Hurricanes Irma and Trump

As I write this, Hurricane Irma is edging ever closer to Florida, where what was probably the largest evacuation in U.S. history has taken place. In Washington, the President has tipped over the Republican establishment’s misplayed chessboard and once it’s set up properly the game will be played to his advantage and ours.

Hurricane Irma

In my opinion, the best visuals on tracking Hurricane Irma (and its follow-on Hurricane Jose) is a site called It looks like Cuba is now getting smashed as the eye lingers over mid-island, and it seems to be traveling west, so Southern Florida may be spared the worst of it. As was the case in Houston we see the value of sound executive skills on the part of the President, the governor, mayors, FEMA, the National Guard, the police, the rescue teams, the highway and electrical workers, the military, and hundreds of volunteers. Latest estimates show about 1.7 million people were evacuated in orderly fashion. Oil tanker trucks streamed south to facilitate movement of citizens north. (Let’s hear it for those who oppose the idea that we should give up private transportation and let the government move us around. Compare the sight of cars and trucks with the submerged school buses in New Orleans’ disastrous failure of political responsibility during Katrina.) Those who chose to stay were warned well in advance to prepare, and shelters were ready and well publicized for those who needed it. Family and friends sheltered people in Alabama and camp sites were set up for those who were unable to find shelter there.

All in all, it was both frightening and inspiring. My hat’s off to those who did their jobs and those who voluntarily pitched in. Absent an opportunity to attack the president, climate change was schlepped out of the media’s nostrum grab bag.

It was suggested that these back-to-back category 4 storms were unprecedented. Not so.

Statistician Salil Mehta explains this is rare but not unprecedented:

Several hundred hurricanes were examined since mid-19th century.  And what’s remarkable therefore is that we have never seen many other situations such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma before, how soon one Category 4 hurricane followed another in the same part of the world.  The only close example otherwise during the past ½ century were the Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki, both in late 1992, and on two different oceans!

Facebook poster Joshua Scharf notes that Hurricanes Katia, Irma and Jose are following almost the same path as did hurricanes Karl, Igor, and Julia in September 2010.

Nor is Irma the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic ever recorded:

Among the 24 most intense Atlantic hurricanes since 1924, Irma is currently tied for second in wind speed.

[snip] And tied for 12th place according to atmospheric pressure:[snip] “The Most Powerful Atlantic Ocean Storm In Recorded History” meme fits the narrative: Global warming is causing hurricanes to become more severe… Another lie.

Hurricanes are not increasing in severity

The National Hurricane Center’s hurricane climatology page has a handy list of Atlantic Basin tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes from 1851-2014.  There is no statistically meaningful trend in hurricane frequency or severity.

[snip] While there might be a somewhat statistically significant increase in the number of tropical storms (R² = 0.2274), this could simply be due improvements in the detection and identification of storms at sea… There is no statistically meaningful trend in the numbers of hurricanes or major hurricanes.

There are also no statistically meaningful trends in the rates at which tropical storms are “blossoming” into hurricanes or major hurricanes:

Apart from the factual distortions of climate change promoters, their grandiosity is captured by Wretched T. Cat: “The idea hurricanes are caused by Global Warming means humanity is in control of the weather, but just hasn't exercised it yet.”

In contrast to the efficient, humane handling of the hurricanes in the U.S. and the fake CBS report, Humberto Fontova says Cubans were utterly unprepared -- not even warned -- of the approaching storm:

“Cuba normally gears up quickly for storms with constant advisories on TV and radio urging people to prepare. The Civil Defense, run by a general and the military, jumps into action to evacuate people and animals from low-lying areas, to move food supplies to higher ground, harvest crops quickly and distribute the monthly food rations to people before the storm hits.” (CBS News. Sept. 8.)

In fact, as late as the night of Sept. 5th with Hurricane Irma forecast to rake the entire island of Cuba from end to end, many Cubans were completely unaware of the hurricane’s very existence!

Your humble servant confirmed this from many friends with family still in Cuba. Alarmed by the forecasts at mid-week, these U.S.-based friends called their Cuba-based relatives to ask about their preparations for the hurricane…

“What hurricane?” came the responses from Cuba. They hadn’t heard a thing about the looming catastrophe! 

Seems the fine folks who graciously granted CBS’ their Cuba “press” bureau hadn’t gotten around to mentioning it! CBS, on the other hand, transcribes their Cuba “news” straight from communist propaganda apparatchiks. 

But no big deal, right? What with all that free and fabulous health care Cubans enjoy (as constantly reported by CBS) what’s a little category 5 Hurricane? 

Of course, given Cuban citizens' already meager food and shelter, lack of private transportation, fuel, and infrastructure, I suppose the Cuban authorities figured, why bother?

In the U.S so far, the damage is largely economic. The human toll seems very small. I doubt that will be the case in corrupt, mismanaged Cuba.

