The grind-it-out side of public policy occupied me this morning, as I went to the State House to listen to a subcommittee patiently work out the language of a bill. That done, I walked outside to see what was up on the State House plaza.
And my day was made.
A collection was underway for the Red Cross, with an eye to the disaster in Puerto Rico. Pallet upon pallet of water awaited loading onto trucks. Other types of donations were being sorted, labeled, and packaged. One large “check” was on display, indicating a substantial cash donation by one of the state’s larger utilities. Kids coming off school buses for their State House tour carried armloads of things to donate to the effort.
State employees, elected officials, just plain folks, those wonderful fourth-graders: everyone on the plaza was on the same page. This was a relief effort in every sense.
The Governor was on the scene, delighting the schoolkids with a photo op, and someone said to him, “Will any of this actually get where it’s supposed to go?” He said reassuring things. I hope he’s right. Distribution: that’s the sticking point. How will this get to Puerto Rico? How will the Red Cross allocate things among the multiple disasters it’s addressing these days? I wish I knew the answers.
The people on the plaza weren’t being paralyzed by discouragement or uncertainty over what comes next. They were doing their best with what they had. They left me inspired, refreshed, challenged. That was a fine midday course correction.
Ellen is a New Hampshire pro-life activist and writer who blogs at ellenkolb.com.
“They owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street and we’re going to have to wipe that out,” Trump told Rivera. “You can say goodbye to that.”
Puerto Rico was facing a $74 billion public debt load prior to Maria and was struggling to recover from a decade-long recession that has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to leave for the U.S. mainland.
I expect there will be a lot of discussion on the debt restructuring.
You can kiss the debt good-bye.
. . . Puerto Rico has no money.
Most of the island has been destroyed by the elements.
I thought that was pretty obvious, but received several emails and comments at my blog from people who thought that meant that Puerto Rico should bear no responsibility. To the contrary, on the same post I clarified that reconstruction efforts should entail outside supervision and full transparency.
Any debt restructuring should require strict federal oversight.
Puerto Rico must, in order for any rebuilding to work, embrace full transparency and accountability, and end corruption. That is a bigger task than any rebuilding.
Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that currently has more than 800 personnel embarked for the Puerto Rico mission including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners.
The hospital ship has one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States and is equipped with four X-ray machines, one CAT scan unit, a dental suite, an optometry lens laboratory, physical therapy center, pharmacy, angiography suite and two oxygen-producing plants.
Here’s a photo with the official caption,
Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog
I’ve written a couple of columns at Da Tech Guy, one here and one here, about Cook County’s hated one-cent-per-ounce soda tax championed by County Board President Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle, a left-wing Democrat. But the question I’ve been only alluding to here and on my own blog is this one: Why is this money needed?
And the soda pop tax is only the latest outrage. Like other counties, Cook levies property taxes, but it also mugs residents and anyone who buys something here with a 1.75 percent sales tax, along with gasoline, liquor and tobacco taxes.
(Those cheers you just heard come from retailers with shops on the other side of the Cook County line.)
County government in most places means the operation of a court system and a jail, providing law enforcement, particularly in unincorporated areas (Cook has few of those), and road maintenance. But in Cook County–Chicago is its seat–county government means building a massive health care network, the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, paid for by long-suffering taxpayers such as myself, and one that caters to the estimated 300,000 illegal immigrants living here.
A DNA Chicago article about plans for a new county health facility on Chicago’s Northwest Side that will replace a much smaller one, contains a revelation on where all of that tax money is going.
Once it’s running at full capacity, Carey [a county official] expects the site — one of 17 free clinics [emphasis mine] operated around the county — to host about 37,000 doctors’ visits annually, she said.
Keep in mind, this is just one clinic.
The proposal has been brewing since at least 2015, when doctors told newly elected Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. that they had “outgrown” the Logan Square facility, Arroyo said.
Instead of expanding it, county health officials began looking for a new location, where more immediate neighbors could take advantage. They landed in Belmont Cragin, whose estimated 12,000 undocumented residents [emphasis mine again] has one of the largest clusters of uninsured people in the city, Arroyo said.
Leftism is expensive. Sure, some of what is spent on county health care for illegal aliens is reimbursed by another arm of government. Emergency visits at county-run Stroger Hospital come to mind as does the expensive state-funded All Kids program. Hey, they get me coming and going in Illinois, that’s for sure. But who pays for the salaries and generous benefits for the county doctors, nurses, dentists, and administrators? Not Kim Jong Un, that’s for sure.
Princely but underfunded county worker pensions are another reason “Taxwinkle” needs her taxes.
As a political blogger I natural follow current events. But I don’t recall the conversation about the need for Cook County to transform itself into a welfare state, particularly for illegals, as well as a retirement program for not-working-so-hard county employees. But that’s what county government has evolved into here.
