Nel's New Day

September 11, 2018

Disasters: Hurricanes, Federal Government

Filed under: Climate change — trp2011 @ 11:31 PM
Tags: , ,

Hurricane Florence is currently the biggest crisis for millions of people in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia with northern Florida and Georgia possibly affected. Over 1.5 million people have been told to evacuate because of a triple threat of ocean water across dry land, freshwater flooding from heavy rainfall, and damaging hurricane-force winds of up to 170 mph both at the coast and inland. The rising water in the storm surge could reach as high as 20 feet, and rain could drop up to 45 inches in places where the ground is already saturated. The numbers keep increasing as the hurricane nears shore.

In North Carolina, ocean overwash spilling onto low-lying roads is already slowing evacuations, and schools 150 miles away from the coast are canceling classes.  In South Carolina, all the highway lanes lead only away from the coast. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has refused to evacuate prisoners although he said that “we’re not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina. Not a one.” In Virginia, a prison has been evacuated. Washington, D.C. has declared a state of emergency, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the House will stay in session.

North Carolina could become a cesspool of dead hogs and coal ash. The state has over 9 million pigs on 2,100 industrial-scale farms with long metal sheds. The grated floors allow urine and feces to fall through and flow into open pits with millions of gallons of untreated sewage. Nine toxic waste cleanup sites are located near the Carolinas coast. Two dozen huge unlined coal ash pits containing dangerous chemicals such as mercury, arsenic and lead are along lakes and rivers. Eleven nuclear reactors are within the hurricane’s path, two of them like the ones in Fukushima, Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Navy, Air Force, and Army are leaving the dangerous areas; the Marines are staying. Over 5.4 million people live in areas now under hurricane warnings or watches on the US East Coast, and another 4 million people are under a tropical storm watch. Assorted bad weather advisories stretch from Florida to Maine on Tuesday evening. Winds may arrive on land Thursday morning with the full-blown hurricane by evening. Like Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Hurricane Florence could hover over the Southeast for several days and be worse than Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Thanks to climate change and the increase of greenhouse emissions, hurricanes are increasing in strength. They need warm ocean waters; the warmer the water, the stronger the hurricanes. Florence, now the size of Colorado, may be the biggest one in many decades. The waters ahead of Hurricane Florence are about 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit above average. The coast where Florence is headed is already suffering from sea rise caused by climate change; this hurricane may change the entire makeup of the southeastern coast.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said that the storm will be “tremendously big and tremendously wet,” his administration is “totally prepared,” and that is “sparing no expense” to ensure Americans’ safety. Yet he gave no idea about what his government is doing to be “prepared.” When asked what he learned from Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico, he asserted that his handling of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico was an “incredible unsung success,” and that he did even better in Puerto Rico than in Texas and Florida.

DDT said that “Congress will be generous because we have no choice,” but not all Republicans may agree with him. His Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney had tried to force Congress to reduce other expenses to pay for the disaster aid for Hurricane Sandy and voted no to the package while he was representative to the House from South Carolina. FEMA is already short $10 million from “response and recovery” because DDT gave FEMA money to ICE to provide for their deportations.

Approximately the same number of people died in the terrorist attack on 9/11 and the lack of federal response to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The 9/11 attacks led to multiple hearings, investigations, reports, and commissions, and everything from airport security to national security changed. The 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico, which DDT has never admitted, led to two hearings with the FEMA administrator.

One week ago, a federal audit from the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that major hurricanes and wildfires wreaking havoc in 2017 overwhelmed disaster responders. The “2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires: Initial Observations on the Federal Response and Key Recovery Challenges” reported that FEMA is stretched thin and faced “numerous challenges” and “complications” in its response to Hurricane Maria.

“Some of FEMA’s disaster staff deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were not physically able to handle the extreme or austere environment of the territories, which detracted from mission needs.”

Agency officials told auditors that “the physical fitness of staff could be assessed” in the future. About 54 percent of emergency personnel were unqualified to do rescue work in October 2017, a month after the Category 4 storm devastated the U.S. territory.

