‘Trumpsplaining’ the narrative about Puerto Rico’s recovery

‘Trumpsplaining’ the narrative about Puerto Rico’s recovery

All the paper towels in the world can’t wipe up the mess Donald Trump and his enablers have made of the recovery of Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, nor can they clean-up the lies being told daily about how far along the island is in return to normalcy.

We have all heard of “whitesplaining,” but Trump, his appointees, and defenders take it to a higher (or perhaps lower would be more apt) level. 

There are also Trumpsplainers who are in power on the island, the cream cheese of the crop of elites. They are Republicans like Luis Gerardo Rivera Marín, who is secretary of state of Puerto Rico as well as lieutenant governor. 

Luis G. Rivera Marín

Yeah, this guy on the right.

He’s had his fingers in a lot of pies in Puerto Rico. Before ascending to high office in the ruling, predominantly “white” elite Statehood Party (the New Progressive Party), he was executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and secretary of consumer affairs.

Do you even have to wonder why he decided to get on Twitter to defend The Orange Jefe from reports quoting Omarosa Manigault Newman saying Trump made derogatory remarks about Puerto Rico?

He is a Republican. ‘Nuff said.

Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman says in her new book that White House chief of staff John Kelly shut down her attempts to get aid for Puerto Rico after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria — and he accused the island government of trying to exploit the tragedy to get money from Washington.

She also writes that Kelly and President Donald Trump “referred to Puerto Ricans with derogatory terms many times.”

Most of us have no love for Grifterosa, but it’s rather easy to believe her when she references Trump’s use of racial-ethnic pejoratives. 

White knight Rivera Marín tweeted

“We reject the allegation that the White House used derogatory language towards Puerto Ricans after hurricane María. Over the past 11 months, while there have been obvious challenges, great progress has been made by working closely with our federal counterparts.”

Progress? You call almost 11 months with thousands of people still living under tarps progress? Close to 11,000 people are still without any hope of permanent power, relying on back-up generators, in the municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, and they have been told it might take four years to fix. That ain’t progress, that’s pathos. 

Some of the replies to his tweet from Puerto Ricans (mainly from the island) were epic. They graphically depicted the term “lambon” (boot-licker), and there were multiple references to Trump’s infamous paper towel tossing.

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Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: The queen, the truth, the noise

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: The queen, the truth, the noise

Good morning. Welcome to #247 in my ongoing series “Hey, isn’t this supposed to be APR? Why is he talking?” Yes, yes it is. And because.

Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted out what would be easy to pass off as #infinity plus one in his ongoing series “Hey look, I’m a fascist asshole.” In this episode, Trump made yet another repetition of his baseless claim that CNN and MSNBC are “fake news.” Which makes this sound like a pretty boring episode. But this time there’s a twist.

This time Trump preceded and trailed that fake news claim with a whine about how social media has been picking on the right. And he threatened to do something about it. That something could be an executive order. It might be a regulation from the FCC. It might even be a bill hastily drafted up by Mark, Devin, Jim, Dana, or any of the two hundred Republicans in the House eager to prove their loyalty. Whatever form it takes, Trump made it clear what he wants: Stop social media sites from banning anyone for anything.

On the surface, that might sound … almost equitable. As Trump says, “Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!” But here’s the thing. Nobody is getting kicked off social media for being too far right. They’re being kicked off because they’re encouraging violence. Or conducting hate speech. Or, and this is really by far the biggest category of those being kicked off—they’re being kicked of because they’re really just a few dozen lines of script.

What Trump is really arguing is that social media should have more hate, more violence, and more bots. Many, many more bots. 

There are a couple of reasons why that works for Trump. The biggest one is: Trump does not read social media. Check it out. He doesn’t Facebook. He has no idea what Instagram means. Even on Twitter, Trump only follows 47 accounts, and that’s including the Trump Organization, and Team Trump, and and a separate account for every single Trump golf course. Trump doesn’t have to worry about “figuring it out!” He. Does. Not. Read. It. Not good, not bad. Not at all.

For Trump, Twitter is a broadcast outlet. All he cares about is the 53M people under the “follow” column. That gives Trump a daily audience that’s more than twice the number who watched Mehgan and Harry on their wedding day. He’s drawing about half a Superbowl. Every day.

The best way to describe what Trump wants is with just one word: NOISE. Trump wants to crank up the noise level in the room. It might seem that noise would drown everyone out equally, but it doesn’t. It drowns out most voices under a sea of hate and spam. Just not the ones with 53M follower bullhorns. 

