30 November 2016

First Civilian Governor 1900 – King of Sugar

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

Charles Herbert Allen was the first civilian governor of Puerto Rico [1900-1901]. Though he never served in the armed forces, he loved to dress in military regalia and have people address him as “colonel.” He arrived like a Roman conqueror with a naval cannon salute, infantry band, and hundreds of armed men. During his one year as governor, he developed a passion for business. He wrote:

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island with its natural resources undeveloped, and its population unfit to assume the management of their own affairs.
The yield of sugar per acre is greater than in any other country in the world.

On September 15, 1901, Allen resigned as governor. He then headed straight to Wall Street, where he joined the House of Morgan as vice president. He built the largest sugar syndicate in the world, and his hundreds of political appointees in Puerto Rico provided him with land grants, tax subsidies, water rights, railroad easements, foreclosure sales, and favorable tariffs. He used his governorship to acquire an international sugar empire and a controlling interest in the entire Puerto Rican economy.

By 1907 his syndicate, the American Sugar Refining Company, owned or controlled 98 percent of the sugar-processing capacity in the United States and was known as the Sugar Trust. Today his company is known as Domino Sugar.

Starting in 1926. The United Puerto Rico Sugar Company bought every tobacco plantation and built the second-largest sugar mill on the island, with a 205-foot chimney and boilers that processed 9 million pounds of cane per day. The National City Bank bought another 54,000 acres of farmland, plus warehouses, port facilities, and 133 miles of railroad. The American Colonial Bank, the House of Morgan, and Bankers Trust controlled another 100,000 acres. All of them turned Puerto Rico into a one-crop economy.

By 1931, all the island’s sugar farms belonged to forty-one syndicates. The banks owned 60 percent of the sugar plantations, 80 percent of the tobacco farms, and 100 percent of the coastal railroads, shipping facilities, and maritime vessels. Yale Historian Bailey W. Diffie noted in 1931, “land is passing into the hands of a few large corporations. The sugar industry, tobacco manufacturing, fruit growing, banks, railroads, public utilities, steamship lines, and many lesser businesses are completely dominated by outside capital. The men who own the sugar companies control both the Bureau of Insular Affairs and the Legislature of Puerto Rico.” 

29 November 2016

Hurricane Ciriaco 1898 – Disaster Capitalism

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

Shortly after the 1898 US invasion, Hurricane San Ciriaco, one of the largest in Caribbean history, destroyed thousands of Puerto Rico farms and nearly the entire 1898 coffee bean crop.

The United States sent no money. Instead, it outlawed all Puerto Rican currency and declared the island’s peso with a global value equal to the US dollar, to be worth only sixty American cents. Every Puerto Rican lost 40 percent of his or her savings overnight. Then, in 1901, a colonial land tax known as the Hollander Bill forced many small farmers to mortgage their lands with US banks.

Interest rates were so high, that within a decade, the farmers defaulted on their loans, and the banks foreclosed. These banks then turned a diversified island harvest – coffee, tobacco, sugar, pineapple, and other fruits – into a one-crop cow. That crop was sugar. The very first civilian governor of Puerto Rico, Charles Herbert Allen, used his brief tenure to become the King of Sugar.

28 November 2016

Charter of Autonomy 1897 – Spanish American War 1898

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

In 1897, the Spanish prime minister signed the Charter of Autonomy which granted Puerto Rico the right to its own legislature, constitution, tariffs, monetary system, treasury, judiciary, and international borders. After 400 years of colonial rule, the charter created the free Republic of Puerto Rico. Elections for the new legislature were held in March 1898, and the new government was scheduled for installation in May.

On May 12, 1898, cannon blasts awakened everyone in San Juan as twelve US battleships, destroyers, and torpedo boats bombarded the city. San Juan became a ghost town as 30,000 residents fled the city. The Spanish-American War, declared by the United States on April 25, had arrived in Puerto Rico. On July 21, 1898, the US government issued a press release stating, “Puerto Rico will be kept, once taken it will never be released. It will pass forever into the hands of the United States.” On July 28, 1898, General Nelson Appleton Miles, commander in chief of the American army, marched into Ponce.

The national US perception was clear: Puerto Ricans were ignorant, uncivilized, morally bankrupt, and utterly incapable of self-rule. The US would protect them, tame their savagery, manage their property, and deliver them from four hundred years of solitude. Eugenio Maria de Hostos, the great Puerto Rican educator, summed it up as follows: “How sad and overwhelming and shameful it is to see Puerto Rico go from owner to owner without ever having been her own master, and to see her pass from sovereignty to sovereignty without ever ruling herself.”

