Thursday: Repetition

A little Prince to make the painful repetition a little easier to take.

By repetition I mean what’s happening in Puerto Rico compared to what has already happened in Michigan.

Some of Michigan’s most financially distressed cities were forced to accept emergency managers, supplanting the cities’ democratically elected officials. Under state law, EMs were the sole point of power and authority for administration until the cities were deemed financially viable. We all know how that turned out; in Flint’s case, ten people died from Legionnaire’s disease and roughly 8000 kids will pay for the incompetence of the emergency management scheme for the rest of their lives due to the permanent effects of lead poisoning. The incompetence is further magnified by governmental bodies’ failure to do the right thing to completion, while continuing to milk the city and state of more money to no effect.

Witness the state attorney general Bill Schuette now asking for $3.4 million to investigate what can already be easily seen in records released to date. The assessments made so far have been equally wrong — like Schuette’s office suing two consulting firms when documentation clearly shows outright stupidity in contract management or malfeasance on the part of government was the real problem. And none of Flint’s water problems would have happened had not the city been forced off Detroit’s water by the state treasurer’s office, which rejected a last-minute offer far cheaper than construction of the new Karegnondi water line. Seeing this doesn’t need millions of dollars, only ethics.

Puerto Rico — with a population smaller than Los Angeles in an area a little smaller than Connecticut — is now undergoing a similar loss of democracy for similar reasons of financial distress. The territory is $73 billion in debt caused in no small part by suffocating federal policies. The U.S. Senate just voted to supplant Puerto Rico’s elected officials’ authority with a team of managers. They had too little democracy as it was before this schema, not having the same kind of representation that the fifty states have; many of the financial limitations Puerto Rico faces have been directly related to the territory’s inability to regulate commerce.

The economic hitmen have won. Now the vultures descend.

The galling part is this approach is called PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act) — a promise. Brace yourselves, Puerto Ricans, at least they’ve warned you. Que Dios tenga misericordia porque los buitres no lo hará.

Odd lots
I’ve got a bunch of stray cats and dogs here that didn’t fit under any theme so far this week. In other words, there wasn’t much repetition. Make of them what you will.

Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday and I can indulge in a little jazz. See you then.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
20 replies
  1. jo6pac says:

    Yes, drones. Someone had one over the forest fire in northern Calif. yesterday and the planes fighting the fire were grounded until it left. The last time this happened it was local tv channel.

  2. bloopie2 says:

    Many people who get drones will not pay any attention to any regulations etc., and will just go off and fly the damn things. So, until there’s a safe way to disable a pesky drone–EMF rays, lead bullets, sonic blasts (all those things are otherwise harmless, right?)–a way that won’t hurt whoever the drone falls on, then let’s just make them illegal, period. A new federal law that attempts to nip budding technology in the bud, that’s what we need. Hire more FBI agents to spy on us, more prosecutors, more judges, build more jail cells, the whole nine yards. I’m sure most American citizens will gladly pay for that instead of spending their money on a drone. And, what could possibly go wrong?

  3. Rayne says:

    jo6pac (9:40) — Ugh. This drone crap is life-threatening when it interferes with first responders’ efforts. Didn’t CA pass a law restricting drone usage for this reason, because there were multiple cases where drones obstructed first responders?

    bloopie2 (10:23) — Not one of your more cogent responses. Try again.

    bevin (11:03) — Yeah, definitely an example of the economic hitmen at work, but I tried to stay on shore here today. Greece has Yanis Varoufakis to get their backs; Puerto Rico only has…Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda? I don’t know, not enough economic clout to muster a firebrand to protect their interests.

    • bloopie2 says:

      “Cogent” may be defined as “clear, logical, and convincing”. I think my comment was both clear and logical. I can see how others might not be convinced of my proposal; I for one am not. What my proposal does attempt is to point out the fallacy of thinking that some government somewhere issuing a few regulations will do much of anything to address this problem. Do we really want yet another layer of government following us in every cubic yard of the airspace? Perhaps some spy drones up in the air, watching everything all the time, to track bad drones? If not, anyone got another solution?
      .
      OTOH, I am honored that you apparently do sometimes find my comments ‘cogent’ Thank you! 

  4. Denis says:

    Rayne: “Company is eating its own dogfood”
    .
    That has got to be a metaphor for the ages. I hope you don’t mind if I add this to my stable of I-don’t-care-what-the-hell-it-means-I’m-using-it-dude metaphors. It’s even better than my previous favorite: “Like bull spit on the windshield.” Denis (c) 2013
    .
    Please classify this as one of my “more cogent” responses.
    .
    Thank you

  5. blueba says:

    Look, I DO NOT think that emptywheel is overtly raciest, please be clear about that.

