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The NFL’s Biggest Threat Is Apathy
« Reply #3045 on: February 14, 2018, 08:53:17 AM »
Here is an article that reminds me of some discussions we have had on this Forum, and some riffs off of random posts.

It resonates with me, but for reasons different from those of the author, who is a woman, and younger.

She captures the notes of regional affiliation and a sense of welcome tribalism. But I note in my own behavior a waning of enthusiasm for the NFL.

I played football as a young man, and was a lineman in college. I was small, but I was slow. During the bulk of my adult years, Sundays were pretty much sacrosanct, organized around my expected TV watching; my devotion to my hometown team remained in place, through good times and bad. But I'm not sure whether it's the political weaponization of the Kaepernick thing, the hyper-militarization and phony patriotism, the growing body of work in re CFE, the overexposure of Thursday night football, shitty games featuring the Whoville Wombats against the Boomtown Rats, or the interminable replays that delay a game for seven minutes while a gaggle of pontiffs interpret slow motion evidence from different angles, only to be overridden by the Fixer in New York, whose sole purpose is to keep a thumb on the scales such that the decision will go to the team owned by Robert Kraft, because Roger Goodell owes Kraft for backing him against Jerry Jones, and hence receiving a $200 million contract renewal as Commissioner.

As the illustration says, Meh. Just not feeling the love much anymore.

IN 20 years co-ed teams will be playing two-hand touch.

The NFL’s Biggest Threat Is Apathy

The NFL’s Biggest Threat Is Apathy

Illustration: Jim Cooke

One Sunday this season I forgot to watch the NFL. There were some errands to be done, probably, or maybe I was elbows-deep in some stupid binge-watch fugue state. It’s not important, really. What’s notable is not what else was on my plate, but that it was more important to me than watching a football game. At some point in the last few seasons I’ve felt my interest in the sport slowly drain away, with each football Sunday becoming less of a capital-e Event and more of a low-impact way to pass some time throughout the fall and winter.

It’s probably best that I refrain from the NFL, although I can’t say in good faith that doing so was an ethical decision on my part, or even one I was aware of making. If I have children one day, I’d like to tell them I acted on principle and turned away from a sport so detrimental to the people who break their bodies across brief and brutal careers that mostly serve to enrich their billionaire employers. I’d love to be a person who could sit here and write one of those righteous, correct, semi-insufferable essays on Why I Can No Longer Watch The NFL With A Clean Conscience, but I’m not. I want to love football, and I don’t want to give up the part of me that has allowed the game to stand in for other interests—for regional pride, and for some sense of family nostalgia. I am not ready to give up the game just yet, but I am feeling increasingly certain that it’s happening anyway, with or without my conscious consent or active participation.

I believe that people like me are a bigger risk to the sport’s future than the people who draw a principled line at the league’s handling of CTE or its response to player protests against racial injustice during the National Anthem. I know quite a few people who fall into the camp of people disturbed by brain trauma, and a few who seem to have tentatively walked away given the implicit blackballing of Colin Kaepernick. The only person I’ve met personally who said he gave up the game because of the kneeling during the anthem was a guy whose dog was sniffing my dog’s butt on Super Bowl Sunday. I don’t imagine I’d agree with that man on much more than the relative merits of dogs, but in a sense I admire people willing to walk away from something they love because they believe it’s wrong not to do so. It’s the righteous way to be.

But eventually, I think there will be more people like me, who over time become slightly bored with the game and maybe the league, and then just fade away slowly. It’s one thing for the NFL to try to recapture the fans that have given up the game for specific reasons, but it’s another to try to rekindle the passion of consumers gone apathetic.

The Wall Street Journal wrote about the NFL’s dilemma ahead of the Super Bowl, selling a WSJ/NBC joint poll as “[depicting] a developing nightmare for the National Football League: Its core audience is losing interest rapidly, a potential threat to the league’s dominant role in American culture.”

