Nel's New Day

September 29, 2017

Puerto Rico a Disaster, DDT Indifferent

Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico (PR) nine days ago today. With almost no help from the U.S. government, people are without food, drinking out of creeks, and dying in hospitals because of no fuel for generators. Living conditions in Puerto Rico are dire.

The disaster has taught Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) about geography. He’s learned that PR is “an island…an island sitting in the middle of an ocean — and it’s a big ocean. It’s a very big ocean.” DDT likes repetition; he continued, “This isn’t like Florida…This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean. This is tough stuff.”

Since John Kelly became DDT’s chief of staff over a month ago, Elaine Duke has been acting security of Homeland Security. She called the hurricane as “really a good news story” because of “our ability to reach people.” Duke may think this is true from about 1,600 miles away, but people living on the island have a better perspective. Most of the supplies that came to the island are from private donors because of the archaic Jones Act, and what has arrived is rotting in port because of lack of leadership and infrastructure problems.

Five days after the disaster, Philip Carter wrote about DDT’s “Katrina”:

“So far, the Trump administration has dispatched an anemic Federal Emergency Management Agency mission and sundry military units to assess the situation and provide support. But in some cases it took the federal government days to even contact local leaders in Puerto Rico’s major cities, let alone deploy aid. Only the most rudimentary military support is now on the ground. This is inadequate and calls to mind the lethargic response by the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”

Carter also reported that 80 percent of the agriculture in PR has been destroyed along with its food source and economy. People cannot call for help, something the federal government told them to do, because 95 percent of the cell-phone towers are out.

Vox added to the catastrophe’s description:

“More than three million U.S. citizens [are] facing the prospect of living up to six months without power. According to some estimates, damage could exceed $30 billion. Our fellow Americans are in crisis. Since the disaster, House Republicans, led by Congressman Michael McCaul (TX-R), have unveiled a $10 billion proposal … for Donald Trump’s racist border wall and immoral mass deportation force.”

After a visit to PR three days ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talked about the possible “humanitarian crisis.” He said that help for PR required “a lot more hands-on federal engagement.” Like Rubio, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) compared the lack of response to that in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf Coast. Five days ago, Hillary Clinton tweeted:

“President Trump, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens.”

The administration waited another two days before saying it would deploy the USNS Comfort, an 890-foot-long naval hospital ship, and longer until it sent more personnel and called on truck drivers to go to PR. The ship didn’t leave until today and will take another five days to arrive. A Defense Department official said the ship hadn’t been deployed because of no request from FEMA. Forty-nine of the island’s 69 hospitals are without electricity or fuel to run backup generators. Twenty percent of PR’s 3.5 million population has a disability including half those over the age of 65, and 13 percent of the residents have diabetes, compared to 8.7 percent on the mainland. Insulin requires refrigeration that is at an extreme shortage.

At the same time that a doctor desperately tweeted from San Jorge children’s hospital in downtown San Juan about lack of fuel for generators, U.S. Senate Republicans were trying to eliminate health care for tens of millions of people. DDT tweeted about that rather than PR because it would give money for tax cuts to the wealthy. Then he began arguing for his massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Within a week after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in Florida, DDT had managed a massive relief bill. For PR, he said that he would get a request for aid to Congress within a week or two (his term in the past for never) and complained about PR’s debt, seemingly accusing them of the disaster. Part of that debt comes from the $33 million that DDT kept by declaring his golf course in PR bankrupt immediately after he announced his most recent campaign for president.

Shipping limitations from the Jones Act were immediately waived after Texas and Florida were hit by hurricanes a few weeks ago, but DDT refused to do the same for PR until eight days after the disaster. (Texas and Florida voted for DDT, but Puerto Ricans cannot vote for a U.S. president.) DDT might not have waived the law at all except for his public embarrassment for saying that “a lot of people that work in the shipping industry…don’t want the Jones Act lifted.” The family of Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation and wife of the Senate Majority leader, owns a shipping company. The 1920 law, enacted to protect the U.S. from German U-2 boats, requires that goods going from one place in the United States to another must be on ships owned, build, and crewed by U.S. companies. PR pays an excessive amount for goods coming from the mainland because of this law.

