Death, Fear, and Republicans loathing their position for the midterms

Guardian News / YouTube Russia inquiry how Trump  s...
Guardian News / YouTube

Lynn Goldman wants to set the record straight on the death toll from Hurricane Maria.

To set the record straight, our study was carried out with no interference whatsoever from any political party or institution. It was based on a careful examination of all of the deaths officially reported to the government of Puerto Rico between September 2017 and February 2018. Our scientists, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Health, used state-of-the-art mathematical modeling to compare the total number of deaths during that time to the expected number of deaths, based on historical patterns as well as age, sex, socioeconomic status and migration from the island.

From now own, Donald Trump’s tweets on Hurricane Maria should be the go-to reference whenever you’re worrying that Trump isn’t really an idiot, he just plays one on TV. Because in the Maria-related tweets, Donald Trump tries, convicts, and condemns Donald Trump of incompetence that does not stop short of murder.

What does Trump keep insisting? That there were only “6 to 18” deaths “when I left the Island, after the storm had hit.” He’s probably right about that. The deaths from Hurricane Maria didn’t come primarily from people killed directly in the storm. If they had, if some massive storm surge had swept through San Juan or a landslide had washed cities along the northeast coast, it would have been terrible … but forgivable. That’s not what happened.

But the 2,960 people who died after Trump got on his plane and left didn’t die from wind. They didn’t die from rain. They died from neglect. They are directly Trump’s fault. And the fact that he’s flat-out saying that these people survived the storm, but could not survive his handling of the aftermath, and that he thinks this absolves him, is horrible in every direction. People who lived through 140 mph winds, days of driving rain, flooding and landslides died later, because Donald Trump came, saw, and pitched six rolls of paper towels. Trump is directly, directly complicit in the deaths of those Americans.

We do not know the exact circumstances around each of the 2,975 excess deaths that occurred. Many factors — disruption in transportation, access to food, water, medications, power and other essentials — may have contributed. In interviews, we heard many heartbreaking stories of families struggling to obtain emergency health care, power for medical devices, prescription drugs, or even food and drinking water. This is why we were not surprised to find that the highest rates of excess deaths occurred among those living in the poorest municipalities, as well as those over the age of 65, especially men.

Trump wasn’t responsible for the wind, or the flooding. But the transportation, the access to food and water, the power for medical devices — that was and is his job.

Leonard Pitts is humming along to Bob Woodward’s new book.

Trump has tried to laugh the book off, using tactics that by now seem as familiar as they do desperate and threadbare. “Fiction,” he tweeted. “Joke,” he tweeted. And etcetera.

Problematically for him, however, this isn’t Michael Wolff, whose “Fire and Fury” was marred by reportorial sloppiness. Nor is it some former aide who can be written off as disgruntled. No, Woodward is the real deal, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who was making his bones when Trump and his daddy were still scheming how not to rent apartments to black people.

That said, the portrait he paints is quite reminiscent of others we’ve read. Trump emerges as an idiot, an uninformed boor, a mean bully, an idiot, a liar, an incompetent lout, an idiot, a whiny toddler.

And an idiot.

In fact, there’s a good argument to be made that there are no real surprises in the Woodward book. No surprises for anyone who has ever spent ten minutes actually listening t Trump. What makes Fear so powerful is simply that the people around Trump seem to have the same opinion of him as the people who voted against him. And why is that? Because they know him.

And, of course, the Woodward book reminds us again just how much English needs some new synonyms for “idiot.” Give it another six months and Lester Holt will be saying “fuckwit” on the evening news. Because you have to have something.

Kathleen Parker is here to remind you that when the subject is literally anything but Donald Trump, and only a subset of Trump-related news at that, she’s ready to plunge off the right side of the world with the worst of them.

After several days of showboating and judicial hazing, Democrats pulled out their biggest weapon against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh: a letter from an anonymous woman claiming sexual misconduct in high school.

There are no words — except, perhaps, desperate, scurrilous and embarrassing to anyone with a conscience and a grown-up brain.

Um. Moving on.

Ruth Marcus asks that the accusations get a public airing.

Déjà vu, but not all over again.  As the story emerges of sexual assault-type allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, it is important not to leap to misleading parallels between the situation now and the allegations 27 years ago against Supreme Court nominee and now-Justice Clarence Thomas. It’s also important not to draw false conclusions; in fact, a failure to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation on the basis of this accusation would not signal the failure of the #MeToo moment. It would not indicate that nothing has changed.

