Puerto Rico Death Toll

Puerto Rico Death Toll


Mollie Tibbetts was a student at the University of Iowa who disappeared on July 18, 2018. Her body was found a month later and the suspect in her murder is a 24-year-old Mexican in this country illegally.

Conservatives have played this up as an argument for Trump’s racist border wall and for stronger anti-immigration policies.

The suspect was an employee at Yarrabee Farms, owned by Craig Lang, a prominent Republican in Iowa. As part of his employment, he was allowed to live rent-free on the farm’s property. The Lang family claimed they had vetted his immigration status through the E-Verify program. After that agency indicated Yarrabee Farms did not subscribe to the E-Verify program, they changed their story and said they had checked with the Social Security Administration and that the immigrant had given them false information on his status.

Donald Trump has played this up, much like he has with the murder of Kate Steinle. Mike Pence and other Republicans have piled on. The Tibbetts family has asked them to stop politicizing it.

Karin Housley, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota said, “liberal Democrats are more concerned about protecting criminal aliens than protecting innocent lives like Mollie Tibbetts.” That’s politicizing it. Tibbetts’ cousin told political commentator Candace Owens, “stop being a fucking snake and using my cousin’s death as political propaganda.” Of course, none of these conservatives are attacking the Republicans who illegally employed the accused murderer.

At Mollie’s funeral, her father said, “The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans. As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”

Trump stated, “A person came in from Mexico illegally and killed her. We need the wall, we need our immigration laws changed, we need our border laws changed.” If one death should spark change, then 3,000 should demand it.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Donald Trump was tweeting about NBA player Steph Curry not wanting to visit the White House. He waited two weeks to visit the island (which he helpfully informed us is “an island surrounded by water”). The two weekends before his visit, he was playing golf. When he finally did visit, he claimed the hurricane only killed 16 people, and he threw paper towels at survivors.

It took eleven months for power to be restored to Puerto Rico. You didn’t hear much from Trump on the subject except for how great of a job he did and that any blame should fall on the local leaders.

Trump didn’t pay any attention to Puerto Rico before Maria hit, and he hasn’t paid much more since. Trump thought the governor of Puerto Rico was the president of the island. On the day the government raised the death total to nearly 3,000, Trump said, “I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico … I think most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done.” Nobody, especially the president of the United States, should believe that 3,000 deaths are a “fantastic” job.

I wouldn’t expect Trump to take blame, but at the very least he could promise to do better. He’d admit the government dropped the ball or didn’t do enough. Instead, in pure Trumpian obtuseness and fashion, he wants credit for a great job that never happened because he’s our “favorite president.” He stated, “it’s been incredible the results that we’ve had with respect to loss of life.” From there, he’s turned it into a culture war as he’s feuded with the mayor of San Juan, who has two qualities of his favorite bullying targets, being Hispanic and female.

We should be outraged by the murder of Mollie Tibbetts. One untimely death is too many. So are 3,000. We should demand change to prevent future deaths from psychopaths.

I suggest we make a change at the top.

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On September 11, 2001, my mother called me freaking out and afraid that terrorists were going to fly airplanes into my apartment. I live 50 miles from the Pentagon, but for mom, that was still too close. She passed away in 2002 but would have lost her mind if she had seen the events of the D.C. Sniper which spread to my town later that year (and just a few miles from the apartment spared by al Qaeda). So, I know if she was still alive, and I was still living on Oahu, which is about 200 miles from the Kilauea Volcano, she’d still be worried red-hot molten lava would be flowing through my bedroom window.

Kilauea was erupting when I lived on Oahu in 1997-98. It’s been erupting since 1983. To put it in perspective, The Police released Every Breath You Take, toured the world, broke up, bickered for nearly three decades, reunited for another world tour, and broke up again during the time of Kilauea’s current eruption. Sting’s solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles was a larger tragedy than Kilauea.

The islands of Hawaii were created by volcanoes. The Big Island (how locals refer to island of Hawaii) has five volcanoes with three of them classified as active. Kilauea isn’t even the largest. The volcano’s eruption is changing the shape of the island by the minute, though the spots of eruptions and lava flows have fluctuated over the years. Last month, a new eruption started in lower Puna after a 5.0 earthquake. A 6.9 earthquake hit the next day, and 27 houses were destroyed within five days. Thankfully, no lives have been lost.

Hawaii knows how to take these things in stride. They’ve made a tourist attraction out of the erupting volcano.

All this brings an important question. Does the president know Hawaii is a part of the United States? It’s a good question because he was surprised to learn Puerto Rico was a part of our nation, that it’s an island, and islands are things surrounded by water. He once referred to the governor of the territory as the “president of Puerto Rico,” not realizing that he is the “president” of Puerto Rico.

I’m really glad Kilauea isn’t killing people yet, because Hawaii is also an island (several), and they too are surrounded by water (what a coincidence). And, there are a lot of dark people in Hawaii. My concern is that Trump would disregard a disaster there much in the same way he’s casually dismissed the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria.

Trump believes Maria killed 64 people, which is somehow a great personal achievement for him that the toll was lower than hurricane deaths during other presidential administrations. The New York Times estimates the death toll at 1,065. Other researchers have put the number roughly at 4,600. But, math is hard. Trump is still trying to open that big envelope Kim Jong Un sent him.

Puerto Rico and Hawaii are obviously not shithole countries. But, I’m not sure they’ll continue to elude that designation…as long as Donald Trump remains president over them.

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