Genocide in Puerto Rico?

This may be an unkind thing to say, but Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, is apparently not a very intelligent woman. Then again, she is a politician.

Ms. Cruz originally captured international attention when she complained that President Donald Trump was doing virtually nothing to provide emergency assistance to her constituents in Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria had devastated the island. She first exclaimed:

We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy.

However, anyone with half a brain can dig around on the internet and find out that virtually nothing actually translates into quite a bit, as FEMA’s website indicates. President Trump signed an executive order that temporarily waived the Jones Act, which prevented foreign ships from delivering aid directly to an American port. Thousands of first responders and military personnel have been on the scene for weeks. The problem is that months will pass before electricity can be restored because the power grid in Puerto Rico has been neglected for decades. The problem in Puerto Rico is that government has been squandering way too much money on social spending while neglecting their infrastructure.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is $9 billion dollars in debt — how in the name of God does an electric company fail to break even on its operating costs? The government of Puerto Rico has been trying to file for bankruptcy to get relief from $70 billion in bond obligations and another $49 billion in unfunded pensions. This has created a situation where businesses won’t be very motivated to sell new equipment to Puerto Rico, because the bills never get paid. That’s a very significant problem.

Furthermore, even when a hurricane strikes in the continental U.S. it takes time to clear trees and debris, run new power lines, and connect them. By the time Hurricane Irma reached Atlanta the winds had been reduced to tropical storm strength, but nevertheless hundreds of thousands of people lost power. The only reason that power could be restored so quickly was Georgia Power could afford to recruit electricians from states as far away as Ohio and New York. But they could just drive down to Atlanta on highways and interstates.

Unfortunately, there is an ocean preventing those skilled workers from driving their trucks down to Puerto Rico. Perhaps Ms. Cruz has polling data suggesting that her shrill rhetoric attacking President Trump somehow helps her future political aspirations, because nothing else seems to explain escalating her use of hyperbole to the point of becoming absurd. Now she has accused the president of committing genocide in Puerto Rico, and unfortunately for her, astute writers at Red State fact-checked her ridiculous claims. The results were not pretty, but about what you’d expect to come from a typical Democrat politician.

She wrote a letter to Democrat Congressman Luis Gutierrez that said in part:

I ask the United Nations, UNICEF and the world to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and stop the genocide that will result from the lack of appropriate action of a President that just does not get it because he has been incapable of looking in our eyes and seeing the pride that burns fiercely in our hearts and souls

The death toll in Puerto Rico attributed to Hurricane Maria as of two days ago was a total of 45 people. That’s 13 fewer victims than the number killed in the Las Vegas massacre. Liberal Democrats want conservatives to blame guns for murders committed by terrorists or lunatics, and to blame President Trump for their own incompetence, and natural disasters.

Can President Trump create a hurricane? I don’t think so.

 

Trump Invokes Magic and Entrails to Clear Puerto Rico’s Massive Debt

President Trump went on his friend Sean Hannity’s show and told Geraldo Rivera that, regarding Puerto Rico’s massive $73 billion in defaulted debt, “you can wave goodbye to that.”

Facts have a way of making statements like that from the president seem far-fetched. For example:

  • Puerto Rico defaulted on its debt in 2016, which prompted Congress to pass a law called “Promesa,” giving the island territory bankruptcy protection that it did not have prior.
  • Promesa requires Puerto Rico to submit to a Financial Oversight and Management Board in return for legal recourse to abrogate contracts and deal with creditors in a bankruptcy proceeding.
  • When Governor Ricardo Rossello defied the Board’s recovery plan, Aurelius Capital sued, claiming the Board itself was “handpicked by individual members of Congress,” with no Senate confirmation, and essentially forced on President Obama last year.
  • Aurelius is the holder of Puerto Rico’s general obligation bonds, and therefore represents a class of creditors who believe they should be first in line for any settlement payments.

All of that to say this: Trump has very little maneuver room here. He can’t simply “pull the plug” on Puerto Rico. He could ask Congress to bail out the island’s debt or force bondholders to eat their losses. That would be a politically charged move, and likely force many small individual bond holders, pension funds, and pensioners in Puerto Rico to be wiped out.

The larger hedge funds would be able to find ways (hopefully) to avoid unsustainable losses.

The New York Times commented:

If Mr. Trump meant the federal government would work to help Puerto Rico have the debt forgiven, that could result in major losses for investors large and small. Still, it is far from clear whether the president or the federal government has the power to do that. And despite the reference to Goldman Sachs, Puerto Rico’s debt is held by a diverse universe of investors, including big hedge funds and middle-class Puerto Ricans who thought it would make a safe retirement nest egg.

