Wishing safety to everyone in the path of Hurricane Ida as the storm closes in on the Louisiana coast. As of this writing, Ida is forecast to make landfall in Louisiana about 60 miles west of New Orleans, in the city of Houma, on Sunday.
Frida Ghitis of CNN examines some of the strategic choices that the U.S. has left when it comes to Afghanistan.
Listen to US officials speak and it's clear they are watching their words, trying to avoid antagonizing the radical jihadis for fear of jeopardizing the airlift that has carried more than 104,000
souls to safety since August 14. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gingerly sidestepped
a question about the future of the US Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday, saying, "With regard to diplomatic engagement, we're looking at a series of options, and I'm sure we'll have more on that in the coming days and weeks, but we're looking at a variety of options."
But we don't all need to watch our words. Let me say unequivocally: The United States cannot recognize a Taliban-led government -- certainly not any time soon.
Judging by the conciliatory tone
the Taliban spokesmen struck after the takeover, the group is interested in repairing its reputation and gaining international recognition. But words mean little, especially when there's a long track record of repugnant behavior. This is the group that sentenced women and girls to crushing restrictions
that prevented them from studying, working or leaving their homes on their own. The Taliban forced women to cover their faces in public, buried them up to their necks and stoned them to death
after claims of adultery. They also killed homosexuals, chopped off the hands of suspected thieves, and generally forced an entire country to live under draconian rules. Their words alone won't do.
of The New Yorker
asserts that the strike against ISIS-K will not deter extremist groups or terrorist operations in Afghanistan.
The United States may indeed manage to kill more isis-k fighters and destroy some of their modest arsenal. But the central flaw in U.S. strategy is the belief that military force can eradicate extremist groups or radical ideologies. On Friday evening, a senior Biden Administration official acknowledged that the United States “can’t physically eliminate an ideology. What you can do is deal, hopefully effectively, with any threat that it poses.” Past Administrations have tried lethal strikes. In August, 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered Operation Infinite Reach, a series of cruise-missile attacks on Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and on a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that U.S. intelligence erroneously linked to Osama bin Laden. The strikes were in retaliation for the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than two hundred and injured more than four thousand. That U.S. operation had limited impact. Three years later, Al Qaeda operatives carried out the 9/11 attacks, killing nearly three thousand in the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. Despite the killing of bin Laden, a decade ago, the more skilled Al Qaeda fighters were the force multipliers in the Taliban’s sweep across Afghanistan this year.
“The bottom line is that kinetic action by itself cannot significantly counter terrorist organizations,” Seth Jones, a former adviser to U.S. Special Operations forces in Afghanistan, told me. “It is very limited in what it can do. It can disrupt operationally and take people out. But tactical and operational impact is very short-term.”
Sarah A. Binder and Molly E. Reynolds of the Brookings Institution take a look at the impact of the 9/11 attacks on today’s Congress.
The 9/11 attacks reshaped the business of Congress in at least two ways.
First, the attacks have had lasting effects on congressional budgeting for defense. According to the Congressional Research Service, the federal government spent an estimated $2 trillion in emergency funding to support its response to the 9/11 attacks; Other analysts tally the costs at over $6 trillion. Legislative critics on the left and right have at times derided such emergency monies as slush funds since Congress does not account for the funding in its regular appropriations, allowing it to evade spending limits put in place in 2011. But the parties have generally been complicit in exempting such amounts from legal limits placed on other avenues of government spending. Two decades later, Congress still affords special treatment to the fiscal demands of the government’s war on terror.
For anyone who works on or visits Capitol Hill today, the changes made in the months and years immediately following the attack are readily apparent. Congress allocated funding to speed up the Capitol Visitors’ Center to serve as a security screening point for visitors to the Capitol itself; closed streets around congressional office buildings; constructed additional vehicle barriers; and made other changes to emergency procedures. By 2004, Congress had expanded the U.S. Capitol Police force (which today comprises almost 10% of the legislative branch’s budget) by roughly 27%.
These operational procedures were significant. But Congress left much bigger-picture, longer-range planning of importance undone. Despite calls for major reforms that would allow the House and Senate to continue operating and, if necessary, repopulate themselves in the event of catastrophe, Congress did little to address its own continuity.