“Adults who report following the NFL closely has dropped 9% since 2014, the poll finds. More alarming for the league, however, is the makeup of the people moving away from the NFL in large numbers: Just 51% of men aged 18 to 49 say they follow the NFL closely, down from 75% four years ago. The poll did not ask respondents why their interest changed. The Journal/NBC News poll interviewed 900 adults from Jan. 13-17. The margin of error for the full sample was plus or minus 3.27 percentage points.”

The piece went on to detail various reasons this could be the case, and chances are you already know those. But for me, there’s not one specific incident I can point to to say this, this is why I no longer love the NFL.

It’s the brain damage and CTE, certainly. It’s the gross labor, class, and racial dynamics that turn men into mostly disposable pawns, exploited as they make their way through the NCAA grinder and exploited again in the NFL, where they at last earn a wildly suppressed salary. It’s the simple fact that my favorite team, the 49ers, have been not just bad, but very, very boring over the last few seasons. It’s the fact that I left the Bay Area for New York and have been taken away from the culture of my team and am no longer in the television market for their boring-ass games. It’s the fact that writing about sports inevitably dulls the sensation of watching them. It’s the fact that to some extent, through maturation, I no longer need my interest in the game to prop up who I am or dictate how I relate to the world around me.

Or maybe my problem is the NFL’s constant, churning administrative drama. That constant underlying churn is the league’s least-favorite word: a distraction from the game at hand. But it’s probably not the catch rule. That can be fixed, I think.


When I watched the Super Bowl, I was hoping to see Tom Brady be humbled. I was also thinking about the flow of the game, and the way the lack of punts presented a whole New Football, one where the game moved along handily and drama was sustained from down to down. But I also wondered about the people across the country gathered in groups to watch this one game. I wondered where my interest was on the spectrum of those fans, and where I was on the continuum of “do not under any circumstances talk to me during the game” people and the “I’m just here for the chips and dip” people.

I know where I used to be. I was a nightmare to watch a 49ers game with, to the point where I preferred to watch games alone. I once shamefully yelled at someone who tried to talk to me during a playoff game. I called in sick to work after the 2014 NFC Championship loss. I wore an Aldon Smith jersey on my third date with my boyfriend; when the game was over I went into the bathroom at the bar to cry because I knew Jim Harbaugh was going to get fired and the team would plunge back into the darkness. It was fun! It was probably very humiliating! But it was fun! Or, anyway, it was exciting.

Football was, for a fairly brief period of time, something about me. Every waking moment during the season was defined first and foremost by my love of football and the 49ers, even if, admittedly, I’m not all that expert in the particulars of the game. But it’s a social game, and it’s America’s Sport for now, and like most people I know who remain obsessed with sports into adulthood, continuing to care about it had a lot to do with my feelings about my family.

But now, as I find myself moving further from football as an anchor of my identity, I wonder whether I’d be able to walk—or drift—away from football if it had remained a consistent lifelong passion. Would I even have these feelings of conflict? Would they be stronger? Do I feel fairly ready to quit watching the NFL because in time I’ve realized the 49ers have nothing to do with my family at all? Am I still holding on, to the extent I am, because I’m still not ready to give up the wispy, stubborn family ties I have fashioned around this sport?


The first independently reported feature I ever wrote was about a man named Joseph Chernach who killed himself at age 25and was found to have CTE. He played football throughout high school. His mother is now one of the moms at the forefront of a CTE awareness campaign. His brother still loves the Packers. The New York Times rewrote the story and I screamed into a pillow. For a young reporter without access to players or credentials, the CTE beat is accessible; people want to tell their stories, and most of the professional football media is busy writing about professional football. Over the next couple of years I spoke to innumerable wives and mothers and children of men who’d given their minds and bodies to the game, leaving their loved ones suffering in the wake.

Only a handful of those interviews ever made it to print, but they are inescapable in my mind when I watch the NFL. Each hit a man takes on the field is an injury against his loved ones, too. I think of the players who post beautiful photos of their families on Instagram, and wonder what the future will look like for those small kids and the women who manage the home. I ask in interviews if these players will allow their own kids to play the game, or I listen for it in other people’s interviews. I wonder why, if they say no, they allow themselves to suffer through a game to which they wouldn’t subject their kids. I wonder what forces could possibly outweigh the still-early but supremely alarming research and testimonies on what football does to a body. I wince now more than I used to; the legal hit that knocked Brandin Cooks out of the Super Bowl made me nauseous.

