Sunday, March 18, 2012
PR Primary, Plebiscite, Statehood Petition. Mitt Romney won the Puerto Rico Republican primary today. Why is a territory that cannot vote for President allowed to have any input whatsoever in the determination of a candidate for President? That makes no sense.
Nor does the neither-nor status of Puerto Rico — neither statehood nor independence — make any sense. PR (a fully respectful abbreviation for Puerto Rico, from zip-code convention) is politically, psychologically, and economically paralyzed, stunted, by its indecision on status. It wastes enormous energy in an unending debate over what the island's relationship with the United States should be.
Investors from the U.S. and other countries cannot confidently pour millions of dollars into a territory that might, at any moment, declare independence and embark upon a Cuban-style reign of confiscatory nationalization of private property. (Cuba was once under U.S. jurisdiction, but was (stupidly) given independence, in that no one could foresee Cuba being taken over by anti-U.S. Communists either.) While some investors might think a paroxysm of nationalization in PR is extremely unlikely, it is also very unlikely that PR would unilaterally declare independence. So if PR were to be swept up in nationalistic fervor powerful enuf to produce a declaration of independence — which Congress and the President would almost certainly agree to, given anti-Puerto Rican bias in the ruling class of the mainland — the island might also embark upon a radical-nationalist program of confiscation of foreign-owned property.
A news report about the PR primary on the Huffington Post today says:
In Puerto Rico, the race was focused on the issue of statehood, and [Enrique Melendez, the Republican representative on the Puerto Rican State Electoral Commission] said, "This proves Gov. Romney's electability and his ability to reach out to Hispanics and minorities."Romney aggravated some Puerto Ricans in attacking Obama's appointment of Sonia Sotomayor as a Justice of the Supreme Court. Romney's attempt to claim that his hostility to Sotomayor was based on her judicial philosophy rather than her ethnicity did not persuade everyone.
Whether that's true or not, Romney told Puerto Ricans he would support statehood while Santorum said English would have to be the official language of the island if it were to join the United States – a statement that roiled residents.
"In Puerto Rico, we get along fine with both languages," said Francisco Rodriguez, a 76-year-old architect who supported Romney and hopes Puerto Rico becomes the nation's 51st state.
An opinion piece by Ishton W. Morton at the Cincinnati Examiner's website on March 16th says in part:
According to Kasie Hunt with the Associated Press Santorum while campaigning in San Juan, Puerto Rico said making English the official language for Puerto Ricans should be a 'condition' for granting statehood [to] Puerto Rico.The Presidential primary in PR is a waste of PR taxpayers' money. And PR is going to waste more taxpayer money and enormous political and emotional energy in November on yet another pointless, nonbinding referendum on status. Even the best result, a resounding vote for statehood, could not in itself make PR a State of the Union, because that is not within PR's gift but wholly up to Congress.
Santorum continues to say; “The Island will have to make sure English is spoken universally." ...
There is currently no law declaring an official language of the United States, though several attempts have been made to give English that designation. Thirty-one states have passed laws mandating English as their official language.
Since the U. S. Constitution makes no reference [to] a language test for territories or properties that wish to become states Santorum['s] continued position on this matter seems to be potentially bigoted in principle. * * *
However, Puerto Rico is set to hold a referendum on statehood in November. Whether to become the 51st state is the critical issue for this U. S. territory. Ne[i]ther Puerto Rico [n]or the U. S. Virgin Islands ha[s] full voting rights in Congress. Also, the idea of being able to vote in presidential primaries and not presidential elections is completely ridiculous.
Republican candidates for President since at least Bush the Elder keep saying they favor PR statehood, but then do absolutely nothing to make PR a state. The reality is that a lot of Republicans would vote against statehood for Puerto Rico on the most meanspirited basis: that Puerto Ricans would likely send Democrats to both houses of Congress, and vote Democratic for President! Former Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice was open about that in a Republican Governors meeting in PR in 1998. His stance (and surely that of other Republicans, who won't say so aloud) is that you have no right to vote if you don't vote "right". Thus the attempts by Republicans in various states to prevent large numbers of Democratically inclined citizens from voting with foto-ID legislation.
