Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump Blames Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria

 

A bicyclist rides down a damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico. RICARDO ARDUENGO AFP GETTY IMAGES

Good Morning!!

The illustrations in this post are scenes of the devastation in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Yesterday Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico begged for help from the “president” of the U.S. and/or anyone who could hear her plea. The transcript of her remarks from The Guardian:

“We are dying here. And I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday, we are in trouble.

“Fema [the Federal Emergency Management Administration] asks for documentation, I think we’ve given them enough documentation.”

“They had the gall this morning – look at this [gestures to two large binders filled with paper] – they had the gall this morning of asking me: ‘What are your priorities, mayor?’

“Well, where have you been?

“And I have been very respectful of the Fema employees. I have been patient but we have no time for patience any more.

“So, I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.

“They were up the task in Africa when Ebola came over. They were up to the task in Haiti [after the earthquake of 2010]. As they should be. Because when it comes to saving lives we are all part of one community of shared values.

“I will do what I never thought I was going to do: I am begging. I am begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy.

“We will make it with or without you because what stands behind me is all due to the generosity of other people.

“Again, this is what we got last night: four pallets of water, three pallets of meals and 12 pallets of infant food. Which, I gave them to Comerío, where people are drinking out of a creek.

“So I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because my people’s lives are at stake. And we are but one nation. We may be small, but we are huge in dignity and zealous for life.

“So I’m asking members of the press to send a mayday call all over the world. We are dying here. And if we don’t stop and if we don’t get the food and the water into people’s hands, what we we are going to see is something close to a genocide.

“So, Mr Trump, I am begging you to take charge and save lives. After all, that is one of the founding principles of the United States of North America. If not, the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.”

Early this morning the fake “president” sat in his gold-plated golf club and responded to her on Twitter.

Next he attacked the media for reporting what is actually happening on the ground in Puerto Rico.

If people around the world didn’t know by now what a heartless, self-involved monster Trump is, they certainly know it now. It’s difficult even to write about this horror, because thinking about him makes me sick to my stomach. The comparisons to Bush and Katrina are completely inadequate. This is a whole new level of incompetence and true evil. Responses from Twitter:

More responses to the behavior of the useless piece of human garbage the Russians stuck us with:

Eric Boelert at Shareblue: Trump attacks Puerto Rico: “They want everything to be done for them.”

Residents in Puerto Rico have no power and many may not have power until 2018. There’s a dangerous shortage of water, food, and fuel, and Trump is blaming these American citizens for not doing their part in fix the situation….

Obviously, Trump is lashing out in response to the mounting criticism that his administration hasn’t done enough to help Puerto Rico, more than one week after the story demolished the island, and that he has taken a passive, indifferent approach compared to the active one he took when hurricanes barreled into Texas and Florida this summer.

Specifically, Trump’s responding to the righteous indignation of San Juan’s mayor who on Friday pleaded for American assistance.

Even when people are dying for lack of water and food and he has to power to help, Trump only cares about how the situation affects him.

Sarah Kendzior at Fast Company yesterday: Why Puerto Rico is not Trump’s Katrina.

As the hurricane hit, Facebook and Twitter filled with warnings from Puerto Rican officials telling residents to evacuate or die, videos of palm trees snapping, and homes collapsing, and then an agonizing drop in live reports as the island’s power grid and many transmission lines were destroyed. More anguish followed: Many Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland are still wondering if their loved ones are alive, and the mayor of San Juan wept as she declared a humanitarian crisis amid “apocalyptic”conditions. U.S. politicians ranging from Hillary Clinton to John McCain urged the federal government to send aid, while Latinx celebrities like Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez pledged money and asked for help.

As this disaster played out on U.S. soil, President Trump said nothing. When he finally tweeted on September 25, it was seemingly to cast blame: “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,” hetweeted, adding that “Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”

That is what Donald Trump thought was sad about Puerto Rico, not the hospitals in rubble and the patients near death, not the shortage of food and water, not the millions of American citizens who lost their jobs and homes. Wall Street, not Puerto Ricans, won his pity. As president, he put this philosophy into practice, initially refusing to waive the Jones Act and allow supplies to be shipped to Puerto Rico unimpeded. The Jones Act was finally lifted on September 28. His rationale for the delay? “We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted,” he explained. Heaven forbid millions of desperate U.S. citizens disturb them.

Much as Hurricane Maria was a predictable catastrophe, so is Trump’s cruel reaction. It is what one would expect from a narcissist unable to detach an external crisis from his own reputation. Much as Trump invents fake threats–voter fraud, soaring crime, “The Bowling Green Massacre”–he denies real crises, often while fabricating fake triumphs. Even when dealing with a disaster that is, for once, not caused by him, Trump cannot fathom the suffering others experience as anything other than a potential blight on his image, and it appears that he attempts to remove that suffering from public view. On September 27, the White House announced that all U.S. lawmakers would be prohibited from visiting the island, thereby reducing oversight and official complaints about the botched recovery.

Please go read the rest if you haven’t already.

The Washington Post: Lost weekend: How Trump’s time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria.

As Hurricane Maria made landfall on Wednesday, Sept. 20, there was a frenzy of activity publicly and privately. The next day, President Trump called local officials on the island, issued an emergency declaration and pledged that all federal resources would be directed to help.

But then for four days after that — as storm-ravaged Puerto Rico struggled for food and water amid the darkness of power outages — Trump and his top aides effectively went dark themselves.

Trump jetted to New Jersey that Thursday night to spend a long weekend at his private golf club there, save for a quick trip to Alabama for a political rally. Neither Trump nor any of his senior White House aides said a word publicly about the unfolding crisis.