But it’s not just that. Increasingly during the season I wonder about the league’s distribution of access to its product outside of prime-time and regional matchups.

In my other time, I mostly focus on baseball. For a relatively small fee, I can watch every single out of market game on MLB.tv, regardless of my time zone or local cable package. It’s something I wish would come to football, not in the form of the expensive Sunday Ticket, which would require me to change my cable subscription entirely, but in some way that was easier to use. To watch the 49ers in New York, I have only a few options. I can hope that they’re playing a local team or wind up in the 4 p.m. national game, I can stream the game illegally, or I can hope they show up on Red Zone consistently (hahaha). It’s pretty fucking hard to stay invested in a bad team under those circumstances, and the promise of neutral fandom doesn’t do much for me, personally.

I’ve talked about this privately many times over the course of the last year, but never expected to write it all out. Mostly, though, I know there are people out there like me—people who, despite their otherwise reasonable moral inclinations, just do not quite want to quit football. It’s an inherently shameful position, a compromise with myself and not an especially honorable one at that. But it’s where I am now, and it’s what I think about when I sit down to watch a game.

The 49ers should have some fun stuff cooking next season, especially now with Jimmy Garoppolo locked up to a big, glimmering contract, but I predict that within a few years I will slide further down the ranks of football fanatics to become a person who tunes in casually throughout the season, and makes time during the playoffs. I don’t think I have it in me to give it up altogether—as a nation full of viewers saw during the Super Bowl, football can still be very, very fun—but I don’t have much faith in that same passion, that same spark reigniting after being worn down to an ember. I want to love football, despite my better instincts, but for now, it just won’t let me.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3046 on: February 15, 2018, 06:53:57 AM »
HOW RICH ARE THE RICH? IF ONLY YOU KNEW

By Gil B. Manzon Jr., Theconversation.com
 

“If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.”

Actor and comedian Chris Rock made this astute statement during a 2014 interview with New York magazine, referring to the yawning gap between rich and poor. In so doing, he stumbled upon a key challenge in the study of inequality.

What’s the best way to measure it?

Most inequality studies have focused on income – measures of which are widely available. However, being rich is not about a single year of earnings but rather about the accumulation of wealth over time. In the past, quantifying that has been tricky.

The wealthy would probably prefer we stay in the dark about how rich they are, presumably to avoid the aforementioned riots. People like me who study the topic, however, are always looking for more data and better and more accurate ways to measure the rich-poor gap. And while I’m not one to promote violence in the streets, I do believe it’s important for citizens to be fully aware of the levels of disparity in their society.

The most revealing way to do this, in my view, is by looking at wealth inequality.

Chris Rock cited the free food, drinks and massages at the Virgin upper-class lounge at Heathrow Airport in his comments about inequality. Faruk Ateş, CC BY-NC

Measuring The Rich-Poor Gap

There are several ways to measure inequality.

One of the most popular is by income. That’s largely because there’s more data, and it’s a lot easier to measure. But this measure is a snapshot.

Wealth, on the other hand, is an aggregation, affected not only by current income but earnings accumulated in previous years and by previous generations. Only by studying wealth inequality do scholars, policymakers and others get the deepest and broadest measure of the gap between the rich and everyone else.

How much wealth someone has is also a better measure of their quality of life and opportunities. It determines the ability to invest in education, financial assets and the comfort and security of one’s retirement. Wealth also mitigates worries about paycheck variability or unexpected expenses. If you have wealth, the sudden cost of replacing a broken water heater or paying a medical bill doesn’t cause nearly as much stress as if you’re poor.

Most of the gains from the recent tax package will accrue to the richest Americans. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

American ‘Exceptionalism’

When we do look at the data on wealth inequality in the U.S., it’s stark and dwarfs that of the rest of the developed world.