Luisa S. Deprez of Washington Monthly asserts that conservatives have been singing the same song since the 1960s (at the very least), and Donald Trump is no exception at all.
Conservative elites can adjust their anti-government targets depending on the circumstances. Fried and Harris chronicle how Republicans’ arguments changed about how government should operate, depending on who was in control. Newt Gingrich’s rise to power was fueled by the charge that Congress had become too powerful. After Republicans won a House majority in 1994, Gingrich flipped to arguing that Congress should be the dominant power. The same way a broken clock is right twice a day, Gingrich might have stumbled into the truth since executive branch power has grown disturbingly large since World War II.
This can lead to infuriating hypocrisy. Despite Republicans’ portrayal of their complaints about “big government” as rooted in a consistent ideology, Fried and Harris show they’re situational. In the same press conference where President Reagan said “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,’” the conservative icon also announced “record amounts of assistance” to farmers. Later in the same news conference, the Gipper rebuffed Chicago Mayor Harold Washington’s contention that cuts in the federal budget were hurting his city’s residents.
In this telling, Donald Trump is no exception to decades of Republican party demagoguery. Granted, Trump’s anger, xenophobia, racism, and railings against the “deep state” were more uncivil and overt; he was unusual in espousing overtly undemocratic norms. But Trump fit comfortably into a Republican tradition of arousing Americans’ suspicions of government. Trump sought to intimidate, “attack and scapegoat” immigrants, attempting to ban “aliens” from benefiting from social programs. That contrasts sharply with Reagan’s grant of amnesty to around 3 million undocumented immigrants, many of them poor. But Trump’s anti-immigrant policies extended Republicans’ long-standing project of radically reducing government—for certain groups and not others.
Kimberly Atkins Stohr of The Boston Globe writes about the increasing and dangerous use of the “shadow docket” by the United States Supreme Court.
While it is certainly the role of the court to decide issues including the limits of presidential authority, such weighty judgments have traditionally come during the court’s regular term, with a full examination of the arguments and in public view. But lately, the rulings come in the form of terse summary orders, drafted out of sight, often issued at night when few are watching.
And for those challenging a presidential order or other matter, the process of getting to the shadow docket is a lot easier than convincing the court to take up a case on the merits. Any litigant can appeal to one justice, who then decides whether to forward the matter to the rest of the court.
If that happens, an order can follow quickly, sometimes within days. Consider the host of shadow docket rulings in favor of churches and other organizations seeking to opt out of pandemic safety measures imposed by cities and states since last year — giving the court leverage to dramatically expand the scope of religious freedom claims in the process.
Chris Joyner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution looks at some of the factors influencing judicial decisions being made with regard to some of the Jan. 6 insurrection defendants.
In their initial appearances, magistrate judges were making decisions to keep defendants in jail “more along the lines of the nature of the offense” and siding with prosecutors concerned about a possible continued insurrection against the government, he said.
“As time went on, there was more of an understanding of the types of activities that different defendants engaged in, some merely entering into the Capitol building, walking around and leaving,” he said.
Some of the rioters benefit from the fact that United States does not have a domestic terrorism law, so the charges some face are more mundane.
The people who battled police in fierce hand-to-hand combat on the Capitol steps and forced their way inside, kicking in doors and calling out for congressional leaders as they attempted to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election, face more serious charges. And some have been less successful winning release.
Paul Krugman of The New York Times examines trends regarding gentrification in California and the larger national perspective.
Since the 1980s America has experienced growing regional divergence. We have become a knowledge economy driven by industries that rely on a highly educated work force, and firms in those industries, it turns out, want to be located in places where there are a lot of highly educated workers already — places like the Bay Area.
Unfortunately, most of these rising knowledge-industry hubs also severely limit housing construction; this is true even of greater New York, which is much denser than any other U.S. metropolitan area but could and should be even denser. As a result, housing prices in these metros have soared, and working-class families, instead of sharing in regional success, are being driven out.
The result is that there are now, in effect, two Americas: the America of high-tech, high-income enclaves that are unaffordable for the less affluent, and the rest of the country.
And this economic divergence goes along with political divergence, mainly because education has become a prime driver of political affiliation.
Brown University professor and emergency physician Jay Baruch writes for STATnews, proposing a “harm-reduction” strategy in order to deal with vaccine hesitancy.