Trump mentioned Goldman Sachs in his comment to Rivera. That’s ironic since GS is one of the “too big to fail” banks that would almost certainly trigger government intervention–if GS was the primary bond holder (they’re not). But this would affect a much larger circle than one bank.

Budget chief Mick Mulvaney told reporters on Wednesday, “We are not going to bail them out. We are not going to pay off those debts. We are not going to bail out those bond holders.” That seems clear enough that the federal government isn’t going pony up $73 billion to “wave goodbye” to Puerto Rico’s debt.

But Congress and Trump will likely do something to ease the massive burden of rebuilding the island’s devastated infrastructure. Perhaps that will include some kind of cash infusion to help pay down the debt or achieve some other settlement agreement.

It is quite a complex subject, as Trump acknowledged. What happens will largely depend on what Trump’s administration, working with Congress, can achieve.

The president’s remarks left investors and creditors gobsmacked. They have no idea what to expect, if anything. Meanwhile, the Aurelius suit grinds on, and if it’s successful, the entire Financial Oversight and Management Board may need to be reconstituted.

In case Trump supporters might be thinking this is 4D chess, it’s not. Trump has moved on from such child’s play into the realm of magic and haruspicy. Either Puerto Rico’s debt will simply disappear by the will of the “only I can fix” president, or Congress will bail out the troubled island, or bondholders will get the shaft.

If the federal government bails out Puerto Rico, the only question remaining will be: who gets to bail out Mick Mulvaney?

Puerto Rico, Politics and Perspective

Defending Donald Trump can be a dirty job, but then politics is a dirty game.  Much like with the Bog of Eternal Stench, so much as dipping a toe in it puts the stink on a person forever–which is why it amazes me that so many seem so willing to politicize everything.  It’s as if the chattering class just stepped whole and sweating from a desert highway Port-o-let in the middle of July, took a big whiff and decided that they’d like the rest of the country to smell the same way.  Even more inexplicable is why guys like me feel the need to comment on it, but that’s a story for another day.  Suffice it to say that somebody’s gotta do it–so pardon me while I splash some Old Spice on a bandana, wrap it around my face and take my turn with the chum bucket.  Like Quint told Sheriff Brody in Jaws, this isn’t going to be pleasant.

Regarding Puerto Rico…

President Trump has been getting a lot of blowback for his tweets about San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, which have–in true Trumpian style–basically called her an incompetent ingrate for her very public criticism of the aid and recovery efforts being coordinated by the federal government after Hurricane Maria.  Let me preface by saying that the blowback, as with many a Trump tweet, is not undeserved.  The president most certainly has a tendency to bring gasoline to a fire–but lest we forget, his enemies are often the pyromaniacs who strike the match in the first place.  And while it’s true, as my Resurgent bro Peter Heck suggests, that the crisis would be better handled with the kind of quiet, dignified leadership of a George W, Bush, Trump’s reactive tendencies serve at least one valuable purpose:  they disrupt the leftist narrative.

Intrigued?  Then follow me down the rabbit hole for a few moments and consider the following points:

  • Trump isn’t wrong about Mayor Yulín Cruz.  It’s no secret that the Democrats–and by extension, the media–have been itching to turn Hurricane Maria into Trump’s Katrina.  Never mind that most of what the media peddled as the federal government’s bungling of the Katrina response in New Orleans was a myth.  It was a very successful myth, which cemented George W.Bush as a callous man who–in the immortal blather of Kayne West–didn’t care about black people.  Since the federal response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma were largely successful, the media couldn’t make any political hay there.  But with Puerto Rico an unprecedented disaster, the Dems saw a chance and so they took it.  Kurt Schlicter summed it up neatly with this tweet:

In other words, this wasn’t political until Yulín Cruz made it political.  She fired the first shot.  The media, with their relentless coverage of Trump punching back, inadvertently made that crystal clear and undermined their own narrative.

As if to underscore the point, Yulín Cruz talked to CNN’s Anderson Cooper wearing–of all things–a shirt emblazoned with the words “HELP US, WE ARE DYING.”

Unless that’s the name of a punk band that opened up for the Ramones back in ’82, that shirt had to be custom made for the occasion–and, as Twitchy points out with its roundup of #Shirtgate, on an island where almost nobody has power it would be awfully hard to have that printed locally.  That can only mean that Yulín Cruz coordinated that particular stunt with partisans off-island in a deliberate attempt to make the administration look bad.  Nice to know that in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, she has her priorities straight.

Again, something that would have not gotten near the attention had Trump not raised a stink about it.