    “China launched a space junk collector, but is that all it will do? (SCMP) — Article suggests the equipment launched could be used as an anti-satellite weapon. Time to brush up on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.”

    Which other country which has launched a satellite for publicly stated peaceful purposes (other than the US) has emptywheel expressed suspicion of it being for nefarious purposes?

    The attitude here is if it comes from China it is suspect. If a Chinese car has wheels the question will be – did China steal the design form GM – oh, sorry GM is an Italian company, maybe Chevrolet, whoops wrong again they stole from Ford. And – is it only a car?

    It is quite tiresome.

    • John Casper says:

      “Look, I DO NOT think that,” you’re, “overtly,” against emptywheel, “please be clear about that.”
      .
      1. Do you have a link to all emptywheel’s posts about, “which other country which has launched a satellite for publicly stated peaceful purposes (other than the US) has,” that, “emptywheel expressed suspicion of it being for nefarious purposes?”
      .
      2. What’s up with “China’s disappearing billionaires – an alarming trend?”
      .
      “Though it has received far less attention, another more ominous sign of trouble is the “disappearance” of senior executives from at least 34 Chinese companies over the last year. On Jan. 7, billionaire Zhou Chengjian, the Chairman of Metersbonwe, one of China’s leading clothing companies, vanished. The company issued a statement saying it was looking into reports that he had been picked up by the police. Ten days later, he returned to work along with Tu Ke, the Company’s Board Secretary.”

      http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/01/chinas-missing-ceos-and-billionaires-having-a-chilling-effect-commentary.html
      .
      3. Do you have any links to estimates of wealth inequality in China, that you would be willing to share?
      .
      Thanks in advance.

  6. omphaloscepsis says:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmaceutical_industry_in_Puerto_Rico

    “The pharmaceutical industry in Puerto Rico encompasses more than half of all manufacturing done in Puerto Rico. As the island’s most prominent industry, pharmaceutics generates more than 18,000 jobs, pays more than $3 billion USD in taxes, comprises about half of total exports, and has generated more than 25% of the island’s GDP for the past four decades. Comparatively, Puerto Rico is the fifth largest area in the world for pharmaceutical manufacturing with more than 80 plants . . . In terms of market share, as of 2014, Puerto Rico produces sixteen of the top twenty selling drugs in the mainland United States.”

    From 10 years ago:

    http://www.pharmaceuticalonline.com/doc/puerto-ricos-pharmaceutical-industry-40-years-0003

    “U.S. tax incentives played a large role in creating Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical manufacturing cluster. And although the tax incentives of Sections 936 and 30A of the Internal Revenue Code were phased out at the end of 2005, the island’s manufacturers can still benefit from some of the best tax incentives in the world, including no U.S. federal income tax and a local corporate income tax rate that tops off at 7 percent. By comparison, Ireland, another low tax manufacturing region, has a corporate income tax rate of 12 percent.

    Most of the former Section 936 companies have converted to 901 CFC, which converts US companies operating in foreign countries into controlled foreign corporations, or CFCs. This strategy allows manufacturers to enjoy the benefits of operating within a U.S. jurisdiction, with the added tax benefits of operating under a foreign tax structure. . . .

    Puerto Rico’s government has made growing the island’s biotechnology industry a priority, creating a range of new tax incentives for R&D, process development, scale-up and manufacturing. In December 2003 the government approved legislation granting a 200% deduction on qualifying R&D spending activities for new or improved products. In an effort to attract more emerging companies to Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth is also creating a tax package tailored to the needs of companies that are at the stage of net operating loss.”

    From 5 years ago:

    http://www.camarapr.org/PRHealth2011/presentations/PRH&I-Daneris_Fernandez.pdf

    “Current Situation of BioPharma in Puerto Rico

    18 companies 35 sites
    21% (19.6 K) of the employment
    69.0% of exports
    33.4% of imports
    79% of corporate tax
    13 of top 20 highest sales patented products
    5 of top 10 biotech worldwide products”

    In 2010 they passed Law 154, a new corporate tax code.

    http://www.phrma.org/media/releases/phrma-statement-regarding-puerto-rico-law-154

    Short version of above: “Don’t tax me, bro”

  7. Rayne says:

    Denis (12:30) — I didn’t make up the phrase, “eating their dogfood.” It’s been around for some time in the tech industry, refers to companies’ use of their own products in alpha and beta stages (and sometimes beyond) to accomplish both real world user testing and testimony about suitability/viability of product.

    blueba (1:49) — Oh hello, blueba, what a surprise to see you! (not) Always nice to see my favorite minder on matters related to PRC. Again, I’ll point out that our coverage of China here is underweighted in terms of impact on U.S. economy and in terms of the size of China’s population. Of course we will have a piece like this on a Chinese satellite launch when I just wrote this month about several U.S. launches. And again, I wrote about Russia in the very same roundup that this piece you question is mentioned.