Trump did hold a meeting at his golf club that Friday with half a dozen Cabinet officials — including acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke, who oversees disaster response — but the gathering was to discuss his new travel ban, not the hurricane. Duke and Trump spoke briefly about Puerto Rico but did not talk again until Tuesday, an administration official said.

Administration officials would not say whether the president spoke with any other top officials involved in the storm response while in Bedminster, N.J. He spent much of his time over those four days fixated on his escalating public feuds with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with fellow Republicans in Congress and with the National Football League over protests during the national anthem.

Click on the link to read the rest.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Trump doesn’t get it on Puerto Rico. He just proved it by lashing out at San Juan’s mayor.

President Trump is facing growing — but still measured — criticism of the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico. So what does he do? Lash out at the mayor of a hurricane-ravaged city, naturally.

Trump responded Saturday morning to harsh critiques from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz by targeting her personally. The president accused the mayor of playing politics and succumbing to pressure from fellow Democrats to attack his administration. He also, remarkably, directly attacked her and other Puerto Rican officials’ leadership….

Anybody who is surprised at this from a president who attacked a former prisoner of war for being a prisoner war, criticized a Gold Star family and made fun of a reporter’s physical disability has a short memory. This is who Trump is. He doesn’t accept criticism and move on; he brings a bazooka to a knife fight — even when those wielding the knife are trying to save lives.

But it’s also hugely counterproductive. In three tweets, Trump has moved a simmering, somewhat-negative story for his administration to the front burner. He decided to attack a sympathetic character and turn this into a partisan political debate. Cruz is pleading for help by saying, “We are dying.” Trump essentially told her to stop complaining. He’s also arguing that somebody who is in charge of saving lives is somehow more interested in politics. That’s a stunning charge.

I wonder how the Republicans are going to defend their sorry-ass “president” this time?

That’s all I have the strength for this morning. What stories are you following?

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Friday Reads: How long can we take this?

Good Afternoon!

It seems the end of the week is tailor made for a long list of the week’s stories that remind us that we just can’t set our expectations low enough for what’s going on with the entire Republican shamble of wrecking the country in the name of the very wealthy. Let’s catch our breath before the Friday night news drop that will set our sights even lower and review.

From the New York Times:  Trump Could Save More Than$1 Billion Under His New Tax Plan

President Trump could cut his tax bills by more than $1.1 billion, including saving tens of millions of dollars in a single year, under his proposed tax changes, a New York Times analysis has found.

On Wednesday, the White House announced a sweeping plan to cut a variety of taxes that would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. The estimate of Mr. Trump’s savings is based in part on information from his 2005 federal tax return. The analysis compares what his tax burden would be under current law with what it would be under the proposal.

Mr. Trump’s 2005 return is the most recent available publicly and was released in March by David Cay Johnston, a former New York Times reporter. The Times’s figure also relies on an estimate of Mr. Trump’s net worth, calculated by the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index to be $2.86 billion.

“I don’t benefit. I don’t benefit,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday. “In fact, very, very strongly, as you see, I think there’s very little benefit for people of wealth.”

In fact, high-income earners like Mr. Trump are likely to benefit disproportionately if the White House proposal becomes law. The estimates, calculated with the help of Robert Willens, an accounting expert, and Stephen Breitstone, a tax lawyer, provide a view into precisely how.

Though it would not be reflected on his income tax return, Mr. Trump’s proposal to eliminate the estate tax would generate the largest tax savings. If his assets — reportedly valued at $2.86 billion — were transferred after his death under today’s rules, his estate would be taxed at about 40 percent. Repealing the federal estate tax could save his family about $1.1 billion, though it could still be subject to New York estate taxes.

Let’s just juxtapose that on this headline from the Business Insider:  Here’s how the Trump tax plan would raise taxes on many middle-income families.  The Republican tax plan will explode the deficit in a way that’s likely to make it impossible to pass. However, since the couldn’t gut access to the healthcare of millions to fund billionaire tax cuts, they are trying to recoup it from working, lower and middle class families.  Nearly all of the plans’s tax cuts go to the upper one percent.

But what do you expect from folks that are this out of touch with real life? “Millionaire Trump Adviser Says Americans Can ‘Buy A New Car’ With $1,000 Tax Cut.”

President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser — Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president worth an estimated $266 million — appears to be completely clueless about what the average American family spends on a car, vacation or home improvement project.

Hours after falsely claiming that “the wealthy are not getting a tax cut” under Trump’s tax reform plan, Cohn appeared at a White House press briefing and spoke to what middle-class Americans have to look forward to. Based on the administration’s assumptions, he said, a typical family that has two children and earns $100,000 per year can expect annual tax savings of approximately $1,000.

“If we allow a family to keep another thousand dollars of their income, what does that mean?” he asked. “They can renovate their kitchen. They can buy a new car. They can take a family vacation. They can increase their lifestyle.”  \

The rather tone-deaf comment came in response to a question about how Trump — who could see savings of more than $125 million per year under his own plan — can claim the proposal doesn’t benefit him personally.

People are dying in Puerto Rico while Kremlin Caligula goes golfing this weekend and tells every one he’s doing a heckuva job.

The first two storms, it appears, were only wind-ups to the presidential moment that presents itself now. The crisis in Puerto Rico figures to define President Trump’s responses to this remarkable string of powerful storms. After first seeming to blame Puerto Rico’s poor infrastructure and fiscal crises, Trump is now praising FEMA and expressing his wish that the “press would treat fairly.” But this is one where claims of “fake news” will likely be subsumed by the images and realities. Those realities include millions of American citizens in total crisis. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is warning that the lack of “clear command, control and communication” will cause the situation to “deteriorate rapidly.” The general who oversaw the federal response to Hurricane Katrina is calling the situation – yes – “like Katrina.” This is a heckuva comment, from acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke: “I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths.” Maybe she will be proven right, and Trump will be praised for taking charge. But this will require a lightly staffed administration – led by a president prone to distraction – to do a whole lot of difficult work, and fast.

