control of the country to the Taliban movement weeks sooner than expected, and creating a mad scramble to evacuate the country at Karzai International Airport, the last outpost in the country still under U.S. control. Here’s the latest.

* President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan Sunday ([link removed]) , allowing Taliban fighters—who had been rapidly consolidating control of Afghan territory—to seize the presidential palace without encountering armed resistance. In anticipation of the takeover, the U.S. government evacuated its embassy and U.S. troops secured control of the international airport in Kabul to allow evacuees to leave the country safely.

* The Afghan government was widely expected to collapse under duress within weeks of the U.S. departure—even after 20 years of military training and financial support, the government remained corrupt and its military underfunded, unprepared, and demoralized. But the Biden administration was reportedly surprised by the speed of the Taliban takeover and the dramatically compressed time frame made an orderly evacuation from the airport impossible ([link removed]) , as Afghanis and others intent on escaping rushed to the airport, and on to the tarmac in the hope of boarding planes and getting out before the Taliban completed its takeover.

* American forces at the Kabul airport killed at least two gunmen who opened fire ([link removed]) . The highest-ranking U.S. commander in Afghanistan reportedly met with Taliban leaders in person to secure a commitment to non-intervention in the evacuation from the airport. In White House remarks Monday afternoon, Biden acknowledged that the dissolution of the Afghan government “did unfold more quickly than we anticipated," but stood by his decision to withdraw, noting that America’s adversaries would love nothing more than for the U.S. to remain mired in Afghanistan for years. He also threatened the Taliban with a swift and punishing military assault if its fighters interfere with withdrawal.

Why did this happen and What Does It All Mean for U.S. and global politics? Whew…

* President Biden took office after the Trump administration negotiated an agreement with Taliban leaders to withdraw all troops from the country by May 1, 2021, and after President Trump—already a lame duck—ordered the withdrawal of thousands of troops this past November ([link removed]) . Apart from moving back the deadline a few weeks for operational reasons, Biden stuck to the deal, knowing the alternative course would be to send troops back into combat to arrest the Taliban insurgency. Chaos in these final days was an inevitable consequence of withdrawal under the circumstances, and the only alternative to it was to rip up the deal and put off withdrawal inevitably.

* Don’t believe anyone who claims to know the long-term ramifications of these recent developments. Likewise, don’t get taken in by Republicans, from Trump on down, who now claim to be outraged by the withdrawal they supported just a few weeks ago; who claim they could have managed the withdrawal more effectively; or who now pretend to mourn for those who wish to be refugees, after supporting a Muslim ban for years. However, even under Democratic control of Congress, there are likely to be legitimate oversight investigations to determine whether the U.S. war in Afghanistan could have come to a more orderly end—either by delaying the withdrawal until winter, or by some other means.

Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was the right one—even given the chaotic execution, and the consequences of Taliban control over a country of almost 40 million people. The immediate goal should be a safe evacuation of as many allied civilians as possible; an after-action report will and should follow; and the above-board debate remains one between supporters of indefinite troop surges and withdrawal. But as Republicans cleanse ([link removed]) their websites of all mention of Trump’s “peace deal,” neither Democrats nor members of the media should play sucker to those who claimed to support withdrawal until they could pretend to oppose it for political gain.
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Crooked is back with a brand new season of This Land ([link removed]) . This time around, host Rebecca Nagle takes you inside her year-long investigation into a series of custody battles over Native American children and how the most powerful people on the far right are using them to quietly dismantle American Indian tribes and advance a conservative agenda. This Land’s trailer is out right now and the first two episodes premiere on August 23. Listen and subscribe to This Land ([link removed]) wherever you get your podcasts.
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Here’s one to keep an eye on (after gouging it out): This weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dropped a hint as to how she’d overcome a threat from Democratic centrists ([link removed]) to tank President Biden’s economic agenda unless she allows the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill to become law right away. If their threat were successful, it would delink the two halves of Build Back Better, making the larger, more progressive piece of it easier to undermine or even kill. “I have requested that the Rules Committee explore the possibility of a rule that advances both the budget resolution and the bipartisan infrastructure package,” she wrote in a Sunday letter to colleagues ([link removed]) .