Defending hate speech and calls to violence helps Trump, because his xenophobic and racist positions depend on hate and fear. But that’s a side benefit. The real deal is simply to increase the ratio of noise to signal. To make it harder and harder to find real information in a sea of utter muck. It’s why he mixed this talk with another attack on “fake news.” 

Because you can’t speak truth to power if no one can distinguish the truth.

And … hey, look, there are pundits behind this screen. Let’s go in.

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Saturday open thread for night owls: Afghanistan—a war of ultimate repetitiousness

Saturday open thread for night owls: Afghanistan—a war of ultimate repetitiousness

Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch and The Nation writes about Afghanistan—The War Piece to End All War Pieces:

Fair warning. Stop reading right now if you want, because I’m going to repeat myself. What choice do I have, since my subject is the Afghan War (America’s second Afghan War, no less)? I began writing about that war in October 2001, almost 17 years ago, just after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. That was how I inadvertently launched the unnamed listserv that would, a year later, become TomDispatch. Given the website’s continuing focus on America’s forever wars (a phrase I first used in 2010), what choice have I had but to write about Afghanistan ever since?

So think of this as the war piece to end all war pieces. And let the repetition begin!

Here, for instance, is what I wrote about our Afghan War in 2008, almost seven years after it began, when the U.S. Air Force took out a bridal party, including the bride herself and at least 26 other women and children en route to an Afghan wedding. And that would be just one of eight U.S. wedding strikes I toted up by the end of 2013 in three countries, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, that killed almost 300 potential revelers. “We have become a nation of wedding crashers,” I wrote, “the uninvited guests who arrived under false pretenses, tore up the place, offered nary an apology, and refused to go home.”

Here’s what I wrote about Afghanistan in 2009, while considering the metrics of “a war gone to hell”: “While Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we’ve been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation.” […]

And here’s what I wrote last year thinking about the nature of our never-ending war there: “Right now, Washington is whistling past the graveyard. In Afghanistan and Pakistan the question is no longer whether the U.S. is in command, but whether it can get out in time. If not, the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, the Indians, who exactly will ride to our rescue? Perhaps it would be more prudent to stop hanging out in graveyards. They are, after all, meant for burials, not resurrections.” […]

And just in case you’re paying no attention at all to the news from Afghanistan these days, rest assured that you don’t have to. You already know it!

To offer just a few examples, the New York Times recently revealed a new Trump administration plan to get U.S.-backed Afghan troops to withdraw from parts of the countryside, ceding yet more territory to the Taliban, to better guard the nation’s cities. Here was the headline used: “Newest U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan Mirrors Past Plans for Retreat.” (“The withdrawal resembles strategies embraced by both the Bush and Obama administrations that have started and stuttered over the nearly 17-year war.”) And that generally is about as new as it gets when it comes to Afghan news in 2018.

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QUOTATION

“America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.

“Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.

”Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.”
          ~~President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama

TWEET OF THE DAY

x

What if — hear me out — we didn’t have a system that required a person battling cancer to rely on the generosity of their colleagues for sick days? https://t.co/JjeMJoXnzf

— Will Fischer (@will_c_fischer) August 16, 2018

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2008—Republican House Members Love DC:

It seems like Republican House members have decided that they’ll have a better chance at reelection if they don’t remind voters back home of their existence. We’ve seen it during this August recess while they flocked to the floor to play at being Congressmembers over drilling instead of hanging out in their districts having to deal with real constituents and real issues.

Now they’ve announced that they want to stay in DC all fall if that’s what it will take to get a drilling bill through. 

House Republicans said Monday they would refuse to consider any energy bill that came straight to the floor from the Democratic leadership’s offices, rather than working its way through committee markups — a process that can take weeks or months.

Granted, there’s safety in numbers, and they like each other better than anybody else–particularly their constituents — like them. But this would suggest they really are afraid of voters.

It also suggests that any need to find “compromise” with them on the part of House Democratic leadership is bullshit.

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”

LINK TO DAILY KOS STORE

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Climate change has led to 30 percent of bird species in Mojave Desert to ‘crash’ over last century

Climate change has led to 30 percent of bird species in Mojave Desert to ‘crash’ over last century

The Mojave Desert has seen disappearing rainfall over the last 100 years due to climate change. This has led to around 30 percent of the bird species and 43 percent of all species in the area to all but disappear from the numbers that existed in the region a century ago. A new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, were able to make these calculations based on the very strong note-taking established by Joseph Grinnell who first surveyed the area beginning in 1908.