Yet DDT’s “incredible unsung success” in Puerto Rico had these problems:

  • A $156 million food contract went to an Atlanta contractor and one employee; the company was barred from getting new contracts because it had such a bad track record. The contractor turned the responsibility to a wedding caterer, who failed to complete the job.
  • FEMA gave a $30 million contract for half a million tarps for people who had no shelter, but the tarps were never delivered because the two brothers running the newly-formed company didn’t know how to source them.
  • FEMA administrator Brock Long said that the government had many good contracts, but he couldn’t find enough Spanish speakers to help people. The GOP congressional leadership refused to investigate any more problems with FEMA.
  • The non-profit Red Cross raised over $60 million in donations to help people in Puerto Rico but still has $32 million left from the money promised to ease suffering in Puerto Rico. People died of contaminated water in Puerto Rico, but the Red Cross expenditures included over $6 million management fees and almost $6 million in warehousing and freight costs.
  • FEMA refused all except 75 of 2,000 requests for funeral assistance. Long said that it was not FEMA’s responsibility to count the dead.

The Puerto Rican governor has spent the last year in fear of upsetting DDT and avoiding action. Under his control, the electricity utility granted a $300 million contract to a company with two employees in Whitefish (MT), a small town where Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lives. Zinke’s son worked for the company. Full power was not restored on the island until last month—11 months after Hurricane Maria struck.

DDT explained that “Puerto Rico was actually more difficult because of the fact that it’s an island.” Yet the government failed to mobilize the necessary number of helicopters, and kept the Jones Act from delivering food and water in a timely manner. A hospital ship wasn’t sent for days after the hurricane.

Puerto Rico suffered over $100 billion of damage. People from poorer backgrounds were 45% more likely to have been killed in the aftermath of the hurricane. It is a U.S. territory without representation in Congress and without the ability to vote for the U.S. president. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens able to vote when they move to the mainland. Yet Florida Republicans have tried to keep the 30,000 Puerto Ricans seeking refuge in their state from voting by refusing them Spanish-language ballots. Judge Mark Walker quoted the movie Groundhog Day when he ruled that Florida violated federal election law. Gov. Rick Scott has succeeded in keeping released felons from voting because state law allows him to do it for no reason, but Walker stopped him from blocking the Puerto Ricans.

Today is the 17th anniversary of 3,000 deaths from four airplane attacks by terrorists. DDT succeeded in calmly reading a speech to honor the 40 passengers and crew members who died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed outside Shanksville (PA) on 9/11/01, but his victory walk from Air Force One failed to show any empathy for the victims. (Video here.) Just like he told Puerto Ricans that their deaths were their own fault. What will he say about any disasters from Hurricane Florence? Will he throw paper towels at people on the East Coast the way he did in Puerto Rico?

September 11, 2016

Sad Hypocrisy of 9/11, Evangelical Christians

On the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Christine Todd Whitman, George W. Bush’s head of the EPA at that time, has finally admitted that she was wrong about the air around Ground Zero being just fine following the attacks. She finally said that she was “very sorry” that people are sick and some have died, but she gets upset because people blame her. Over 37,000 people registered with the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) are declared sick, many with respiratory illnesses and/or cancer. Over 1,100 people covered by  WTCHP have died. Whitman had said that air in any areas other than the place of the attack did “not pose a public health hazard.”

GOP legislators also felt the need to comment about the need to “never forget” before they left town for a long weekend with the usual comments about the “heroism of our response” (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY), the need to help people understand the sacrifices made (House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI), etc. They also failed to lead Congress in a new 9/11 health and compensation law—never even signed on as sponsors–and instead used it as blackmail to lift an oil export ban. In talking about “sacrifices,” Ryan also commented that he had to drive home to Wisconsin because he couldn’t get a flight.

McConnell managed two anti-Obama care votes this week, but thousands of babies will be born with birth defects, thanks to the GOP failure to push Zika virus funding; residents of Flint (MI) and probably other cities will continue to be poisoned with lead in its water systems, thanks to any congressional action; the Supreme Court will have only eight justices, thanks to the Senate’s intransigence; etc.

Trump scammed the government for $150,000 in 9/11 money by claiming that he helped people after the attacks. Records, however, claimed “rent loss,” “cleanup,” and “repair” that were not allowable under federal gifts. He said that he let people stay free in his building, but that claim didn’t match the reports. He admitted that his property wasn’t affected by the attacks, and there is no evidence of any Trump from charity. He also lied about having “hundreds of friends” die in the attacks and watching “hundreds of Muslims” cheering when the Twin Towers went down.