The conservative Hudson Institute in 2017 reported that the wealthiest 5 percent of American households held 62.5 percent of all assets in the U.S. in 2013, up from 54.1 percent 30 years earlier. As a consequence, the wealth of the other 95 percent declined from 45.9 percent to 37.5 percent.

As a result, the median wealth of upper-income families (earning US$639,400 on average) was nearly seven times that of middle-income households ($96,500) in 2013, the widest gap in at least 30 years.

More notably, inequality scholars Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman found that the top 0.01 percent controlled 22 percent of all wealth in 2012, up from just 7 percent in 1979.

If you only looked at data on income inequality, however, you’d see a different picture. In 2013, for example, the top 5 percent of households earned just 30 percent of all U.S. income (compared with possessing nearly 63 percent of all wealth).

While the U.S. is not the only developed country that has seen wealth inequality rise over the past three decades, it is an outlier. The wealthiest 5 percent of households in the U.S. have almost 91 times more wealth than the median American household, the widest gap among 18 of the world’s most developed countries. The next highest is the Netherlands, which has a ratio less than half that.

Lifting All Boats?

The recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will make this problem a whole lot worse.

The main features of the law include doubling the standard deduction for individual taxpayers, a temporary reduction in the top marginal tax rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, a significant reduction of the number of families subject to the estate tax and slashing the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

The main impact, however, is skewed to the wealthy. For example, the bottom 20 percent of households will see a lower tax bill of about $40 on average, compared with $5,420 for those in the top quintile. The richest 0.1 percent, meanwhile, will save $61,920. By 2025, the richest will see their benefit grow to $152,200, while everyone else won’t see much of a change. All the individual cuts are set to expire in 2026.

Wealthier taxpayers will also gain from the other main features of the new law. For example, research shows most benefits of lowering business taxes go to the rich, and fewer estates subject to the inheritance tax means more wealth accumulation across generations.

The tax law’s proponents claim that it won’t increase levels of inequality because the money that the rich will save will “trickle down” to other American households and lift their boats too.

Empirical evidence, however, suggests otherwise. Specifically, channeling more money to the rich, via tax cuts, does not improve economic growthworsens educational opportunities for poorer Americans and even reduces life expectancy, which declined for a second year in a row in 2017.

How rich are the rich? Chris Rock knows. mpi04/MediaPunch/IPX

Let’s Learn The Facts

So is Chris Rock right that Americans just aren’t aware of the levels of disparity in their society?

Surveys suggest he is. Respondents to a 2011 national survey, for example, “dramatically underestimated” levels of wealth inequality in the U.S.

The survey, and other research, also partially affirmed the other half of his quote by showing that by and large Americans do care about wealth inequality and would prefer it to be lower.

Whether existing wealth inequality in the U.S. is socially or morally sustainable – or might lead to the riots envisioned by Chris Rock – is an open question.

Whatever happens, first things first, we need to know and understand just how bad wealth inequality in the U.S. has become. What we then choose to do about it is up to all of us.

 
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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https://www.thoughtsandprayersthegame.com/
« Reply #3047 on: February 16, 2018, 08:18:29 AM »
Can't write it up, can't show a pic. It's a game.

Follow the link to play, and track the effectiveness of Thoughts and Prayers in Real Time!

https://www.thoughtsandprayersthegame.com/

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Sasse: Mueller ‘Just Put Moscow On Notice’ With Indictment Of 13 Russians
« Reply #3048 on: February 16, 2018, 12:19:30 PM »
Sasse: Mueller ‘Just Put Moscow On Notice’ With Indictment Of 13 Russians

Sasse: Mueller ‘Just Put Moscow On Notice’ With Indictment Of 13 Russians

Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) on Friday said special counsel Robert Mueller “put Moscow on notice” when he announced an indictment of 13 Russian nationals as part of the federal probe into Russian election interference.

“Mueller just put Moscow on notice. This ought to be a wakeup call to Washington: Putin’s shadow war is aimed at undermining Americans’ trust in our institutions,” Sasse said in a statement. “We know Russia is coming back in 2018 and 2020 – we have to take this threat seriously.”