  • The aid is sitting on the docks in Puerto Rico.  Getting it out to the people–that’s another challenge.  From all accounts, the federal government–and this is probably the first time I’ve ever written this–has been Johnny-on-the-spot in getting its part of the job done.  The docks are filled with supplies.  Nuclear submarines are moored and using their reactors to generate electric power.  Trucks are standing by.  The problem?  Truck drivers aren’t showing up:

Speaking today exclusively and live from Puerto Rico, is Puerto Rican born and raised, Colonel Michael A. Valle (”Torch”), Commander, 101st Air and Space Operations Group, and Director of the Joint Air Component Coordination Element, 1st Air Force, responsible for Hurricane Maria relief efforts in the U.S. commonwealth with a population of more than 3 million. Since the ‘apocalyptic’ Cat 4 storm tore into the spine of Puerto Rico on September 20, Col. Valle has been both duty and blood bound to help.

Col. Valle is a firsthand witness of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) response supporting FEMA in Puerto Rico, and as a Puerto Rican himself with family members living in the devastation, his passion for the people is second to none. “It’s just not true,” Col. Valle says of the major disconnect today between the perception of a lack of response from Washington verses what is really going on on the ground. “I have family here. My parents’ home is here. My uncles, aunts, cousins, are all here. As a Puerto Rican, I can tell you that the problem has nothing to do with the U.S. military, FEMA, or the DoD.”

“The aid is getting to Puerto Rico. The problem is distribution. The federal government has sent us a lot of help; moving those supplies, in particular, fuel, is the issue right now,” says Col. Valle. Until power can be restored, generators are critical for hospitals and shelter facilities and more. But, and it’s a big but, they can’t get the fuel to run the generators.

They have the generators, water, food, medicine, and fuel on the ground, yet the supplies are not moving across the island as quickly as they’re needed.

“It’s a lack of drivers for the transport trucks, the 18 wheelers. Supplies we have. Trucks we have. There are ships full of supplies, backed up in the ports, waiting to have a vehicle to unload into. However, only 20% of the truck drivers show up to work. These are private citizens in Puerto Rico, paid by companies that are contracted by the government,” says Col. Valle.

Why are only 20% of drivers showing up?  I can think of a lot of good reasons.  The roads are heavily damaged.  Drivers can’t get to the ports.  Most people are staying close to their families.  And drivers may also fear being ambushed by thieves and killed for their cargo.  Then there’s this, which neither the Democrats nor Mayor Yulín Cruz care to mention:

Is any of that Trump’s fault?  No, but the media would prefer to ignore that and have people think Trump’s incompetence is to blame.  Again, something that could have turned into conventional wisdom had the narrative been allowed to take hold, as it did in Katrina.

Also left unmentioned is that in their quest to damage the Trump administration, the Dems and their willing servants in the media are besmirching the first responders, aid workers and military personnel who are all working around the clock trying to save lives–all for the purpose of scoring a few cheap political points.  Intemperate as Trump’s remarks were, his insults were directed at politicians, and nobody much cares about their feelings.

Bottom line, none of this is helpful—not to the people desperately in need of assistance, nor to those who are trying to provide it.  But if the Democrats want to point to this as a failure of Trump’s leadership, their cries would ring less hollow if they bothered to show some leadership of their own.

Puerto Rico Relief Is Hard Enough Without Trump’s Tweetstorm

Over the past few days, as President Trump has come under fire for his response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation of the island of Puerto Rico. Trump’s supporters have taken to Twitter and Facebook to defend the president. Many are claiming that if Texans could help themselves, Puerto Ricans should likewise be able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. After Trump’s tweets this morning attacking the mayor of San Juan, the level of acrimony will almost certainly increase.

Trump’s defenders do raise a legitimate question: Why can’t the inhabitants of Puerto Rico help themselves rebuild their island and repair the damage from Hurricane Maria? The answer is that the situation in Puerto Rico is very different from the situation in Texas.

As the president so eloquently pointed out on Friday, Puerto Rico “is an island, surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.” As most students of American geography will recall, Texas is not an island, which made it much easier to bring relief workers and supplies into the affected areas. Because Puerto Rico is an island, almost everything, from food to fuel, must be shipped in.

Adding to the difficulty, the island’s ports, airports and roads were also heavily damaged by the storm. The waiver of the Jones Act will allow more shipping capacity to be directed to Puerto Rico, but the ability of ports to offload the cargo is still a limiting factor.

The problems don’t end as relief supplies are offloaded on the island. There are reports that mountains of supplies are sitting in San Juan, but cannot be delivered due to damaged roads and shortages of trucks, diesel fuel and drivers. KTLA Channel Five in Los Angeles reported that one Puerto Rico trucking company has 3,000 crates of supplies, but has only been able to dispatch four percent of them due the shortages of drivers and trucks.