Raptor birds like turkey vultures have been able to thrive as they are birds that require meat not plants to survive.

“Deserts are harsh environments, and while some species might have adaptations that allow them to persist in a desert spot, they are also at their physiological limits,” said Kelly Iknayan, who conducted the survey for her doctoral thesis at UC Berkeley. “California deserts have already experienced quite a bit of drying and warming because of climate change, and this might be enough to push birds over the edge. It seems like we are losing part of the desert ecosystem.” […]

Though the decline has happened across the entire Mojave Desert, sites with available water saw less decline, suggesting that dehydration is a major factor. To halt further losses, the authors suggest, it may be necessary in the short-term to create additional water resources and limit groundwater pumping, which depletes desert springs. The best long-term solution is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reverse climate change, the authors say.

Not all of the bird populations have been hurt. Raptors, who survive on meat, have been able to thrive, being less affected by diminishing plant life. The turkey vulture, for example eats the remains of dead animals. I suspect that this is the natural model people like the Kochs, Trump, and Secretary Ryan Zinke are considering when they leech the planet of its resources and hope to feed off of the carcasses left in its ruin.

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My stepdaughter spoke out against faith-based ‘sex ed.’ Her district just ensured it won’t return.

My stepdaughter spoke out against faith-based ‘sex ed.’ Her district just ensured it won’t return.

Last week, Joan McCarter told you about my stepdaughter, Abby McElroy, 17, who rocked her district’s school board last month when she informed them that a local faith-based crisis pregnancy center, Amnion Pregnancy Center, had been invited into tenth grade classes repeatedly to teach a sex ed segment.

As Abby explained, the presentation was filled with pseudo-science and lies, as when relationships were compared to sticky tape, and “teens were told ‘if you have sex with too many people it becomes less sticky—and you can’t make healthy relationships.’” They were told that hand-holding, hugging, and kissing were all forms of touching that release the hormone oxytocin, and “that too much youthful activity depletes oxytocin and thus makes it harder for a person to eventually bond with a future spouse”—which scientists have pointed out is based on research with prairie voles, not people.

The school board members were horrified. Wallingford-Swarthmore is a liberal area outside Philadelphia in Delaware County, and they had no idea this was going on.   

So after much local hullabaloo, in advance of next Monday night’s next school board meeting, the district superintendent announced a new policy via email last night: no more outside presentations for sex ed, just classroom teachers ensuring “factual, balanced information that empowers our students to make healthy choices.” A more stringent review for all outside speakers invited into the classroom. And no more presentations from this particular group, ever. You can read the letter below the fold.

In the meantime, Abby’s activism is by no means over. Strath Haven isn’t the only school which has been infiltrated by Amnion and other so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” with this rubbish. There’s more work to be done, more information which needs to be brought to light, more policies which need to change.  And I am so proud of her.

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Nuts & Bolts: Inside a Democratic campaign—clean campaigns in a dirty world

Nuts & Bolts: Inside a Democratic campaign—clean campaigns in a dirty world

Welcome back, Saturday Campaign D-I-Yers! For those who tune in, welcome to the Nuts & Bolts of a Democratic campaign. Each week, we discuss issues that help drive successful campaigns. If you’ve missed prior diaries, please visit our group or follow Nuts & Bolts Guide.

Every time there is an election, there are accusations about “dirty campaigns.” When it comes to campaigns, you’ll find that some people, with almost no scruples, are willing to do or say anything in order to confuse voters, muddy the water, and bash your candidate. How in the world do you run a clean campaign in a dirty world? 

While this series focuses on downballot (small) races, this is a challenge faced by campaigns at every level. No matter what kind of campaign you want to run, someone—whether it is your opponent or an outside advocacy group—will definitely sling some mud. How does your campaign stay at least mostly clean while working for a win in your district?

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If you want to know exactly what racial profiling looks like, just watch this video

If you want to know exactly what racial profiling looks like, just watch this video

This is painful and difficult to watch. Yet I’m going to ask you do just that.

A local activist group, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI), obtained and published police recordings showing a textbook example of racial bias by Des Moines Senior Police Officer Kyle Thies. 

Thies apparently pulled over the young man, Montray Little, for…well, driving while black.