Sasse, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the statement after the special counsel released a 37-page indictment detailing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s concerted efforts – starting in 2014 – to interfere “with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”

All 13 defendants have been charged with “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” Three defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and five were charged with “aggravated identity theft.”

During a press conference outlining the charges, which mark a significant development in Mueller’s investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that the indictment in no way alleges that “any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity” or “that the charge conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”


The real reason Robert Mueller indicted the Russians today before indicting Donald Trump


Updated: 2:15 pm EST Fri Feb 16, 2018

Home » Analysis

Robert Mueller announced today that he’s obtained indictments against thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian entities for a massive years-long scheme aimed at altering the outcome of the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor. In political terms, this is a crippling bodyblow to Trump, as it means a grand jury has looked at the evidence and concluded that Trump is indeed a Russian political puppet. But in terms of the investigation, there’s a reason Mueller is indicting the Russians before making his big move against Trump himself.

Actually there are two key reasons here. The first is that Mueller just guaranteed continued job security for himself, for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and for everyone else running the Trump-Russia investigation. Now that a grand jury has ruled that Russia really did try to rig the election for Trump, there is no way Trump can get away with turning around and trying to fire anyone. Nor can the Republican Party sit back and allow Trump to try to fire anyone, as much as the GOP would like this headache to go away, because the midterm elections just became all about this issue.

The second reason has criminal implications. Why has Mueller indicted anyone he’s indicted up to this point? It’s been entirely with the aim of getting those individuals to cut plea deals and provide evidence against bigger fish. This will be no different. These Russians will all get a chance to cut plea deals of their own, if they can provide evidence against the Americans they were working with. With thirteen Russians indicted today, one of them will hurry up and be the first to cut a deal, because the first person always gets the most lenient deal.

So now, even as Robert Mueller prepares to move on Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, he’s accomplished two things today. The first is that Trump is now politically crippled and the investigation is now bulletproof, even as Mueller makes his big move on Trump. The second is that Mueller is about to have Russians providing evidence against Trump and his people. It’s abundantly clear that Mueller plans to go after Trump for far more than merely obstruction. He’s bringing the house.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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One of the same banks that drove the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority into the red will now be paid to help auction it off to the highest bidder.

CITIGROUP DROVE PUERTO RICO INTO DEBT.
NOW IT WILL PROFIT FROM PRIVATIZATION ON THE ISLAND.


PREPA employee Jose Colon Maldonado waits for Governor Ricardo Rossello and staff from the army engineers corps to take a tour thru the facilities of the Palo Seco Thermal Power Plant, which the Electric Power Authority plans to activate in order to energize different areas of the metropolitan area, 28 days after the passage of hurricane Maria, in Catano, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. A month after Hurricane Maria rolled across the center of Puerto Rico, power is still out for the vast majority of people as the work to restore hundreds of miles of transmission lines and thousands of miles of distribution lines grinds on. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

 

ONE OF THE same banks that drove the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, into the red will now be paid to help auction it off to the highest bidder.

Citigroup Global Markets Inc., or Citi, will be the main investment bank consultant in the restructuring and privatization of PREPA, the Washington-appointed Fiscal Control Board — the body now overseeing Puerto Rico’s finances — announced recently. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló first announced the move toward privatization last month.

“Citi will advise the Board on PREPA’s privatization,” the Fiscal Control Board wrote in a statement, “as well as the restructuring of PREPA’s debt pursuant to Title III proceedings in federal bankruptcy court. Citi will take the lead in identifying private sector solutions that fulfill the vision laid out by Governor Rosselló.”

The board said it “welcomed … Rosselló’s call for PREPA’s complete transformation.”

Citi is responsible for having underwritten large chunks of the utility’s $9 billion in debt, and at one point owned at least hundreds of millions of dollars in PREPA bonds directly, according to an analysis from the Action Center on Race and the Economy. Citi “has been profiting from helping push Puerto Rico over the edge for a long time,” said Carrie Sloan, ACRE’s research director.

Take a Survey: Should Puerto Rico’s debt be forgiven?