I have some basis for making this assessment: I was there, literally, at the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. I thought the facts, contested and convoluted, backed Hill’s story then, and I believe that now. And as this unexpected echo reverberates, there are reasons both to treat the allegations against Kavanaugh seriously and reasons to doubt whether they are, or will turn out to be, sufficient to deny Kavanaugh confirmation.

Honestly, the list of reasons to deny Kavanaugh confirmation is legion, starting with his persistent lying to the Senate, his involvement in the use of stolen documents to conduct an influence campaign during a previous administration, and his simply indefensible and extraordinarily inconsistent legal opinions. The accusation is just a reminder that Kavanaugh is not even even the “good car pool guy” the Republicans are trying to sell.

David Von Drehle wants some climate prescriptions to go with his predictions.

The case for limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is all right there. Most people get it. Yet many of our most passionate citizens on this topic seem to believe that only panic will produce results. In trying to stimulate alarm, however, they often wind up fortifying the dwindling but stubborn cadre of skeptics.

Case in point: Hurricane Florence. As the cyclone worked its way up the Saffir-Simpson scale of storm strength, I braced for the inevitable pronouncements that climate change is making our storms worse, with Florence as Exhibit A. Then the incredible complexity of climate kicked in. The cyclone went to pieces (as most of them, thankfully, do) and staggered ashore as a very wet and dangerous Category 1 storm. Power was knocked out, homes were flooded, trees were snapped or torn up by the roots. An unpleasant, unwelcome visitor, but hardly unprecedented.

I’m sorry, but this is a stupid argument in every way. First off, as with every other argument on any subject ever, telling people to back away because the people who are dead wrong might be unhappy to admit they are dead wrong, is miserable, untenable, self-defeating advice. It’s just bad. And yes Hurricane Florence was affected by climate change. The fact that it stumbled down the home stretch doesn’t make one whit of difference. Von Drehle is treating science in this article as if it is not just no more than opinion, but as if he expects it to be magic. This is a “I didn’t get lung cancer, so how can you say cigarettes are bad?” article. This is just a godawful bad article.

Megan Mayhew Bergman provides some contrast to the “don’t say anything, because it might upset the skeptics” approach.

In 2012, the conservative-leaning North Carolina legislature passed HB 219, a bill that deemed current climate science “unreliable” and “extreme”. The best science was left out of coastal development and policy discussions. “They need to use some science that we can all trust when we start making laws in North Carolina that affect property values on the coast,” the Republican state representative Pat McElraft said. The result is an overly developed, vulnerable coastline, one currently inundated with storm surge.

Shhh! They might here you and be “fortified” by your statements.

Like many thorny issues in North Carolina – gendered bathrooms, gay marriage, Confederate monuments, radical gerrymandering – conservatives insisted on looking backward instead of forward on climate change. This mentality will probably cost the state billions of dollars in forthcoming damage to infrastructure and homes. The past six years could have been spent planning for climate events like Florence, making coastal communities more resilient.

Richard Wolffe calls Maria Trump’s “forgotten scandal” except no one seems to have forgotten.

Several thousand Americans died. Not because of the storm itself, but because of the botched recovery. Yet until very recently, government officials dodged all accountability by clinging to the lie that just a few dozen lives were lost.  …

It should not take a group of researchers to figure out these numbers a year after the hurricane. The only reason for dodging the truth like this is to block all the awkward questions that follow: why did all those American citizens die, and who was responsible for their deaths?

Actually it always takes a group of researchers to figure out the death toll following a major calamity. It’s just that in most states which have been jerked around by a non-representative Congress that likes to treat them as a testbed for Economic Theory of the Week, the government is robust enough to conduct much of the research internally.

Dana Milbank on that Republican feeling that the ship is sinking and they have to wonder why they’re carrying such a huge anchor.

President Trump is getting his wish: It’s all about him.

The election, that is.

New evidence indicates that the midterm elections in seven weeks will be the clearest referendum on a president in at least 80 years.

But while it may delight the narcissistic president that the 2018 midterms are entirely about him, this is precisely what his fellow Republicans were hoping to avoid. With Trump’s support at historic lows — 60 percent overall disapprove of his performance, including 59 percent of independents — Republicans scrambling to hold the House and Senate have been struggling in vain to make the election about other issues: tax cuts, Democrats’ personal foibles — anything to avoid the election being about Trump.

This has failed, bigly.

I happened to be in the Nashville area last weekend and caught the television ad for Marsha Blackburn. Or rather, I should say I caught the ad for Trump. Because 100 percent of the ad is Trump whining about various topics and rallies and eventually getting around to comments about Democratic candidate Phil Bredeson being against him. Blackburn never enters into her own commercial except to say she approved Trump’s rambling.

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