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aaaaaaaapuertoricochildIf you are a Puerto Rican living on your homeland island, you cannot vote for the president of the United States nor have voting representation in Congress. (Juan Cristobal Zulueta)

Why would Republican or Democratic presidential candidates - such as Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton - take campaign time to visit Puerto Rico, even though islanders can't vote for president?

The answer to that question lies in the colonial relationship of Puerto Rico to the United States.

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Firstly, Bush and Clinton are looking to win the island's delegates to their respective party conventions (23 Republican delegates and 58 Democratic delegates in 2016). Remember, however, there is a dreadful joke on democracy at play in this strategy. That is because based on the terms of Puerto Rico's "commonwealth" status, residents who live on the island of Puerto are not allowed to vote in US presidential elections even though they are US citizens.

This, however, leads to the second reason that presidential candidates visit Puerto Rico. Although Puerto Ricans who live in their own homeland cannot cast a ballot for their choice for president, Puerto Ricans who move to the mainland can. In recent years, due to its severely deteriorating financial condition - evidenced by its current partially defaulted debt of more than $70 billion - the island has experienced a net loss of population. Several hundred thousand islanders have moved to the mainland seeking jobs.

Published in EditorBlog
Thursday, 20 August 2015 07:51

New Army Chief of Staff Warns of More War


aaaaaaaikegn32The Allied Commander during WW II and later President Eisenhower came to have a disdain for war. (Photo: Joe Armstrong)

At a ceremony in which Gen. Mark A. Milley became the 39th chief of staff of the US Army, he offered a perplexing and troubling warning to the people of the United States. As the Washington Post reported on August 14, during Milley's speech at Fort Meyer, the new head of the Army made it clear that bellicose US militarism is not just an integral policy in the present, but it is a battle cry for the future. As he assumed command of the Army, Milley declaimed,

As America, we have no luxury of a single opponent. We have to be able to fight guerrillas and terrorists all the way up through nation-state militaries. If we do not maintain our commitment to remain strong in the air, on the sea and yes, on the ground, then we will pay the butcher’s bill in blood, and we will forever lose the precious gift of our freedom....

There is no cheap way to change, and more importantly, there is no cheap way to buy freedom. The only thing more expensive than fighting and winning a war is fighting and losing a war — and fighting and winning a war is what the United States Army is all about.

Milley's belligerent remarks were sparsely covered in the mass media. However, they are a frightening and ominous indicator that the nation's lust for war is still predominant at the highest levels of the Pentagon.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaaarottenappCultural violence in the US is not limited to a few "bad apples." (Photo: George Armstrong)

Sometimes it takes an infected orchard to create rotten apples.

That means that the decaying apples that fall into the mud aren't exceptions; they are created by blighted trees.

That is a metaphor I think about when the news media and most people in the US attribute gruesome and reprehensible behavior to "a few bad apples."

The examples of this frame being applied to corrupt, violent - and all too deadly – actions that are reported by the mass media are legion:

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaadiablocan4Activists want the last two reactors at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in California shut down. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The two reactors at Diablo Canyon are the last ones still operating in California. And the grassroots pressure to shut them down is escalating.

Together grassroots activists have shut three California reactors at San Onofre, between Los Angeles and San Diego and one each at Rancho Seco, near Sacramento and at Humboldt, perched on an earthquake zone in the north.

Proposed construction at Bodega Bay and near Bakersfield has also been stopped. 

But the two at the aptly named Diablo still run, much to the terror of the millions downwind.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaajebtortJeb Bush is nostalgic for the days of Torture Inc. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue)

Jeb Bush apparently has stopped trying to put an inch of distance between himself and his brother, George W. Bush, when it comes to the Middle East. 

First, Jeb blamed the current horrors and chaos in Iraq, including ISIS, on President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Then NPR reported in an August 15 article: "Jeb Bush laid out his plan to defeat ISIS this week, calling for a bigger U.S. military presence in the Middle East."

Another one of the George W. Bush administration's pernicious policies also resurfaced recently: Jeb announced that he might reinstitute waterboarding if he were president, according to The New York Times

Jeb Bush said on Thursday that, as president, he would not rule out waterboarding in interrogations, another instance of how his plans to fight Islamic terrorism have drawn comparisons to his brother’s administration.

Enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, which were used by the C.I.A. against Qaeda suspects after Sept. 11 attacks, were prohibited in one of President Obama’s first executive orders in 2009.

Earlier on Thursday, at a forum on national security in Davenport, Iowa, Mr. Bush had declined to commit to preserving that order.

“I’m not ruling anything in or out,” he said in the evening when asked by reporters if he would prohibit waterboarding.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaacourageStructural racism will only be dismantled by people with the courage to disrupt and demand transformative change. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

It's just a step in the direction of transparency, but California is to be praised for banning grand juries as the entity that decides whether to prosecute police accused of killing individuals. According to the San Jose Mercury News,

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday making California the first state in the nation to ban the use of grand juries to decide whether police officers should face criminal charges when they kill people in the line of duty.

The ban, which will go into effect next year, comes after grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, made controversial decisions in secret hearings last year not to bring charges against officers who killed unarmed black men, sparking protests across the country. Calls for transparency also have come amid national concerns about disparate treatment of blacks and other racial minorities when encounters with cops turned deadly in Baltimore, Cincinnati and South Carolina.

"What the governor's decision says is, he gets it - the people don't want secrecy when it comes to officer-involved shootings," said retired judge and former San Jose independent police auditor LaDoris Cordell, the first African-American appointed as a judge in Northern California and a key supporter of the bill.

