Puerto Rican independence movement leader Pedro Albizu Campos speaking to sugarcane workers in the early 1930s
April 21 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Pedro Albizu Campos. Most Americans likely haven't heard of Albizu Campos or his plan to challenge the United States' control of Puerto Rico. His supporters remember him as an organizer, an intellectual, and a revolutionary. The FBI and the US government labeled him a radical, a terrorist, and a criminal.
Albizu Campos' story and the history of his ill-fated movement are chronicled in War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America's Colony, a new book by Nelson A. Denis, a journalist, activist, and former New York state assemblyman. Denis, whose mother is Puerto Rican, says the book would not have been possible without several decades of personal interest and the release of nearly 2 million documents FBI from secret FBI dossiers known as carpetas, gathered over a period of about 50 years. This trove of papers, made public in 2000, reveal a previously untold story about how the US government worked to undermine the growing Puerto Rican independence movement of the 1940s and '50s.
In 1936, Albizu Campos was imprisoned on sedition charges after helping to successfully organize Puerto Rican workers. After more than a decade in prison, he returned to the island and organized an armed revolt in 1950. His plan was never realized, due in large part to FBI infiltration and harassment as well as legal sanctions such as Public Law 53, the "Gag Law," which made it a criminal act to show any outward support for an independent Puerto Rico. The short-lived violent uprising may mark the only time the US military has launched an aerial attack on its own citizens, when National Guard planes strafed the town of Utuado.
I spoke to Denis about Albizu Campos' uprising and why many Americans don't know about the colonial dynamic between Puerto Rico and the United States.
Mother Jones: Why should Americans pay attention to Puerto Rico?
Nelson Denis: Puerto Ricans are Americans. We've been American citizens since 1917. We fought the same battles, made the same sacrifices. We've lost our land in the same way that Native Americans lost their land, and we've been the subject of discrimination and racism in the same way that African Americans have. We've suffered the full spectrum of oppression, and yet we've been off the map 4,000 miles away so we haven't even been able to argue our case. So when people say, "Why should Americans care?" they don't realize that we are 100 percent Americans and we've more than paid the price of admission into this community.
MJ: Why do most Americans not know about this part of Puerto Rico's history?
ND: Puerto Rico is an island separated by an ocean, a language, a culture. All of that put it in a position where it's like, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," but what happened in Puerto Rico never happened at all. It's not like there was a decades-long conspiracy. It's just the aggregation of all these historical forces made it difficult for this information to exist in one place.
MJ: What set the stage for the Puerto Rican independence movement?
ND: From the beginning it made sense. It wasn't just rooted in some sort of personal intransigence or some passionate Latino temperament. It was rooted in economic and political reality at the time. It also made sense since the founding principles of the United States are supposedly based on government by the consent of the governed, and the sense that all men are created equal.
The United States comes in in 1898. The very next year, Hurricane San Ciriaco devastated the island. The US sends no relief. The following year, the US declares that the Puerto Rican peso, would no longer be valid currency. Then the US imposed new property taxes on every farmer in Puerto Rico. Look at those three blows right after each other: the hurricane, the currency devaluation, and the new taxes. The result was that the farmers were in extreme distress and they had to get loans to try and stay afloat. By 1940, 80 percent of the arable land in Puerto Rico was US-owned.
Now you have Puerto Ricans who lose their land, they have nowhere to go, they try to get jobs. When they try to enact minimum wage legislation for the exploding ranks of these workers, the US Congress simply vetoed it, and when they tried to push it, the Supreme Court ruled that since Puerto Rico was a US territory and not a state, that the United States constitution did not apply, even though in 1917, under the terms of the Jones-Shafroth Act, they were called US citizens. So they're found to be US citizens for purposes of military conscription, but they're not found to be US citizens for purposes of having any rights.
MJ: So that's when an organized freedom movement really took root?
