Who Loses?

Well, folks, the Fool on the Hill is determined to have his wall/fence/whatever at any cost and no matter who it hurts.  I’ve already discussed the concept of the wall, how it has no value other than as a propaganda tool, so I shan’t repeat all that.  However, we need to be aware of where the money is coming from for that wall … who will be hurt the most.

James Hohmann is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, and author of The Daily 202, The Post’s flagship political newsletter.  Just as I was looking for information for this post, his newsletter hit my inbox and … lo and behold!  Mr. Hohmann had done my work for me.  What follows is portions from Mr. Hohmann’s article, for it is too long for this post, but if you’re interested in further details, you can read the entire newsletter here.


The Daily 202: The biggest losers from Trump’s diversion of military funds for his wall

HohmannBy James Hohmann
September 5 at 10:18 AM

THE BIG IDEA: Sometimes it’s worthwhile to step back and remember how we got here.

President Trump promised repeatedly that he would get Mexico to pay for a border wall when he ran in 2016. Unable to accomplish that, he failed to persuade Congress of the need to appropriate the money – even when his own party controlled both chambers. Just before Christmas, Trump forced what became a 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in American history, in a bid to coerce the legislative branch to give him the money he wanted for the wall.

When House Democrats stayed unified, buoyed by their mandate in the midterms, the president declared a “national emergency” in February. Under the auspices of that emergency, Trump announced he would divert money that had been explicitly appropriated for the military to move ahead with his pet project. In late July, the five Supreme Court justices appointed by Republicans voted to lift a freeze on the money that had been put in place by a lower court and upheld by an appellate court.

Last night, the Pentagon finally released to the public a list of the 127 construction projects that stand to lose funding to free up $3.6 billion for 175 miles of fencing and other barriers on the southern border. These are spread across 23 states, three U.S. territories and 20 countries. Here are some of the most notable projects that Trump is raiding:

1) Puerto Rico will lose out on more than $400 million of planned projects.

The Pentagon is defunding 13 projects at military installations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, 10 of which were related to recovery from Hurricane Maria. Among them is the rehabilitation of Camp Santiago, a training facility operated by the Puerto Rico National Guard.

Guam, another U.S. territory, will lose a quarter of a billion dollars in construction projects. North Korea threatened to strike the Pacific island in 2017.

Trump’s disdain for Puerto Rico and his resistance to helping the U.S. commonwealth has been well established. It led to a delay of several months in a disaster relief funding bill.

2) Another $770 million is being diverted from projects that have been approved to help American allies deter attacks from a revanchist Russia.

This is the bulwark of the European Deterrence Initiative, which was created after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Along with Trump’s push to get Russia back in the G-7, this is the latest illustration of the president projecting weakness in the face of Kremlin bellicosity.

A facility for special operations forces and their training will not get built in Estonia, the tiny but thriving democracy whose sovereignty depends on the American security guarantee. Also on the chopping block are projects to construct ammunition and fuel storage facilities and staging areas in Poland, and planned upgrades to surveillance aircraft facilities in Italy, as well as airfield and fuel storage upgrades in Slovakia and Hungary.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling tweeted: “To the untrained eye, the 127 defense projects postponed for the border barrier may seem confusing. But as a former commander in Europe, many of these … are big deals. ‘Support the troops?’ Not so much.”

3) Nine of the projects on the list involve renovating or replacing schools for the children of U.S. troops.

4) Utah will lose $54 million. This is striking because both of the state’s conservative senators, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, voted against Trump’s border emergency in March and supported the resolution of disapproval. Is it retaliation?

5) To be sure, GOP senators who supported Trump’s emergency declaration didn’t get spared.

“Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), one of those who voted in support of the declaration, announced early Wednesday that the Trump administration was diverting $30 million in funds from an Army base in her state to construction of the wall ― even though she previously received assurances from an acting secretary of defense that her state would be spared,” HuffPost’s Igor Bobic reports.

“Other Republican senators whose states are impacted by Trump’s diversion of military construction funds to build the wall include Thom Tillis of North Carolina ($80 million), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($62 million), John Cornyn of Texas ($48 million), Lindsey Graham of South Carolina ($11 million) and Cory Gardner of Colorado ($8 million),” Bobic notes.