And taxes and spending keep soaring, even though the population of Crook County, oops, I mean Cook County, peaked around 50 years ago, when the county last had a Republican running it and when none of these taxes existed.
Yes, leftism is very expensive.
John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Cook County resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.
Diplomats have complained about symptoms ranging from hearing loss and nausea to headaches and balance issues after the State Department said “incidents” began affecting them in late 2016. In total, the State Department says there are 21 medically confirmed cases. The attacks were directed at their homes, which the Cuban government provides. The last reported incident was in August.
The Communist regime says it’s not involved with whoever is trying to fry the Americans’ brains.
North Korea claims that 4.7 million of its citizens have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the military since leader Kim Jong Un threatened to “tame” President Trump “with fire” last week, North Korean state media reported.
Not that any North Korean citizen – including Kim Jong Un’s uncle – ever has any choice.
It’s “Banned Books Week.” Pardon my groan. I rant about this every year. No end in sight, alas.
The folks behind Banned Books Week – a coalition of the American Library Association and allied groups – lost all credibility with me years ago when they conflated “banned” and “challenged,” especially when the challenge is to the use of a book in a curriculum. Get a clue: the challengers aren’t “banning” a book any more than the people who chose the book for the curriculum in the first place were “banning” alternatives.
In this country, you know what to do when a book is “challenged” and removed in school, and you think that’s a bad idea? READ IT YOURSELF. Read it to your kids. Write a review. Milk social media for all it’s worth. Give away copies on the steps of your local school.
Quit complaining that other people are making choices for you. Make your own choices.
Yes, kids have a right to read. They also have a right to know that questioning authority – specifically the authority to choose curriculum resources – does not amount to “censorship.”
While the NFL self-destroys, there are 3.5 million Americans who have more immediate concerns: The ones living in Puerto Rico.
Seven days after Hurricane Maria, most of the island has no electricity, no running water, no internet. Cell phone communications are going through the US military satellites, since the towers are gone. The storm destroyed airport radar systems. Most roads look like this,
Roads in the mountain areas are worse yet, due to landslides.
Not that you can drive too far, since gasoline can not be delivered to gas stations.
A Facebook friend’s sister described,
our town doesn’t look like a hurricane came through, it looks like a fire burned everything down.
In another town, my grandfather’s house is still standing, roof, doors and windows blown out for the first time in its 100-yr history.
Thousands of relatives and friends are sending help, among them the rapper Pit Bull, who is sending a private jet to transport cancer patients to the States for treatment – as soon as the airports are functioning.
Six commercial barges transported and delivered meals, water, generators, cots, and other commodities to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
An air bridge is established, flying three flights per day to St. Croix, each carrying approximately 33,000 meals.
The logistics support ship SS Wright arrived carrying more than 1.1 million meals, and nearly one million liters of freshwater.
Two shipping barges with 1.2 million liters of water, 31 generators, and more than 6,000 cots arrived in St. Thomas.
Two additional shipping barges loaded with food, water, and emergency relief supplies are en route to the Caribbean Sea from Florida.
Millions of additional meals are being flown to Puerto Rico from staging areas in Kentucky and Florida.
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is transporting a shipment of 124,000 gallons of diesel fuel to Puerto Rico, with arrival in the coming days.
In the very short term, the best thing the Trump administration can do is to waive the Jones Act (a.k.a. Merchant Marine Act of 1920).
The law requires that goods transported between U.S. ports be shipped on vessels built, majority-owned and manned by Americans. Think of it as a legally sanctioned shakedown for U.S. shipping interests.
Puerto Ricans pay dearly for this protectionism, which reduces competition and raises costs. A 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of New York report said the Jones Act helps explain why household and commercial goods cost roughly double to ship from the East Coast to Puerto Rico than to the nearby Dominican Republic or Jamaica. Food and energy costs are far higher than on the mainland.
The Act has been suspended after Hurricane Katrina, superstorm Sandy, and after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; but, outrageously,
the Department of Homeland Security said Monday it won’t issue a Jones Act waiver for the territory. Spokesman David Lapan explained in an email that there are “sufficient numbers of US-flagged vessels to move commodities to Puerto Rico.” DHS argues that under U.S. law the agency can’t ask for a waiver unless there’s a national defense threat and there aren’t enough Jones Act-compliant ships to carry goods.
Pres. Trump is visiting PR next Tuesday. I urge you to call the White House at Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414, and email, right now urging the President to suspend the Jones Act during this emergency.
Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog
Much well-deserved criticism has been leveled at the BBC for compelling Doctor Who to go transgender by having, after 41 years, a woman take the lead role. Not because, as DaTechGuy himself noted two months ago, the best performer was hired, but because the Doctor Who franchise apparently needs more diversity.