Another serious problem in disseminating goods is that military personnel sent to unload containers and drive trucks across the capital are minimal compared to the people sent to other disasters. Only two ships were deployed to PR in the first six days after Maria. Because the federal government is insisting on centralized distributions, donations sent on charter planes by individuals and charitable groups are not reaching people. U.S officials decided that people should drive to San Juan, despite the severely limited fuel situation, to tell them what was needed.

DDT is also trying to control news coming from PR by restricting congressional members from making official visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and evaluating conditions there. The San Juan Airport is functioning at this time, and DDT has said that he plans to visit the island.

The Jones Act permits goods—water, food, fuel, medicine, etc.—can be shipped via foreign registry vessel to PR if the country pays import quotas and many other costs, or by going through Jacksonville (FL) where everything is unloaded, put onto a U.S. ship, and then sent to PR at an increased cost of 15 to 20 percent. For example, cars cost $6,000 more in PR than in Florida. Goods cost about twice as they do on neighboring islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands which is not subject to the Jones Act. Although the cost of living is 13 percent higher than 325 urban areas in the U.S., the per capita income is about $18,000, half that of Mississippi, the poorest of all 50 states. In 2012, the Jones Act caused a $17 billion loss to the island’s economy from 1990 through 2010. PR’s pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, proving 30 percent of the island’s gross domestic product and 90,000 jobs, is shut down.

Today DDT said he didn’t know if the government would help to repair PR’s public infrastructure. His disaster declaration for Texas promised federal funding of up to 75 percent of costs to repair “damaged public facilities” including roads, bridges and schools. FEMA said it would clear debris and other emergency relief.

Billionaires and celebrities are helping Puerto Rico residents by lending their planes to deliver food, water and critical medical supplies. One billionaire, however, has not stepped up to the plate. DDT’s fleet of a large commercial sized plane, a corporate jet, and two helicopters, sits at La Guardia. DDT hasn’t even asked people to donate to this crisis. All during the crisis, he has bragged how he protects the United States from athletes and how well he’s doing in Puerto Rico. He’s wrong on both counts.

The first federal senior administration officials didn’t go to PR for five days. DDT spent the first four days of the hurricane at his golf resort in Bedminster (NJ) except for a brief rally for his failed senatorial candidate in Alabama. Today, DDT said “We will not rest until the people of Puerto Rico are safe” before he flew back to his golf resort.

December 31, 2013

Answers for Deniers of Climate Change

Climate change is here whether people admit it or not. In just the last year, 39 weather-related disasters cost $1 billion or more. In the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever recorded on land, killing more than 6,000 people and affecting millions more. In Australia, record high temperatures forced mapmakers to create a new color on the weather map. California had massive wildfires throughout the state, historic flooding took out bridges and roadways in Colorado’s flood destroyed bridges and roads, and Midwest tornadoes swept through towns such as Moore (OK).

For the first time, CO2 concentrations passed 400 parts per million, but governments are doing little to curb emissions. Climate-denier think tanks and advocacy groups are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars, frequently from secret sources.

At the end of 2013, the eating holidays of November and December have passed, followed by dieting, but arguments continue. These talking points from the Environmental Defense Fund were suggested for the holiday dinners, but in the interest of peace, I suggest that they can be addressed now to start off the new year.

Alarmed Aunt Anna & Concerned Grandpa Christopher believe that science may be real but think that we cannot solve the climate crisis:

  • California—the 8th largest economy in the world—has implemented the world’s most ambitious climate action plan.
  • At the national level, the EPA is starting to regulate climate pollution using its existing authority under the Clean Air Act.
  • The renewable energy industry is growing exponentially—in fact, the clean energy economy is growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy, and we have enough potential wind and solar energy in the U.S. to power our economy 100 times over.

Trump Card: Yes, this is challenging. Yes, it will take time to rebuild support for national climate action. But what choice do we have? There is no time to waste, and we need to act now.