Another difficulty that Puerto Rico faces that Texas did not is the widespread power outage. Maria destroyed 80 percent of the island’s power lines per reports by CNBC. It will take months to restore power to the island.

Meanwhile, the lack of electricity makes almost everything more difficult. Where generators and fuel are not available, even the simplest tasks must be performed by hand. The lack of lights also means that time available to work is shorter. Communication is difficult both because of the lack of electricity and the fact that the storm damaged or destroyed cell phone towers.

In contrast, after Hurricane Harvey, relief supplies could be trucked directly to Texas from other parts of the country. Roads were damaged, but there were alternate routes available in most cases. Damage from the hurricane force winds was localized in Texas, rather than spread across the whole coast. Ports and airports reopened quickly.

Most the damage in Houston and Beaumont came from torrential rains and flooding. As a result, electricity stayed on in these heavily populated urban areas. This made it easier for both residents of the area and relief workers.

Finally, I have to point out that Texans did not recover our own. We received a lot of help from around the country. When a large part of Houston was underwater, the Cajun Navy arrived on the scene with boats to pluck stranded Texans from their homes and ferry them to safety. Once the flood waters receded, the infrastructure in Houston was largely intact, unlike the infrastructure of Puerto Rico.

It isn’t fair to blame President Trump for the difficulties with a relief effort that makes the Berlin airlift look easy by comparison. For months to come, the island’s population of more than three million people will be almost entirely dependent upon outside assistance. It is unreasonable to assume that the entire effort could be established and bring the island back to normal within a few weeks.

It is also unreasonable for President Trump to lash out at the island’s representatives who are understandably under an enormous amount of stress. President Trump should have overcome his instinctive tendency to immediately counterpunch at any hint of a slight and instead offered calm reassurance that the federal government is doing everything it can to save the lives of the storm victims.

So far, there is no evidence that the federal response to Hurricane Maria has been bungled. There is also no evidence that Puerto Ricans are not doing everything within their very limited ability to make their situation better.

Attacking the mayor of San Juan as a poor leader is a bad idea on several levels. First, it undermines her authority. Second, it sets up an adversarial relationship between federal and local governments at a time when cooperation is badly needed to save lives. That conflict will only be picked up and exacerbated by both supporters and opponents of the president. Finally, it makes President Trump look incredibly small and vain.

One characteristic of a leader is the ability to overlook perceived personal slights and focus on the job at hand. It remains to be seen whether President Trump has what it takes to be a unifying leader, but he has not exhibited those qualities today. Maria is not Katrina, but the president’s mishandling of the situation may well turn the relief effort into a leadership scandal.

Trump’s Twitter Rant Against Puerto Rico Hits All the Wrong Notes

People under extreme duress are capable of many things. As desperation takes hold, they may lash out, cry, plead, or go completely catatonic. Few of us can predict our own behavior until we’re actually in that position.

Look at Puerto Rico today.

Hurricane Maria ravaged the island territory with a direct hit on September 20, destroying property, shutting down the power grid, and making food and fresh water scarce to come by.
Approximately 80 percent of the island is without power, and some are predicting a 6 month struggle before it is restored.

A year ago, I went through a 3-day stretch with no power after Hurricane Matthew passed through North Carolina and I thought I would lose my mind before it was restored.

Never have I been more convinced that I’m not cut out for the rustic life.

With that in mind, my heart goes out to the people of Puerto Rico, as they struggle to survive with very limited supplies and help on the ground.

Also with that in mind, I can’t hold it against San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who lashed out, after acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke called the situation in Puerto Rico a “good news story.”

Mayor Cruz, a member of the island’s Democratic party, went apoplectic at the comment.

“Maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good news story,” Cruz said. “When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story.”

“Damnit, this is not a good news story,” she continued. “This is a people-are-dying story.”

She also held an emotionally charged press conference.

“I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” she said.

President Trump has plans to visit the area on Tuesday. On Friday, however, he touted the “incredible job” being done with relief efforts.

“We have done an incredible job, considering there’s absolutely nothing to work with,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

He also pointed out how little help Puerto Ricans were able to offer, themselves.

“They’re taking care of their families and largely unable to get involved, largely unable to help,” he said. “Therefore, we’re forced to bring in truck drivers, security and many, many other personnel by the thousands. And we’re bringing them onto the island as we speak. We’ve never seen a situation like this.”

And he is right. Everyone does what they can, but the amount of help Puerto Rico needs right now from volunteers and first responders is overwhelming.