Keep in mind that the most recent companion of the Doctor was a black lesbian with a Colin Kaepernick-style afro. Oh, I am not automatically opposed to a female Doctor. Let’s say Judi Dench wanted the role. Would I watch? Sure, I would. It would be the same for me if Meryl Streep grabbed the controls of the TARDIS. But that last one can never happen. An American playing the Doctor? And one from New Jersey? Imagine the uproar!
But I’m here to review a different TV show.
Y Gwyll, which is Welsh for The Dusk, is called Hinterland in English. It’s a production of S4C, a Welsh-language public television network in Britain. So far three seasons have been released. Hinterland is also broadcast on BBC Wales–which ironically produces Doctor Who—as part of its commitment to provide more Welsh cultural offerings there. And BBC One offers the show too.
So does a political agenda and enjoyable television viewing mix? In this case, yes, they do.
Hinterland is a noir crime drama, a genre that is very popular in Scandinavia, where some of the funding for the program comes from. It’s an expensive series to shoot as every scene with dialogue is filmed twice, once in Welsh and then in English. And there is much outdoor filming which costs more than controlled studio shots.
After ten years working for the London Metropolitan Police, Detective Chief Inspector Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) relocates to the coastal town of Aberystwyth in western Wales after a family tragedy. The laconic and brooding character lives in a caravan, what the Brits call a trailer home, in front of the stone ruins of presumably an old farmhouse. Does this symbolism mean that Mathias cannot rebuild his life?
In the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood, which is set in Cardiff, we see a gleaming modern city, which is not surprising as the Torchwood alien-hunting team is led by a post-American time traveler from the 51st century. The Wales of Hinterland is one of collapsing old homes, crumbling walls, and failing farms. Yes, I love the cinematography here, but remember, I’m someone vacationed in Detroit two years ago to snap urban exploration photos. And in every Hinterland episode it seems to be early March–a stillborn spring. The countryside is gorgeous, reminiscent, to me at least, of the Flint Hills of Kansas.
Detective Inspector Mared Rhys (Mali Harries), a single mother is also burdened by a complicated past, is Mathias’ primary assistant; he is also ably aided by Siân Owens (Hannah Daniel) and Lloyd Elis (Alex Harris).
Hinterland is a slow-moving program–if car chases and gun battles are your Jones, then move along, there is little here for you. And it takes a while for the series plot to play out as a murder in the first episode of season one doesn’t begin to expand into other crimes until the end of that season. It builds from there as Mathias confronts Iwan Thomas (Geraint Morgan) who used to hold his job in Aberystwyth and whose past is as troubled as his own. Chief Superintendent Brian Prosser (Aneirin Hughes), Mathias’ recondite boss, discourages him from pursuing the Thomas angle in his investigations.
Season three was my favorite, as many loose ends are tied up. There are no plans for a fourth Hinterland batch–but the series hasn’t been cancelled either. But as Hinterland also receives funding from the European Union, politics could push the show out of its stillborn spring and into permanent winter.
Ah, politics. It really does ruin everything.
All three seasons of Hinterland are available on Netflix in the United States and in DVD form on Amazon.
Puerto Rico’s power grid was already in bad shape even before the 2017 hurricane season. PREPA’s power plants are 44 years old on average, reports Reuters — in contrast with the industry-wide average of 18 years.
The company, which filed for bankruptcy in July, called its own system “degraded and unsafe,” saying in a fiscal plan released this April that “years of under-investment have led to severe degradation of infrastructure,” according to Reuters.
According to Vox, PREPA also faces a manpower shortage that, even before this hurricane season, was already impeding its day-to-day maintenance.
. . .
Puerto Rican officials think that the power distribution infrastructure might be more badly damaged than power stations, the governor told CNN, adding that power could be more quickly restored if transmission lines turn out to be in better shape than thought.
Compounding the problem is Puerto Rico’s economic mess. I have posted about it for years; back to Lui’s article,
The general economic situation is also grim. Puerto Rico’s finances have been in dire straits for years. The island has yet to emerge from a decade-long recession, and unemployment stands at 11%. Its government entered a process similar to bankruptcy protection in May in a bid to restructure its debt load, currently in excess of $70 billion.
Maria and Irma hit at a time of financial strain for Puerto Rico. The island’s government and its state-owned public-power monopoly are under bankruptcy protection after years of overborrowing and a decade of economic recession. The U.S. Congress installed an oversight board last year to renegotiate roughly $73 billion in debt and to coax business interests back to the island.
More exasperating is the cell phone situation, where AT&T has exclusive rights, and companies such as FirstNet are not allowed to provide wireless services to first responders. AT&T is completely down.
Puerto Rico was on a downward spiral for years, well before Irma and Maria struck. One can only hope that this disaster becomes an opportunity to rebuild the entire island and cut down on decades’ worth of bloated, useless overspending and waste.
Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog
Pres. Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. You can read it in full here, and you should (video at Powerline).