Cautious Cousin Charlie, Disengaged Grandma Denise, & Doubtful Brother David think that there is not a real consensus on the science of climate change. Without attacks, here are the points to engage them:

  • Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas, and that’s generally a very good thing. Without greenhouse gases, every night when the sun sets, temperatures would immediately plunge to frigid levels.
  • But we are now emitting 9 billion tons of carbon, or 30 billion tons of CO2, into the atmosphere every year, and CO2 levels have increased by about a third since the industrial revolution. If we don’t reduce emissions, we could more than double the level of CO2 in the atmosphere over this century.
  • Already, food growing patterns are changing, seasons are coming earlier, water resources are strained and the number of natural disasters in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years.

Trump Card: You don’t have to accept all the science. But if you had a health condition and 98 out of 100 doctors agreed on the diagnosis, would you base your treatment on the views of the other two?

Dismissive Aunt Debbie almost certainly won’t change her mind, and the more facts she hears, the less she’ll be inclined to agree. Yet she might be willing to help the economy and protect national security:

  • America needs to rebuild. Did you know the clean energy sector creates 3 times as many jobs as the fossil fuel sector? We can’t afford to pass up those jobs.
  • Other countries are taking advantage of the economic stimulation that comes with climate action. China is testing carbon cap-and-trade markets in an area encompassing 250 million people. The U.S. needs to stay competitive.
  • America’s billion-dollar-a-day dependence on oil from hostile nations directly funds our most dangerous enemies, putting guns and bullets into their hands and putting our soldiers in danger. It is time for America to stand strong on its own independent and in control of our energy future.

Trump Card:  Whether climate change is real or not, the benefits of a clean energy economy are undeniable. Not only will we rid ourselves of dangerous pollution that can make us sick and even cause deaths we can finally be energy independent. What’s the downside?

More thoughts to chew on— 

Costs: 

  • In just one year—2012—extreme weather events cost over $100 billion. The future will see higher and higher expenses, bringing even more burden to the U.S. taxpayer.
  • Federal and state disaster relief payouts last year alone are estimated to have cost every person in the US more than $300.
  • The nation had at least 200 annual weather-related natural catastrophes recently compared to about 50 in the early 1980s.
  • Federal crop insurance cost taxpayers a record $17 billion in 2012 alone.
  • Taxpayer-funded federal and state wildfire protection payouts tripled over the last 20 years.

 Lessons from the Colorado floods:

The tragedies of September’s flooding may be the new normal.

  • The 17 inches of rain caused the deaths of eight people and left people with millions of dollars in property damage, including public infrastructure.

flooding highway

  • The disaster came during Boulder’s driest month.
  • The warmer atmosphere held more water and unusual atmospheric circulation patterns came from climate change.
  • Heavy downpours may increase in intensity or frequency in this century.

Climate change and violence go hand in hand: 

  • There is a strong connection between rising temperatures and acts of violence, increasing war and murder
  • Human conflict increases 14% and violence rises 4% with even a modest shift in weather, according to an examination of almost 200 studies.
  • Neglecting the apparent psychological impact of unusual weather, the impact on the food supply and the decline of natural resources is likely to result in warfare on its own.

Negative affects of climate change on individuals:

  • Extreme weather may cause you to lose everything you have, including the people you love.
  • Your insurance costs will go up because the company has to pay out on disasters but still needs to make money.
  • Your food and utilities will cost much more because of extreme temperatures and problems of growing conditions.
  • You’ll have to pay more taxes to care for others that have extreme weather conditions.
  • You may suffer from serious health issues.
  • Your personal security is at risk. Admiral Samuel Locklear, a naval officer in charge of the Asia-Pacific region, said that global warming “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment.”

Denying these affects won’t allow you to escape them.

There’s still hope. A year ago, a 59-year-old woman, avid follower of Bill O’Reilly and opponent of belief in climate change, reversed her opinion after she watched Chasing Ice. The documentary film uses time-lapse to compress years into seconds, capturing the disappearance of ancient mountains of ice at a breathtaking pace. As with any change, it’s one heart at a time.

Tonight the calendar rolls over to 2014. Maybe we can remedy people’s failure to believe in climate change before 2015.

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