The increasingly desperate mayor of San Juan has called out acting the Secretary of Homeland Security. 

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, lashed out at acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke’s comment that the Hurricane Maria relief efforts are a “good news story,” saying, that in reality, it’s a “people are dying story.”

Speaking outside the White House on Thursday, Duke said she is “very satisfied” with efforts to aid Puerto Rico in the wake of Maria, which devastated the island and has created a humanitarian crisis. Duke said, “It is really a good news story,” an assessment that prompted San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s strong rebuttal.

“Well, maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good news story. When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story,” Cruz told CNN’s “New Day,” referring to the plight of Puerto Ricans, many of whom have received little or no aid thus far. “When you have to pull people down from their buildings — I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me. You know, I would ask her to come down here and visit the towns, and then make a statement like that, which frankly, it is an irresponsible statement.”

“Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story. This is a life-or-death story. This is a ‘there’s a truck load of stuff that cannot be taken to people story.’ This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water,” she continued. “It is not a good news story when people are dying, when they don’t have dialysis, when their generators aren’t working and their oxygen isn’t providing for them. Where is there good news here? … I’m really sorry, but you know when you have people out there dying, literally, scraping for food, where is the good news?”

The issue, Cruz said, has not been a lack of supplies but an inability to deal with the logistics of distributing aid on an island that is still largely without power and supplying it to Puerto Rico’s more rural areas. The mayor said San Juan had received three pallets of water — slightly more than 4,000 bottles for a population of roughly 350,000 people — as well as four pallets of food and 12 pallets of baby food and supplies.

The New York Times Op Ed page is alive with pieces questioning Trump’s fitness for office. “Private Emails, Private Jets and Mr. Trump’s Idea of Public Service”.

On Monday, it emerged that at least six current and former top White House officials, including Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his daughter Ivanka Trump; and his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, have been using private email accounts at least sporadically for government business. This is both dumb and richly paradoxical when one considers that Mr. Trump has continued to attack Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account and server as secretary of state, and has prodded his Justice Department to restart an inquiry that cleared her of criminal wrongdoing.

While the president whips up chants of “Lock her up” in red states, his daughter — one of the less credible “moderating” forces in White House history — has been tapping away on her personal email despite being an administration official. Personal emails are not illegal per se, as long as those about government business are forwarded to government accounts. Failure to do that is a potential violation of the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act, which preserve public access to government documents.

Mr. Kushner seems to have a particular problem with official record keeping, having failed to list scores of assets on his government financial disclosure, and forgotten to include meetings with Russians on his security clearance form. Given his central role in the campaign and White House, imagine how his latest lapse in transparency looks to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team, now hoovering up White House documents in their investigation of possible collusion with Russia. Mr. Kushner’s failure to disclose the personal email concerns leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who learned of it from news reports.

But wait, there’s more: Americans have been learning over the past week about Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s habit of flying private jets to official meetings, with occasional detours to luxury resorts where he owns property, or for outings with his family. Mr. Price and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, have even used private jets on what a White House aide called “a national listening tour … to learn from the heroes on the front lines” of the opioid crisis — all while pushing for a replacement of the Affordable Care Act that would drain billions from Medicaid and addiction treatment. When asked if he would, wisely, fire Mr. Price, the president said on Wednesday, “I’m looking at that very closely.” Mr. Price said on Thursday that he’d reimburse a portion of the cost.

Mr. Price — a multimillionaire orthopedic surgeon who as a congressman took actions that benefited his personal stock portfolio — isn’t the only Trump cabinet member polluting the public trough. There’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs banker who wanted a $25,000-per-hour Air Force jet to ferry him on his European honeymoon, and has been lying that a tax “reform” proposal to enrich wealthy people like him is a boon for the middle class. And there’s Scott Pruitt, industry’s best friend at the Environmental Protection Agency, who’s cost taxpayers more than $58,000 for noncommercial and military flights, and is spending nearly $25,000 to build a “secure phone booth” in his office.

Oh, this is new …  Ryan Zinke: US interior secretary ‘spent $12,000 on flight‘.   This is what’s known as bringing the CEO corporate culture into public service.  You ever wonder why everything you buy from a big company seems really expensive?  Well, this is the kind of shit you’re paying for and I can vouch that every CEO basically wears their perks like a North Korean General wears his medals.  They’re status symbols of power. Bilking investors and the public out of money is what Corporate Finance profs like me call the Agency Problem.

Mr Zinke flew from Las Vegas to Montana last June on a private jet that cost taxpayers more than $12,000, according to Politico and the Washington Post.

Paul Krugman outlines “Trump’s Deadly Narcissism.”

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans believe that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. That’s pretty remarkable. But you have to wonder how much higher the number would be if people really knew what’s going on.

For the trouble with Trump isn’t just what he’s doing, but what he isn’t. In his mind, it’s all about him — and while he’s stroking his fragile ego, basic functions of government are being neglected or worse.

Let’s talk about two stories that might seem separate: the deadly neglect of Puerto Rico, and the ongoing sabotage of American health care. What these stories have in common is that millions of Americans are going to suffer, and hundreds if not thousands die, because Trump and his officials are too self-centered to do their jobs.

