10 June 2017   Leave a comment

The US gained control over Puerto Rico in the Spanish-American War of 1898.  Since that time, the island has been an American territory–an ambiguous relationship.  It was not a colony and the people of Puerto Rico have since gained American citizenship.  But is was not a state in the United States and the people do not have the right to vote in a national election, nor do they have a vote in Congress.  For the fifth time since 1898, the people will have a chance to vote on their preferences.  There will be a referendum tomorrow that offers three choices:  the status quo, independence, or statehood.  The last vote in 2012 favored statehood, but because of a poorly worded referendum, the US Congress ignored the vote.  The odds are that the Puerto Ricans will favor statehood because the island is facing a crippling budget crisis that it cannot address on its own.  It is, however, unlikely that the Republican Congress will honor the vote since the island leans Democratic.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008-09 the US Congress passed what came to be known as the “Volcker Rule”.  Named after a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the rule did two things: “The first limits banks’ ability to buy and sell exotic financial instruments, and the second limits the ability of banks to operate and invest in hedge funds and private-equity funds.”  The risky investments of the banks leading up to the crisis led to a widespread financial collapse, one that, according to the Globe and Mail cost the US trillions of dollars:

In a paper for the Dallas Federal Reserve, economists David Luttrell, Tyler Atkinson and Harvey Rosenblum calculate that the total cost to the U.S. of the financial crisis was something in the order of $6-trillion (U.S.) to $14-trillion. The top end of this range represents one full year of U.S. economic output. If they were to add in what they call “broader” measures that reflect the lingering trauma of the recession, they figure that the actual cost could be twice as high.”

The US House of Representatives has just passed legislation that repeals the Volcker Rule.  It appears as if we never learn.

The US is sending troops to help the Philippines fight an armed insurgency in the southern island of Mindanao.  The Philippines has a law preventing foreign forces from fighting within its territory, so the US troops are there just as advisors.  Under President Duterte, the Philippine had adopted a rather hostile attitude toward the US, but that stance appears to have changed since the election of President Trump.  The Philippines is mostly Christian, but the southern islands have primarily Muslim populations and the US regards the insurgency as part of the campaign against Daesh (the Islamic State).  The US is no stranger to armed conflict on Mindanao. In the second part of the Spanish-American War, the US fought against Filipino insurgents led by the leader, Aguinaldo.  It was a brutal war: “An estimated 20,000 Filipino troops were killed, and more than 200,000 civilians perished as a result of combat, hunger, or disease. Of the 4,300 Americans lost, some 1,500 were killed in action, while nearly twice that number succumbed to disease.”  US General Smedley Butler fought in the war, and at the end of his military career, he wrote:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier


Posted June 10, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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