Later On

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Archive for October 1st, 2017

Puerto Rico is all our worst fears about Trump coming real

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Matt Yglesias reports in Vox:

For the first nine months of his administration, observers have had occasion to wonder — and wonder, and wonder, and wonder — how exactly Donald Trump would manage to handle a real crisis imposed by external events rather than his own impulsiveness. The answer is now apparent in the blackened streets of San Juan and the villages of interior Puerto Rico that more than a week after Hurricane Maria struck remain without access to food or clean water.

To an extent, the United States of America held up surprisingly well from Inauguration Day until September 20th or so. The ongoing degradation of American civic institutions, at a minimum, did not have an immediate negative impact on the typical person’s life.

But the world is beginning to draw a straight line from the devastation in Puerto Rico straight to the White House. Trump’s instinct so far is to turn the island’s devastation into another front in culture war politics, a strategy that could help his own political career survive.

The rest of us will just have to pray for good luck.

The president watches too much TV

Hurricanes Harvey and Irene were massive cable television events that dominated coverage on all the networks. MSNBC went so all-in on storm news that they sent Chris Hayes out in a windbreaker to stand around in the wind in Naples, Florida.

But as Dhrumil Mehta has shown at 538, Maria was relatively invisible on cable.

“People on TV news shows spoke significantly fewer sentences about Hurricane Maria than about Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” he writes, and “the spike in conversation about Puerto Rico right as the hurricane hit was also much smaller than the spike in mentions of Texas and Florida.”

Cable producers surely had their reasons for this. But something anyone in the media could tell you is that cable producers’ news judgment is not an infallible guide to the substantive importance of various stories. In particular, a broad range of issues — potentially including natural disasters in outlying US territories — have an asymmetrical quality to them, where if handled appropriately most people won’t care that much, but if botched it eventually becomes a big deal.

This is why traditionally presidents have relied upon staff and the massive information gathering capabilities of the American government for information rather than letting television set the agenda. Trump has a different philosophy, however, and spent the post-storm Saturday glued to his television and letting the hosts of “Fox & Friends” drag him into an ill-advised Twitter spat with NFL stars.

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

. . . Now that Trump’s inadequate response to Maria’s devastation has become a big issue, the Trump administration is full of excuses for why their response was so inadequate:

  • Trump emphasized in public remarks on Friday that Puerto Rico is “an island surrounded by water” which makes relief difficult.
  • An anonymous administration officials told the Washington Post that “the Department of Defense, FEMA and the federal government are having to step in to fulfill state and municipal functions that we normally just support.”
  • Officials have also cited the Posse Comitatus Act as a complicating factor that helps explain why Trump was so much slower to dispatch assistance to Puerto Rico than the Obama administration was to send help to Haiti after it was devastated by an earthquake in 2010.
  • Last but by no means least, the reality is that this was a really big disaster. The storm was huge and powerful and it knocked out electricity and communications — that’s hard to deal with.

This is all true and it goes to show that being President of the United States is a difficult job. But none of the issues the federal response is wrestling with were unknown in advance. The world had days of warning that a hurricane was heading toward Puerto Rico. The perilous state of the island’s electrical grid has been apparent for years — as has the weak financial health of its electrical utility and municipal governments.

A president who was focused on his job could have asked in advance what the plan was for a hurricane strike on Puerto Rico. He would have discovered that since Puerto Rico is part of the United States, FEMA is the default lead agency but it’s the US military that has the ships and helicopters that would be needed to get supplies into the interior of a wrecked island. And he could have worked something out. Instead he didn’t get worked-up about Puerto Rico until over a week after the storm hit when he saw the Mayor of San Juan lambasting him on television. He lashed out with his usual playbook — one that will only make things worse.

Trump turns everything into a culture war

The substantive problem that Trump — and America — is now facing is that you can’t go back in time and do the preparatory work that should have been done. You can’t pre-position satellite phones, schedule timely visits from top administration officials, or quickly dispatch ships and helicopters once you’re starting with an eight-day lag. The best you can do is admit you were too slow and throw everything you’ve got at it.

But admitting wrongdoing isn’t part of Trump’s playbook.

Defensiveness and counterpunching is. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2017 at 4:11 pm

Ex-Medicare head says Trump ‘purposely’ raising insurance premiums to make Obamacare implode

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John Bowden reports in The Hill:

The former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under President Obama blamed President Trump on Friday for rising health-care premiums around the country.

Andy Slavitt, who was acting CMS administrator from 2015 to 2017, accused Trump on Twitter of “purposely raising” health-care premiums as part of his plan to let ObamaCare “implode.”

“I ran this government agency under President Obama,” Slavitt wrote. “Make no mistake. Trump is purposely raising people’s premiums.”