ND: Albizu Campos leads an island-wide agricultural strike in January of '34. When Albizu Campos won that strike, he and the Nationalist Party were suddenly in the crosshairs of the American government and its military and intelligence gathering apparatus. At that point, J. Edgar Hoover started sending squadrons of FBI agents down there to snoop and spy and marginalize any nationalist or any dissenting person on the island and ruin their lives as quickly and as completely as possible.
1943 FBI document discusses former Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín's "Puerto Rican inferiority complex" and alleged narcotics addiction. Nelson A. Denis/War Against All Puerto Ricans
After the strike they sent down a new governor, General Blanton Winship, who militarized the entire police force. The new chief of police, E. Francis Riggs, orchestrated the Rio Piedras Massacre, where four nationalists were assassinated in broad daylight near the campus of the University of Puerto Rico. When asked at a press conference why this happened, Riggs said that if Albizu Campos and his nationalist party continue to agitate the sugar cane workers and the college students, then he was prepared to wage war to the death against all Puerto Ricans. This war against Puerto Ricans was very real and that's why it became the title of the book.
MJ: Which led to an actual attempt at armed revolution.
ND: Under amazingly dubious circumstances, Albizu Campos was railroaded off the island and imprisoned for 10 years precisely when the island was ready to very aggressively organize for its independence. When he came back in 1947, in very short order, the government put through Public Law 53, the law that made it illegal to utter a word, sing a song, whistle a tune against the United States or in favor of independence. It was basically abrogating the First Amendment rights of 2 million people in order to shut one man up.
Puerto Rican police seizing Puerto Rican flags Nelson A. Denis/War Against All Puerto Ricans
Ahead of a referendum on whether the island should vote on its status with the United States, Albizu Campos and the nationalists felt that they had one last opportunity to bring the world's attention to conditions in Puerto Rico. It was a concerted, deeply thought out, tactically precise effort to let the world know that Puerto Rico was still the one surviving classic colony in this planet, and that the colonial power, the United States, was supposedly the leader of the free world.
MJ: The planned uprising failed. What's happened since then?
ND: There has been a red carpet from Puerto Rico that stretches all the way to Wall Street. It has just been one long succession of corporations going down, extracting resources, and leveraging tax preferences for themselves at the expense of the American taxpayer and the Puerto Rican worker. You have a tremendous tax preference for US investors, hedge fund managers, private equity firms at the same time that you're proposing a 16 percent tax on the poor, middle, and working classes of Puerto Rico.
MJ: Should Puerto Rico be independent or a state?
ND: I don't live on the island, so I don't feel that I have the right to impose my view even though most of my family lives on the island and I visit nearly every year. There's a sense of people saying, "We have a right to self-determination." And so, consistent with that, I would want the Puerto Ricans to have that right. But without imposing my view I will say this: The current status of commonwealth is just morally, politically, and especially economically untenable. It's a business model that is clearly failing and it needs to be mercifully put to rest.
That leaves us with two remaining options. There has to be a decision, either to get married or get divorced. But no more keeping Puerto Rico as its little mistress in the Caribbean. That doesn't work anymore.
Many people seem to agree that email sucks, and almost as many of us are annoyed by "inbox zero" coworkers telling everybody in earshot how damn productive they are. We get it.
But while we all agree that email is slow, tedious, annoying, and perhaps impersonal, it turns out that many of us are actually pretty decent at returning the messages we need to. According to a new study by the folks at Yahoo Labs on how quickly emails get answered, about 90 percent of emails are returned within a day. In fact, half of emails are answered within 47 minutes, with the most likely return time being just about two minutes. (Of course many of those replies are short, coming in at about five words.)
The study—which, as the largest ever of its kind, analyzed more than 16 billion email messages sent between 2 million (randomized and opt-in) Yahoo! email users over a several month period—went a little deeper than reply times. It also studied how extended email threads play out (the longer the thread, the quicker the replies come until there's a measurable pause before a concluding message); what time of day is best for getting a long response (morning); and demographics. Teens work the reply button the fastest, with a median reply time of about 13 minutes. Adults 20 to 35 years old came in at about 16 minutes. Adults aged 36 to 50 took about 24 minutes, and "mature" adults, aged 51 and over, took the longest at about 47 minutes. Gender seems to make less of a difference than age, with males replying in about 24 minutes and women taking about 28 (insert joke about women being more thoughtful here).