In 2015, as the island’s financial situation was becoming more dire, Citi sold off $146 million of its holdings of PREPA debt to Solus Alternative Asset Management LP. Along with JPMorgan Chase, Citi was one of two lead underwriters of a 2010 Series XX Power Revenue Bond from PREPA, which featured an $822 million principal; of that, $191 million was allocated toward paying back lines of credit to those two banks. Citi was also among many banks to underwrite several different classes of bonds in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2012, and 2013, at least. (It’s common for several different banks to underwrite bonds. The 2008 PREPA bond Citi underwrote, for instance — some proceeds of which went toward repaying a Citi loan — had 17 underwriters.)

The bank has profited elsewhere on the island, as well. Citi was among the underwriters of eight capital appreciation bonds, or CABs, and the lead underwriter on five of those. The principal on all eight CABs totaled $2.7 billion, though interest on them — charged at a whopping rate of 718 percent — came to $22.8 billion. The bank was also the second-largest underwriter in Puerto Rico of so-called scoop and toss financing deals, which — while allowing bond issuers to push payments off into the future — also means heaping additional fees and interest onto preexisting principal and interest payments. From 2000 to 2016, the bank collected $302 million in fees off underwriting $11.3 billion in scoop and toss arrangements, the second largest of any collection off these type of deals.

Citi declined to comment on questions about how much it would be paid through its renewed contract with the board, its experience with debt restructuring and electric utilities, or how much it has made from underwriting or its current debt holdings in PREPA or on the island more generally. The Fiscal Control Board, through its communications consultant, also declined to comment on the contract beyond its initial statement.

“Citigroup repeatedly sold Puerto Rico and PREPA in particular predatory forms of debt that pushed the island deeper and deeper into unsustainable levels of debt,” said Saqib Bhatti, ACRE’s co-executive director. “Banks screwing things up and saying they’re going to come in and fix it is quite common. You have a list of approved underwriters and they become de facto advisers. So they make bad deals that go badly, but then are at the top of the list to clean them up.”

That’s essentially what happened when Congress created the oversight board after passing PROMESA, the legislation that outlined the legal framework for its creation, in 2016. Two of the board’s current members, José Ramón González and Carlos García, are both former executives at the Spanish bank Santander who oversaw accounts in Puerto Rico during their time there. Under their watch, the bank underwrote $61.2 billion of the island’s at least $74 billion in debt. Over the last several years, both González and García have also alternated between gigs at Santander and top posts in Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank, the body responsible for issuing government bonds.

Big banks like Citi and Santander have been adroit about their dealings in Puerto Rico, insulating themselves from some of the risks shouldered by hedge and mutual funds. Investment banks don’t tend to own all that many Puerto Rican municipal bonds directly, instead making most of their money on the island by underwriting debt and collecting huge fees during restructuring agreements, putting their staffs to work figuring out ways to do more of the above. “The role banks have played is to constantly push the island to keep restructuring and refinancing its debt. Their interest isn’t based in holding the debt, but in making money off the fees they get for doing the deals,” Bhatti told The InterceptThe profit is in the churn. 

For the most part, Wall Street made a bad financial situation in Puerto Rico even worse. When a series of corporate-friendly tax breaks began to expire in 2006, manufacturers left the island, and its bond rating was dramatically downgraded soon after. When it was all but abandoned by capital markets as a result, investment banks swooped in with an offer that seemed too good to refuse: quick cash. Not unlike payday loans, the caveat was that the interest rates on the bonds the banks issued were sky high.

Thanks to Wall Street’s involvement, Puerto Rico’s debt hasn’t just gotten bigger, it’s also gotten endlessly more complex, housed in risky products like auction rate securities and interest rate swaps, which imploded after the recession and left Puerto Rico’s government on the hook for $40 million. The latter are what’s known as add-ons, a financial product used to protect against the risk imposed by another financial product — in this case, variable-rate bonds. In short, Wall Street banks sold intentionally risky products to the Puerto Rican government, then sold them additional, also-risky products to protect them against the risk from the first product.