Santorum is open in opposing statehood on the basis of language, even tho it may have cost him heavily in the PR primary. Is Santorum using language as an excuse, when his actual opposition to PR statehood is the same as Fordice's, fear that a State of PR would send Democrats to Congress and add its electoral vote to the Democratic vote for President? I can't say. Plainly PR is not going to make English the (sole) official language of Puerto Rico — it is already co-official, with Spanish — so Santorum could cloak his opposition on the basis of how Puerto Ricans would likely vote, in the relatively respectable stance that all Americans should be able to speak and read English. A story on Bloomberg News says:
Santorum was hurt by comments he made to the Spanish-language newspaper Vocero that the territory, 99 percent Hispanic, needed to make English its main language if it was to become a state. There is no such federal requirement.Wikipedia says that "85 percent [of Puerto Ricans] reported that they did not speak English 'very well.'" What chance, then, is there that the government of Puerto Rico will make English the sole official language?
The widespread appearance of Spanish on ballots in many elections around the United States may be a direct result of the current relationship of the U.S. and PR, in that, since 1917, anyone born in PR has automatically gained U.S. citizenship even if they later learned not one word of English. So mainland areas that had significant Spanish-speaking populations were mandated to provide Spanish on ballots (even if their speakers of Spanish were NOT born in PR). Americans concerned that bilingualism produces social division would be happy to remove Spanish from election ballots, and thus may regard the present relationship between the U.S. and PR as an unreasonable imposition upon Americans. If PR is given independence, the mainland may be freed from the requirement that Spanish appear, and ballots might again be unilingual.
The current colonial condition of PR is also expensive to U.S. taxpayers. A few years ago, the cost was put at $11 billion a year!
On January 3rd, I placed the following petition on the SignOn.org website (a project of MoveOn.org) under the heading, "Statehood for Puerto Rico (including the USVI)".
To be delivered to: The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack ObamaUnfortunately, no one found this petition at that site, and there are only two signatures, both from the Expansionist Party of the United States. If you favor statehood for Puerto Rico, you might sign it too, and alert others to its existence.
End the second-class status of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands by joining those two colonies into a single 51st State. If a ratifying plebiscite rejects statehood, whichever territory rejects it should be forced into independence, saving U.S. taxpayers money that can be spent on people who value U.S. citizenship.
There are four million "citizens" of the United States in two adjoining colonies in the Caribbean, the misnamed "Commonwealth" of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Real, first-class citizens have the right to vote for President and Congress, but 4 million Americans in the Caribbean have no such right.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Defending a Mass-Murderer's Identity! Why on Earth has the Pentagon concealed the identity of the soldier who went on a mass-murdering rampage in Afghanistan? How does he have any privacy rights, or indeed any rights at all? Not only should his identity have been revealed immediately — as is the identity of EVERYONE accused of a similar crime in the United States — but he should also be turned over to the Afghan people for trial and execution. No way in the world do we have any right nor reason to protect that monster from the righteous wrath of the Afghan people.
The insane choice to suppress his identity tells Afghans that there will be no justice, but the U.S. Government will defend him and rationalize away his crimes. That CANNOT be what we want the people of Afghanistan to believe. We must show our solidarity with Afghans, and our absolute disapproval of what he did, by disowning him, and sending him to his fate in the criminal-justice system of that tragic country.
Hoist with Their Own, Plutocratic Petard. Republicans have been loud and long-winded in praising the value to society of unrestricted expenditures by the rich in political matters. Now they are seeing their own people crushed by money. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are being outspent 10:1 and more by Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul is being outspent by much more than that. Now the financial underdogs are complaining that Romney is trying to buy the nomination thru an unfair advantage in funding. Oh? I thought you LOVED economic inequality. It is supposed to provide us with vast benefits in giving incentive to people to do better! So, take that message, Santorum and Gingrich. Work harder! You too can have more campaign funding than you know what to do with! But if you finally do see that financial inequality is socially destructive, SAY so.
The under-financed candidates should point out that whoever wins the Presidency will not have the option simply to increase private funding to run the country — that the Federal budget is not variable, so what matters is not that one candidate has 10 times as much money as another, but what a candidate can do with the SAME amount of money, because if Romney were to win the Presidency (which is not going to happen, of course; but let us, for this argument, say it could happen) he will not have 10 times the Federal budget to work with than would a President Santorum or President Gingrich, but the same, identical budget, so any monetary advantage in the campaign says NOTHING about his ability to govern with limited finances.
Monday, March 05, 2012
Drafts for a Book About Expansionism. I have made a start on writing a book (tentatively called "This Is the Plan") to set out the proposals and rationale for enlarging the United States geographically. Here is one section to appear early in the book.
