Archive of Articles for August, 2021

Forever And A Day

[ Posted Tuesday, August 31st, 2021 – 16:00 UTC ]

President Joe Biden announced to the American people today: "The war in Afghanistan is now over." As he put it: "I was not going to extend this Forever War." One day after the last military plane carried the last soldiers, the commanding general, and the U.S. ambassador out of the country, Biden took the occasion to not only proclaim the war over but also to defend his handling of the end of it.

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Busy September Ahead For Congress

[ Posted Monday, August 30th, 2021 – 16:27 UTC ]

Next month could wind up being a very productive one for Congress, although since we are talking about Congress we have to include the standard disclaimer: "but of course there is no guarantee." But the fact that there are several deadlines looming may actually prod them into action. The big question is whether they can manage to walk and chew gum at the same time, since there is so much on their "to do" list and so little time to accomplish it all.

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Friday Talking Points -- A Grim Week

[ Posted Friday, August 27th, 2021 – 17:09 UTC ]

This was never going to be a good week for President Joe Biden. The ongoing crisis in Afghanistan pretty much guaranteed that. But although the week started out with signs of optimism -- more and more people being airlifted out of Kabul, to top 100,000 by week's end -- it ended in disaster. A suicide bomber exploded his vest right at the gate to the airport, which killed at least 13 American servicemembers and over 100 Afghans (as of this writing the official death toll for Afghans had hit 169). So while this week could have been perhaps tense but slightly optimistic, by week's end that was no longer possible. It was disastrous; there's just no other way to put it. One grim way to measure it is Biden has now made his first addition to the number he always carries around with him in his jacket pocket -- the number of fallen U.S. servicemembers from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

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A Summer Grammatical Interlude

[ Posted Thursday, August 26th, 2021 – 17:06 UTC ]

Today we are going to set aside politics and Washington and all the rest of what I normally write about and instead do some pedantic navel-gazing. Yes, it is the dog days of summer, the tail end of the Silly Season, and so I felt it was time to do a column on grammar and style preferences.

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Afghanistan Airlift Continues Apace, But Will It Be Enough?

[ Posted Wednesday, August 25th, 2021 – 16:33 UTC ]

When future historians look back on President Joe Biden's legacy, one major part of it will be the end he has brought to American troops fighting in Afghanistan. Exactly how these future historians will deem it is still uncertain, at this point. It could go down as an absolute fiasco -- a textbook example of "how not to end a war." But if the rest of the airlift goes as smoothly as it seems to be running now, perhaps history's judges will be a little kinder to Biden. Again, this is still very much up in the air.

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The Clock Starts Ticking

[ Posted Tuesday, August 24th, 2021 – 14:40 UTC ]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just pulled off a very big win. The House just voted (220-212) to advance the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, which will allow both houses of Congress to begin hashing out the actual details and draft the language into a final bill. This was accomplished by cutting a deal with the Mod Squad -- the nine conservative House Democrats who balked at voting for the reconciliation bill before the final vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal. In the end, Pelosi convinced them to do what they had sworn they wouldn't -- vote to move the reconciliation bill forward. To get them on board, Pelosi gave them an iron-clad promise to put the infrastructure bill up for a vote on September 27. Pelosi has always said she was going to schedule a vote on it "before October 1" (when transportation funding runs out, making it a hard deadline), so this wasn't all that big a concession for her to make.

Of course, there's still no guarantee Pelosi's "two-track" strategy will work, in the end. But she just moved a big step towards making it work. There are really only three important votes left in the process: the House infrastructure bill vote, and both houses passing the same version of a budget reconciliation bill. And since the infrastructure bill's clock is now ticking (with a hard deadline), it means the Senate and the House only have a little over a month to make the other two votes happen.

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The Mod Squad's Showdown With Pelosi

[ Posted Monday, August 23rd, 2021 – 16:09 UTC ]

I have to begin by clearly stating I did not personally come up with that new moniker on my own, but I am indeed going to start using it from this point on. I think I saw it first in a Politico article over the weekend, but I have to say as a snappy reference "Mod Squad" works on a number of different levels. First, baby boomer nostalgia. For those of you who are too young to remember, this was the name of a tragically-hip television show from way back. Second, it creates a nice counterbalance to "The Squad" (of progressive House Democrats). And third, it coins a new usage for "Mod," in this case a shortening of "moderate." All around, that's pretty good for a new political label, so my hat is indeed off to whomever came up with it.

Pedantic praise aside, though, the Mod Squad of nine conservative Democrats ("moderate" is a misnomer, really) is threatening to destroy any chances Democrats have of passing a huge swath of President Joe Biden's political agenda. Completely tanking any progress would almost certainly guarantee Republicans take back control of the House (and perhaps the Senate too) in next year's midterm election. So it would be partisan suicide to blow everything up. But the Mod Squad does not seem to care. This could be a rather large problem for all Democrats.

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Friday Talking Points -- War's End

[ Posted Friday, August 20th, 2021 – 16:00 UTC ]

This has been a rather historic week, so we are dispensing with our regular format to spend our entire column discussing the withdrawal of United States military forces from Afghanistan, and the emergency airlift operation now being undertaken to get every American and every interpreter and translator and other Afghan ally of ours out as well.

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The Return Of Doomscrolling

[ Posted Thursday, August 19th, 2021 – 16:53 UTC ]

I haven't written about the progress of the pandemic data for a while, so I thought it was time to take a close look at the fourth wave. Mostly because one thing the Delta mutation of the COVID-19 virus has brought back (at least for me) is "doomscrolling" -- checking in on a daily basis to see what the numbers are and what the data show. It's not exactly a pleasant picture, but there are glimmers of hope here and there, at least.

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My Silly Season Product Endorsement

[ Posted Wednesday, August 18th, 2021 – 16:40 UTC ]

Although some very serious things are going on right now, this is supposed to be the political Silly Season, that long August period when Congress has left Washington and not much happens in the world of politics. Before Donald Trump's time, this was marked by the punditocracy deciding to focus their ravenous attention on some incredibly silly tempest in a teapot and blow it all completely out of proportion -- just because they had nothing better to write about and pontificate upon. Of course, Donald Trump's entire time in office was a 4-year Silly Season gone amok, so we really haven't had a "normal" Silly Season (if that isn't oxymoronic to say) since Barack Obama's time.

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