The President Storms on Through

Washington D.C. experienced another kind of hurricane this week when the President cut a deal to extend the debt ceiling for a few months in exchange for a quick passage of hurricane relief funds. Byron York best explained this shrewd move in back-to-back tweets:

So big worry was this Fall Congress had to handle 1) Budget 2) Debt ceiling 3) Hurricane and 4) Tax reform, plus 5) Avoid shutdown.

-- Byron York (@ByronYork) September 6, 2017

So Trump-Dem deal takes 1) 2) 3) and 5) off table for September. Gives time to do -- well, how about that -- tax reform.

-- Byron York (@ByronYork) September 6, 2017 

At Just One Minute, Tom Maguire took minor issue with York’s analysis.

As to Trump's strategy: I dispute York's "clear the decks" strategy. Instead of "decks" I would use a hostage metaphor -- now EVERYTHING can get pushed into reconciliation or debt ceiling, or at tied to it. Maybe Trump trades wall funding for a different tax rate.

That strategy can work -- some brilliant negotiator (I am getting a dim glow saying it was James Baker) used to say that if a problem is intractable, make it bigger. More moving parts means more chances to find a winning combination. So maybe tax reform by itself is undoable but coupled with DACA or the wall, something can give.

But no, this isn't clearing the decks -- this is increasing the complexity, hopefully to create more bargaining chips.

Other thought: Other than a few issues, like immigration, Trump is nowhere near a hard-line rightist. He may have assessed that he can find votes among the 60% of Congressional Dems and Reps who are not in line with their parties more extreme flank. OK, that mix does not include Pelosi, but the moderate leaders certainly include Schumer, Ryan and McConnell. Time to find the deals he promised!

The Republican leadership, which certainly seems to be driving a rear guard action against the president, was stunned: 

Republicans left the Oval Office Wednesday stunned. Trump had quickly sided with Democrats on a short-term debt ceiling increase, even overruling his own Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to concur with "Chuck and Nancy," as he later called them on Air Force One.

But Trump defied more than his top aides. He turned on Republican leaders in Congress when he caved to Democrats’ demands to raise the debt limit and fund the government for three months, setting up a brutal year-end fiscal cliff. The move shocked everyone, as top White House officials and GOP leaders had been gearing up to raise the debt ceiling through the 2018 midterm election, looking to pass legislation as soon as Friday.

But even after Mnuchin, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back on the Democratic demands in the meeting, Trump agreed to the three-month deal that will also head off the possibility of a government shutdown until mid-December.

During the meeting, Ryan sharply criticized the Democratic proposal, a source familiar with the exchange said. But Schumer reminded him that Ryan had supported short-term increases in the past intended to help create bipartisan deals in 2013.

So after Democrats rejected GOP proposals to raise the debt ceiling for 18 months, and then six months -- Trump endorsed Schumer’s three-month pitch.

Kurt Schlichter explains what the deal means to Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell, who did look like hostages in the photos of that fateful meeting at the White House:

Of the S.S. Conservative Titanic.

“Republicans, you can be proud of me! I went to Washington, left Obamacare in place, complained that Donald Trump was mean to the liberals who hate us, and started down the road to amnesty, just like you wanted! And by ‘you’ I mean the Wall Street Journal editorial board, some fussy Never Trumpers on Twitter, and the GOP wonks who used to read Ayn Rand books while normal guys were kissing girls.”

Boy oh boy, it must sure suck for you that we conservatives are now woke.

Woke,” that hilariously dopey term used by semi-literate leftists when they sort of mean “aware,” is just too sweet a word not to confiscate and deploy on our own behalf. It perfectly describes us normals’ now-permanent state of agitated readiness in anticipation of the latest way the conservacreeps are going to try to shaft us. We’re woke, which means we’re watching, and more than that, we’re acting on our wokedness. That’s why Felonia von Pantsuit is busy pounding bourbon and writing books blaming Bernie and Russia instead of being busy purging that troublesome Bill of Rights of our troublesome civil rights.

Look, here’s how you Fredocons screwed up -- well, one of the ways you screwed up, anyway. You miscalculated our tolerance for failure and confused our patience with apathy. Eventually, your failure grew so great that we just had to pay attention even though we have lives and better things to do. We started watching and saw you sitting on panels high fiving each other about your commitment to free trade (which always seemed to turn out to be crony capitalism that shafted us normals) and tax reform (which always seemed to turn out to benefit crony capitalists and shaft us normals) and budget cuts (which never seemed to happen except to the military, which is populated by, and therefore the cuts hurt, us normals). Oh, we gave you chances – for decades, we gave you plenty of chances not to suck. And, in return, you gave us nothing but suck.

Online some “true conservatives” are complaining, but I cannot see how they could defend a government shutdown over the extension of the debt ceiling with two -- possibly three -- hurricanes causing widespread destruction. I just lack imagination enough for that.