The Values Voters Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council, met this weekend, and speakers made the same dire warnings of persecution for Christians. American Family Association radio host and government affairs director Sandy Rios failed to explain why people shouldn’t vote for Clinton other than “we can’t even comprehend what life would be like” if Clinton is president. Rios did claim that those who “name the name of Christ will have trouble finding jobs” and people will have to have the “right” opinions to get into college.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) followed up on the persecution threat by saying that he was correct in his prediction that the 2009 Matthew Shepard hate crimes act would persecute Christians. Before its passage he claimed that the law would make the U.S. into Nazi Germany and legalize pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia. He had no examples of how the law was “used against Christians” or legalization of sex with children, animals, and dead people. After diagnosing Hillary Clinton as “mentally impaired,” he accused her of planning to “subjugating the U.S. Constitution to Sharia law.” (The purpose of the Values Voters Summit is to “subjugating the U.S. Constitution to Christian law.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) told the Values audience that he was qualified to legislate on abortion because he owned a small business. When an employee tells him that she is pregnant, Scott said, then he takes her to a Christian anti-abortion clinic. Being “in the private sector” make him realize the “importance” of anti-abortion.

Actor Jon Voight gave Trump an outstanding introduction, comparing the GOP presidential candidate to Saint Mother Teresa and Nobel laureate/theologian Albert Schweitzer. The presidential candidate who came in fifth at last year’s Values Voter Summit straw poll showed himself to be the typical reality-show star as he spoke to an audience that chanted “Lock her up!” Trump followed that with a New Testament verse: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

Trump ridiculed the IRS regulation preventing churches from supporting or opposing candidates to maintain their tax-exempt status but ignored the fact that the law has been effect since 1954 during GOP President Eisenhower’s first term. Trump continued to lie when he declared that “pastors and ministers” cannot “talk about politics” and said that “all religious leaders should be able to freely express their thoughts and feelings on religious matters.” Religious leaders do that weekly if not daily, as proved by the religious leaders who speak at Trump’s rallies and other events.

Same-gender marriage appears to have disappeared from the evangelical radar if former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is any example. At the Summit, the politician who fought bitterly against marriage equality said, “It’s not an issue. In fact, it’s boring.” It appears that the Summit is also “not an issue” and “boring”: The internet has almost nothing about this year’s meeting.

Before cable television was overwhelmed today with Hillary Clinton’s illness, manifested at the 9/11 commemoration this morning, it concentrated on Clinton’s statement that half of Trump’s supporters are in a “basket of deplorable.” She did later apologize for having said this, and many people are saying that she was telling the truth because of a constituency for a racist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic candidate.  (I’ll also add arrogant, narcissistic, and bullying, and you may have a few more adjectives.)

Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, defended the GOP candidate at the Summit by saying that they are “hard-working” and “deserve your respect.” Hard-working they may be, but respect is an interesting term for Pence to use when he shows no respect for many of the people in Indiana after he was elected governor when he promoted laws against women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights, immigrants, raped prisoners, poor people, religious diversity, and people at risk of HIV/AIDS. Pence’s “religious freedom” law in Indiana also permits parents to beat their children with a number of items, including coat hangers and cords. That’s a lot of missing “respect.”

These are a few of the people who Pence wants Clinton to respect:

In Alabama, a Christian pastor told an audience at a McKenzie High School football game that they should be lined up and executed by the military if they don’t stand for the national anthem. The crowd cheered and praised the pastor on Facebook.

In Ohio, a 31-year-old youth pastor sexually abused a teenage member of his church. Church leaders who discovered the abuse told the family not to return to their church until the daughter apologized to the pastor’s wife for being sexually abused.