This is a humanitarian crisis on a grand scale.

Knowing all this is what makes Trump’s Saturday morning Twitter rant all the more despicable.

Upset at Mayor Cruz’s frustrated criticism, the president turned on her, and the people of Puerto Rico.

This was absolutely the wrong response. It sends a very bad message, but also reveals a petty, vindictive man with no capacity for compassion for the millions of American citizens (Yes, Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth) suffering, right now.

Mr. President, I don’t know what you thought the job would consist of when you decided to run, but this is part of it. It is not an easy job. You’re not going to be showered in praise for every decision. If your immediate response to criticism, especially in light of these circumstances, is to rage like a child at people who are desperate and afraid, then you are emotionally and intellectually unfit to lead.

Perhaps it would do President Trump some good to read over this account given by Dana Perino, regarding how an actual president reacts to turmoil and even direct criticism.

When confronted by a grieving mother at the bedside of her dying son, injured while fighting in the Middle East, former President George W. Bush showed extreme self-control and grace:

And that was just the first patient we saw. For the rest of the visit to the hospital that day, almost every family had the same reaction of joy when they saw the president. But there were exceptions. One mom and dad of a dying soldier from the Caribbean were devastated, the mom beside herself with grief. She yelled at the president, wanting to know why it was her child and not his who lay in that hospital bed. Her husband tried to calm her, and I noticed the president wasn’t in a hurry to leave — he tried offering comfort but then just stood and took it, like he expected and needed to hear the anguish, to try to soak up some of her suffering if he could.

Later, as we rode back on Marine One to the White House, no one spoke.

But as the helicopter took off, the president looked at me and said, “That mama sure was mad at me.” Then he turned to look out the window of the helicopter. “And I don’t blame her a bit.”

One tear slipped out the side of his eye and down his face. He didn’t wipe it away, and we flew back to the White House.

That is the job of the president. You don’t lash out at those who are hurting. You take it, and you present yourself as a leader, not a spoiled, rich brat.

It’s the job you signed up for, so suck it up, Mr. Trump, and put away your phone.

BREAKING: Trump Listens: Waives Jones Act for Puerto Rico

President Donald Trump has waived the Jones Act for storm-battered Puerto Rico, Bloomberg reported Thursday morning.

The waiver will be in effect for 10 days and cover all products being shipped to Puerto Rico, Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said in an email.

The Jones Act was passed 97 years ago to protect U.S. shipping along our own coastlines and ports. It requires shipments of goods between two U.S. ports to be carried by U.S.-flagged vessels crewed by Americans.

This created massive logistical problems getting sorely needed supplies to Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. territory.

Thousands of cargo containers bearing millions of emergency meals and other relief supplies have been piling up on San Juan’s docks since Saturday. The mountains of material may not reach storm survivors for days.

It’s good news for more than one reason, although the main point of Puerto Ricans well-being cannot be overstated. It also shows that Trump listens. The calls for him to waive the Jones Act have come from both the right and the left. The fact that he has responded quickly is encouraging.

Puerto Rico’s Largest Airport Has Become a De Facto Refugee Camp

Puerto Rico’s largest airport has become a de facto refugee camp for hundreds of people attempting to leave the ravaged island.

According to the Daily Beast, Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is without radar, and much of its infrastructure remains damaged since Hurricane Maria blew through the island last week.

“We usually run around 200 flights a day and we are barely getting 16 flights right now,” Airport director Agustin Arelanno said.

These aviation challenges have stranded thousands of people. Some are simply trying to return from their visit to the island, while others are local residents simply looking for any destination where they can enjoy shelter, running water, and food. Airlines currently have wait lists numbering as high as 20,000.

“I’m tired of this. I just want to go home. Get me home!” a woman shouted in one of the terminals where people are seen sleeping on floors and claiming urgently for decent food.

Most sleep on the floor, and are limited to a small supply of food from the one open restaurant in the facility.

The worst moments, however, seem to be at night. With the airport only running on 21 generators, the complex is largely in the dark during nighttime hours. This leaves stranded passengers as easy prey to thieves and attackers.

“It’s a really scary situation during the night. There’s not a single pole lit and if something happens to you there’s no cellphone service to call for help,” Elena Rodriguez told The Daily Beast, adding one of her neighbors was carjacked in the middle of the night.

Obviously, times are dire at the airport in Carolina, Puerto Rico, as well as all over the island. You can read more about Resurgent’s ongoing coverage of the emerging humanitarian disaster here.

Should you desire to provide financial support to those affected by the disaster, I would humbly recommend giving through the North American Mission Board. You can allocate your donation among relief for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. And most importantly, 100% of your donation goes to help those in need.