#MAGA: Tragedy in Puerto Rico

The catastrophe that was hurricane Irma’s and Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico has now been exacerbated by the catastrophe of American disdain for the brown-skinned, this disdain having taken the form of the sitting President of the United States, one Donald John Trump.

As of this past week, everyone can see the reason I have hung a derisive label on him from the very beginning of his run for office. In case you are one of the people who has not been paying attention, just like the President, I’ll spell it out for you. This is him, coldly calculating how to stir up his base and secure victory for the Republicans and through them, his re-election in 2020; all with the final goal of allowing him to continue to steal from American citizens as he has been doing since taking office last January twentieth. Targeting the free press:

On The Media, Losing Power

Threatening to nationalize the NFL (socialized football?) over a completely made up issue, players taking a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the player who was excluded from the NFL this year in retaliation for exercising his first amendment speech rights during the games last year, a subject I talked at length about here:

He’s also gone into a full-court press promoting his latest version of Reaganomics. At the same time as drumming up hatred for the press, for football players who have political opinions, and promoting giving himself a tax cut while claiming he isn’t doing that, stripping the Affordable Care Act of every dollar he can take away from it administratively since the House of Representatives and the Senate will not cut their own throats at his insistence and pass legislation ending the ACA. The legislators have gotten the feedback from their constituents. People are scared of losing their medical coverage. There is too much bullshit in the air right now and not enough time to write the words to describe it before the stinking mess lands on all our heads.

All of this is going on while people are dying in Puerto Rico for lack of supplies that the President Trump and his Republican allies in congress could fix if only they cared about the welfare of the citizens of the United States:

On The Media, Losing Power

Puerto Rico is not a state, true, but Puerto Ricans are American citizens all the same. I know that the average white guy can’t tell the difference between Mexicans and Indians (natives of India, not the Americas. Stay with me here) even when they speak, but it is a demonstrable fact that Puerto Ricans are exactly the same kind of Americans as any redneck you could pull out of his truck in any Southern state. My apologies for lowering the social status of assorted brown-skinned people with that off-hand comparison.

Their status as American citizens is easily demonstrable because the law that made them citizens carries the same name, Jones Act, as the law that is being used to kill them with thirst, heat and hunger now, Jones Act. The first Jones Act, more properly known as the Jones–Shafroth Act (so much more illuminating with that name) set up the governmental authority that runs Puerto Rico to the current day. We made them citizens, we gave them government like ours, and we have controlled that island nation ever since.

We control it because of the second Jones Act, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which forbids ships that are not American ships crewed with American crews from moving freight between two American ports, functionally making it impossible to get supplies from the mainland United States to Puerto Rico during this crisis without breaking the law:

Planet Money Episode 524: Mr Jones’ Act

If you want to send a bunch of oranges by truck from Florida to Baltimore, no one cares who made the truck. Or if you want to fly computer chips across the country, it’s fine if the plane is made in France. But if you want send cargo by ship, there’s a law that the ship has to be American made.

Planet Money, Mr. Jones’ Act

President Trump did waive the Jones act requirements for ten days, but those ten days have come and gone. It takes a lot longer than ten days to purchase the goods, fill the ship and move it to Puerto Rico. It was a meaningless face-saving gesture that allows the President to point to something and pretend that he cares. He doesn’t care and his supporters don’t care. I can’t repeat the things that have been written to me as rebuttals for my concerns about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans. The racism has been that obvious.

The US and the world have forgotten about Puerto Rico, ravaged by two successive hurricanes and a month later still largely without power and running water. They have forgotten but the fact that this suffering goes on largely unreported says more about Americans and their leader than any of us are comfortable admitting. We are happy to profit off the sick and the suffering of other people, but we don’t want to hear about it.

Puerto Rico’s largest problem is an economic problem. The government is broke and the people are poor. The fact that the government there was lead down the same golden path as Greece was gains Puerto Ricans no sympathy. Greece was allowed to re-negotiate their debts and will probably be given another chance to do it again. Puerto Rico is being held to account for every dollar they borrowed by greedy Wall Street bankers, and the OHM is more than happy to side with Wall Street when there is money to be directly stolen from poor, suffering brown-skinned people.

Pundits asked each other for eight years when some natural tragedy struck, “is this Obama’s Katrina?” And each time it was shown that they were wrong. They were wrong because, as many flaws as there were in the Second Bush administration, President Bush was capable of learning where he messed up, and Obama continued the progress that Bush II had started with FEMA and the federal government writ large. Disaster after disaster, Obama and the federal government got better at coping with the problems, which is the way it should be and is in stark contrast with the Trump Administration:

After an earthquake shattered Haiti’s capital on Jan. 12, 2010, the U.S. military mobilized as if it were going to war.

Before dawn the next morning, an Army unit was airborne, on its way to seize control of the main airport in Port-au-Prince. Within two days, the Pentagon had 8,000 American troops en route. Within two weeks, 33 U.S. military ships and 22,000 troops had arrived. More than 300 military helicopters buzzed overhead, delivering millions of pounds of food and water.

No two disasters are alike. Each delivers customized violence that cannot be fully anticipated. But as criticism of the federal government’s initial response to the crisis in Puerto Rico continued to mount Thursday, the mission to Haiti — an island nation several hundred miles from the U.S. mainland — stands as an example of how quickly relief efforts can be mobilized.