6) In the long term, the greatest damage from the diversions could be the fundamental break that it represents with the founding fathers’ conception of the separation of powers. James Madison made the power of the purse explicit when he drafted Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”

Trump is creating a potentially dangerous precedent for future presidents to disregard the will of a coequal branch. He’s using an obscure provision from a law passed during the Cold War that was intended to give executive branch officials flexibility in the event of truly existential emergencies, such as a Soviet first strike.

“Officially, the Pentagon is saying the affected projects are ‘deferred,’ but in order for them to go ahead in the future, Congress must again fund them,” Paul Sonne and Seung Min Kim note.

Stealing From ‘We The People’ … Again

We never get a break from the horrors of the Donnie Show anymore … rarely does a single day go by that there isn’t some new abomination to stir our ire, to cause a wtf to emit from our voicebox before we can catch it.  Today’s came before I was even out of bed, thereby jump-starting my day, though not in any good way.

There are a number of reasons that Trump was able to garner enough electoral votes to win the election in 2016:  gerrymandered districts, Russian propaganda, Hillary’s lack of popularity, and “The Wall”.  He fostered fear among the predominantly un-and-under-educated … fear of immigrants who, he said, were “bad hombres”, were rapists and drug lords, who must be stopped.  He alone, he said, could fix this, and his solution was … well, it started out being a “big, beautiful wall” along the southern border that “Mexico is going to pay for”.

Early on, like the moment he first said the words, it was clear that Mexico wasn’t going to pay for a damn wall or anything else.  Why should they?  Why would they?  So, that part of the conversation simply died, and Trump’s cheering section quickly forgot about it.  Now, 31 months into his term, the “big, beautiful wall” is to be an ugly black fence, and he is planning to steal from We the People to build said fence.  Before election day 2020.  Why?  Because it is the only thing, when all the detritus is set aside, that he proposed that rallied the masses in 2016, and as of right now, he has accomplished absolutely nothing.  It is a safe bet that the economy will be in worse, not better, shape by the time election day rolls around, so he needs something with which to appease his base.

The wall, or fence as it were, has been undisputedly proven by experts to be useless, unnecessary, and a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.  That, in and of itself, would be bad enough, but now he is so obsessed with his damn fence that he is planning to steal from landowners, and steal money from disaster relief funds that exist to help people after such things as hurricanes, wildfires and more.

According to The Washington Post …

Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.

He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly, those officials said.

[Trump] has told senior aides that a failure to deliver on the signature promise of his 2016 campaign would be a letdown to his supporters and an embarrassing defeat.

When aides have suggested that some orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has suggested he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead, aides said. He has waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying “take the land.”

The article goes on to tell of Trump’s insistence on painting the fence black, even though it will add significantly to the cost, simply because he likes the way it looks.  Billions of dollars will be spent, people will have their land stolen from them, and worse yet, irreparable damage will be done to the environment.  All so Trump can say he kept his promise … sort of … to his supporters.  It’s a fence, not a wall.  It’s being paid for by We the People, not Mexico.  It will kill flora and fauna.  And it won’t do a damn thing to resolve the issue of people crossing the border without proper authorization.

Tropical storm Dorian is brewing in the Atlantic, expected to strengthen to a Category 3 hurricane.  Puerto Rico, still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017, is in its path, and then it is likely to head to Florida as it gains even more strength.  Will Puerto Rico once again be denied disaster assistance, this time because Trump spent all the money in the pot on his abomination of a fence … a useless fence?

It is my opinion that since this fence’s only real purpose is to give Trump bragging rights for his 2020 re-election campaign, the money for the wall should come from his campaign war chest.  Surely all his wealthy donors, all those people to whom he gave tax cuts amounting to millions of dollars, would be willing to chip in to ensure he pleases his gullible base with this ignoble wall?  Here’s what his top ten donors have given him …

  1. Robert Mercer, Renaissance Technologies – $13.5 million
  2. Sheldon Adelson and Miriam Adelson, Las Vegas Sands Corporation (LVS) – $10 million
  3. Linda McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) – $6 million
  4. Bernard Marcus, Retired – $7 million
  5. Geoffrey Palmer, G.H. Palmer Associates – $2 million
  6. Ronald M Cameron, Mountaire Corp. – $2 million
  7. Peter Thiel, Palantir Technologies – $1.25 million
  8. Walter Buckley Jr, Actua Corporation (ACTA) – $1 million
  9. Cherna Moskowitz, Hawaiian Gardens Casino – $1 million
  10. Peter Zieve, Electroimpact – $1 million

You want a wall fence, Donnie … pay for it with something other than our money!  Get your donors to up the ante by a few million each.  We the People have better things to do with our money, like providing health care to our citizens, repairing broken infrastructure, providing relief to Puerto Rico to re-build, providing funds to California when the inevitable wildfires hit later this fall, and finding ways to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren.  Frankly, we have more to fear from you than from immigrants crossing the border.