Citi and Goldman Sachs in 2006 also helped create something called the Corporación de Financimiento de Interés Apremiante, or COFINA; it translates to English as “Urgent Interest Financing Corporation.” A type of CAB, COFINA bonds allowed underwriters to bypass both Puerto Rico’s debt limit and arcane balanced budget requirement, creating a pathway for the Puerto Rican government and public institutions there to borrow an additional $17 billion. The agreement that created COFINA CABs made it illegal, as well, for the legislature to pass any policies that would infringe on collection at any point in the future. Recently, COFINA bondholders have been engaged in a legal war with general obligation bondholders, who own around $18 billion in debt, over which party has a legal claim to the island’s dwindling revenues.

Interest rates and potentially illegal products like COFINA bonds, which are backed by sales taxes, make it hard to estimate the true value of the commonwealth’s debt, Bhatti said. “That $74 billion figure is completely unreliable,” he explained. “One of the big mysteries of PR’s debt is that nobody really knows how much it has, not even the government itself.” Analyzing Puerto Rico’s debt, ACRE found a major discrepancy between the figure listed in government filings and those on the Bloomberg Terminal, which contains records of the debt held in each individual bond. Where the Securities and Exchange Commission had listed the amount held in capital appreciation bonds at around $18 billion, the Terminal’s figures come to $38 billion, including capital and interest.

The Puerto Rico Commission for the Comprehensive Audit of the Public Credit, charged with investigating both the size and legitimacy of Puerto Rico’s debt, was created in part to address such discrepancies. But shortly after Rosello’s New Progressive Party came to power this year, it led a charge in the Puerto Rico legislature to disband the audit commission via Senate Bill 428, which declared the body “redundant” with the oversight board and “an additional and unnecessary public expense.” Protesters opposed to the bill chanted, “We want an audit done in order to remove the scum,” as it went to a vote in San Juan. Shortly thereafter, on May Day, 50,000 people marched to see an audit process re-established.


In this Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 photo, a resident tries to connect electrical lines downed by Hurricane Maria in preparation for when electricity is restored in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. A month after the storm rolled across the center of Puerto Rico, power is still out for the vast majority. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A resident tries to connect electrical lines downed by Hurricane Maria in preparation for when electricity is restored in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 13, 2017.

Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP


BANKS HAVE NOT been the only companies to profit off Puerto Rico’s economic misfortune — or the aftermath of the 2017 hurricane season. As in the case of other indebted governments, like Detroit or Atlantic City, a small coterie of legal and accounting firms have descended on Puerto Rico, charging premium rates to manage the debt restructuring process.

“If there’s a winner out of this whole debacle, it’s the consultants,” said Lara Merling, a research assistant at the Center for Economic Policy and Research who’s been tracking the situation in Puerto Rico. “They’ve all been paid a lot of money and they’ve continued to be paid.” All of the money paid to consultants — for either the board or the island’s government — has come out of Puerto Rico’s operating budget.

As of last July, the island had paid $154 million to consultants, according to data collected by the island’s Comptroller’s Office, Bloomberg reported. AlixPartners LLP was paid $45.6 million of that. The consulting firm’s managing director, Lisa Donahue, was tasked with restructuring PREPA’s debt from September 2014 through February 2017; a restructuring agreement was never implemented. The firm enlisted by Rosselló’s administration when it took office last winter, Rothschild & Co., had already been paid $6.4 million by that summer. Over the course of just a year, consultancy McKinsey & Co.’s contracts with the board could earn it a whopping $24 million.

The consultants’ day-to-day work takes place largely behind closed doors and has resulted in documents like Puerto Rico’s new fiscal plan, which outlines an intention to sell off large swaths of the island’s private sphere in the name of increasing competitiveness and access to capital markets. Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, has worked with governments experiencing sovereign debt crises and has seen a pattern emerge. “There are a fairly small number of actors. They tend to do everything the same and offer same kind of advice,” he told The Intercept. Namely, he said, they recommend deep cuts to the public sphere and large-scale privatization. “Our concern with how debt restructurings often happen,” LeCompte said, “is that consultants too often turn to traditional prescriptions that haven’t necessarily worked. We believe fundamentally that austerity hurts economies when they’re trying to get back to economic growth.”