More examples of evangelical positions:

  • Linking LGBT rights to ISIS.
  • Calling gay rights activists “intolerant,” “hateful,” “vile,” “spiteful” and “pawns” of Satan.
  • Defending Uganda’s “kill-the-gays” bill as a “laudable” effort “to uphold moral conduct.”
  • Accusing President Obama of using the health care reform law for a private army of loyal Brownshirts.
  • Claiming that the president promoted the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into the U.S. government.
  • Alleging that the health care act will deprive the elderly of life-saving treatments.
  • Insisting that bisexuality means “orgies.”
  • Believing that public school officials are getting “condom profits” from opposing abstinence-only programs.
  • Tying same-gender marriage to failing public schools.
  • Blaming President Obama for “orchestrating” protests in Ferguson (MO) to exacerbate racial tensions.
  • Suggesting that the president is having a secret gay affair.
  • Comparing people who want Confederate symbols removed from government property to ISIS terrorists.
  • Stating that blacks abused during the Jim Crow era are “singing and happy.”
  • Calling an Islamic community center a “den of iniquity.”
  • Asserting that the U.S. government is working with drug gangs and Islamic militant to create turmoil and disorder.
  • Blaming the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal on the inclusion of women in the military.
  • Fearing that the government will use the military to persecute LGBT rights opponents and murder Christians.
  • Maintaining that the president will fake an assassination attempt or “intentionally” spark an Israeli-Irnaian war to “take control of the radio, TV, and internet” and “start usurping all kinds of power.”
  • Insisting that “78 to 81” House Democrats “are members of the Communist Party” and that President Obama uses Soviet messaging.
  • Positing that the president is waging “biological warfare” against Americans through enterovirus D68 or the Ebola virus.
  • Comparing Social Security to slavery.
  • Blaming football injuries on the separation of church and state.
  • Heralding Donald Trump as God’s choice to win the election.
  • And much more!

Pence wants people to respect all the people who want to kill people for thinking for themselves, who have diverse beliefs and religions, rape with impunity, and struggle to take away the rights of everyone except evangelical Christians.

September 11, 2012

GOP Takes Our Freedom

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:53 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Eleven years ago, a tragedy in New York City gave the government a green light to limit freedom for the people in the country. Since that time, the GOP has used fear and hatred like bludgeons; they have started two wars and allowed huge corporations to increase their burgeoning control over the people of the United States. Although the GOP talks about wanting small government and giving people more freedom, they have slashed away at the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” described by the U.S. Declaration of Independence, hammering at freedom from religion and freedom to control one’s body. There are also many other ways we have lost our freedoms—our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Employment: Businesses have rights; workers don’t. More and more, businesses hire on a temporary or part-time basis so that they don’t have to provide rights and benefits. Employers can read employees’ correspondence on company computers and track employees’ movements on the company cell phones. Businesses have the right to fire anyone for expressing political views online even when employees write these when they’re not at work. States legislate against organizing and forming unions, thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Lawmakers use tax abuses to break union contracts. Businesses even control bathroom breaks: Mary Williams Walsh reported in the New York Times, “Employees at lower rungs of the economic ladder can be timed with stopwatches in the bathroom; stonewalled when they ask to go; given disciplinary points for frequent urination; even hunted down by supervisors with walkie-talkies if they tarry in the stalls.”

A healthy lifestyle: The United States ranks 49th in infant mortality; lower-income families suffer much greater infant mortality in this country than those in higher income brackets. The average life expectancy for an African American in New Orleans is roughly the same as that of a North Korean and shorter than that of people in Colombia, Venezuela, of Vietnam. Life expectancy for poor white males in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley is roughly the same as that of males in Mexico and Panama. Mortality among Americans aged 65 and older decreased by 13 percent after Medicare was created, and seniors spent 13 percent fewer days in the hospital. The GOP plans to reverse this trend through their proposed Medicare voucher system and increased eligibility age.

Health care: Millions of people in this country are forced to beg for health care, even when they pay for insurance, and then argue over a complex system of denied payments with arcane explanations. Without the ability to fight this, people then are subject to medical debt collectors and possibly end up in jail. Most people in the United States lack affordable dental care.

Social mobility: The recession allowed businesses to demand wage concessions from workers and increase huge salaries and bonuses to senior executives. The push toward tax cuts for the wealthy resulted in a decline of government jobs. The share of middle-income jobs in this country has fallen from 52 percent to 42 percent since 1980, while the share of low-income jobs rose from 30 percent t0 41 percent. The cost of higher education has shifted from taxpayers to students and their families in the past 30 years. During this time inflation has increased median family income by 147% while college tuition and fees rose 439%. That’s a tripling of education costs, in real dollar terms. According to the New York Times, “Among families with incomes in the lowest 20 percent, the net cost of a year at a public university is 55 percent of median income, up from 39 percent in 1999-2000. At community colleges, long seen as a safety net, that cost is 49 percent of the poorest families’ median income last year, up from 40 percent in 1999-2000.”

