Is an Obama Donor Tying the President’s Hands on Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis?

One thing that caught my attention while reading this wistful, insidery feature in The New York Times about President Obama’s future (apparently a “post-presidential infrastructure” is involved) was a certain someone who attended a swanky dinner party at the White House recently. Sure, Toni Morrison was there, as well as Malcolm Gladwell and Eva Longoria, perhaps joining the prez in a taste of his fave, the extra-dry Grey Goose martini. But it wasn’t a glamorous showbiz/intelligentsia name that attracted my notice; it was Marc Lasry, co-founder and CEO of the hedge/vulture fund Avenue Capital Group.
Lasry is perhaps more famous at the moment as the new-ish co-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, a development that was so energizing for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that he signed a bill last week subsidizing a new arena for the team that, according to the Times, would “cost the public twice as much as originally projected.” But it turns out that Avenue Capital is one of the vulture funds that owns some Puerto Rico debt, and is currently aligned with Candlewood Investment Group, Fir Tree Partners, and Perry Corp, which have formed what is known as the GDB Ad Hoc Group (BGF is the acronym in Spanish), a coalition of vulture funds that hold bonds issued by Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank.

Recently the GDB Ad Hoc Group has hired the law firm Davis, Polk & Wardwell to represent them in the upcoming battle with the Puerto Rico government, hoping to recoup their investment and avoid either the government’s debt-restructuring proposals or a move by Congress to change federal law to allow the commonwealth/unincorporated territory/colony to declare bankruptcy. The irony here is that this is the same law firm that helped orchestrate the US government’s bailout of AIG, the bad-mortgage debt-swapping machine at the center of the 2008 recession. So the same law firm that pushed for the AIG bailout is gearing up to force Puerto Rico to pay up, while Obama, who also favored the AIG bailout, has not even hinted that he would offer one to the troubled island.
Read the rest here at The Nation.

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Choc Quib Town and Flaco Navaja Were Highlights of Living in Spanglish 4

Last night we had a very exciting show on Living in Spanglish, broadcast on WBAI FM in New York. I began the show lamenting the challenges faced by Mexico, whose journalists are increasingly assassinated; the Dominican Republic, which is pursuing a highly discriminatory if not racist policy of deporting long-time resident Haitians, and of course, Puerto Rico and its debt crisis. These are the three most populous groups of Latinos in New York, and it would be gratifying if somehow these causes became connected rather than exist in fragments.

I opened the show talking about the latest developments in the Puerto Rico debt crisis, and playing excerpts of an interview with Representative Luis Gutiérrez in early August. I also played a pre-recorded interview with Afro-Colombian band Choc Quib Town, who talked about their new album  El Mismo, as well as their experiences with racism in Colombia, the way they view their fusion of regional music and hiphop, and their love for salsa.

Finally, it was such a big thrill to have my homeboy Flaco Navaja come into the studio, where we talked about his role in the movie Babygirl, which will be released on Itunes, Amazon, and other digital platforms next Tuesday August 25th. We also talked about his other acting work, including a role in Dennis Leary’s show Sex Drugs and Rock n Roll, the old days at the Nuyorican Poets Café, and his participation in John Leguizamo’s new theater piece.

Below are links to the full show, as well as separate soundfiles containing the interviews with Choc Quib Town and Flaco.

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Reprazenting the Permanent Debt Crisis

Just borrowing this image from the opening the other day around beautiful Bruckner Boulevard’s end at the southern tip of the Boogie Down–it was the return of City Maze by Jane Dickson and Crash, two pivotal figures in Fashion/Moda, an art thing that happened in the Bronx so many years ago. It kind of represents how I’ve been feeling lately as one of the Babylon tongues trying to explain the PR Debt Crisis. It’s such a dire moment with no federal help on the horizon and the health care system teetering on the brink of chaos, yet the crisis doesn’t seem tangible yet no matter how many dependent clauses I use to explain it.

I mean let’s face it. This is a permanent debt crisis. Just like the permanent War on Terror. What do you think the idea about the End of History is about? Instilling a belief that we’re in a permanent cycle, with no need to change anything. The proverbial elephant in the room is the fact that the great majority of New York’s residents have been living in a debt crisis since Gerald Ford told us to drop dead.

We had a great get-together last week at the Loisaida Center with Dave Galarza, and, via Skype, Rafael Bernabe desde Puerto Rico. I kind of took more time than I wanted to with my Power Point Puerto Rico Debt Crisis 101. Actually, you’re gonna need Keynote for that. At any rate it was Bernabe who had the best point of the evening, Héctor Cordero Guzmán’s thoughtful contributions notwithstanding: How are we going to convince everybody that independence is the only solution?

Here’s an on-point piece by Monxo López on the bankruptcy of our hero liberal economist Paul Krugman’s bankrupt logic, by the way.

Meanwhile, Paper magazine seems oblivious to anything being wrong, instead choosing to focus on the stars of the island’s fabulous art scene. Well, who can blame them. The whole Downtown scene was about the grimy dystopia of Manhattan that formed soon after that Gerald Ford Daily News cover story. Oh wait he didn’t actually say that.

Looks like we’ll have to postpone our handwringing until after Congress comes back in September, the unveiling of the ingenious plan now being put together to save the economy by loyalists of the García Padilla administration and their crack consultants, and of course after we celebrate some more Obama milestones like immigration reform and the closing of Guantánamo.

For the record, more of my testimony:

My appearance on WABC’s Tiempo with the Hispanic Federation’s Frankie Miranda in two parts, on the Tiempo website here and here.

Here’s a lovely half-hour spent with Samuel Orozco on California’s Radio Bilingüe, at times I’m sounding perceptive, others not very competent en la idioma castellana. I invented a new word: negocieros for negociantes, and made my favorite gender mistake: “las problemas” (el problema es masculino).

Finally, another rambling episode of Living in Spanglish Radio on WBAI, where I talk with Cultura Profética about the crisis, and am compelled to declare the end of modernist nostalgia.

Hasta pronto.

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What Puerto Rico Faces as It Hurtles Towards Default

This weekend Puerto Rico will most likely fall short–there is some semantic argument on whether this constitutes default–on a $58 million payment due from its Public Finance Corporation. Many view this as a first step in debt restructuring, if for no other reason than it offers further proof of what Governor Alejandro García Padilla said last month, that its $72 billion as currently structured is “not payable.” A report released earlier this week, “For Puerto Rico There Is a Better Way,” by Centennial Group, International, at the behest of mutual and hedge fund bondholders, insisted that the debt was payable, but was roundly denounced this week because of its call for extreme austerity measures.  Meanwhile, new efforts led by Congresspersons Luis Gutiérrez and Nydia Velásquez, began to exert more pressure on Washington to allow Puerto Rico Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, although there are several outstanding questions on exactly what kind of restructuring will take place, who will be in charge of implementing the restructuring of the economy, and what specific plans are being made to take advantage of the temporary liquidity that would be provided by debt restructuring. This post/essay by the Center for the New Economy’s Sergio Marxuach brings up even more questions about the legal language stickiness of exactly what governmental agencies may be allowed to declare bankruptcy.

Doesn’t look good, does it?

Here’s an 11-minute or so interview I did with FAIR’s radio show “Counterspin” that re-tells the tale that is driving a lot of us to shake our heads (SOH):

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UBER Über Alles

Full disclosure: I’m the type of dude who likes to go out into the street, smell the fragrant odor drifting from a nearby waste transfer station, watch as the wind blows fragments of dust and paper refuse into my face, and scan the streets for a cab. That is, when I can afford a cab, […]

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