He called it the “sovereign debt industrial complex” and said the group of firms involved rely “more on what hasn’t worked and have less room for innovation.”

Among the first public goods on the chopping block for privatization are electric utilities like PREPA, especially in the Caribbean. Key to economic growth, power infrastructure on island countries depend largely on costly imported oil. Painting that expense as a barrier to economic growth has become a favorite tactic among both consultants and the International Monetary Fund, which has reliably recommended utility privatization as a part of its structural adjustment programs. Sitting among islands that have sunk deeply into debt over the last several decades, Puerto Rico is among very few islands in the Caribbean islands to still have a public electric utility.

Despite these and other privatizations, Caribbean island nations remain trapped under mountains of both debt and, now, austerity measures. As the Financial Times reported in 2013, overall debt burdens in the region amount to more than 70 percent of its collective GDP.

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” Lenin is famously reported to have quipped. But he never said it, which is just as well, since it’s slightly off. The capitalists will sell you the rope with which you’ll hang yourself — and then buy it back at a discount when you’re finished.

Top photo: PREPA employee Jose Colon Maldonado waits for Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and staff from the Army Engineers Corps to take a tour through the facilities of the Palo Seco thermal power plant, which the Electric Power Authority plans to activate in order to energize different areas of the metropolitan area, 28 days after the passage of hurricane Maria, in Catano, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.

 

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline azozeo

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3050 on: Today at 07:43:12 AM »
I'm really interested to see how this whole P.R. thing turns out, with U.S.A. inc. charter
& bankruptcy all being housed on that island.

Ever since that dreadful day the Columbo cabal stuck that flag in the sand of Hispanola
and called "dibs" the Caribbean Is. nations have had the fuq put to them.

Online Eddie

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3051 on: Today at 08:02:56 AM »
I'm really interested to see how this whole P.R. thing turns out, with U.S.A. inc. charter
& bankruptcy all being housed on that island.

Ever since that dreadful day the Columbo cabal stuck that flag in the sand of Hispanola
and called "dibs" the Caribbean Is. nations have had the fuq put to them.

The poor people have always gotten the shaft, but being a territory used to be a bird's nest on the ground for certain entities, For instance, for many years, cities and municipalities in P.R. did not have to pay anything at all for electricity.

Back in the 90's more than half of the population of the USVI had government jobs. Not anymore. The gravy train ended, and they're scrambling. There still is no sales tax in the USVI. They are re-opening the closed gasoline refinery in St. Croix, which for years was the main source of tax revenue. Many businesses down there cheat on taxes in a big way. The IRS is not directly the tax collector. That's up to local authorities, and everyone knows somebody or is related to somebody.

I hope PR will be able to use the money from legal pot to help recoup their losses. USVI should do the same. I don't think the congress or Trump are going to come through.
« Last Edit: Today at 08:09:15 AM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Online RE

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One of the same banks that drove the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority into the red will now be paid to help auction it off to the highest bidder.

Who would bid for it?  The PRs can't afford to buy the electricity.  Where's the profit?  ???   :icon_scratch:

RE
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

Online Surly1

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One of the same banks that drove the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority into the red will now be paid to help auction it off to the highest bidder.

Who would bid for it?  The PRs can't afford to buy the electricity.  Where's the profit?  ???   :icon_scratch:

RE

They'll pick it up for a dime on the dollar, per the Disaster Capitalism playbook. Need to bone up on your John Perkins.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Online RE

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One of the same banks that drove the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority into the red will now be paid to help auction it off to the highest bidder.

Who would bid for it?  The PRs can't afford to buy the electricity.  Where's the profit?  ???   :icon_scratch:

RE

They'll pick it up for a dime on the dollar, per the Disaster Capitalism playbook. Need to bone up on your John Perkins.

Even if they pick it up for NOTHING, it's STILL not profitable.  They have to buy the oil/ng/coal to run the plants, and PRs can afford even that.

RE
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

 

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