Category Archives: Culture

Puerto Ricans exploited and mined for debt


The United States has always had a troubled history with Puerto Rico, a Spanish-speaking possession seized during the Spanish-American War,

Folks on the mainland weren’t prepared to embrace Puerto Ricans as equals, and used the island as a military base and a bulwark against any European ambitions towards the Americas North and South.

The darker skinned islanders because targets of one of perhaps the most ambitious eugenics campaigns ever conducted by Washington, with a third of the territory’s women subjected to involuntary sterilization.

And before the carcinogenic and birth defects-spawning Agent Orange was sprayed on the jungles of Vietnam by the American military, it was first tested on Puerto Ricans.

But any Puerto Ricans who dared protest or, even worse, openly call for independence, found themselves subjected to the harsh hand of repression, sometimes accompanied by live ammunition.

And now Puerto Rico is swamped in debt, caused in part by outlandish tax exemptions granted corporations to ensure their continuing presence [see how that worked out].

In her latest edition of The Empire Files, Abby Martin looks at Puerto Rico’s tragic past and troubled present.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Puerto Rico’s Debt to its Oppressors

Program notes:

Puerto Rico’s massive debt has been discussed at length in Congress and the media, all omitting the most important fact: the history of being a colonial subject for over 500 years, still owned and controlled by the United States. Abby Martin talks to two professors of Latin American studies, Luis Barrios and Danny Shaw, about the long struggle of Puerto Rico to break the shackles of US and Spanish colonialism—from indigenous resistance to the Young Lords in Harlem. Learn how the US Empire obscures the island’s colonial status today, who really is responsible for the so-called “debt crisis,” and how it can all be solved,

Chart of the day: Religiosity slowly declines


From Gallup, and we have to wonder what explains that brief sharp dip and immediate recovery:

BLOG God

An interesting and parallel story from Sociological Images:

We often think that religion helps to build a strong society, in part because it gives people a shared set of beliefs that fosters trust. When you know what your neighbors think about right and wrong, it is easier to assume they are trustworthy people. The problem is that this logic focuses on trustworthy individuals, while social scientists often think about the relationship between religion and trust in terms of social structure and context.

New research [$38 to read and print — esnl] from David Olson and Miao Li (using data from the World Values survey) examines the trust levels of 77,405 individuals from 69 countries collected between 1999 and 2010. The authors’ analysis focuses on a simple survey question about whether respondents felt they could, in general, trust other people. The authors were especially interested in how religiosity at the national level affected this trust, measuring it in two ways: the percentage of the population that regularly attended religious services and the level of religious diversity in the nation.

These two measures of religious strength and diversity in the social context brought out a surprising pattern. Nations with high religious diversity and high religious attendance had respondents who were significantly less likely to say they could generally trust other people. Conversely, nations with high religious diversity, but relatively low levels of participation, had respondents who were more likely to say they could generally trust other people.

Trumpies are more racist [surprise, surprise]


A new poll from Reuters/Ipsos:

BLOG Trumpies

Sacramento neo-Nazis rallied for Donald Trump


Yep, that bloody melee in the state capital Sunday was the result of a rally called to bolster support for The Donald.

The Sacramento Bee got the goods straight from Traditionalist Worker Party spokesman Matt Parrott:

“The purpose of the protest was actually a reaction around the Donald Trump rallies where working-class white Americans were trying to peacefully organize, not on racial terms,” he said. “We wanted to have a march to show we will not back down in the face of radical leftists, who threatened violence beforehand.”

Parrott said his group was “prepared for a fight; they were prepared to defend themselves.”

The party’s chairman is Matthew Heimbach, who reportedly is Parrott’s son-in-law and briefly was a Trump delegate until his racial views became known. He sparked national headlines when he was accused of shoving an African American woman at a Trump rally in Kentucky in March.

Heimbach could not be reached Sunday, but anti-hate groups that monitor such organizations have labeled Heimbach as a rising leader among white nationalists.

“He’s part of the dry-cleaned Klan, if you will,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

Quote of the day: America’s deep racial divide


Following up on our previous post, few have expressed the deep nature of the impact of America’s deep racial divide than a former Philadelphia high school teacher.

Jesse Williams, who plays Dr. Jackson Avery in ABC television’s hit series Grey’s Anatomy, has devoted much of his recent time to involvement in Black Lives Matter, producing and narrating a documentary film, Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement, for BET, where it aired last month.

Sunday night Williams was honored by BET with its Humanitarian Award, and his acceptance speech is one of the best statements we’ve heard in recent years on the plight of black Americans:

“Now, this award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. All right? It’s kind of basic mathematics. The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.

“Now, this is also in particular for the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.

“Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s going to happen is we’re going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function in ours.

“Now, I got more, y’all.

“Yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday. So, I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him , so I don’t want to hear any more about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television, and then going home to make a sandwich.

“Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012, than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Darrien Hunt.

“Now, the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money that alone isn’t going to stop this. All right? Now dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back. To put someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies and now we pray to get paid with brands for our bodies. There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There’s no tax they haven’t levied against us. And we pay all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here.

You’re free, they keep telling us, but she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so free.

“Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter but, you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple of things straight here, just a little side note. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. All right, stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

“We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo. And we’re done watching, and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us. Burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil — black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them. Gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though, the thing is, that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real. Thank you.”

We would have loved to have included a video of the speech, but, alas, WordPress allows us to post only YouTube and Vimeo offerings.

When we searched YouTube, all the video postings had been replaced by this:

BLOG Jesse

Viacom, the owner of BET and its brand, is, in turn, owned by a very old, very rich white man, Sumner Redstone, who also owns the Los Angeles Clippers.

And who is Redstone?

Well, consider his remarks recorded by then-companion V. Stiviano, herself of African and Hispanic heritage:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to? You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”

You can hear the whole recording here.

Chart of the day: America’s deep racial divide


From a new survey from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Race

John Oliver’s jock itch: Tackling sports doping


As a short, fat kid, we always looked at sports with a slightly jaded eye, especially given the demigod status accorded jocks in high school and college.

The quarterback of our high school football team would later be indicted for his role in a savings and loan scam involving the brother of a future President of the United States, and the jock in question was actually one of the nicer athletes we encountered in school and sheltered us from some of his bullying teammates.

Later on in college we graded papers, only to discover that star jocks who failed test after test somehow managed to wind up with Cs and Bs on their report cards.

We also grew up in the Cold War, where the Olympics were, like warfare, simply an extension of politics by other means.

All the same, growing up we were also huge baseball fans, with the New York Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals our favorite teams. Willie Mays and Stan Musial were our heroes.

But enough of that and on with the show.

From Last Week Tonight:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Doping

Program notes:

Doping scandals have cast a shadow over the Olympic Games. Until we eliminate drugs from sports, we should at least update our athlete promos.