Little is berated, taken into custody, and then constantly pushed by Officer Thies to confess something that he didn’t do. Meanwhile, Thies implies that the young man was on drugs and stole the car he was driving. He is also convinced that his passenger was hiding a gun.

None of it was true.

“Your buddy’s giving me the idea that maybe he’s got a gun, you know what I mean,” the officer says. “That’s what I think.”

“How?” the passenger asks.

“Just the way you’re holding yourself, man. That’s why we’re nervous, man.”

Even though Little had done nothing wrong, Thies takes him out of the car, handcuffs him, pulls down his pants (which was extremely inappropriate and not police procedure), and escorts him to his patrol car. Thies proceeds to conduct a warrantless search of the car. 

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This week in science: fires from space

This week in science: fires from space

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo had a nice summary this week touching on the science of human behavior. There are two themes therein, the first on how a guilty person behaves, and a more subtle point on how most of us usual, normal people harbor resistance of a sort from coming to the obvious conclusion when that conclusion is unsettling and/or lies far outside the usual norms:

[T]he President has used every power at his disposal to stop investigations into what happened. He tried to end the investigation into Michael Flynn. He demanded loyalty and protection from the head of the FBI. He fired the head of the FBI because of the Russia probe. He tried to fire Robert Mueller. He tried to bully Jeff Sessions into resigning … He has been at more or less constant war with the FBI and the Intelligence Community. He openly dangles pardons to thwart the investigation.

Trump is guilty. Why there’s such resistance to this reality is an interesting question. My own best guess is that it is too disquieting a reality to grapple with.

As long as we’re on the subject, it’s become quite the sport to speculate on just what Trump is afraid will come to light. Let’s stop and consider the possibility that it’s not a single item, but everything, including actions we haven’t even imagined yet. Sexual escapades, money laundering, bank fraud, past corruption in every corner and ongoing corruption of the vilest sort, and more. Because that might help explain why Trump is so quick to do and say anything to avoid the consequences.

Metallic skies.
If you missed the Nazi aka Master Race clown getting kicked out of his parents’ room in the midst of a fascist live stream, you should probably click through and enjoy that spectacle right now.
The opioid crisis expands to pets

The opioid crisis in the US has been big news in recent years, drawing public attention to problems surrounding how we use and abuse pain-killers. Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reminding veterinarians of a concerning trend among pet owners, who are taking opioids prescribed for their poor companion.

I knew it! There are muppets on Mars:

There, on the surface of the enigmatic Red Planet, in one of the few regions not obscured by a dust storm, was none other than the wide-eyed Beaker – the shy and ill-fated assistant of Dr Bunsen Honeydew from The Muppet Show.

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Florida governor and wife invested millions into company behind the private railway system he backed

Florida governor and wife invested millions into company behind the private railway system he backed

Republican governor Rick Scott’s record of shady, possibly corrupt dealings while in office continue to surface. He’s given out tons of taxpayer money to private industry types to whom he has suspicious ties, as well as just giving out money to private industries that don’t really serve the needs of the general public. Back in 2011, the Cryptkeeper come to life was offered $2.4 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail project that would connect Tampa to Orlando, and Orlando to Miami. At the time, Scott said “the proposed high-speed rail line is far too uncertain and offers far too little long-term benefit for me to consider moving forward.” First, he was going to cut spending and then take the federal government to task for the “investments it makes.” In his defense, he did argue that he was worried about Florida having to balance a budget—something required by the state’s constitution.

It’s like watching a Mike Pence acting class

Then, in June, while coincidentally running for the Senate, Gov. Rick Scott changed his mind! But there was no need for federal funds, because he found a private business called Brightline that would get the contract!

Ostensibly, taxpayer dollars would not be used, sidestepping the reason why Scott struck down a similar rail proposal seven years ago.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Orlando, Tampa and our entire state,” Scott said in a statement. “Instead of placing taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, our goal is for the private sector to invest in this project.”

Let me make you a promise. If this deal does go through, I will give you 1,000 to 1 odds that Florida taxpayers will be footing a lot of this bill at some point. Don’t believe me? This was how Scott’s private railway deal worked out the following year, after nixing the federally funded railway.

Then, a year after Scott’s rejection of the bullet train from Orlando to Tampa, he endorsed the rail project sought by Florida East Coast Industries to build a train that would operate at speeds of up to 110 mph from Miami to Orlando, about 60 mph slower than the bullet train Scott canceled. The governor also pledged at least $200 million in state money for a train depot at Orlando International Airport.