The “Bromance” Heats Up?

Yesterday, Donald Trump called his bro-buddy Vladimir Putin and … offered to help him with the wildfires that are burning in Siberia!  Yes, it is true … the plonker who thinks raking the forest is the way to prevent fires, offered to send resources, both human and equipment (rakes, perhaps?), halfway across the globe to help our adversary!  Now, mind you I have no desire to see portions of the earth burnt to a crisp, but there are so many things wrong with this scenario that I don’t know where to begin.trump-putin-phone-732356The “Embassy of Russia in the USA” put out the following release:

Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump this evening at the American side’s initiative.

The US President offered help in putting out wildfires in Siberia.

The President of Russia expressed sincere gratitude for the kind attention and the offer of help and assistance. Vladimir Putin said he will accept the offer if it becomes necessary. He also told his American colleague that a powerful group of aircraft had been formed in Siberia to fight the wildfires. According to the Emergencies Ministry, solutions have been found to problems with the refuelling and deployment of airplanes and helicopters.

The President of Russia regards the US President’s offer as a sign that it is possible that full-scale bilateral relations will be restored in the future.

The presidents of Russia and the United States agreed to continue contacts in the form of telephone conversations as well as personal meetings.

Trump-Putin-toonSounds pretty chummy, yes?  And … um … please forgive my suspicious nature, but isn’t there an election coming up in about 15 months, and didn’t ol’ Vlad help Trump get elected last time, and isn’t Trump in need of some help this time?  Let that sink in, but meanwhile …

Remember last year when California was experiencing some of the worst wildfires in its history?  Trump blamed the state for the fires, saying it was “bad environmental laws” and “gross mismanagement of the forests” that had caused the fires, and threatened to stop sending federal money to the state unless it fixed its forest-management methods, pronto.  Said the expert on forest fires …

“You’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forests, it’s very important.”

And he claimed to have had a conversation with the President of Finland …

“He called it a forest nation, and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problems.”

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto disputed this conversation, but that didn’t deter Trump, who knows more about everything than anyone else.

And remember his unconscionable complaints about having to provide assistance to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico:

“Puerto Rico got far more money than Texas & Florida combined, yet their government can’t do anything right. The place is a mess.”

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated U.S. territory, and the people who live there are U.S. citizens, yet Trump is more willing, nay eager … to help put out fires in sparsely populated Russian Siberia than save lives of U.S. citizens.Trump-Putin-SamOur neighbors to the north have been battling wildfires in Alberta and Ontario, Canada, for several months this year, the fires are still burning, and has Trump proffered assistance even one single time?  I think not.  Similar fires are burning in Alaska (which is one of the fifty “United” states) and the Arctic, but has Trump offered assistance to either?  I think not.

And finally, consider this.  Trump has done as much as anybody, more than most, to cause those wildfires he’s so concerned about.  The fires are a result of July’s record-breaking European heatwave, which is a result of the climate change that Trump has denied, has called a Chinese hoax.  Donald Trump had it in his power to address the issue of climate change, to enhance the regulations that were already in place on the fossil fuel and auto industries, but instead he trashed every single environmental regulation.  The U.S. puts out more carbon emissions, CO2, per capita than any other nation on the globe.  But, instead of addressing climate change with any degree of conscience or maturity, he added to the problem in order to help his rich capitalist buddies.  Instead of being so happy that Trump offered assistance, Putin should be furious that Trump, in fact, is adding fuel to the fire.

I have to wonder … if the fires were in the UK, France, or Mexico, all of whom are U.S. allies, would Trump be offering help?  Think about it.