    You’ll also note if you read carefully that I didn’t do anything more than point out what the South China Morning Post said about the launch. SCMP is now owned by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group, which as a business founded and headquartered in PRC surely must operate with the blessing of PRC.

    I ask for clarification, then: are you questioning news content that the PRC must have some reason for permitting to be published?

    Considering all the background behind the publisher of the story, perhaps I should have asked if SCMP was really offering something else besides a question of what that satellite might do.

    Have a nice day! See you next story related to China!

    omphaloscepsis (1:58) — Yup, spot on, one of the biggest economic drains on PR.

    • blueba says:

      I read the SCMP on occasion I used to read it more often but fell out of the habit.

      Today, and for a few weeks now the US has had tow aircraft carriers in or near the South China Sea. US threats and violations of Chinese sovereignty are occurring on a regular basis. This after the huge military build up of the last four years or so on China’s periphery.

      China has a foreign policy a legal case and historical claims in the South China Sea. These are all legitimate claims which should be respected to the extent that they are reported and can be discussed openly.

      No where in the West have I found anything like an honest representation of what the Chinese views are an just about anything.

      You realize, I hope, that the Modi government has tipped India fully into the Neoliberal maw. He did so after Obama concluded negotiations begun under Bush to transfer large amounts of nuclear fuel to India which means India can now process this fuel, or the fuel it already has (it doesn’t really need any more for civil purposes) to build an unknown (could be 10 could be 100) number of new nuclear weapons with which it can threaten China.

      Having two aircraft carriers in the same seas is extremely rare and represents a serious escalation of US belligerence toward China.

      In these circumstances it is vital that Chinese views are heard in the West.

      There is no indication I know of that shows China is being in any way or anywhere militarily bulligerant toward another country. While we know the US is not building up over a trillion dollars in military equipment on China’s periphery (including 60% of its nuclear armed submarines) for no reason.

      Whatever the Chinese satellite is or might be doing doing other than its stated purpose seems to me to be defensive and not aggressive. Sense there is virtually no reporting on China’s views and no context for the report it does not provide proper background for why the Chinese might be motivated to do secret things with satellites, or take other defensive moves.

      Stories about China, especially military related stories such as yours, can not be understood by ignoring the conditions under which China is operating.

      Never-the-less I apologize for my insinuation that by and large the work done here is anything less than superb. Still, the context of serious aggression by the US must be part of the reporting.

      China build a super secret satellite tracking station in Argentina, almost simultaneously Argentina built from scratch its own communications satellite. Are we now going to speculate on what other nefarious uses Argentina’s satellite might have?

      I would like to see reports that show the military aggression of China, so far as I know, China is not military aggressive anywhere and is seeking to protect itself. That should be made clear.

      China is now deploying quantum communications satellites with the intention to build a global quantum communications network. Due to quantum properties this system will be substantially more secure than encryption in non-quantum systems. (Because if someone looks or copies or interferes in any way that act will change quantum states and sender and receiver know immediately.

      It sure seems to me that this is a significant advance for the protection of whatever privacy remains, but I haven’t seen a single story about it in the Western press.

      Emptywheel can’t stand in for the Western press but it can provide enough context to avoid the misunderstanding that things China does in secret might very well be (and with plenty of motivation) for defensive purposes and not aggression.

      Yes, I do nitpick and probably get it wrong sometimes and for that I apologize. The rode to hell is paved with good intentions.

      Further, I really appreciate your measured and serious responses to my aggravating posts.

      • wayoutwest says:

        Didn’t the Chinese successfully test a killer satellite last year on one of their old sats?

  8. Rayne says:

    bloopie2 (1:26) — Dude. We didn’t have these bloody drones five years ago. We don’t NEED them now. A single regulation will fix the problem: ban them. No muss, no fuss. No more existential threats to first responders or invasions of privacy.

  9. P J Evans says:

    On drones: I’d like one with night vision and a reservoir capacity of one or two gallons, that I can drive over the idjits in the townhouses next door who like to set off pyrotechnics between 10pm and 1am. (The load would preferably be water spiked with perfume and dye, to be used on the idjits.)

    • bloopie2 says:

      You need a sound cannon. They fire directed VERY LOUD sound for quite a distance. Just set it up with a timer to come on about 2am, point to the neighbors. They will hear it, not so much you. Have a good night!

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