It’s difficult to see how we can continue to function if the only people in charge of government are those least equipped ethnically, intellectually, and skill-wise to do the work that so many public servants train for and work at their entire lives all while go places in coach or cheap rental cars.  It’s unlikely the Republicans will be able to get their deviant tax policy through.  I certainly hope so because it’s extremely bad fiscal policy.  It has nothing to do with economics or the country or anything that tax policy should be about.  It’s only about pleasing their donor overlords like the Mercers and the Kochs.

My hope is that we’re at least proving Grover Norquist wrong who only wants Presidents that can sign bills to destroy the country. My other hope is that the Mueller investigation and what’s left of the GAO can get rid of all these grifters.  I swear, there is no worse grifter than a CEO gone wild on other people’s money and that’s pretty much what’s in the West Wing right now.  It’s no wonder that Mueller is going after these folks in the same manner they tackle an organized crime syndicate.

Here are  Kenneth–snipe hunter extraordinare–  Starr’s thoughts.

Speaking with host Brian Williams, the former nemesis of ex-President Bill Clinton said he is well acquainted with Mueller and that the former FBI head is a relentless investigator.

Noting reports that Vice President Mike Pence met with Mueller over the summer to offer his cooperation, host Williams asked Starr what the American public can expect next.

“Counselor, it is my understanding that you are of the belief that the president should be much more wary and on-guard and worried about these Congressional investigations than the Mueller investigation,” Williams suggested.

“No, I think he’s going to be worried about both,” Starr replied. “I think there is a tendency to ignore what Congress is doing when, famously, during the Watergate investigation so many years ago, the explosive fact of the White House tapes, came not from Archibald Cox, but from Congressional investigators during a deposition.”

Restating the fact that Pence said he was cooperating, Starr added, “The president’s lawyers are all saying that, ‘let’s get this done,’ and the way to get it over with is cooperation.”

Saying he isn’t aware of how far the investigation has advanced, Starr said that he expected a “number of indictments”

“Yes or no answer,” Williams pressed. Do you see the president being placed under oath before this is all over?”

“Yes,” the former prosecutor bluntly stated.

The frog marches out of the White House can’t come soon enough for me or the future of our country.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Bad Mood Blogging

Good Afternoon!!

I’m in a bad mood today. Actually, I’ve been feeling this way for a few days. I’ve got some kind of nasty cold, and I keep falling asleep. Nothing in the news seems to interest me.

Am I really supposed to care that Hugh Hefner died? Well I don’t. I found this article at the Guardian that reflects my attitude toward him: I called Hugh Hefner a pimp, he threatened to sue. But that’s what he was, by Suzanne Moore.

Long ago, in another time, I got a call from a lawyer. Hugh Hefner was threatening a libel action against me and the paper I worked for at the time, for something I had written. Journalists live in dread of such calls. I had called Hefner a pimp. To me this was not even controversial; it was self-evident. And he was just one of the many “libertines” who had threatened me with court action over the years.

It is strange that these outlaws have recourse in this way, but they do. But at the time, part of me wanted my allegation to be tested in a court of law. What a case it could have made. What a hoot it would have been to argue whether a man who procured, solicited and made profits from women selling sex could be called a pimp. Of course, central to Playboy’s ideology is the idea that women do this kind of thing willingly; that at 23 they want nothing more than to jump octogenarians.

Now that he’s dead, the disgusting old sleaze in the smoking jacket is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Kim Kardashian is honoured to have been involved. Righty ho.

I don’t really know which women were liberated by Hefner’s fantasies. I guess if you aspired to be a living Barbie it was as fabulous as it is to be in Donald Trump’s entourage. Had we gone to court, I would like to have heard some of the former playmates and bunnies speak up in court – because over the years they have.

The accounts of the “privileged few” who made it into the inner sanctum of the 29-room Playboy mansion as wives/girlfriends/bunny rabbits are quite something. In Hefner’s petting zoo/harem/brothel, these interchangeable blondes were put on a curfew. They were not allowed to have friends to visit. And certainly not boyfriends. They were given an “allowance”. The big metal gates on the mansion that everyone claimed were to keep people out of this “nirvana” were described by one-time Hefner “girlfriend no 1” Holly Madison in her autobiography thus: “I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in.”

Please go read the rest if, like me, you are disgusted by those who are lionizing Hefner.

Am I supposed to care about the latest GOP pipe dream–cutting taxes for the rich on the backs of the rest of us? I think the headline on this USA Today story by Heidi Przbyla in meant to be sarcastic: Trump’s tax plan could actually benefit wealthy people like him.

President Trump is making one thing clear about his plan to cut taxes: It won’t be a windfall for the richest Americans, including him.

“It’s not good for me, believe me,” Trump said in a speech unveiling the tax reform blueprint on Wednesday.

“We’re targeting relief to working families,” Trump said in Indianapolis. “We will make sure benefits are focused on the middle class, the working men and women, not the highest-income earners.”

A lot would have to change before that’s true.

Trump’s initial plan – backed by Republican leadership on Capitol Hill  – would eliminate the individual Alternative Minimum Tax and estate taxes. It would also tax so-called “pass through” businesses at 25%.

Both of these changes could greatly benefit Trump and his family’s business empire.

Read more at the link. It’s absolutely amazing how stupid Trump and his gang think the people who elected him are.

One thing Trump’s tax “plan” does is end the federal deduction for state and local taxes. The Boston Globe reports: Mass., other blue states are in crosshairs of GOP tax plan.

To offset the huge loss in revenue from his proposed tax cuts, Trump and GOP congressional leaders want to eliminate widely used personal income-tax deductions for state and local income taxes and property taxes, among others.