Today in the ‘Alternative Universe’ …

A few headlines caught my eye today …

Trump’s FEMA chief under investigation over use of official cars

I have to ask the question:  Is there anybody in this administration who is not under investigation???  A quick 10-minute search turns up …

  • David Shulkin – Former United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs – spent more than $122,000 of department money on a 10-day trip to the UK and Denmark in July 2017—which involved only three and a half days of meetings. A government investigation into the trip found he had committed several “serious derelictions,” including bringing his wife on the trip at the taxpayer’s expense and improperly accepting free Wimbledon tickets.
  • Steve Mnuchin – Secretary of the Treasury – requested a government plane to take his wife on a honeymoon to Europe, and has come under fire for spending nearly $1 million on just seven trips.
  • Scott Pruitt – Former EPA Administrator – spent $168,000 on charter, military, and first class flights in his first year in office, despite EPA guidelines saying he should travel coach. The trips often included weekend layovers in his home state of Oklahoma. Pruitt splashed around $43,000 on a sound-proof phone booth in his office (to name only a few!).
  • Ryan Zinke – Secretary of the Interior – failing to keep proper records of his travel, been criticized for booking charter flights, and taken helicopters costing thousands of dollars when he could have taken a car. He spent $139,000 on new office doors (following a slew of embarrassing headlines, he says he has cut their cost by nearly half).
  • Ben Carson – Secretary of HUD – ordered a $31,000 dining set. The inspector general of Carson’s agency is also investigating whether Carson broke ethics rules by involving his son, the owner of a private equity firm, in government activities.
  • Tom Price – Former Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) – spent more than $1 million of taxpayer funds on his own travel in private jets.
  • Wilbur Ross – Secretary of Commerce – pledged to recuse himself from any matters involving his shipping interests, but he negotiates trade deals that could benefit some of his shipping interests.
  • Betsy DeVos – Secretary of Education – despite a potential conflict of interest, increased by as much as $10.5 million her investment in Neurocore, a company that offers brain performance training to children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, autism and depression.

And then there are the ones tagged by Robert Mueller in his investigation:

  • Paul Manafort
  • Michael Cohen
  • Michael Flynn
  • Rick Gates
  • George Papadopoulos
  • Jared Kushner
  • Stephen Miller
  • Don Trump, Jr.

And the list goes on … and on … where it ends, nobody knows!

Oh … and I left out another who, in addition to being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller …

  • Donald J. Trump – continues to earn money from his businesses. The Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., has become a fundraising mecca for special interest groups, foreign governments, Republicans and GOP-aligned groups. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort doubled its initiation fee after Trump’s election. Trump has also visited his properties more than 100 times since he was elected, according to news organizations that have tracked his travels.

All of this could explain why Walter Shaub, who resigned from his position as Director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) said on his way out, “I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.”

Do I recall somebody promising to “Drain the Swamp”???swamp-3


Trump pushes conspiracy theory about Puerto Rico death toll

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000. … This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

That’s right, folks … the death toll, reported by George Washington University, was cooked up by some unnamed, evil democrats who only want to make Trump look bad.  Does anybody else feel like just slapping this man across the face … over and over again?

The hue & cry was almost immediate, with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz saying, “This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!”.  Representative Bennie G. Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, called on Trump to resign. “The fact that the President will not take responsibility for his Administration’s failures and will not even recognize that thousands have perished shows us, once again, that he is not fit to serve as our President.”

Even Paul Ryan, while not directly mentioning Trump’s tweet, said “This was a function of a devastating storm hitting an isolated island, and that is really no one’s fault. The casualties mounted for a long time, and I have no reason to dispute those numbers.”

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker was quick to issue Trump’s claim a ‘Four Pinocchio’ rating.

4 pinocchios


Populist Donald Trump drains swamp with fundraiser where he profits off $70,000 pictures with him

According to The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, the cheapest entry price is $35,000 per couple, which entitles an attendee to dinner. A “photo opportunity” with Trump costs $70,000, while participating in a roundtable with the president requires $100,000.

Now I ask you … who in their right mind would pay $70,000 to have their picture taken with … a slimeball???  And by the way … the purpose of the fundraiser is his 2020 campaign.  Shoot me now.swamp-2


The fun just never stops, does it?  Have a great evening, folks!

Not A Success … A Damn Disaster!