Personal time: The U.S. is one of the few developed nations that don’t require employers to offer paid vacation time to their employees. Even if employees have vacation time, they have trouble using it because staff cutbacks keep them from being covered. Others can’t afford it, and employers pressure them not to take off any time. Michael Janati also noted in the Washington Times, “Americans are working approximately 11 more hours per week now than they did in the 1970’s, yet the average income for middle-income families has declined by 13% (when adjusting for inflation).” More people are literally “working themselves to death.”

Information: Because of weak regulations and lax enforcement of laws, corporations can keep people from access to vital information for business transactions. Banks hide balloon payments and other key loan provisions in complex and unreadable documents while bankers misrepresent the terms of the loan. The Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) hides the names of mortgage holders and their terms from people and courts. Banks control FICO and other credit-scoring agencies. Corporations walk away from bad loan deals with their banks, but individuals have almost no recourse if they fail to live up to agreements. In fact, individuals pay for the corporations faulting on their loans. If people refuse to accept “arbitration clauses” weighted in favor of corporations, they will be denied critical services. Corporations such as cable television operators and health insurers act as monopolies or near-monopolies. These actions deny freedom of choice.

Bill Moyers said, “In 1984 the number of companies owning a controlling interest in America’s media was 50; today that number is six.” Corporate media still shapes our perception of current events. When tens of thousands of demonstrators protested at George W. Bush’s first inauguration of George W. Bush, almost all the media refused to show them. The same thing happened when an estimated one million demonstrators protested the invasion of Iraq on February 15, 2003. News outlets such as the Washington Post, which has outsourced much of its financial reporting to an organization run by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson, use labels such as “extreme” and “fringe” to describe politicians and organizations who advocate for policies which are supported by 75 or 80 percent of all Americans.

Housing and travel: The 16 million underwater homes in the United States house are occupied by approximately 40 million people who owe an estimated $1.2 trillion in “underwater” real estate value. This value disappeared when the housing bubble burst. The mortgage deception often included forgeries, lies about the loan’s terms, and filing of false information. Stuck with these debts, many homeowners lose the ability to move to another area even if they need to find jobs lost after the bank-created financial crisis. If they have a job, they pay taxes that prop up the banks.

Privacy: Internet companies sell personal data for profit, often by using cookies on personal computers to track activities. Facebook sold users’ video rental records. Google pulled Americans’ personal information via WiFi when it created Street View. Apple iPhones track and store their owners’ movements. The government is already using corporate data, sometimes without subpoenas. Corporations voluntarily permit the government to use their technology to spy on citizens, included one reported case where the government placed a spy server at an ATT location to track the activities of its subscribers. There’s a lot more that we don’t know.

Representative democracy: Lawmakers ignore the wishes of people in the country. While 75 percent of most Americans and 76 percent of Tea Party supporters oppose Social Security cuts to balance the budget, political leaders negotiate these cuts. Lawmakers refuse to legislate tighter control on banks, but the majority of people in the United States want this to happen. The majority of people want higher taxes on millionaires, another issue that Republicans will not consider.

The GOP is right: we need more freedom. It’s just that the GOP version of freedom shackles the people in the United States.

Asides: Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said he plans to spend $100 million this year to get Mitt Romney elected president. It would be money well invested if Romney is elected. Romney’s tax cuts would net Adelson $2.3 billion over the four years of Romney’s administration, making him a profit of $2.2 billion.

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to require local television stations to put detailed information about political advertising including the cost of specific commercials on their websites.

Veteran GOP strategist Mary Matalin describes Paul Ryan’s wife, Janna, as living a real middle-class mother life. Married to one of the most powerful Washington lawmakers, she also has a cousin in the House and an uncle who used to be an Oklahoma governor and senator. Janna Ryan has also worked as a Capitol Hill staffer and lobbyist who knows “probably more than any of the spouses that, with all due respect, didn’t come from that background, whether it’s Michelle [Obama] or Ann [Romney] or Jill [Biden],” according to Matalin. Sounds like an ordinary soccer mom to me. 

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