Relief crews struggle to reach damaged areas in Puerto Rico, plus White House emails, Maria Tillman, and more…. (More)

“Much worse than Harvey, much worse than Irma”

Thousands of relief workers are en route to or already near Puerto Rico, the Washington Post reports, but the hurricane damage is hampering their mobility:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is coordinating the recovery effort, said 10,000 federal employees have been deployed to the Caribbean. The Coast Guard has sent in 13 ships known as cutters. Commercial barges are arriving with relief supplies. The National Guard is being housed on barges and on a cruise ship that arrived this weekend.

However, officials leading the response and recovery admit they’re facing serious logistical challenges, starting with damage to the ports and airports. Many of those facilities have been reopened just within the past day or two, but only for daytime operations, because of safety concerns. Radar and control tower capabilities are low, limiting the pace of incoming flights.
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Federal officials say there’s no way aid can reach the islands as quickly as it reached Texas or Florida after they were slammed with hurricanes in recent weeks.

“Puerto Rico is an island a thousand miles away from Miami, so help just can’t physically arrive as fast it did to Florida after Hurricane Irma,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown said. “We simply can’t drive thousands of power trucks to Puerto Rico to help on power restoration.”

Admiral Paul Zukunft, the Coast Guard commandant, told reporters Monday on a flight to Puerto Rico that, because of the inability to reach the islands except by air or sea, the situation is “much worse than Harvey, much worse than Irma.”

Add to that the fact that cell and landline service is out for much of the island, and the difficulties magnify. Rescue workers aren’t sure where the most immediate needs are, and citizens awaiting help don’t know how near – or far away – help may be.

NPR has a list of relief groups focusing on Puerto Rico. Most are asking for cash donations, rather than gifts of food or supplies. Their relief workers can assess needs and purchase supplies at locations that will minimize shipping delays and costs. Please help if you can.

“The optics of this aren’t great”

After two years of howling about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account … you saw this coming, right? … several of the God-King’s aides have been using private email accounts for official business:

Frustrated with West Wing aides’ rampant use of personal communications devices for official business, former chief of staff Reince Priebus tried over the summer to stop – or at least limit – the practice.
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But the request was largely ignored, according to six current and former administration officials, advisers and others who correspond with the White House. Aides laughed about Priebus’ request, and senior officials – including Priebus – continued to use their personal phones for phone calls, text messages and emails for White House matters.

Now, as congressional committees launch investigations into Jared Kushner’s use of a private email account to sometimes conduct government business, more information is emerging about the widespread nature of West Wing aides’ reliance on private devices – a controversial practice that raises record-keeping, cybersecurity and political concerns.

But this is entirely different from Clinton because umm-err:

Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former campaign manager for Sen. Marco Rubio, said criticism from the right may have been muted because Kushner’s defense seemed plausible. And, he said, in 2017, many people understand that communications happen via text, apps or other ways.

“The optics of this aren’t great, and I assume you’ll see these accounts shut down and people transition over to their official accounts,” he said.

Wait, I know! It’s different because details:

The use of personal email to conduct government business potentially puts those messages beyond the reach of congressional investigators and the media requesting public information. Private accounts can also open security risks if the email service used is lax on password security or doesn’t regularly patch its software – weaknesses that hackers can exploit to gain access.

While Kushner’s use of a personal account invited comparisons to Clinton’s behavior, there are key differences. Kushner appears not to have used a private server as Clinton did, but rather used a commercially available email service, and there is no evidence Kushner discussed classified information on his personal account, as Clinton was found to have done.

See? Kushner left his stuff on Google mail or Hotmail or whatever, and we shouldn’t assume that stuff he sent or received will be classified later … you know, the way stuff Clinton sent or received was classified later….

Puh-leeze.

“The very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart – no matter those views – is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for”

Dear God-King and other wingnuts,

Stop pretending Pat Tillman was your husband, brother, son, or friend:

As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify. It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together.

Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that.

Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day. The very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart – no matter those views – is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for. Even if they didn’t always agree with those views.

It is my sincere hope that our leaders both understand and learn from the lessons of Pat’s life and death, and also those of so many other brave Americans.

That statement was from Maria Tillman, Pat’s widow. She and his parents, siblings, and friends get to talk about what he thought, why he served, and what his sacrifice meant … because they lost a husband, son, brother, or friend.

Stop stealing their grief and loss and presenting them as your own. You’re not entitled.

“Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes”

The Outhouse chief of staph doesn’t much care for the First Amendment either:

“I believe every American, when the national anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed and killed,” Kelly said. “Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes.”

So now they’re telling us what to think about during the National Anthem. Presumably they’ll … oops, hold on….

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Okay, here’s the deal. Stop waving the bloody bandages of dead soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in the face of anyone you deem Not Reverently Patriotic.

General Kelly, you’ve spent your life in uniform, and thank you for your service. You lost your son in Afghanistan, and our condolences on your loss. But Maria Tillman lost her husband there too, and you can read her statement above. So whose dead relative’s wishes should we honor?

More’s the point, the U.S. Flag and the National Anthem are not the exclusive property of the military. This may come as a shock to you, but there are a hell of a lot of other people who love this country and devote their lives to making it “a more perfect Union.” Bob Costas mentioned school teachers and social workers. I’ll add community activists and civic volunteers; doctors and nurses, pharmacists and veterinarians; utility line workers, people who collect trash, sweep streets, plow snow, fix potholes, and unclog sewers; artists and artisans; the barely-above-minimum-wage janitors and maids who clean offices and hotels …

… and yes, athletes who sacrifice their bodies to entertain us and also kneel in protest to raise our awareness.

They all give every bit as much to this country as the wonderful men and women who serve in uniform. They are all part of “We the People,” and you have no right to declare what they should do or think about when they see that flag or hear that anthem.

Get off your military high horse. You are not the only patriots in the room.

[Set randMode = OFF]

Whew. Now I need a macadamia….

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Photo Credit: Alex Wroblewski (Getty Images)

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Good day and good nuts