On Tuesday, Donald Trump made the following statement:

“The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did, working along with the Governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success. If you ask the governor, he’ll tell you what a great job.”

Not content with that, on Wednesday morning at 5:51 a.m., he tweeted …

“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!”

Undoubtedly, some fell for his braggadocio, but for most of us, it was a jaw-dropping moment, knowing as we do that our response in Puerto Rico was anything but ‘great’.  A year later, Puerto Rico still struggles.  Remember Trump’s sole contribution?trump paper towelsPuerto Ricans are still struggling with basic necessities. Fully 83% reported either major damage to their homes, losing power for more than three months, employment setbacks or worsening health problems, among other effects of the storm. The power is spotty, and many are leery of drinking the water. Roads are damaged, dangerous, and difficult to navigate — like “the surface of the moon,” according to one resident — and in some places, the roadways remain impassible.

Eighty percent of Puerto Ricans rate Trump’s response to Maria negatively, an assessment that contradicts the president’s claim two weeks ago that “most of the people in Puerto Rico appreciate what we’ve done.”

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who Trump had suggested the press ask about the great job we had done, responded:governor response

The most recent death toll from Hurricane Maria is 2,975.  Nearly three thousand people died, and Trump calls it an “unsung success”?  No, this was no success, it was a disaster … a damn disaster!

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report assessing how recovery efforts had fared.  Among their findings …

  • Problems with debris removal and a shortage of proper equipment for the task. “Officials said there were resource constraints,” the report reads, “so they had to prioritize debris removal from state-managed roads, before clearing local roads.”
  • Insufficient bilingual employees to communicate with residents and translate documents.
  • Not enough generators were available to meet demand, and not enough recovery material was positioned on the island in advance of the storm. The day before Maria made landfall, four generators had been delivered to the island. Thirty-five were delivered to Texas ahead of Harvey.
  • About 1.6 million meals and 700,000 liters of water were delivered and eight shelters opened to hold 306 people. By contrast, before Irma made landfall in Florida, 4.8 million meals and 9.9 million liters of water were delivered and 249 shelters were opened to hold nearly 50,000 people. That Puerto Rico is harder to access than Florida is both accurate and noted in the report.
  • FEMA faced a staff shortage of 37 percent as of Sept. 1, 2017. Of “reservists” called up to aid the recovery efforts in all the disasters, 46 percent of those deployed last year were not rated as “qualified” for their job functions. At least 15 percent refused a deployment for medical or other reasons.
  • Many reservists on Puerto Rico “were not physically fit to handle conditions on the island,” according to one official, who suggested that “a fitness test should have been required before they were eligible to deploy.”
  • Volunteers similarly indicated that their skill sets weren’t matched to assigned tasks and that training was insufficient.

And that death toll.  Nearly 3,000 people – human beings, U.S. citizens.  😢  No, Donald Trump, we were not in the least bit successful, despite your throwing paper towels at people who had just lost everything.

pr-2pr-3pr-4pr-5

Only in America …

As I scrolled through the evening news last night, I came across story after story that had me shaking my head and saying, “Only in America”.  Not, mind you, in a good way.  So, after about the third one, I decided to compile them all into this post. Turned out I couldn’t fit them all into a single post, so there may be a follow-up … who knows?  I have a backlog …


Does he or doesn’t he believe in climate change science???

CulbersonJohn Abney Culberson is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the State of Texas.  He is a republican … go figure.  He is a climate-change denier who claims that scientists have falsified data and that “the liberal obsession with climate change… is driven by their desire to raise more money for the government”.

Compared to Trump’s nearly half-million dollars spent from campaign funds buying the silence of his former paramours, Mr. Culberson’s improper expenditure of a mere $50,000 might seem like next to nothing, but a crime is a crime, and the hypocrisy in this one is truly astounding.  The expenditures in question include books, coins, Civil War memorabilia and other collectibles … nobody is quite sure how these were needed for his campaign.  It is well known that Culberson has a personal interest in collectibles and antiques, but he denies that these items were purchased to add to his collection.  Instead … guess what his reasoning is?  According to the Houston Chronicle …

“Culberson’s aides explained the purchase as research material on paleo-climatology, a subject that would help him understand climate science for his position on an appropriations subcommittee that oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They said the materials helped give him a better understanding of the changing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

But … but … I thought he didn’t believe in climate change?