Although then-DOT secretary Ananth Prasad touted the project as “the nation’s first privately financed, operated and maintained passenger rail system,” the financing heavily involved taxpayers.

But who cares, right? By the time the railway is finished, he’ll have moved on to bigger and better things—like getting closer to that White House swamp he loves to drink from. He’ll also be a little richer—It turns out, the Tampa Bay Times reports, that Scott and his wife, Ann, have $3 million dollars of theirs invested in Brightline’s parent company, who looks to make a whole lot of money on this deal.

Scott said in June he believes a high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa is a good idea. He and his wife last year invested at least $3 million in a credit fund for All Aboard Florida’s parent company, Fortress Investment Group, according to recently disclosed financial documents.

[…]

Rick and Ann Scott are multi-millionaires with an undisclosed amount of wealth. Fortress Investment Group is the parent company of Florida East Coast Industries which owns All Aboard Florida. All Aboard now operates as Brightline — the system of diesel-electric trains that has been running between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale since January and from West Palm Beach to Miami since May.

When Scott nixed the federally funded high speed rail in 2011, he made sure to “massage the numbers,” lowballing how many commuters took public transportation in the areas that would have most benefited from a high speed rail.

But a report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors suggested that the train could have provided up to $2.9 billion in economic benefits in the Orlando area alone, creating as much as 27,500 jobs. And our passenger rail system is pathetically slow; if you want to start building sleek bullet trains like the ones whipping around Europe and Asia, you’ve got to start somewhere. The Tampa-Orlando route had the necessary permits and land—it went right down the I-4 median—as well as a built-in ridership between Disney World and the Orlando airport. It was telling that Scott massaged the ridership data in his remarks; he argued that it was silly to expect 3 million annual riders on the Tampa-Orlando line when only 3.2 million ride the Acela train in the Northeast Corridor, but he didn’t mention another 7.2 million riders in the Northeast Corridor who take somewhat slower but much cheaper trains.

But, this Fortress Investment Group is definitely a couple of ties away from All Aboard Florida/Brightline, you say? You would be right, but the Scott’s investment in Fortress has a strange timeline.

The parent company of the FECI rail line hasn’t always been such an attractive investment for Scott and his wife. In 2014, the last time Scott disclosed the companies included in his blind trust, he did not list Fortress Investments, indicating the fund was acquired after Scott started actively backing the plan.

And according to the Miami-Herald, who did the original reporting on this story, Brightline took a $28 million loss in 2018, and is looking for government deals across the government board—all to keep up the illusion that they’re going to be able to privately fund this expensive proposition.

Using federally backed tax-exempt bonds, the company has raised $600 million to pay for the Miami-West Palm Beach leg of the rail line. It is now trying to sell another $1.15 billion to pay for the West Palm Beach to Orlando segment, but Indian River and Martin counties are asking a federal court to reject the bonds, potentially jeopardizing the extension.

“Brightline and their group of investors are adamant that they are privately funded, but they are clearly seeking deals with governments to keep this project alive,’’ said Dylan Reingold, general counsel for Indian River County, which has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the financing and safety of the project.

Alongside Scott’s disastrous policies surrounding climate change, which have directly impacted his constituents, hopefully Floridians will make the right decision come this November, and keep Rick Scott far from the Senate.

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This week in the war on workers: Puerto Rico’s school year starts, and it’s chaos

This week in the war on workers: Puerto Rico’s school year starts, and it’s chaos

School privatization advocates have used the devastation of Hurricane Maria to close hundreds of public schools in Puerto Rico while pushing vouchers and charter schools. As we’ve seen again and again, chaos and destruction are favorite tools of privatizers, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the school year has started in Puerto Rico with massive problems.

More than 56,000 students projected to be enrolled in Puerto Rico’s schools this year haven’t shown up and 18,000 were never enrolled. Some schools also have missing teachers after teachers have been repeatedly reassigned. Schools are in terrible shape:

Dozens of schools were still badly in need of repairs. A survey of the island’s 856 schools conducted by the Association of Puerto Rican Teachers the week before classes started found leaky roofs, mold and unusable bathrooms. One school had a rat infestation, according to the survey. Another was still littered with hurricane debris.

Many teachers told reporters they didn’t want to be identified by name due to fear of retaliation.

This is bad for the people who work in the schools and for the students who’ve coped with deprivation and power outages and instability for too long.

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