Massachusetts ranks fifth among states where residents would see the largest average federal tax increase if the deductions are scrapped, behind Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and California.

Homeowners in Massachusetts and throughout New England pay steep property tax bills to support local town government, in addition to their state income taxes. Property taxes are especially high in cities and towns with hefty real-estate values and heavy demand by residents for high-performing public schools, such as Boston’s suburbs.

Being able to deduct those state and local taxes on annual federal tax returns reduces the sting. Some Massachusetts officials quickly opposed eliminating the deductions, saying it would hit many on all rungs of the economic ladder.

“It would have a profound negative impact on working-class families, those struggling to afford to stay in our communities or send their kids to school,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville. “Is their intent to create fiscal disaster?”

One thing I do still care about is that the “president” is loony tunes. Did you see him last night telling the press that “we have the votes” for the health care bill, but the vote had to be put off because one Senator is in the hospital?

USA Today: Trump cites support for health care bill from mystery senator in hospital.

Even though Senate Republicans abandoned plans for a health care vote this week, President Trump says he’s got it in the bag — including support from an unnamed senator that triggered a mystery on Wednesday.

“With one Yes vote in hospital & very positive signs from Alaska and two others (McCain is out), we have the HCare Vote, but not for Friday!” Trump tweeted Wednesday, one day after Senate Republicans’ last-ditch proposal to unwind the Affordable Care Act collapsed.

Yet it was not immediately clear whether any senators are currently in the hospital. Sen. Thad Cochran is recuperating from what his office referred to as treatment for a urological issue back home in Mississippi, but, as he later pointed out in a tweet, he isn’t in the hospital.

Later on Wednesday, the president again spoke of a senator in the hospital while talking to reporters.

“He can’t vote because he’s in the hospital,” Trump said. “We have two other votes that are coming and we will have them, but the problem is we can’t have them by Friday because reconciliation ends on Friday. So we’ll have to do it in January or February.”

WTF?! And “journalists” are just laughing this off. Trump needs an immediate MRI and psychological evaluation. This man is not well, and he controls the nuclear arsenal. This is not a joke!

I also still care about all the people who are suffering the aftereffects of the September hurricanes, including our own J.J. Does Trump care? That would be a definite “no.” Check this out at The Hill: Trump administration requiring Puerto Rico evacuees to pay transportation costs.

People evacuated by the U.S. from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico must sign promissory notes ensuring they fully repay transportation costs to the Defense Department, according to the State Department.

Evacuees from Dominica and other countries hit by the hurricanes also must sign the promissory notes, though their repayments would go through the State Department.

Marketwatch first reported that the evacuees from Puerto Rico were required to put up the promissory notes.

The notes fall under a longstanding but discretionary policy meant to ensure that evacuees pay transportation costs, which are based on “the price of the last commercial one-way, full-fare (not discounted) economy ticket prior to the crisis.”

How are rescue efforts going in Puerto Rico? It’s hard to tell, but this from Bloomberg isn’t good: Mountains of Aid Are Languishing on the Docks in Puerto Rico.

Thousands of cargo containers bearing millions of emergency meals and other relief supplies have been piling up on San Juan’s docks since Saturday. The mountains of materiel may not reach storm survivors for days.

Distributors for big-box companies and smaller retailers are unloading 4,000 20-foot containers full of necessities like food, water and soap this week at a dock in Puerto Rico’s capital operated by Crowley Maritime Corp. In the past few days, Tote Maritime’s terminal has taken the equivalent of almost 3,000. Even with moves to ease shipping to the island, like the Trump administration’s waiver of the Jones Act on Thursday, the facilities have become choke points in the effort to aid survivors of Hurricane Maria.

“There are plenty of ships and plenty of cargo to come into the island,” said Mark Miller, a spokesman for Crowley, based in Jacksonville, Florida. “From there, that’s where the supply chain breaks down — getting the goods from the port to the people on the island who need them.”

About 30 minutes before Wednesday’s 7 p.m. curfew, there were few signs of life at the Crowley port besides circling bats. The ground was muddy and the chain-link fence protecting the containers listed to the side. Without street or traffic lights, the area was dark, except for one illuminated crane holding a yellow container waiting to be set down in a row of its blue and red fellows.

Read the rest at the link.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?


Wednesday Reads: Doomed Worlds

Once again it is late at night, and I am in the dark quickly writing this post. Only this time I’m hanging out in the car, the woods are full of bears here in Vogel…and I don’t mean the same kind of bears that some dudes find attractive. I’m talking the real thing. Real 🐻.

Look at some cartoons:

This is an open thread. I hope everyone is ok…still waiting to hear from the insurance company. It really sucks.


Tuesday Reads: Puerto Rico’s Humanitarian Crisis

Good Morning!

The image above is from a flyover of Puerto Rico. You can see more on a twitter feed from NYT Primatology. For the past few days I’ve been dealing with a cold that is so draining it has destroyed my obsession with Trump news. The one thing I can still work up outrage over is what is happening in Puerto Rico. Of course that’s about Trump too. He obviously doesn’t give a shit about PR because he’s a motherfucking white supremacist.

BBC News: Does Trump care about Puerto Rico’s hurricane victims?

A quick glance at Donald Trump’s Twitter feed over the weekend – arguably the president’s preferred method of communication – gave no hint of the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Instead, his attention was firmly focused on whether or not American footballers knelt or stood during the national anthem.

After he noticed he was being criticized for ignoring the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, Trump sent a series of cruel and unfeeling tweets.

This from a man who is blatantly profiting from the office he holds and who has declared bankruptcy six times to avoid paying what he owed to banks.