Only in America


A really bad move that will probably win him votes …

DeSantis-Gullim

Ron DeSantis/Andrew Gillum

In Tuesday night’s Florida primary elections, Ron DeSantis won the Republican Party nomination for the office of governor, and Andrew Gillum won the Democratic Party nomination.  Andrew Gillum is African-American, a fact that I mention only because of what happened after the election.

“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.” – Ron DeSantis

A word.  A single word turned this statement from a typical hot-air bit of political rhetoric into an ugly, racist remark.  Members of both parties, as well as Fox News spoke out against DeSantis’ comment.  The NAACP Florida State Conference responded to DeSantis, calling comparisons to monkeys “by far the best-known racist references to African Americans in our national folklore.”

So, perhaps racist remarks by politicians are not exclusive to the United States, but the fact that the president of the nation defended the remarks and that he will likely gain voters for his remarks is, I think, unique.

Trump said he didn’t hear DeSantis’ racial slur, but then praised him as being “an extreme talent” and criticized Gillum, calling him a “failed Socialist Mayor”.

Only in America


Are you sure you were born?

U.S. citizens – people who were born in this country and have the official birth certificate that proves it – are being denied their rights to obtain a passport, and not only that, but their very citizenship is in question.  Even worse, some citizens are being refused entry to their country of origin, the country the were born in! In some cases, passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in immigration detention centers and forced into deportation proceedings.

passportWHY, you ask?  Because this is part of Trump & Co’s effort to reduce both legal and illegal immigration, and the State Department claims that “the U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.”  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Guess what, Mr. Michael Pompeo, head of the State Department?  I would rather let 100 immigrants in than to abuse a citizen … or anyone … in this manner.  In my book Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump both earn a ZERO rating on human rights issues!

(Sorry, folks … my blood boiled for a minute there)

Only in America


Alternative Reality?

In January 2017, KellyAnne Conway, some sort of assistant to Donald Trump, though none of us have figured out quite what her role is other than to put her feet on the furniture and dress funny, coined the phrase ‘alternative facts’, when referring to the paltry number of people that attended the inauguration of Donald Trump.  It has become rather the Orwellian buzzword, the joke of the day every day, ever since.  Then we saw evidence of an alternative vocabulary, where up was down, good was bad, red was green, and so forth.  Today, though, I believe we are seeing an ‘alternative reality’.

On September 20th last year, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico … hard!  It is on record as being the worst natural disaster to hit the island in all of recorded history.  The storm caused at least $90 billion of structural damage; the power grid was destroyed, leaving millions without electricity; neighborhoods were flooded; communication networks were down; over 1 million people had no drinking water; 93% of roads were impassible; infrastructure was heavily damaged, more than 60,000 homes were destroyed or heavily damaged, and the list goes on.

Keep in mind that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and its residents are U.S. citizens.  Yet, response and aid from the U.S. to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Maria was slow … it was nearly two weeks after the storm before the first official U.S. aid arrived on Puerto Rico’s shores.  Trump made a visit in early October 2017 and made a virtual ass of himself by throwing rolls of paper towels to people who were suffering from a lack of food, electricity, potable water, had lost their homes, and in some cases their loved ones.  But yesterday he went one better …

trump paper towelsFor a long time, the death toll was officially recorded at only 64, though we all knew it was much higher, but there were a number of reasons it could not be accurately tallied.  This week, the official death toll is 2,975 people as a direct or indirect result of Hurricane Maria.  Some of those deaths would likely have been prevented with more and speedier assistance from the U.S.  But take heart, for Donald Trump says we did great.

“I think we did a fantastic job!” said he to … whomever believes hisbullshit.

We did a terrible job.  Too little, too late, and for too short a time.  We should be hanging our heads in shame, apologizing to the residents of Puerto Rico.  Donald can toot his horn, but ain’t nobody buyin’ it.

Only in America


Yeah, I know we are not the worst.  Many nations’ human rights violations should give us nightmares, many countries use and abuse their citizens far worse than we do.  No, we are not the worst.  But I’ve got news for you … we are far from being the best.  We are far from being even as good as we once were.  And we are getting worse by the day.  Think about it.

Good People Doing Good Things – The People of Puerto Rico!