The procedural ins and outs are convoluted, but the most important thing to know is that the language of this “rule” will be very consequential, and we should pay close attention to how far she intends to “advance” the Senate infrastructure bill. If the rule requires the House to take a separate, final-passage vote on the Senate infrastructure bill, then she and House progressives can continue to insist that both halves of Biden’s agenda must rise or fall together. But if the rule says both the resolution AND the Senate infrastructure bill can pass the House with a single vote, then the groan-inducing BIF will be all but a done deal, and the centrists can walk away from the as-yet-unwritten reconciliation bill, or insist on gutting it. A lot rides on how this process unfolds.
* Forecasts say Tropical Depression Grace will flood Haiti this evening, ([link removed]) just days after a 7.2 earthquake struck the western half of the country killing over 1,300 people.

* The Taliban is using WhatsApp to gain support within Afghanistan ([link removed]) . a Facebook spokesperson told Vice "as a private messaging service, we do not have access to the contents of people’s personal chats. However, if we become aware that a sanctioned individual or organization may have a presence on WhatsApp we take action."

* Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) may have spilled the beans (and violated campaign-finance rules) ([link removed]) when he told a crowd of Republicans in Nevada that the state’s GOP attorney general, Adam Laxalt, intends to run for Senate against incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV).

* Canada’s transportation minister announced ([link removed]) that the government will require “all commercial air travelers, passengers on inter-provincial trains and passengers on large, marine vessels with overnight accommodations such as cruise ships” to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 starting this fall.

* Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke submitted a 20-page document to a House subcommittee ([link removed]) outlining the dire threat to democracy if Congress doesn’t secure voting rights, particularly given the coming redistricting.

* The right-wing revolt against the coronavirus vaccines has created a division among evangelicals ([link removed]) and scared most church leaders into silence just as Delta variant burns its way through the Bible Belt.

* Jeff Bezos’s space company Blue Origin has sued NASA ([link removed]) in the hope of being awarded a chunk of “lunar lander” funds that the agency awarded solely to Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX, in a striking reminder that neither Bezos nor Musk pay nearly enough money in taxes.

Flattening the curve of Delta variant cases will help save children’s lives, ([link removed]) even if it turns out Delta is no more lethal to children on a per-infection basis than earlier coronavirus strains, or even seasonal influenza. While the jury’s still out on whether Delta is deadlier, its high transmissibility means way, way more children in Delta-variant hotspots are becoming infected, sending child-hospitalization rates soaring. Most of those hospitalized children survive, but some require intubation, and if too many people are hospitalized at once, ventilators grow scarce, and children who would otherwise have had excellent chances of survival will succumb to COVID-19. That augurs for vaccination requirements, non-pharmaceutical interventions like masking and physical distancing, particularly as schools prepare to reopen.
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Protect Voting Rights with the ACLU

Following record voter turnout in the 2020 election, politicians are drumming up false concerns and baseless conspiracies about widespread voter fraud to justify suppressing the right to vote. Over 400 voter suppression bills have been introduced across almost every state. These bills seek to make it more difficult for people to register to vote, vote by mail, or vote in person. The ACLU won’t stop fighting until every eligible voter can cast their ballot. Are you with us? Click here to sign the ACLU petition today. ([link removed])

Join the ACLU in demanding no excuse absentee voting, same day registration, automatic voter registration, and access to in-person early voting for every eligible voter. We won’t stop fighting until every eligible voter can cast their ballot.

The ACLU needs supporters like you to help us stop these voter suppression efforts. Click here to add your name today to defend voting rights with the ACLU. ([link removed])

Daily confirmed coronavirus cases in Missouri ([link removed]) , Arkansas ([link removed]) , and Nevada ([link removed]) —three of the states hardest hit by the Delta variant—have plateaued or begun to decline.

For the first time this year, Disney's Halloween costume lineup will include adaptive costumes for children with disabilities ([link removed]) .

Kiwi (the bird, not the fruit) have returned to many parts of the forests in the Northland region of New Zealand ([link removed]) from which they disappeared in 2016.

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera sounded off on vaccine misinformation ([link removed]) that has depressed vaccine uptake, including among some professional athletes: "“Gen Z is relying on [smartphones]. And you got some, quite frankly, fucking assholes that are putting a bunch of misinformation out there, leading people to die. That’s frustrating to me, that these people are allowed to have a platform. And then, one specific news agency, every time they have someone on, I’m not a doctor, but the vaccines don’t work. Or I’m not an epidemiologist, but vaccines are going to give you a third nipple and make you sterile. Come on. That, to me? That should not be allowed.”
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