Dynamic, Not Static
The main error opponents of Expansion into their own area make is in thinking that the unappealing traits they see in the United States of today would blight their own area. Canadians, for instance, say things like "We don't want the Radical Right in charge of our country" or "I don't want to lose my health coverage". What they don't realize is that the only way the Republicans could continue to have any power in an Expanded United States is if they continued to win a majority of the total vote of the entire Nation, as Expanded. And the only way they could do that is if they changed so much as to be unrecognizable as the plutocrats they are today.
That's the nice, inclusive way of putting it.
The less nice way of putting it is to say that the Republican Party would be wiped out as a political force, reduced to a permanent, feckless minority by the votes of millions of liberals from new States. If Canada had been part of the United States in the year 2000, George Bush would never have been elected, there would never have been an Iraq war, the Federal budget would have remained in surplus and the national debt reduced; the bankruptcy laws would never have been "reformed" to trap people in debt; Social Security would not be under threat; and other negative impacts upon the Nation and world would never have happened.
More, far from losing their own universal health coverage, Canadians would have joined with American liberals to give the United States a working universal healthcare program that fixed the defects of the Canadian system and gave everyone a much better system. Free trade would be evaluated much more critically, and the Expanded United States would require improvements in wages and hours, worker rights, healthcare, environmental protection, and working conditions as preconditions to free trade with low-wage areas.
U.S. policy in the Middle East would be much more balanced, as would empower the U.S. to be a true "honest broker", for not taking sides.
The Expanded U.S. would use its power much more for the positive than the negative, with increased development aid and greater support for emerging democracies.
In area after area, the Accession of Canada to the Union would so thoroughly transform the United States for the better that the Expanded U.S. would act very differently at home and abroad, not because we would become Greater Canada, tho in a sense we would, but because the forces of regression and progress are so evenly balanced in the United States today, with a slight tilt to regression, that the addition of even a few million progressive votes would utterly transform the Nation according to principles that half the Nation really believe in and the other half merely pretends allegiance to, things like equality and opportunity for all. Canada offers us not a few million progressive votes, but over 20 million!
With such a new electorate, dominantly Liberal, the plutocrats and radical libertarians among us would be very hard pressed to oppose progress toward equality and opportunity. The "I've got mine; you just try to get yours!" crowd would be exposed in its indecent selfishness and pretty much forced to go along with transformation of society to extend to everyone the good life they want to keep tightly to themselves. They might even be ennobled by a chastening disaster at the polls, and the resulting change in the direction of society, as people who have near-death experiences sometimes change their entire approach to life, going from miserly, selfish, and abusive, to open-hearted and open-handed.
There could be no greater error than to see the Expanded United States as a simple extension of the bad things that now characterize the Nation. Expansion will inevitably transform the Nation in many ways, mostly for the better, and mostly right away, as soon as representatives and Senators from new States are seated.
The addition of any area will likely improve the Nation far more than drag it down, for putting more human and physical resources at our disposal and adding more brains and "new blood" to the leadership. That goes even for a small addition, like Puerto Rico, whose 4 million Hispanics would hugely increase the Hispanic vote in Congress and for President. All Puerto Rican adults are eligible to vote, for having been born citizens, whereas a very large portion of the Latino population elsewhere in the Nation is ineligible to vote, for having been born abroad and not yet become citizens of the United States.
Once Puerto Rico is a state, with or without the U.S. Virgin Islands at the beginning, it could serve as a base for a wider Caribbean state, such that if the British Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, or any other insular Caribbean nation, the Bahamas, Belize, or Guyana were later to express interest in joining the Union, they could be joined with Puerto Rico in a wider Caribbean State as would ease their integration into the Nation and give cohesion to Caribbean development.
If Canada joins the Union, the forces of liberalism will triumph immediately, and the Nation's best self will immediately come to the fore. Quebec and Acadia's Francophones would give us a cordial and influential connection to La Francophonie, the wide community of speakers of French around the world.
If Britain joins the Union, the U.S. becomes not only a Liberal country in perpetuity, which Canadian accession would also guarantee, but also a hugely more powerful country for having absorbed a great power with all its human, educational, economic, and military resources, and web of connections with the ruling class of many countries of the former British Empire who still look toward London with affection and have intimate interconnections with British politics and economics.