Back to the BBC article:

…when compared to Mr Trump’s response to the two hurricanes which preceded Maria, there does appear to be an imbalance.

Mr Trump sent at least one tweet out a day about Texas for a week after Hurricane Harvey barrelled into its coastline on 26 August, causing great damage and leaving at least 47 people dead.

By 2 September, he had asked Congress for $7.8bn (£6bn) as an initial amount to help rebuild the area.

Mr Trump also visited Texas twice within a week.

In the days after Hurricane Irma hit Florida on 10 September, Mr Trump sent a flurry of tweets – although not as many as with Texas – and visited the area within five days.

So far, no date has been set for a visit to Puerto Rico, although one is planned.

The wreckage from Hurricane Maria in Arecibo, P.R., on Saturday. Many Americans don’t realize that Puerto Ricans are also citizens. Credit Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

The Washington Post: Trump declares Puerto Rico is in ‘deep trouble’ as questions mount about his commitment.

Monday night’s tweets were the first from Trump about Puerto Rico since Wednesday, when the hurricane made landfall and Trump declared “we are with you.”

Power remains out on much of the island, and officials say they are facing numerous logistical challenges, including damage to airports and ports. But FEMA says its response has been robust, including the deployment of 10,000 federal workers….

Trump’s lack of public attention to Puerto Rico has been striking in part because of the major focus he put on helping Texas and Florida recover from earlier hurricanes, a factor many analysts have cited in explaining Trump’s recent uptick in his job approval numbers.

During a briefing Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was peppered with questions about Trump’s priorities, including his focus on Puerto Rico.

She noted that Trump had dispatched Brock Long, the FEMA administrator, and Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, to assess the damage in Puerto Rico.

“The federal response has been anything but slow,” Sanders said. “In fact, there’s been an unprecedented push through of billions of dollars in federal assistance that the administration has fought for. … And once we have a greater insight into the full assessment of damage, then we’ll be able to determine what additional funds are needed.”

Really? People have no electricity, water, or food, but they are still “assessing the damage” days after the storm hit? It looks to me as if Trump has another Katrina on his hands. I need to see the evidence that he’s actually doing something before I buy the administration’s happy talk.

I don’t know if this is for real or not, but it sure sounds like it:

ABC News: Water and some food scarce as Puerto Rico emerges from storm.

Supermarkets are gradually re-opening in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico but the situation is far from normal and many customers are going home disappointed.

Most food stores and restaurants remain closed. That is largely because power is out for most of the island and few have generators or enough diesel to power them. The shops that were open Monday had long lines outside and vast empty shelves where they once held milk, meat and other perishables. Drinking water was nowhere to be found.

Mercedes Caro shook her head in frustration as she emerged from the SuperMax in the Condado neighborhood of San Juan with a loaf of white bread, cheese and bananas.

“There is no water and practically no food,” she said. “Not even spaghetti.”

Maria Perez waited outside a Pueblo supermarket in a nearby part of San Juan, hoping to buy some coffee, sugar and maybe a little meat to cook with a gas stove that has enough propane for about a week more. “We are in a crisis,” she said. “Puerto Rico is destroyed.”

Jose Garcia Vicente holds a piece of plumbing he picked up, as he shows his destroyed home, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Aibonito, Puerto Rico on Sep 25, 2017. (Photo: AP/Gerald Herbert)
Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/-put-people-above-debt—puerto-rico-official-urges-amid-maria-s-devastation-9252902

Bloomberg: ‘This Is Chaos’: Sweltering Puerto Rico on Day 6 Without Power.

A nursing home in San Juan made desperate pleas for diesel as its power generator ran low. An elderly man was carried out on a stretcher after going a week without dialysis. Children wearing nothing but diapers camped out on balconies to stay cool.

Hurricane Maria, which smashed into the island six days ago and devastated its power grid, couldn’t have come at a worse time. This is Puerto Rico’s hottest season of the year — and virtually no one has air conditioning. Crews have arrived to begin the arduous task of resurrecting what was already an aging and long-neglected electricity system. But that’ll take weeks, if not months — meaning more sleepless nights for those like Juan Bautista Gonzalez.

“It’s brutal,” said Gonzalez, a 36-year-old carpenter who was sitting on a stoop in Old San Juan, rubbing his forehead in frustration. “No one can sleep. I spend all night tossing and turning. This is chaos.”

The destruction that Maria exacted upon Puerto Rico’s fragile grid when it slammed ashore as a Category 4 storm is unprecedented. More than half of the territory’s towers may be down, at least 90 percent of its distribution lines damaged or destroyed and almost all overhead transmission lines affected, according to the American Public Power Association and Energy Department. All told, Maria could result in $40 billion to $85 billion in insured losses across the Caribbean.

In the 32 years that National Guard brigadier general Wendul G. Hagler II has served, he said, “It’s about as large a scale damage as I have ever seen.” Just before Maria hit, Hagler visited the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the majority of homes and businesses also remain without power and face a slow recovery.

Miguel Olivera and his wife Diana Aponte show a picture from his time in service.

CNN: Puerto Rican combat vet, down to last insulin dose, says Hurricane Maria worse than war.

Miguel Olivera, now 75, survived combat and being impacted by Agent Orange in Cambodia as the US waged war against the Viet Cong decades ago.

Now, at home in Puerto Rico, he is facing another threat to his life — a fridge without power.

He needs insulin to survive but his last vial is sitting, at risk of spoiling, in that refrigerator that can no longer keep it cool.

His town, Aguas Buenas, in the mountains above San Juan, was left tattered by Hurricane Maria. The lush tropical foliage is gone — as if a massive lawnmower came from the sky and shredded it all.