27 November 2016

Spanish Rule 1493-1897

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

The abuse of the island started early. In 1493, Columbus made his second voyage to the New world with seventeen ships, 1200 men, horses, cattle, guns, and smallpox. When he finally reached a manor island, it happened to be Puerto Rico. The Taino Indians welcomed Columbus, but they made a big mistake: they showed him some gold nuggets in a river and told him to take all he wanted. Naturally, this started a gold rush.

Spain named the island Puerto Rico (meaning “Rich Port”) and invaded with embroidered bibles and African slaves. They enslaved the Tainos as well: every Taino over the age of fourteen had to produce a hawk’s bell of gold every three months or have their hands cut off.

Three centuries later there were no Tainos left, but the situation hadn’t changed much. Puerto Rico was still a political football. In 1812, the first Spanish ‘constitution, the Cadez Constitution, was extended to Puerto Rico, and the island became a province of Spain. In 1823, it was abolished. In 1824, the Spanish governor was given absolute power over Puerto Rico.

On September 23, 1868, nearly 1000 men rose up in the town of Lars to demand independence from Spain. By midnight they’d taken over the municipal seat of government, deposed the Spanish officials, arrested the Spanish merchants, and hauled them off to jail. The next afternoon, the Spanish militia from nearby Pepino routed the rebels. 

23 November 2016

Democracy and Indians

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, 1995, Excerpts

Native American ideas may be partly responsible for our democratic institutions. Democracy is an example of syncretism, combining ideas from Europe and Native America. Native ideas of liberty, fraternity, and equality found their way to Europe to influence social philosophers such as Thomas More, Locke, Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. Through 150 years of colonial contact, the Iroquois League stood before the colonies as an object lesson in how to govern a large domain democratically.

American Indians are directly or indirectly responsible for the public-meeting tradition, free speech, democracy, and all those things which got attached to the Bill of Rights. Without the Native example, do you really believe that all those ideas would have found birth among a people who had spent a millennium butchering other people because of intolerance of questions of religion?

For a hundred years after our Revolution, Americans credited Native Americans as a source of their democratic institutions. Revolutionary-era cartoonists used images of Indians to represent the colonies against Britain. Virginia’s patriot rifle companies wore Indian clothes and moccasins as they fought the redcoats. When colonists took actions to oppose unjust authority, as in the Boston Tea Party, they chose to dress as Indians, not to blame Indians for the demonstrations, but to appropriate a symbol identified with liberty.

17 November 2016

Steve Bannon’s Economic Perspective

16 Nov 2016
“So I think the discussion of, should we put a cap on wealth creation and distribution? It’s something that should be at the heart of every Christian that is a capitalist — What is the purpose of whatever I’m doing with this wealth? What is the purpose of what I’m doing with the ability that God has given us, that divine providence has given us to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth?”

So he is Trump’s capitalist spiritual adviser, thinks capitalism is God inspired, and wealthy Judeo-Christians are agents of God to create jobs and more wealth. Bannon is battling for a Judeo-Christian “enlightened capitalism” [not sure what that means], versus State Capitalism [Russia, China, also called Crony/Hillary Capitalism], versus Ayn Rand Libertarian Capitalism. He’s a devoted Capitalist arguing the finer points of other brands of capitalism, and he is definitely a proven expert on branding, a modern Edward Bernays.

The fatal flaw of Capitalism is that it embraces interest/usury, driving growth to its extreme and eventual failure. There are ample warnings against the use of interest/usury and the evils that are spawned.

‘End of Growth’ Sparks Wide Discontent
14 Oct 2016, by Alastair Crooke

“Tons of smart and less smart folks are breaking their heads over where Trump and Brexit and Le Pen and all these ‘new’ and scary things and people and parties originate, and they come up with little but shaky theories about how it’s all about older people, and poorer and racist and bigoted people, stupid people, people who never voted, you name it.

“But nobody seems to really know or understand. Which is odd, because it’s not that hard. That is, this all happens because growth is over. And if growth is over, so are expansion and centralization in all the myriad of shapes and forms they come in.”

14 November 2016

Election Reflection

Snow by Orham Pamuk, 2004, Excerpts

Mankind’s greatest error, the biggest deception of the past thousand years is this: to confuse poverty with stupidity. Throughout history, prophets and other honorable men of conscience have always warned against this shaming confusion. They remind us that the poor have hearts, minds, humanity, and wisdom just like everyone else. During elections, it is out of a desire for self-punishment that they vote for the most wretched parties and the most loathsome candidates.

