The Wheels Of Justice Sometimes Turn Very Slowly

Yesterday The Washington Post reported the following:

The FBI on Wednesday arrested two former senior officials who served in administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, leading the chair of the House committee that oversees Puerto Rico to call for the governor to step down.

The arrests also spurred concerns on Capitol Hill about the billions of dollars in aid that Congress has approved for the island.

The federal indictment says the former officials illegally directed federal funding to politically-connected contractors. The arrests come about a month after Congress approved a controversial disaster aid bill that earmarked additional funding for Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017, which were tied up in part because President Trump called Puerto Rico’s officials “incompetent or corrupt.”

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the Natural Resource Committee that oversees Puerto Rico, called on Rosselló to resign amid the ongoing federal investigation.

The article concludes:

The arrests come as senior White House officials are searching for new ways to limit the amount of federal aid going to help Puerto Rico, and the island’s allies fear the arrests will give Trump greater justification for curtailing additional aid to the island.

“The governor of Puerto Rico and his administration have now given President Trump the ammunition he needed,” said San Juan Mayor Yulin Cruz, a political opponent of the governor.

I really think we need to make sure that any additional aid given to Puerto Rico will be properly administered and distributed. It appears that they have a corruption problem, and there is no way of knowing whether or not it has been solved. Unfortunately, it will be the people who need to help the most who will suffer the most because of the corruption.

Somehow They Don’t Seem Overly Concerned

Optics do matter in politics. However, some of our politicians are so accustomed to the media covering up their antics that they don’t even worry about the optics anymore. This was obvious last weekend when thirty Democrats headed out for a fun weekend in Puerto Rico despite the continuing government shutdown.

On Friday The Washington Examiner posted an article about the weekend trip.

The article reports:

Some 30 Democratic lawmakers left the government shutdown behind Friday on a chartered flight to Puerto Rico for a winter retreat with 109 lobbyists and corporate executives during which they planned to see the hit Broadway show “Hamilton” and attend three parties including one with the show’s cast.

Those attending the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC winter retreat in San Juan planned to meet with key officials to discuss the cleanup after Hurricane Maria at a roundtable Saturday.

But the weekend is packed with free time for the members and their families on the trip.

“We are excited for you to join us for CHC BOLD PAC’s 2019 Winter Retreat in San Juan, Puerto Rico! Each year, this retreat serves as a way for our CHC BOLD PAC Members and friends in the D.C. community to come together to escape the cold and discuss our shared priorities for a stronger and more prosperous country,” said a memo on the trip.

Some 109 lobbyists and corporate executives are named in the memo, a rate of 3.6 lobbyists for every member. They include those from several big K Street firms, R.J. Reynolds, Facebook, Comcast, Amazon, PhRMA, Microsoft, Intel, Verizon, and unions like the National Education Association.

What chance does the average American citizen have in getting the ear of his Congressman when lobbying groups can do this sort of thing?

The press release regarding the event is predictable–it blames President Trump for the shutdown and explains that the event was scheduled months before the shutdown. President Trump is at least partially responsible for the shutdown, but another aspect of the shutdown is the refusal of Representative Pelosi to negotiate. Having thirty of your Democrat Congressmen running off to Puerto Rico to party when the government is shut down does not make good political optics. I wonder if the American people will notice.

This Will Continue As Long As There Is A Market For It

The Washington Examiner is reporting today that U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 52 bales of cocaine near Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands last week. The street value of the cocaine is roughly $30 million.

The article reports:

CBP officials said Puerto Rico is becoming an attractive smuggling route this year for cocaine and heroin headed for the United States. In 2017, CBP seized nearly 66,000 pounds of drugs in and around Puerto Rico, more than any prior year on record.

“Drug trafficking organizations have always sought to use the Caribbean as a route to smuggle both narcotics and migrants. The logistics to do so are intrinsically more complicated than traversing the southwest border,” Jeffrey Quinones, a spokesman for CBP’s Puerto Rico and Virgin Island outposts, told the Washington Examiner. “Nonetheless, we have seen cyclical increases in the quantity of narcotics brought to these islands and a diversity of means to conceal and enter the product.”

This illustrates the need to have secure borders surrounding our nation. Obviously these drugs would not be smuggled in unless Americans were using them, but the fact remains that the flow of drugs needs to be stopped. At that point we will have a much better chance of helping those addicted.