This change is not a solution to endemic racism among police forces across the United States, but it will prevent states' attorneys - who generally are protective of the police - from secretly stacking the evidence to favor police officers. Now, charges against police officers who kill will have to be presented in open court in California

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaacapitolofpuertorico.jpaThe capitol of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in San Juan, where neoliberalism meets the failure of the US colonialist enterprise. (Photo: Jorge Láscar)

Around 300,000 Puerto Ricans are estimated to have left the island in the last ten years to seek jobs on the mainland of the United States. Their destinations are varied, although many relocate to New York and more recently Orlando. This flight from Puerto Rico - which includes mostly young and well-educated people and many professionals such as physicians - is negatively impacting the present and future of the island, a de facto colony of the United States since it was "won" by the US in the 1898 Spanish-American War.

Given that Puerto Rico dipped its toes into default on a debt of more than $70 billion this past weekend - and that its population is shrinking from a high of 4 million residents to approximately 3.5 million in 2014 - the exodus of a skilled and educated workforce presents severe challenges to Puerto Rico's economic future. 

In an interview in San Juan on August 5, Carlos Frontera Santana, the adviser on legal and economic issues to the only elected official in the Puerto Rican legislature who represents the Puerto Rican Independence Party - Senator Maria de Lourdes Santiago Negrón - told Buzzflash that the trend "erodes the tax base and contributes to a brain drain." At a time that the bond market, hedge funds and vulture funds are waiting to impose further ruinous austerity on the de facto colony, the flight of Puerto Rico's skilled and professional class, in particular, leads to decreased services (think about fewer doctors and nurses), spiraling unemployment and a shrinking tax base, according to Frontera.

On the one hand, US holders of Puerto Rico's debt are demanding extreme austerity measures in return for any debt relief, just as Germany and the EU did to Greece. Last week, BuzzFlash at Truthout focused on one such suggested requirement in a commentary entitled, "Vulture Hedge Funds Want Education Slashed in Puerto Rico as Condition of Predatory Debt Relief." On the other hand, such requirements accelerate - as Frontera noted - an increased tax burden on a smaller, poorer population that leads to an economic death spiral.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaapoliceIn the end, the structural racism that guides Northern policing can be just as deadly as Southern institutional and personal racism. (Photo: Ian Britton)

Recently, Nancy A. Heitzeg wrote a trenchant analysis on Truthout of the racist, destructive policy known as "broken windows policing." While racism in the South tends to be more direct and apparent, in the North it is often wrapped in a blanket of claims to be implementing "good public policy."

In the end, the structural racism that guides Northern policing can be just as deadly as Southern institutional and personal racism; it just has a different veneer.

In New York City, as Heitzeg notes, the implementation of "broken windows policing" reached its zenith - a period of ruthless enforcement, targeting mostly Black and Brown people - under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He counted on NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton (who is today's commissioner, as well) to carry out the devastating strategy.

Not only does "broken windows" policing - which is still in place, although in "reduced" form under Mayor Bill de Blasio - serve as a primary feeder of the mass-incarceration pipeline, it provides a contextual justification for perpetuating a notion among police officers that Black people are "crimes waiting to happen." This racist outlook - championed by the late James Q. Wilson, a professor at Harvard and UCLA who specialized in public policy - represents the framework of US policing in a larger sense. It's built on a notion that Black people are predestined "criminals."

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaprflagPuerto Rico is being put into an austerity vice by US hedge funds. (Photo of Flag of Puerto Rico: Damian Entwistle)

According to a July 28 article in the Guardian, the financial vultures of the US are circling over Puerto Rico's skyrocketing debt, which totals more than $70 billion dollars. It is an austerity-driven death watch that by now is common practice among predatory "debt distress" consolidators:

Billionaire hedge fund managers have called on Puerto Rico to lay off teachers and close schools so that the island can pay them back the billions it owes.

The hedge funds called for Puerto Rico to avoid financial default - and repay its debts - by collecting more taxes, selling $4bn worth of public buildings and drastically cutting public spending, particularly on education.

The group of 34 hedge funds hired former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economists to come up with a solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis after the island’s governor declared its $72bn debt "unpayable" - paving the way for bankruptcy.

The funds are "distressed debt" specialists, also known as vulture funds, and several have also sought to make money out of crises in Greece and Argentina, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the near collapse of Co-op Bank in the UK.

Do you see a pattern here? Vulture capitalists, predatory lenders, austerity, hundreds of billions of dollars in interest (profit) made through impoverishing people and cutting public services.

Published in EditorBlog


aaaaaamedicareforallProfit-driven health insurance companies drive up the cost of care and drive down the provision of needed medical services. (Photo: Michael Fleshman)


With the just-announced pending acquisition of Cigna Insurance by Anthem, the US will be left with three giant health insurance companies. This is unlikely to be a good development for consumers, to say the least. Market consolidation most often leads to fewer consumer choices, higher prices and more corporate profit. Any savings are rarely passed onto consumers.

What's worse for individual health insurance policy holders is that deductibles, copays and maximum out-of-pocket expenses will inevitably rise. Why? Because there will be fewer health insurance vendors to choose from, so the market becomes captive to health insurance companies that are "too big to fail."

The Associated Press (AP) reports about the massiveness of the acquisition of Cigna by Anthem:

The deal announced Friday is valued at $54.2 billion including debt. Shareholders of Cigna, based in Bloomfield, Connecticut, will receive $103.40 per share in cash and 0.5152 shares of Anthem stock for each of their shares. The companies put the total value at $188 per share.

AP notes that this announcement comes on the heels of "Aetna's $35 billion bid for Humana Inc. on July 3," and observes that "the landscape of U.S. health care has been altered in a buyout frenzy." 

Published in EditorBlog
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