You see hundreds of these jobless, luckless, hopeless, motionless poor creatures in every town; in the country as a whole there must be hundreds of thousands of them, if not millions. They’ve forgotten how to keep themselves tidy, they’ve lost the will to button up their stained jackets, they have so little energy they can hardly move their arms and legs, their powers of concentration are so weak they can’t follow a story to its conclusion, and they’ve even forgotten how to laugh at a joke. Most of them are too unhappy to sleep; they take pleasure in knowing that the cigarettes they smoke are killing them; they begin sentences, only to let their voices trail of as they remember how pointless it is to carry on; they watch TV not because they like or enjoy the programs but because they can’t bear to hear about their fellows’ depression, and television helps to shut them out; what they really want is to die, but they don’t think themselves worthy of suicide. 

03 November 2016

Differences of an Economic Vision

The Whiskey Rebellion by William Hodgeland, 2006, Excerpts

The whiskey rebels weren't against paying taxes. They were against what they called unequal taxation, which redistributed wealth to a few holders of federal bonds and kept small farms and businesses commercially paralyzed. Farmers and artisans, facing daily anxiety over debt foreclosure and tax imprisonment, feared becoming landless laborers, their businesses bought cheaply by the very men in whose mills and factories they would then be forced to toil. They saw resisting the whiskey tax as a last, desperate hope for justice in a decades-long fight over economic inequality.

Some of the whiskey rebels envisioned stranding the seaboard cities, vile pits of unrestrained greed, on the far side of the Appalachian ridge and leaving the coast a vestige. Some imagined a new west, spiritually redeemed, with perfect democratic and economic justice: small farmers, artisans, and laborers would thrive, while bankers, big landowners, and lawyers would be closely regulated, even suppressed. Believing they could wrest their country back from frontier merchants and creditors, the rebels wanted to banish big businessmen as traitors to the region even while fending off the distant federal government in all its growing might.

Alexander Hamilton and his allies saw enforcing the whiskey tax as a way of resolving that fight in favor of a moneyed class with the power to spur industrial progress. 

01 November 2016

Helmand Province: World’s Leading Opium Producer

Seeds of Terror by Gretchen Peters, 2009, Excerpts

Helmand Province is about the size of West Virginia. If it were a separate country, it would the world’s leading opium producer, with the rest of Afghanistan in second place. It’s also where links between the Taliban and the opium trade are strongest.

Poppy cultivation has been increasingly concentrated in southern provinces where the insurgency holds sway, but command and control of the southern Afghanistan drug trade is mainly located in Pakistan. Opium is processed into morphine base or heroin in unstable border areas. Profits from the southern drug trade are laundered between Quetta and Dubai, often ending up in western banking institutions.

Major campaigns to wean Helmand’s farmers off of poppy have been expensive failures. Helmand receives more U.S. aid than any other Afghan province. Much of the money is being spent on large infrastructure projects. More that $200 million in U.S. and British funding was designated for Helmand in 2008, a year when poppy output there still increased by 45 percent.

In 2008, Afghanistan produced about twice the amount of opium that the world’s addicts smoke, eat, or shoot for several years now. So where is all that extra dope? UN official s estimate the Taliban and the smugglers they work with have stockpiled as much as 8,000 tons of opium – enough to supply the world’s heroin addicts for two years.

Afghanistan suicide blasts 'kill 18' in Herat, Helmand

10 Apr 2012
In the first Helmand attack, four policemen were killed when three suicide bombers attacked a police compound in Musa Qala district. Two of them detonated explosive belts strapped to their bodies, while a third attacker was shot by police. Helmand police and intelligence officials told the BBC that the Taliban were attacking the security forces after failing to fulfill a promise to help local farmers prevent a poppy eradication program currently under way in the province. Helmand is one of the most volatile provinces of Afghanistan, frequently witnessing attacks by insurgents.

US opens 'major Afghan offensive'
02 Jul 2009
The US army says it has launched a major offensive against the Taliban in south Afghanistan's Helmand province. The US military says about 4,000 marines as well as 650 Afghan troops are involved, supported by Nato planes. It is the first such large-scale operation since US President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan, as part of a new strategy for winning the conflict. Many of them are being redeployed from operations in Iraq, to help with training Afghan security forces and to tackle the insurgency.

The operation - codenamed Khanjar or Strike of the Sword - began when units moved into the Helmand river valley in the early hours of Thursday. Helicopters and heavy transport vehicles carried out the advance, with Nato planes providing air cover. UK-led forces in Helmand launched their own operation to combat the Taliban insurgency last week, in what the Ministry of Defense described as one of the largest air operations in modern times. Thousands of British forces under Nato command have been fighting the Taliban in Helmand since 2006.