One Standard For Me, Another Standard For Thee

During the hearings for Justice Kavanaugh, there were charges that he was too political or too biased in one direction. The implication was that Supreme Court Judges should not be political. That is a reasonable standard, but is it applied evenly?

On Thursday, Newsbusters posted an article that included the following:

Despite acknowledging that she should not do so, on her current book tour United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor nevertheless waded into politicking, bashing both the Federal Government’s response to Hurricane María in Puerto Rico and exhorting Latino voters to go to the polls “to change this life for us Latinos.”

In separate interviews with Telemundo and Univision, Sotomayor’s partisan edge was evident. On its October 16 national evening newscast, Telemundo featured Sotomayor’s message as part of that network’s Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) campaign, currently being deployed in partnership with an array of politically liberal-aligned voter mobilization organizations (including Voto Latino, UnidosUS, Hispanic Federation and Mi Familia Vota).

…That same evening on Univision’s national evening newscast, Sotomayor was featured bashing the Federal Government’s massive response to Hurricane María in Puerto Rico. She even prefaced her criticism that “help…is not being received” by acknowledging she was wading into political matters.

…Evidently for Sotomayor, the fact that following Hurricane María Puerto Rico was the object of the largest disaster commodity federal response and the largest generator installation mission in U.S. history was not enough, nor was the fact that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alone has allocated to Puerto Rico $20 billion in Community Development Block Grants, a figure more than twice the size of the U.S. Caribbean territory’s annual budget for its entire government.

At least Sotomayor was wise enough, during her interview with Univision, to remain diplomatic about fellow Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s recent arrival to the Court, saying that “Among colleagues there is always a welcome. He is a new member of our Court. We have to work with him and now we are beginning our new family. We work together, so let’s let this time pass.”

The problem in Puerto Rico was not the amount of aid–it was the corruption involved in distributing the aid.

On October 17th, USA Today reported:

FBI agents raided municipal offices in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday, seizing documents and digital records as part of an investigation into fraud allegations related to the city government. 

Special agent in charge Douglas Leff said federal investigators are also looking into potential obstruction of the investigation. According to Leff, agents believe documents tied to the reported irregularities in the city’s purchasing procedures might have been taken from the building or falsified.

If Justice Sotomayor is going to get involved in politics, she should at least do us the courtesy of getting her facts right. The problem is not the Trump administration–it is the corruption in Puerto Rico.

There Seems To Be More To This Story Than Is Being Reported By Most Of The Media

The Conservative Treehouse posted a story today about the crisis in Puerto Rico following hurricane Maria. The mainstream media is making all sorts of charges against President Trump’s handling of the relief effort. Well, it seems that there is a little more to the story.

The article reports:

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, has the following comment:

…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”.. (link)

The ports are so full of relief supplies they can’t fit any more on the available space.

This is a report posted on Twitter from someone who is there:

There is nothing that President Trump could do in any situation that would make the media report on him favorably. I wonder if they are even aware of what is actually happening in Puerto Rico.  It’s just a shame that the union drivers won’t help in the effort to help Puerto Rico recover from this massive hurricane.

Avoiding The Truth For Political Purposes

Yesterday The Daily Caller posted a story about the hospital ship USNS Comfort which is headed to Puerto Rico to help with disaster relief. The story details the attempt by Hillary Clinton to take credit for the ship heading there.

The article reports:

The Washington Post is praising former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who tweeted about sending the hospital ship Sunday, for the federal government’s decision to provide additional relief.

The Post article links Clinton’s tweet to a petition that was launched on change.org to send the Comfort to Puerto Rico, even though the petition appears to have been put in motion before her social media post. The petition gained more than 100,000 signatures, but there is no clear indication that Clinton’s actions triggered the deployment of the Comfort. The WaPo article may be a logical “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy.

“I don’t know anything about that,” a Department of Defense official told The Daily Caller News Foundation when asked if the Pentagon took the former Democratic presidential nominee’s tweet or the petition into consideration when it decided to send the Comfort.

The U.S. deployed naval assets to assist in the aftermath of both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, and the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsage and the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill were dispatched to provide aid to those in need in Puerto Rico, which was recently devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The efforts by those on the political left to deny that President Trump is helping Puerto Rico have reached an unbelievable level. It would be nice if those who accuse the President of being divisive would at least unite behind him on the relief efforts.