As you might expect, all those numbers go out the window when an attachment is involved: it takes emailers almost twice the time to respond to messages containing additional files. Another not-so-surprising tidbit from the study suggests that we're quickest to reply from our phones, then our tablets, and finally our desktops. And predictably the more emails you get, the fewer you actually respond to: the data indicates that people receiving 100 emails a day may answer just five.
A white South Carolina police officer has been charged with murder after video surfaced showing him shooting a fleeing, unarmed black man. The New York Times published the video Tuesday; it appears to show Officer Michael T. Slager of the North Charleston, South Carolina, police department, scuffling with Walter L. Scott after a traffic stop. Scott is seen turning to run away; Slager then appears to fire eight shots, and Scott falls to the ground.
Slager told police Scott stole his Taser, according to the Times. In the video, what looks like Slager's Taser falls to the ground and Slager appears to place it next to Scott's body.
North Charleston is a town of about 100,000, nearly half of whom are black. The city's police department is 80 percent white, according to the Times. The Times quotes the town's mayor on the decision to charge Slager with murder:
"When you're wrong, you're wrong," Mayor Keith Summey said about the shooting during the news conference. "When you make a bad decision, don't care if you're behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision."
Stephen Bassett is ready for Hillary. Bassett, Capitol Hill's only registered UFO lobbyist, anticipates that another Clinton presidency will offer another shot at what's long been the Holy Grail for extraterrestrial enthusiasts: full disclosure of what the US government really knows about aliens. "This is the most important issue in the world," he says.
His enthusiasm is shared by Michael Salla, an academic turned UFO researcher who maintains that aliens have been secretly involved in American politics since the Cold War. He thinks a Clinton presidency would be a good thing for the UFO community. "I think Hillary would play a positive role in getting this information out," he says. "I think that Hillary definitely is much more the pro-disclosure candidate, where as someone like Jeb Bush is basically status quo."
The UFO activists' hopes for Hillary are pinned on the assumption she believes in their cause—despite having never spoken publicly about it. In particular, they are encouraged that John Podesta, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, will likely chair Clinton's campaign and would likely serve in another Clinton White House. As a self-described "curious skeptic," Podesta has openly called for greater government transparency on UFO-related matters. In his forward to UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record, a 2011 book by journalist Leslie Kean, he wrote, "It's time to find out what the truth really is that's out there. The American people—and people around the world—want to know, and they can handle the truth."
In February, as he prepared to step down asa senior adviser to President Obama, Podesta tweeted about the UFO issue:
While the tweet may have been tongue in cheek, UFO activists went nuts over it. "It was a big frickin' deal," says Bassett. "Someone who has been an adviser to the president of the United States, and is leaving his job, and it's already been announced publicly that he is going to be a key adviser to the heir apparent to the White House, the de facto candidate, does not, on the day he leaves the White House, put out a tweet about UFOs. He's inviting hundreds of articles to be written about this tweet." Podesta did not respond to a request for comment.
The other reason that UFO enthusiasts are excited about a potential Clinton victory goes back to the X-Files era. In early 1993, Laurance S. Rockefeller began to lobby the Clinton administration to release any government information related to UFOs and extraterrestrials, including the 1947 Roswell incident. The fourth child of John D. Rockefeller Jr., Rockefeller was a successful venture capitalist, philanthropist, and conservationist. One of his lesser-known interests was UFOs. (He died in 2004.)
Over the next three years, Rockefeller and his associates corresponded and met with officials in the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, according to documents released as part of a records request filed by Cameron. The effort, known as the Rockefeller Initiative, helped push the Air Force to produce what it characterized as the definitive report on Roswell. (UFO activists were not satisfied, to say the least.) The initiative also may have helped spur a 1995 executive order that declassified millions of records, of which the vast majority were not UFO-related.