Slavitt was reacting to news reports that Oklahoma’s health commissioner was blaming the Trump administration for missing a deadline to approve a waiver for the state, which Oklahoma officials say will mean higher premiums for thousands of residents.

“Three days later, beyond health plan commitment and rate filing deadlines, Oklahoma is forced to withdraw our waiver request due to the failure of departments to provide timely waiver approval,” Oklahoma Health Commissioner Terry Cline wrote to administration officials earlier Friday.

“The lack of timely waiver approval will prevent thousands of Oklahomans from realizing the benefits of significantly lower insurance premiums in 2018,” the letter added, saying approving the waiver would have helped more than 130,000 Oklahomans and reduced premiums by 30 percent.

Trump has frequently threatened to end ObamaCare subsidy payments to insurers and let the program “implode” amid GOP efforts this year to repeal the health-care law. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2017 at 3:20 pm

Congress fails to act, 9 million children lose healthcare

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The GOP goal of taking healthcare away from millions of Americans did not succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act and eviscerating Medicaid, but at least they have been successful in making sure millions of children won’t have healthcare.

The GOP is the anti-American party.

Brandon Carter reports in The Hill:

Congress missed a deadline to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) over the weekend, leaving federal funding to expire at the end of the month, according to ABC News.

Neither the House nor the Senate took up a vote to reauthorize the program, which helps states provide inexpensive health insurance to children in lower-income families.

Congress was on track to miss the deadline earlier this week, and though the Senate released a bipartisan, five-year bill to reauthorize the program, a vote wasn’t scheduled.

The House Democratic Caucus chairman, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), blamed Republicans for missing the deadline in a tweet on Sunday and said CHIP should be a priority for Congress. . .

Continue reading.

It looks very much as though missing the deadline was deliberate, part of the GOP move to destroy the social safety net.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2017 at 1:43 pm

Jennifer Rubin’s Distinguished Persons of the Week: The NFL players

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Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post:

Some stood, some knelt. Regardless of their posture (literally and figuratively), many NFL players in the wake of the first Sunday of widespread protests have sounded eloquent on the subject of race and the president.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers quarterback, said:

Beauty is, it’s a free country so they can choose to do it or not. The messaging towards this unfortunately needs to continue to be redirected, I think. It’s never been about the national anthem. It’s never been about the military. We’re all patriotic in the locker room. We love our troops. This is about something bigger than that — an invitation to show unity …

This is about unity and love and growing together as a society, and starting a conversation around something that may be a little bit uncomfortable for people. But we’ve got to come together and talk about these things and grow as a community, as a connected group of individuals in our society, and we’re going to continue to show love and unity.

Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks explained in a written statement:

I’m not surprised by Trump’s comments. He has shown, since the beginning, his dehumanized nature. To think he would be anything different is to not know the reality of his presidency. He has surrounded himself with like minded people and has removed anyone who challenges him. He acts like a child craving attention and any attention will do.

Although these recent comments are not the worst things he’s said or done, I do believe that this will be a unifying moment for the sports world. And with as much influence as athletes have on the younger generation, this can be an opportunity for us to change the narrative of society and point to the president as a poor example of what you can become if you remain close minded, ignorant and uneducated. . .

 

Continue reading. And there’s a video at the link.

I cannot help but note that the NFL players are more eloquent, educated, and sympathetic than President Trump.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2017 at 11:18 am

More Canada notes

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We forgot our shopping bags and so at the supermarket had to get paper bags—which had no handles. I asked whether they ever had paper bags with handles, and the clerk exclaimed, “What an interesting idea! But I think tearing out be a problem.”

Tearing is in fact not a problem, even with bags heavily loaded with thick fashion magazines being taken to the library, but I smiled and said that might happen. I’m learning to be more pleasant so as to fit in up here. 🙂

I changed computer location to “Canada,” and now “favor” (for example) is underlined in Facebook as a spelling error, the correct spelling (here) being “favour.” However, WordPress continues to like “favor” and marks “favour” as a spelling error.

Last night was my first long and uninterrupted sleep, which I take as a sign that we’re settling in.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2017 at 11:01 am

Posted in Daily life

Michael Moore’s Puerto Rico plan

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An excellent plan (posted on Facebook), but President Trump gives golf a much higher priority. After this golf weekend, a golf tournament, all financed by taxpayers.

Moore posts:

For 11 days Trump has let Puerto Rico wallow in hell, its people — Americans — suffering and dying. Make me Commander-In-Chief for one week and here’s what I’ll do to save our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico:

1. Send the ENTIRE Army Corps of Engineers IMMEDIATELY to Puerto Rico.They can rebuild infrastructure and restore electricity and cell service.

2. Send aircraft carriers loaded with helicopters to Puerto Rico. They can easily airlift water, food & medicine to every part of the island.