Olivera and his wife Diana Aponte, 73, sheltered from the storm inside their home — it’s built on concrete stilts sunk into the hillside, and Aponte feared it would slide into the ravine.

Water came through the shutters as the wind howled outside, and at one point the couple huddled on the living room floor, prepared to die together.

“The hurricane is worse” than combat, Olivera says.

The Daily Beast: Even the National Guard Can’t Communicate in Puerto Rico.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Master Sgt. Shaun Withers was nervously waiting in his office at the 165th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard’s strip in Savannah, Georgia, on Sunday morning. Outside a C-130 loaded up with supplies for Puerto Rico also waited in the dark.

“We’re ramping up, today is day one,” Withers said, adding the flight had been postponed several times.

Just then the phone rang, and Withers jumped up.

“It’s a go! Wheels up at 0100 hours!”

It was the fifth and last flight for that day.

“Our first flights brought back 103 members of Puerto Rico’s National Guard, evacuated before Maria hit,” Withers said. “They had not heard from their families since.”

National Guard personnel evacuate Toa Ville resident Luis Alberto Martinez after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, September 22, 2017.

This is an important article, and I can’t do it justice with excerpts. Please read the whole thing. Here’s just a bit more:

“Last night we slept in the operations room,” said Capt. Jeff Rutkowski, sitting in a small break room with five other members of his unit, the 115th Fighter Wing Air National Guard from Madison, Wisconsin.

They’ve been brought in to fix areas left without communication.

“There’s no communication, that’s the problem,” Rutkowski said, adding “we’re innovators, we bridge the networks.”

Without working cellphones or the internet, no one could coordinate. The newly arrived teams frantically borrowed each others’ vehicles to go find out what was going on, where they should go, who they should report to, what was being planned, who was doing what, establish a simple meeting.

No internet meant, too, there was no way of knowing what were urgent priorities in San Juan and throughout the country.

“I’ve never experienced work without being able to communicate,” said an exasperated Michelle Alvarez-Rea, a public affairs officer in charge of multiple media requests.

But Trump is too busy shoring up his base with racist rallies and tweets to deal with this crisis. We’ve got to get rid of him!

One more from The Guardian: Puerto Rico is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. Where is the media?

Hurricane Maria – the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 89 years – devastated the island when it hit early Wednesday morning. If the US government doesn’t act swiftly, 3.5 million people will face a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

Currently, large swathes of the island have no water, power or cell phone coverage. An incredible 1,360 out of 1,600 cellphone towers are down. According to some reports, it could take four to six months for electricity to be restored. Hospitals and other emergency services are struggling to cope.

As Maria made landfall, many Puerto Ricans on the US mainland and elsewhere scrambled to get news of their loved ones on the island. Most, if not all of us, turned to social media. Why? Because we couldn’t trust major media outlets in the United States to give us in-depth coverage of the devastation. Our disasters, we figured, just don’t rate high enough in their eyes.

Sadly – we were proven right. The destruction in Puerto Rico received relatively little media attention compared to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Traditional broadcasters deployed a meager team of reporters. Even the Hispanic broadcasters on the mainland proved wanting in their coverage.

That’s why we relied on social media to relay vital information to family and friends. We used it to tell them which gas stations were open, which markets were still selling food and which banks still had cash. Social media became our life line.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump – usually very active on social media himself – was silent throughout the weekend on Puerto Rico. Instead of standing with those suffering, he chose instead to pick a fight with the NFL. Judging by his actions so far, few trust that he will do anything to bring attention to the devastation on the island, let alone address it in a meaningful way.

Read more at the link.

That’s all I’ve got. What else is happening? Plenty, I know. What stories are you following?


Monday Reads: Dysfunctional Trumpistan

Good Morning!

I’m going to just do a headline dump so you can see how dysfunctional we’ve become as a nation in a short seven months.

We have a President who panders to White Supremacists in the White House and resorts to racist dog whistles every chance he gets. He objectifies women. He admires dictators and ignores the rule of law.  He has no diplomatic skills, no knowledge of any policy issue, and seems to have a bevvy of personality disorders.  His only function seems to be to create dysfunction and divide us by creating crises where there should be none and not managing crises where there are ones.  I’m exhausted and disgusted.

Trump’s NFL tirade shows the nation who he really is: A white supremacist

Donald Trump is the president America deserves.

He’s forcing the country to take the mask off, to confront its systemically oppressive ways, to deal with the fact that xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, able-ism, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia and, yes, racism, are real. Say it with me: Racism is real.

He spoke in Alabama Friday night, supposedly for a rally to support Sen. Luther Strange in the state’s Republican primary. But then he decided to target black men advocating for equality and justice, to make their erasure at least as important as North Korea and American health care. He only added further proof to a truth everyone needs to stop denying.

“Donald Trump, White Supremacy, and the Discourse of Panic”

It may seem pedantic, in the face of a threat as radical as the Trump presidency, to quibble over terminological distinctions between different varieties of odious people. But the language we use organizes our political thinking. And one of the terrible things Trump has done to this country has been to warp the terms and categories — and, hence, the character — of the political opposition through the exertion of sheer terror. Seemingly harmless changes have crept into our political lexicon, which may have dangerous consequences.

Chiefs QB: Why is Trump condemning football players more harshly than white supremacists?

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in an interview questioned why President Trump was condemning National Football League (NFL) players more strongly than he did white supremacists last month.

Smith called Trump’s criticism of NFL players who kneel during the anthem “alarming” because he was “targeting the NFL, targeting the quality and character of guys in this league for that very protest,” according to the Kansas City Star.