I’m not free of the frustration and anger about unvaccinated people voiced by my clinician colleagues as we once again don N95 masks and goggles and other protective gear. Mustering sympathy for patients who don’t take precautions to protect their health and safeguard the well-being of others can be difficult, whether they’ve chosen not to wear masks or get vaccinated, drove drunk, or lit matches near flammable oxygen. But this challenge cuts to the heart of what it means to be a physician in a moral profession.
I recognize that “moral” is a term open to distrust and eye rolling. The premise that medicine is a moral profession might sound like a hallucination in today’s profit-driven health care climate. But medicine has a rich tradition as a moral profession based on ideals — placing patients’ interests first, using medical knowledge to benefit others, and acting in a manner that promotes societal trust — that are foreign to health care providers today or often flouted by them.
The anger I feel toward vaccine-hesitant people becomes a more complicated emotion when I witness them reckoning with their choices. Many of the unvaccinated people I’ve talked with are hard-working, loving individuals struggling to catch a break in a life that hasn’t been fair. They’re unmoored and don’t know what to believe when truth itself has supply-chain problems and the health care system has been letting them down for years.
Rich Miller, publisher of the indispensable newsletter of Illinois politics, Capitol Fax, writes for The Chicago Sun-Times about his carelessness in possibly exposing himself to COVID-19 (he turned out to be negative).
Wednesday’s Republican event on the lake was mostly confined to a large room packed with people, including some (like GOP gubernatorial candidates Darren Bailey and Gary Rabine) who have publicly said they aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19. There were no ceiling fans, the doors were closed and the air conditioner was having real trouble keeping up. It was hot and close. And nobody, of course, was wearing masks.
I didn’t stay longer than 15 or 20 minutes.
I called a close friend on my way home to say that I’d probably just made a mistake. I’m fully vaccinated, but if I was going to get one of those “breakthrough” cases, that was going to be the place.
On Friday of that week, Leader McConchie, who is also fully vaccinated, announced that he had a mild breakthrough case. I received a text message later that evening from someone else who was at the lake party at the same time as me to tell me he had been exposed to the virus. He suggested that I get tested.
I read Capitol Fax about once a week, but it should be one of my daily must-reads.
Glenn Sacks, a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District, pens an opinion piece for The Washington Post on the need for the College Board to add a current elections component to the Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government and Politics exam.
Not only are elections relevant and interesting, but my students, who are seniors, are often involved in them. Some serve as poll watchers, some even vote. What could be wrong with AP Government teachers devoting class time to elections?
They're not on the AP exam.
Every minute spent on these engaging current events is a minute I should have spent explaining the difference between client politics, entrepreneurial politics, interest group politics, and majoritarian politics, between layer cake, marble cake, cooperative and competitive federalism. It’s time we should have spent reading and analyzing all of Federalist Papers 10, 51, 70 and 78, and on a raft of other generally worthy but somewhat arcane topics.
Taking the time to properly cover our current elections harms my students’ ability to pass the AP exam. I can’t complain about their scores — they’ve done much better than the national average each year. But the perverse incentives built into AP Government mean I’m continually forced to choose between the best things to teach them vs. teaching to the test.
Finally today, Jeff Grabmeier writes for Phys.org about an interesting study conducted at THE Ohio State University regarding consumer behavior with “just-below” ($0.99) pricing.
In one field study, the researchers set up a coffee stand on the Ohio State campus for two days, rotating the prices regularly. About half the time, they offered a small coffee with a "just below" price of 95 cents or a larger cup upgrade for $1.20. In order to choose the upgrade option, customers had to cross that $1 round-number boundary.
Roughly every hour, they changed the price of the small cup to $1 and increased the price of the larger cup by 5 cents to $1.25.
While the larger cup was now more expensive than before, so was the smaller cup. Critically, both prices were on the same side of the $1 boundary, which the researchers predicted would make customers more likely to choose the upgrade.
How did customers respond? Well, 56 percent of them upgraded to the larger cup when they didn't have to cross the round-number boundary to upgrade ($1 to 1.25). But only 29 percent did when the smaller cup was at the just-below price of 95 cents and they had to cross the $1 threshold for the larger cup.
Everyone have a great day!