Yesterday marked the six-month anniversary of the day Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, leaving behind devastation and death. Hurricane Maria made landfall at 6:15am on September 20 in Yabucoa, in southeastern Puerto Rico, as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155mph. The island suffered significant structural damage and widespread loss of power and communications. Power and communications are only beginning to be restored.

Though the residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens, our government has provided only minimal assistance and the leader of the U.S. has bent over backward to be critical of the people and local governments of Puerto Rico.  But that is not my story today.  My story today is how the good people of Puerto Rico are pulling together and rebuilding their island and their lives, one day at a time.  Yesterday, I accidentally happened upon an OpEd by Mariangelie Ortiz Ortiz in the New York Times   I begin this post with Mariangelie’s story …

COMERIO, Puerto Rico — I live with my parents and older brother in this rural mountain town in the center of this island. Hurricane Maria made landfall here six months ago this week. The strong winds began to lash our area by 2 a.m. on Sept. 20. Our power and water had already been shut off for a day by then.

My family, along with about 200 other people, sought refuge at a high school in our town. Whenever the doors were opened to let others in, the wind would whip through the hallways. I was scared. A few of us gathered in a circle, joined hands and prayed, hoping it would bring us some sense of peace. Then chaos broke out.

The Plata River, which cuts through Comerio, had swelled by more than 60 feet and was creeping ever closer to the school’s front door. Fearing the worst, those of us sheltered on the first floor quickly scrambled up the stairs to the second floor, carrying the bedridden elderly with us.

In the end we were spared. Once the eye of the storm settled over us, things calmed down. Soon from the second floor we saw whole families walking toward the school. In all, about 100 more people arrived; wet, muddy, hugging one another and crying. A mother whose house had flooded told us how she and her kids narrowly avoided drowning. She had lifted her three children — all under the age of 5 — on to her shoulders and waded through the water until she reached higher ground. A woman fainted when she recounted how floodwaters had swept her house away.

On the second night we were finally able to go home. It was pitch black and raining. Our terrace roof was gone; a tree that had fallen on the back of the house caused some structural damage, and water had come in through the windows. But our home, built of concrete, still stood.

We were among the lucky ones.

Three days after Maria hit, the streets were still largely impassable. We set out on foot to the very river that was our source of terror during the storm, checking in on neighbors along the way. There was no electricity and no running water, so the river was now our sole source of water. We bathed in it, washed our clothes and dishes on its banks and carried back home as much of it as we could manage to boil for drinking and cooking.

It would be two weeks before the town supermarket reopened, and two more months before we could use our credit cards to shop there. We ran out of cash. The local bank remained closed until the end of November. Gas was scarce. Before the hurricane, I was working toward a master’s degree in management and leadership at the University of Turabo. My studies were put on hold. When the university reopened in October, I had to go to neighboring towns that had power to contact my professors and my classmates, or to work on my assignments. Everything became complicated.

For about two weeks we didn’t know if my older sister, Maran — who lives in Fajardo, a city in the eastern region of the island — had survived. She finally heard that the street to Comerio was clear and made her way to us. My dad screamed when he saw her. We all gathered around her, crying and hugging.

Since then, little has improved much. There’s so much left to do. We’re still fighting to get our lights back on. The local government hasn’t come to meet with our neighborhood or give us updates. We’re getting by with a generator my uncle on the mainland sent us. Other family members and friends have brought us much-needed water filters, batteries, food and tarps.

In total, some 1,500 homes in Comerio were destroyed and 2,400 others sustained significant damage. I began to volunteer with the recovery effort. We’re in this together and we’re all pitching in to help one another rebuild.

With $10,000 raised through crowdfunding and $5,000 from the Defend Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund, we rebuilt one house and repaired two others with damaged roofs. With the help of Coco de Oro and La Maraña, the organizations I volunteer with, we have raised money to begin work on the next eight houses. But there are 25 more houses in my neighborhood alone needing work and thousands more in all of Puerto Rico.

We’re working collectively to lift ourselves out of this nightmare, but we can’t do it on our own. I struggle to understand why the United States government continues to withhold the aid we were promised. We’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens. The Trump administration must honor its commitment to Puerto Rico. Our hurricane-ravaged island may no longer be in the headlines, but we’re still suffering, and we need help.