For those of you still claiming that the president is a racist, how do you explain the awards he has been given in the past for promoting harmony between races and providing job opportunities for minorities? Also, have you looked at the history of Mar-a-Lago? Donald Trump literally fought city hall to allow blacks and Jews to come to his resort. Why was he never called a racist until he became a Republican?

Unfortunately, This Is Only The Beginning

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to deal with Puerto Rico‘s debt crisis today. Bloomberg reported the following:

The U.S. House passed a hard-fought, bipartisan compromise designed to stem Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis after months of wrangling and a significant default.

The legislation, passed 297-127 Thursday, would establish a seven-member financial oversight board to manage a restructuring of Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt and oversee the island’s finances. The commonwealth racked up the debt after years of borrowing to cover operating costs. The plan envisions the largest federal intervention into the island’s fiscal affairs since it became a U.S. territory in 1898 after the Spanish-American War.

This is a graph taken from the International Business Times:

PuertoRicoDebtThe direction of their debt was clear. They were evidently unable to get spending under control.

Bloomberg reports:

In the vote, 139 Republicans joined 158 Democrats in favor, while 103 Republicans and 24 Democrats opposed it.

The thing that worries me about this whole situation is that we have numerous cities and states within the United States that have large amounts of ‘unfunded liabilities’ that will eventually catch up with them. At that point they will probably ask Congress for money. At least Congress did not simply bail out Puerto Rico (and hopefully it will not bail out our cities and states as they find themselves in similar situations). This bill seems to be more of a restructuring and a restraint on spending than a bail out. That is better than a bail out, but there will be many people who are owed money that will not be paid what they are owed.

The article at Bloomberg explains why many Congressmen felt that this action was necessary:

Yet the most persuasive closing argument for many lawmakers may have been one articulated by, among others, Alabama Republican Bradley Byrne: “What really worries me is that if Congress doesn’t act on this legislation, then we will at some point find ourselves facing serious pressure to vote on a true, actual bailout of Puerto Rico. That would be a grave mistake.”

A group of unions led by the AFL-CIO urged House Democrats to vote against the bill because of the minimum-wage and overtime pay provisions. The conservative group Heritage Action opposes the measure because it allows debt restructuring and temporarily shields Puerto Rico’s government from lawsuits filed by creditors.

The commonwealth’s fiscal crisis has been escalating since last June, when Garcia Padilla said the administration couldn’t afford to repay $70 billion of debt left by years of borrowing to cover budget shortfalls as the economy contracted and residents left at a record pace for the U.S. mainland. It has since failed to cover $370 million due on bonds sold by the Government Development Bank and $150 million for two other agencies as it conserved cash.

Stay tuned.

Collecting Welfare Benefits In Massachusetts

I know that there are a lot of people collecting welfare benefits and that makes it hard to keep track of every penny, but Massachusetts has taken inefficiency to a new level. WCVB reported yesterday that an audit of the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance identified 1,164 cases where recipients continued to receive a total of $2.39 million in benefits from six to 27 months after they were reported to be deceased.

Boston.com also commented on the audit:

The report, which covered food stamps, cash, and other benefits to low-income families, estimated that recipients using a dead person’s Social Security number alone received at least $2.4 million in between July 2010 and April 2012. It also flagged another $15 million in suspicious transactions from electronic benefit cards during the two-and-a-half-year period the auditor reviewed.

Boston.com also reported:

The state auditor also found another $15 million in suspicious transitions on electronic benefit cards – including nearly $5 million where all the food benefits were withdrawn at once; $4.6 million in transactions from distant states or territories (including Hawaii, Florida, and Puerto Rico); $3.6 million where recipients made multiple purchases or withdrawals within an hour; $1.5 million where recipients regularly rang up transactions in even dollar amounts (such as $100) and $840,000 where a card number was manually entered into a retail terminal instead of being swiped (suggesting a card user may have stolen the card number, but didn’t have the actual card).

This is taxpayers’ money. If those responsible for spending it cannot do a better job of being responsible, we should stop giving them the money.

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Driving Down The Road After The Hurricane…

This is a picture from a website called egotvonline.com. I cannot say for sure that it is not photoshopped, but it is a very interesting picture. The picture was supposedly taken in Puerto Rico after hurricane Irene. The person who posted the picture explains in the caption that this is one of the reasons you do not go swimming in the flood waters after a hurricane. Can you imagine being trapped in your car and seeing a shark swim by?

shark in the street puerto rico hurricane irene

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