By contrast, eight days after Hurricane Maria ripped across neighboring Puerto Rico, just 4,400 service members were participating in federal operations to assist the devastated island, an Army general told reporters Thursday. In addition, about 1,000 Coast Guard members were aiding the efforts. About 40 U.S. military helicopters were helping to deliver food and water to the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory, along with 10 Coast Guard helicopters.

Leaders of the humanitarian mission in Haiti said in interviews that they were dismayed by the relative lack of urgency and military muscle in the initial federal response to Puerto Rico’s catastrophe.

The Washington Post, U.S. response in Puerto Rico
The Breach: How and Why Trump Is Screwing Over Puerto Rico

When Donald Trump took office all the progress enacted by Bush II and then Obama on disaster relief through FEMA and other agencies stopped. The progress stopped cold and then it went into reverse. With Trump’s gutting of the executive offices under his control, and his unwillingness to take the job of president seriously outside of  his weekend golf game where all the deals happen, there is no one left to take the helm. At least Bush II didn’t brag about how good he did post-Katrina. He didn’t chastise the poor and destitute of New Orleans for asking for relief. President Trump insults and scorns everybody and everything, and his Republican boot-lickers in the House and Senate are all too eager to let him do whatever he wants.

If you vote for a Republican in the next election you will be supporting this hateful process and this lack of progress, too. Think about that, before you cast your next vote.

Postscript

Since I wrote this article a few weeks after the hurricanes struck and President Trump failed to act, there have been several podcasts that I’ve listened to that deal with the continuing issues in Puerto Rico. I’m going to append them here, as well as any informative news articles I run across dealing with the subject, for as long as the tragedy continues.

LatinoUSA, Surviving the Storm

On The Media, After the Storm

One hundred days later, More Puerto Ricans have done without power, subsequent to hurricane Maria, for longer than any other storm in US history since the introduction of electricity into the US.

Rhodium Group

The outages have proved deadly, with people unable to use lifesaving medical equipment like dialysis machines, and they’ve contributed to Puerto Rico’s official death toll of 64.

As we’ve reported here at Vox, the actual number of fatalities is likely much higher, a development that has prompted lawmakers to ask for an audit. BuzzFeed also reported that there have been more than 900 cremations across the island since the hurricane without medical examination.

And electricity may not be restored fully in Puerto Rico and the USVI until May, since emergency managers are still reeling from the devastation across the United States in 2017, spreading thin reconstruction supplies like utility poles and power lines across all disaster areas spanning from California to Florida.

Vox. com

In the podcast The1A, Months After Maria, it was reported the official death toll from the hurricane remains at 64; however, statistical analysis reveals that about a thousand additional deaths occurred due to the continuing power outages on the island since the hurricane struck. This was also reported in depth on LatinoUSA,

LatinoUSA, The Death Count

The Two-Way, FEMA To End Food And Water Aid For Puerto Rico

In a sign that FEMA believes the immediate humanitarian emergency has subsided, on Jan. 31 it will, in its own words, “officially shut off” the mission it says has provided more than 30 million gallons of potable water and nearly 60 million meals across the island in the four months since the hurricane. The agency will turn its remaining food and water supplies over to the Puerto Rican government to finish distributing.

Some on the island believe it’s too soon to end these deliveries given that a third of residents still lack electricity and, in some places, running water, but FEMA says its internal analytics suggest only about 1 percent of islanders still need emergency food and water. The agency believes that is a small enough number for the Puerto Rican government and nonprofit groups to handle.

Displaced Puerto Ricans, now living in hotels, may soon lose housing

PBS NewsHour Apr 7, 2018, As thousands of students leave Puerto Rico, hundreds of its schools to remain closed

Army Corps of Engineers to leave Puerto Rico with hurricane recovery unfinished

LatinoUSA, Puerto Rico’s Financial Storm, Part One Jun 26, 2018

LatinoUSA, Puerto Rico’s Financial Storm, Part Two June 29, 2018

Why Is This Happening? Tracing the origins of the Puerto Rico disaster with Naomi Klein Jun.19.2018

ATTN: Puerto Rico Crisis on Facebook

Almost a year after the tragedy, the governor of Puerto Rico finally caved under pressure and asked George Washington University to do an independent study of the death toll resulting from hurricane Maria. The resulting figures were accepted as the actual death toll due to the storm’s impact:

NPR News, Hurricane Maria Caused 2,975 Deaths In Puerto Rico, Independent Study Estimates, August 28, 2018

2975 deaths is getting into 9/11 territory. It is worth noting that this is just the Maria death toll. This doesn’t include the deaths from the hurricane that swept across the island just before Maria. The Orange Hate-Monkey has not apologized for his lies relating to the human cost of Maria on the island, nor has his administration relaxed regulations to allow Puerto Rico to fully recover from the storm that struck Puerto Rico almost a year ago now.

In December of 2020, the Arecibo radio telescope collapsed, in part because of damage sustained during, and unrepaired since, hurricane Maria. Just one more indignity that can be laid at the feet of President Trump:

National Science FoundationFootage of Arecibo Observatory telescope collapse – Dec 3, 2020

How to put all of this in perspective remains the question. When we show disregard for infrastructure that is the pride of the United States from a world-wide perspective, and disregard for our own citizens that is shocking to most observers, what does this mean? Is one worse than the other? I’m too much of a science nerd to trust my own judgement here. But I can’t help imagining what a laughing stock we are as a nation right now, when seen from the perspective of the people who once thought we were admirable.

Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

Attacks on arguments offered are appreciated and awaited. Attacks on the author will be deleted.