3. Fly Air Force cargo planes, criss-crossing over the island, and parachute-drop supplies everywhere to the people.

4. Send in the 82nd Airborne! They can do anything and everything!

5. Send in all Army truck drivers to get those trucks full of supplies that are now sitting on the docks moving out to the people.

6. Send in the Marines! Amphibious landings can easily happen all over the island. They can bring generators and other needed materials.

7. Tell all of the airlines they must contribute hundreds of free flights for all Puerto Ricans who want to come and stay with relatives and friends in the mainland US.

8. Send a dozen massive tanker ships filled with gasoline and other needed fuels.

9. As a US territory, and for the safety and protection of the Puerto Rican people, all rebuilding must be done by following the same building codes that contractors have to follow on the mainland.

10. When the immediate crisis has been resolved, Congress must respect the wishes of over 60% of the Puerto Rican people and make PR a state. And do the same for DC and the Virgin Islands (which also need the same military aid & response right now)!

Trillions of our tax dollars are ripped from us and sent to the Pentagon. For what? So much wrong has been done in our name. Finally, here’s a chance to use the military to truly save American lives and protect American citizens. If I were in charge, that is what I would do.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2017 at 10:53 am

Phoenix Will Be Almost Unlivable by 2050 Thanks to Climate Change

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The future has a grim aspect. Mike Pearl writes at Vice.com:

Sorry to put such a fine point on this, but even without climate change, Phoenix, Arizona, is already pretty uninhabitable. Don’t get me wrong, I spend a fair amount of time there, and I love it—particularly in the fall and winter—but without air-conditioning and refrigeration, it would be unlivable as is. Even with those modern conveniences, the hottest months take their toll on my feeble Southern Californian body and brain. The historical average number of days per year in Phoenix that hit 100 degrees is a mind-bending 92. But that number is rapidly rising as climate change bears down on America’s fifth-largest city.

“It’s currently the fastest warming big city in the US,” meteorologist and former Arizonan Eric Holthaus told me in an email. A study from Climate Central last year projects that Phoenix’s summer weather will be on average three to five degrees hotter by 2050. Meanwhile, that average number of 100-degree days will have skyrocketed by almost 40, to 132, according to another 2016 Climate Central study. (For reference, over a comparable period, New York City is expected to go from two to 15 100-degree days.)

And, tragically, all that heat costs quite a few Phoenicians their lives every year. Maricopa County keeps careful records of heat deaths and issues a morbid but extremely useful annual report. In 2016, 130 people died from heat—the most since the turn of the millennium and a big spike when compared to the 85 who died in 2015.

But as is the case with so much climate–related news, we shouldn’t go rushing to blame climate change for these deaths directly. Yes, 2016 was a hot year—Phoenix’s third-hottest ever, in fact—but, crucially, “it wasn’t exceptionally warmer than many other years over the time period for which they’ve been gathering these statistics,” Arizona State University climatologist David Hondula told me. (The exact cause of the spike in deaths remains a mystery.)

But Hondula told me that mystery just means that as the city heats up over the next few decades, there are other issues that deserve urgent public attention in the interest of saving people from getting cooked alive. These include”social service programs, homeless shelters, the opioid epidemic, [and] all these other intermediating factors,” he said, adding, “If we’re not paying attention to those at the same time we’re keeping an eye on the thermometers, we might really miss some drivers and some threat magnifiers.”

As bad as the deadly heat is getting, there’s another potential horror coming: drought. “As much as 20 percent of the [Colorado] River could dry up by 2050,” Holthaus told me.

The river is of enormous consequence to the fates of Arizonans. That’s because an agreement they made in the 1960s says that among those drinking from the Colorado River (Southern Californians also guzzle from the same stream, for instance), Arizona would be the first state to ration.

But in 2012, the Department of the Interior put together a famous climate change study (“famous” among water researchers in Arizona, that is) showing a yawning chasm opening up between water supply and demand by 2060—a 3.2 million-acre-foot shortfall of water, to be precise. That’s about five times as much water as Los Angeles uses in a year, according to the Washington Post.

Ray Quay, a researcher at the Decision Center for a Desert City project in the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, told me, “Water is taken for granted right now.” Soon enough, “a crisis will occur, and people will say, ‘Oh my goodness, we have to do something. What do we do?’ One of the problems we face is that nobody’s really focused on that.”

According to Quay, the first time the river level gets extremely low, the shortage will really only be felt by Arizona’s farmers—meaning they’ll start getting water from wells. “Going to groundwater and mining groundwater is not sustainable, because groundwater is not like some giant Lake Michigan under Arizona,” he told me. “There will be impacts within that 2050 timeframe, but it’s going to be spotty, and it’s going to be in areas where the aquifers aren’t as large. That’s rural Arizona—particularly agriculture. You’ll see some parts of rural Arizona where some people have to pick up and move.”

“When the second shortage occurs, urban areas will feel that,” Quay added. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2017 at 10:38 am

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