Mariangelie’s is not the only such story, and she is far from the only one volunteering, helping get the island and its people back to normal.

  • Father and son, Billy Joe Perez and Juan Perez Ramos painted a beautiful mural at the entrance of their neighborhood depicting the community the way it was before Maria, and inscribed it “Salimos de Aquí” (We Came from Here). The mural has not only brought beauty, but also inspired others …

  • When Aguadilla artisan and painter Jenny Cruz heard of the efforts to bring art to the neighborhood, she pledged to help provide paint for the murals. Cruz, 46, was also busy trying to find a home for a friend who she learned was sleeping under the bleachers of a basketball court in the nearby town of Rincon.
  • Orlando “San” Gonzalez, a boxing coach with a reputation for taking in the toughest kids in the Cerro Calero neighborhood, decided to form a fighters brigade to help the elderly clean and rebuild their homes. Gonzalez, 48, and his friend, businessman Gabo Sola, 31, and other professionals and volunteers help people in need, especially those who are most frail, through a nonprofit group called “We Are One.” Gonzalez’ 22-year-old son, boxer Orlando “Capu” Gonzalez, recently returned from a fight in Kissimmee, Fla., with supplies of water and food, which were distributed in the community with help from other boxers.
  • When the boxers heard that Aguadilla resident Irene Mendez had lost her husband, Leonardo Enchautegui Flores, in an accident days after the hurricane, they vowed to help clean debris off her yard and home. Mendez said Flores, 75, died after falling from the roof of their house while trying to fix damage by the hurricane.
  • Medina Carrero, 59, called in to radio newscaster Victor Vazquez and told the broadcaster he and his parents were hungry. He said the roof on his parents’ home had blown off during the hurricane. He said he helps take care of his father, Maximino Medina, who is 84, and his mother, Iris Carrero, who is 79. Vazquez, 42, contacted Sola and Cruz and together they secured a week’s supply of food for the family. Vazquez also called a friend who volunteered to fix the roof and someone from the neighborhood anonymously fixed the family’s 1991 Oldsmobile, which needed a new radiator hose. The Medinas never found out who fixed the car, but it was a gesture of solidarity that brought Medina Carrero to tears.

See how one thing leads to another, which leads to another?  This, my friends, is how it should always work.Jorge Sanders, 32, a communications consultant and several of his compadres have banded together to provide relief to as many friends, neighbors and strangers in need as they can.  They call their initiative Jóvenes x Puerto Rico (Young People for Puerto Rico) and they have mobilized restaurants to come together to deliver food to those in need, rented trucks filled with water and ice from distribution centers in San Juan and delivered them to other municipalities.  Sanders says, “There is no doubt that the reason the crisis hasn’t been worse is because Puerto Ricans have been helping out their brothers and sisters and not waiting for aid that has never come.”There are many individuals, businesses and non-profits doing what they can to help their communities get back on their feet again – far too many for me to list here.  The people of Puerto Rico are good, kind people who care about their neighbors, and with or without the help of their government, they will rebuild their homes, their businesses, their towns and their island to be even stronger than before.

My hat is off to the good people of Puerto Rico for your perseverance and your love of neighbors and homeland!

Note to readers:  If anybody would like to donate to the efforts of our fellow-Americans, I strongly recommend you contact our good friend Dr. Horty Rex (@hrexach on Twitter), for she is far more knowledgeable in this area than I.

A Must Read, Washington Post’s 12/14/17 Update On Puerto Rico

We must not forget the people of Puerto Rico and the terrible conditions that remain, even some four months after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Please take a moment to read this important update by our friend Gronda. Thank you, Gronda, for this sad, but important post.

Gronda Morin

“The negligence of the US government towards helping American citizens living in Puerto Rico in their hour of need after the island had been left in ruins after 2 major hurricane storms in 2017, will be remembered as the republican lawmakers who handed the super rich a gift of trillions of dollars in tax cuts while there are American citizens left to suffer because of lack of funds and adequate support. ”

“Most of the White Evangelicals who have supported this president and his republican sycophants in the White House and the US Congress and who bear witness to this travesty, do not demonstrate the good fruits of Christian compassion and action.”

“This story should give all of us the impetus to fight back for the soul of our US democracy by ousting these folks from elected offices who would allow for this shameful negligence.”

The hurricane’s rains triggered bridge…

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