In August 1995, Rockefeller met with Hillary Clinton, and perhaps Bill, at his Wyoming ranch. In a memo, the then-director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Jack Gibbons, warned the Clintons about Rockefeller's agenda before the visit. "[Rockefeller] will want to talk with you about his interest in extrasensory perception, paranormal phenomena, and UFO's," he wrote. Gibbons said he'd tried to persuade Rockefeller "not to bother you with this issue" and to focus instead on the administration's science and technology policies. Rockefeller, he continued, "knows that we are trying to be helpful in responding to his concerns about UFO's [sic] and human potential—and that we're keeping an open mind about such matters—but I've made no secret about my conviction that we must not be too diverted from more earthly imperatives." Gibbons could not be reached for comment.
Hillary Clinton with Laurance Rockefeller at his Wyoming ranch in 1995 Grant Cameron/Stephen Bassett
Documents from the Rockefeller Initiative posted on Bassett's websitesuggest that the first lady was kept in the loop. A November 1995 letter to Gibbons from one of Rockefeller's lawyers included a draft letter to President Clinton "which Laurance has been discussing with Mrs. Clinton and her staff." Three months later, Rockefeller wrote Gibbons about the letter, which the White House was apparently in no hurry to receive: "It well may be that it will be timely to put this before the President late this year in order that it might receive attention in a second term. You indicated that you will keep the First Lady's Office informed, and we shall as well."
Bassett says the Rockefeller Initiative proves that the Clintons were interested in pursuing meaningful UFO and extraterrestrial disclosure. "You don't go through all of this, and have this much work, just to amuse a billionaire," he says. "If you did, you'd have to answer to that." Bassett has been lobbying for congressional hearings on the question of UFO contact with the US government. He says that forcing the Clintons to discuss the Rockefeller Initiative is key to his strategy. "I call it the exopolitical blue dress," he says, referring to Monica Lewinsky's infamous blue dress and "exopolitics," a term for the intersection of terrestrial politics and extraterrestrial beings.
Salla, who has claimed that humans are currently in touch with 17 extraterrestrial civilizations, says that Hillary Clinton's return is another indicator that the truth is coming. He cites Jimmy Kimmel's recent interview with President Obama, in which the president quipped that he hasn't delved into the government's UFO files because "the aliens won't let it happen. You'd reveal all their secrets. They exercise strict control over us."
Where most people heard a punch line, Salla discerned a direct link to Podesta and perhaps something deeper. "The fact that he said aliens exert strict control over us—no president has ever said that before, even as a joke," Salla says. "Obama said things that shouldn't just be assumed to be throwaway lines. A senior adviser a month before said he was frustrated by a lack of progress and now you have Obama on Jimmy Kimmel saying that. I think it's worth raising the question."
Asked for clarification of Hillary Clinton's stance on UFO disclosure, a spokesman from her office responded via email. "Our non-campaign has a strict policy of not commenting on extraterrestrial activity," Nick Merrill wrote. "BUT, the Truth Is Out There."
The amount of money flowing into these races is staggering: State judicial candidates raised $83 million in the 1990s. Yet during the two years 2012 election cycle, they raised more than $110 million—and that doesn't include outside spending. Altogether, more than $250 million has been spent on judicial races since 2000.
Judges themselves often hate the process of fundraising and mudslinging, but view it as a necessary evil. Sue Bell Cobb, a career judge and the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, just wrote about her experience for Politico. Her story is worth a full read, but here's a taste:
While I was proud of the work I did for the next 4 1/2 years, I never quite got over the feeling of being trapped inside a system whose very structure left me feeling disgusted. I assure you: I've never made a decision in a case in which I sided with a party because of a campaign donation. But those of us seeking judicial office sometimes find ourselves doing things that feel awfully unsavory.
When a judge asks a lawyer who appears in his or her court for a campaign check, it's about as close as you can get to legalized extortion. Lawyers who appear in your court, whose cases are in your hands, are the ones most interested in giving. It's human nature: Who would want to risk offending the judge presiding over your case by refusing to donate to her campaign? They almost never say no—even when they can't afford it.