“It’s the same guy who couldn’t condemn violent neo-Nazis. And he’s condemning guys taking a knee during the anthem,” Smith said.

“There are bigger issues out there that he probably should be worried about. But for some reason the NFL is on his mind.”

Smith said it was “uncomfortable” for him to talk politics but that “it struck a chord a little bit to see guys get attacked for a peaceful protest.”

Kushner used private email to conduct White House business

The senior adviser set up the account after the election. Other West Wing officials have also used private email accounts for official business.

Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December, part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business.

Kushner uses his private account alongside his official White House email account, sometimes trading emails with senior White House officials, outside advisers and others about media coverage, event planning and other subjects, according to four people familiar with the correspondence. POLITICO has seen and verified about two dozen emails.

New details of GOP tax plan reveal focus on wealthy

White House officials and Republican leaders are preparing a set of broad income and corporate tax cuts while also looking for a way to keep their plan from being a massive windfall for the wealthiest Americans, two people familiar with the plan said.

Party leaders are quietly circulating proposals to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and lower the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, according to the people familiar with the plan.

White House advisers are divided over whether to cut the top individual tax rate, and Republican leaders, aware the plan could be construed as a huge giveaway to the wealthy, are trying to design features to the package that would ensure that the rich don’t get too large a share of the plan’s tax relief.

New Order Indefinitely Bars Almost All Travel From Seven Countries

President Trump on Sunday issued a new order indefinitely banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

The new order is more far-reaching than the president’s original travel ban, imposing permanent restrictions on travel, rather than the 90-day suspension that Mr. Trump authorized soon after taking office. But officials said his new action was the result of a deliberative, rigorous examination of security risks that was designed to avoid the chaotic rollout of his first ban. And the addition of non-Muslim countries could address the legal attacks on earlier travel restrictions as discrimination based on religion.

Starting next month, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be banned from entering the United States, Mr. Trump said in a proclamation released Sunday night. Citizens of Iraq and some groups of people in Venezuela who seek to visit the United States will face restrictions or heightened scrutiny.

Mr. Trump’s original travel ban caused turmoil at airports in January and set off a furious legal challenge to the president’s authority. It was followed in March by a revised ban, which expired on Sunday even as the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about its constitutionality on Oct. 10. The new order — Chad, North Korea and Venezuela are new to the list of affected countries and Sudan has been dropped — will take effect Oct. 18.

Hot, isolated, and running out of supplies, parts of Puerto Rico near desperation

Four days after a major hurricane battered Puerto Rico, leaving the entire island in a communications and power blackout, regions outside San Juan remained disconnected from the rest of the island — and the world. Juncos, in a mountainous region southeast of the capital that was slammed with Maria’s most powerful winds, remains isolated, alone, afraid.

Clinton: Trump should send Navy to help Puerto Rico

Clinton in a tweet on Sunday urged President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis to deploy the Navy, including the United States Naval Ship Comfort, immediately in order to help those on the island reeling from the Category 4 storm’s aftermath.

“These are American citizens,” she added, along with a retweet of the images of the faces impacted by the destruction.

A New Obamacare Repeal Draft Is Out And It Attacks Pre-Existing Protections More Severely

It “opens the door to very bare-bones coverage.”

Republicans on Sunday evening circulated a new version of their embattled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Based on initial inspection, the new bill is a lot like the original bill, which would have decimated existing federal health programs, reduced government spending, and left many millions without insurance.

But now the legislation, which Politico and Vox first reported, includes a pair of important changes ― an even more aggressive assault on protections for people with pre-existing conditions, as well as some extra money to blunt the impact of funding cuts for a handful of states.

Each set of revisions seems designed to win over key Republican senators who have been critical of the legislation so far ― and to do so before Saturday, when Republicans, who hold just 52 seats in the Senate, lose parliamentary authority to pass repeal with 50 votes instead of the usual 60.

The broad architecture of the legislation, which Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced in late July and have been promoting ever since, hasn’t changed all that much. As before, Republicans are proposing to replace the Affordable Care Act with a less generous state-based program, and then introduce a new, separate limit on federal Medicaid spending.

New version of health-care bill will help Alaska and Maine — home of two holdout senators

The Republican senators at the forefront of the latest effort to undo the Affordable Care Act released a revised version of their bill Monday sending more health-care dollars to the states of key holdouts, as hardening resistance from several GOP senators left their proposal on the verge of collapse.

According to a summary obtained by The Washington Post, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) will propose giving Alaska and Maine more funding than initially offered. Those states are represented by Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), who have expressed concerns about the bill but have yet to say how they would vote.

But there was little evidence Monday that the changes would secure enough votes for passage. Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who is one of two GOP senators already against the bill, reiterated his opposition to the updated measure, and the other lawmaker, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) has objected to it on the grounds that there has been no bipartisan outreach.

So, are we sensing a pattern here?

How long can we endure all this?   When what we need is this:

Here’s How You Can Help People Affected By Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands were devastated by the storm. Relief agencies are seeking donations, as well as food, water, and medical supplies.

and this:

How to dismantle racism and prevent police brutality

I’m going to take a few deep breaths and do some grading.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: R-E-S-P-E-C-T …Take a knee

The cartoon above was a good one…

There is a lot I would like to say, but without internet or cell service…it is difficult to get any thoughts or words of protest out there.

Hell, it is impossible to read the blog. So, since I’m writing this post blind…I hope that everyone is fine.

Here’s a few tweets to start the post,

I will end with this tweet, because it expresses exactly how I have felt about taking a knee from the very beginning …

It was never a question of disrespect. The players did not turn their backs on the flag. Ugh!

This is an open thread.