The Accession of almost any country would make the United States more Liberal and outward-looking, since the United States is one of the most conservative societies on Earth. There are, of course, conservative governments and regressive ruling classes in some countries. Rightwing dictatorships do exist in many parts of this planet. But American conservatives would be embarrassed to make common cause with them upon Annexation. Compared to the Papa Docs and Somozas of the world, American conservatives are the good guys, devoted to retaining the wisdom of the past and the personal liberties, not just property, handed down as indispensable parts of the Western tradition. It would, indeed, be salutary for American conservatives to compare themselves to rightwing dictatorships in order to see how their own principles, carried too far, can be ruinous.
Accession of Mexico is the test here. Mexico talks the talk of a progressive nation, but is fundamentally regressive and repressive both governmentally and socially. Mexico is slave to tradition and socially immobile. What your father was, you will be, whether you like it or not. The ruling class hasn't even seen it as essential to electrify rural areas or provide sewage treatment or even septic tanks for all its people, nor even safe drinking water to all Mexican families. American conservatives cannot countenance such mistreatment of the common man but would be forced by embarrassment into distancing themselves from such cavalier reservation of the good things in life to the few and fortunate. American conservatives would understand that there is an enormous amount of money to be made in electrifying rural Mexico, and building the sewage systems, water systems, schools and roads and everything else poor Mexicans need, using a poorly paid workforce to wrack up huge profits for American developers. They could even generously raise wages and provide generous benefits — by Mexican standards — yet still clear a fortune, all the while pretending that their mercenary self-serving is actually altruism more than enlightened self-interest.
Social conservatives would be powerfully reinforced by the conservative Catholicism of much of Mexico. (Mexico can surprise you, tho. Consider that the Federal District of Mexico City legalized same-sex marriage long before most of the United States.) Of course, anti-Catholic bigots among Protestant conservatives would have to put aside their "anti-papist" inclinations or miss out on sharing in the new power of social conservatism. American social liberals might fear for the agenda that Mexican Catholics would favor, but poor Mexicans are conservative in part because they don't see the world as holding out much promise for themselves or their children. Once opportunities explode in front of their eyes, many Mexicans will cast aside the restraints their ancestors lived with. And of course the dominant rhetoric of Mexican politics has long been leftist. In Mexico, with its 110 million and more people, the American conservative movement has its best chance of retaining influence, but even there (and in regard to the Annexation of other Latin American countries and the Philippines), it is only social conservatism that stands much chance, because the needs for economic transformation are so great that capitalism without government activism is unlikely to suffice.
The decision American conservatives have to make as regards Expansion is between economic self-interest and security, on the one hand, and retention of the upper hand in domestic U.S. politics. Expansion would entail so much economic growth and increase the power of the United States so much that worries about the rise of foreign challengers (the EU, China, India) would subside. Mexico alone would constitute a virtually inexhaustible supply of volunteers for the military as would guarantee a supremely powerful defense against all dangers into the very long-term future. In any economic upswing, the rich will do better than the rest of society, for the simple reason that "it takes money to make money". So any massive increase in national wealth will be accompanied by a massive increase in the private wealth of the presently well-off. Counterbalancing that will be a probable increase in taxation to fund development of badly underdeveloped areas of the Expanded Nation. But what do you care if your taxes rise by 10% but your net worth rises 20%? (Those are just sample figures; the exact ratio is unpredictable, but it is certain that, tho a rising tide raises all boats, it almost invariably seems to raise yachts higher and faster than dinghies or fishing boats.)
India is another case in point. India is libertarianism gone mad. The "I've got mine; you just try to get yours!" crowd has controlled India for thousands of years, holding all the good things in life closely to their own chest, and using superstition to keep the poor down. They even labeled some people "untouchable" and structured social and political institutions to keep society rigidly structured into hierarchical classes from which they could not rise (or fall). American conservatives would be loath to side with continuation of a caste system in India, much less its institution here — even tho the American Radical Right has many of the same basic feelings about the poor that the top of Indian society has. Indian Brahmins are forthright in their disdain for the poor, and let themselves feel good about the plight of the miserable by occasional charity in the form of "alms", and pronouncements that it is "the will of God" that some are mighty and rich while others are powerless and poor — because if one accepts one's place with grace, and lives virtuously in "this life", then you will be rewarded in "the next life" with a better social and economic station. American conservatives would be embarrassed into disowning such attitudes by another principle of our civilization, that a person should be allowed to rise as high as his talents might take him.