1. Pres. Trump asserted the American constitutional system of governance, as Rick Manning said,
“not as imposition but an example to be followed, while at the same time respecting the sovereignty of other nations.”
2. The speech was a clear departure from the Obama era of apology. The Diplomad calls the speech “a powerful and clear foreign policy vision,”
It is a return to seeing the world as a collection of nation-states, each with its own interests and culture; states which can and should find areas of mutual cooperation while living their own lives and allowing others to live theirs. It is a step back from the silly borderless globalism which has produced the multi-cultural havoc we see in Western cities, and along our southern border. He puts our interests first, and asks other leaders to do the same with their countries. Revolutionary.
3. Trump was clear on Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela,
The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided the United States has ever entered into.
That is why in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has stood against the corrupt and destabilizing regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom. My administration recently announced that we will not lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms.
The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.
The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable. We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.
4. Three words you didn’t hear often during the Obama administration: radical Islamic terrorism,
We will stop radical Islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation, and indeed to tear up the entire world.
After a lawsuit delayed its imposition for a month, a one-cent per ounce sweetened beverage took effect which covers not just soda–whether it has sugar or artificial sweetener–but also flavored bottled water, sports beverages, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee. But not expensive sugary coffee purchased from a barista at a Starbucks or other high-end coffee vendors. Oh, how did that last one escape notice?
A penny-per-ounce doesn’t sound like much, but as you’ll see in my photograph on the left, a 42-ounce bottle of AriZona iced-tea on sale for a dollar at a Dollar Tree store near my home suddenly costs $1.42–that’s a 42-percent sales tax rate. A budget-minded family who purchases a 24-pack of store-brand pop (the word soda isn’t used much in the Chicago area) for $5.00 at the local big-box retailer has to dish out $7.88.
Of course the tax is “for the kids.” It always is that way with leftists.
Leftist? Who is a leftist?
Cook County Board President Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle, a Chicago Democrat, that’s who.
Proof? Do you want proof?
On my way to work on Friday I heard a clip from Dan Proft on WIND-AM Chicago of former Utah Republican politician Dan Liljenquist describing a “sobering experience” about the time he met with Preckwinkle when she was a Chicago alderman. Liljenquist was a law student at the University of Chicago and working for the Institute for Justice’s Clinic on Entrepreneurship. They were offering free legal advice to inner city Chicagoans who wished to start their own business. Liljenquist pitched his idea to Preckwinkle, who replied to him, “I’m opposed to self-employment. You give these people false hopes that they could ever earn a living on their own.”
Yes, Preckwinkle is a leftist. With leftists, government is their god. When there is a problem only government can solve it. Government, of course, is never the problem. So Preckwinkle has set herself up as Mother Preckwinkle, spending other people’s money on Cook County’s massive health care network. Perhaps private hospitals and health care institutions can do a better job, and there are plenty of them here. Sure, not all health care facilities accept Medicaid but plenty do. And what if–wait for it–instead of depending on county health care, county residents instead got jobs in the private sector and become eligible for employer-based health insurance. Or even better, let’s say they start their own businesses and hire people who become eligible for private insurance.
Oops, I’m giving them “false hopes.”
Cook County, not surprisingly, is suffering from negative population growth.
I mentioned Mother Preckwinkle. But sometimes a mother can’t do it all–she needs a nanny. Enter billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Nanny Bloomberg” is spending $3 million on radio and television ads supporting Taxwinkle’s tax. Opponents of the soda tax, the Can the Tax Coalition, led by retailers, are spending a lot on their ads too. Preckwinkle dismisses them as “Big Soda.”
Mother and Nanny say that the soda tax is a health care measure to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. But Taxwkinkle sued the retail group for delaying collection of the tax by for a month. You mean that the tax was not about health? After an uproar, the suit was quickly dropped.
Food stamp recipients, because of federal law, don’t have to pay the pop tax. There are nearly 900,000 people on food stamps in Cook County. That shoots the “for the kids” and “it’s for our health” argument to pieces.
Crook County has been living beyond its means for decades. Some of the soda tax money will go to woefully underfunded but generous pension plans. Mother Preckwinkle and her predecessors have been rewarding their public-sector union allies for most of my life.
But it’s not Preckwinkle’s money. It belongs to taxpayers such as myself.
Taxwinkle hasn’t campaigned as a leftist. Amazingly, she originally ran as a tax-cutter. Preckwinkle eliminated an unpopular county sales tax. Then she brought it back. But Preckwinkle is governing as a leftist. Because of course she is one. It’s time for Cook County residents to wake up and think about what they vote for. And that includes the mostly lap-dog members of the Cook County Board.
And many more politicians as well.
Leftism is expensive but it’s profitable for retailers who live on the other side of the Cook County line. Pop sales are booming there.
John Ruberry is a fifth-generation Cook County resident who regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.