Dubya – May 2001

Bush’s presidency has so far followed the course indicated by study of his past. The only real surprise is the absence of any effort to protect the compassionate image. I always thought it was talk, and now he has forged ahead on his pro-business path without the slightest pass at compassion.

In a mild surprise, he has done a lot of speaking and has been much better prepared than in the past, so as to avoid the embarrassing gaffs of the past. For Republicans, the fact he has not made a complete fool of himself is taken as proof that he is not as stupid as we all thought.

The most interesting surprise is not really a surprise at all, given the fact that his only non-political success was as front man for the Texas Rangers baseball team. Many of us expected that, given his lack of experience, trouble in expressing himself, and elitist views, he would not be the front man for the administration, but would operate as sort of a team cheerleader. In fact he is up front on everything, in many cases pushing cabinet members into the background when they would have been the more appropriate spokesperson. Thinking supporters were always concerned about his smarts and experience, but the great team was supposed to carry the ball. From what we have seen so far, he has his finger in every pie. If anything, Cheney has been a disappointment, appearing up front only with the highly pro-business, anti-environment energy program. In this case, Bush had already made enough harsh statements that drew loud howls of protest so that he undoubtedly wanted to handed it off to Cheney.

The team leader thing is also interesting, for already a number of mistakes have been made that were passed off on cabinet members. It is well to remember that Bush describes the most important quality for a member of the administration as loyalty, that is loyalty to him. This is not the sign of a knowledgeable confident man.

As expected, all of the motion has been in the direction of support for business. He is pushing defense spending, oil exploration, easing environmental restrictions, pulling back on anti-trust, putting hard right people in all the government agencies, etc. He even seems to be pulling back on education in so far as it involves spending money.

While the polls are reasonably favorable, there is evidence of a widening feeling against Bush. It is not just environmentalists, but the dreadfully cocky overbearing public speaking style is a turning people off. I know many who say they can’t listen to him, the speeches are simply deplorable. Reagan used the good guy approach, but in Bush’s case what comes through is the elitism, the selfishness, the absence of a link to the common man.

I predicted that his arrogance and lack of feel for the public interest would get him into trouble, and now trouble has arrived. Here we have a 50-50 senate, which anyone else would have approached tenderly. Perhaps encouraged by the ability of the party to strong arm Republicans who were not happy with his program, especially the tax cut that went mostly to the rich, Bush attempted to ramrod his program through the Senate. Already there are defectors. Now we have the Jeffords situation. Bush tried strong arm tactics, and, appalled, Jeffords has bolted the party. Not normally a sensational deal, but hugely important in a 50-50 situation. All of a sudden, Cheney no longer controls the Senate, thanks to the arrogance of his boss. Nothing is more likely to get you into trouble than arrogance, and Bush has it in spades. I think it is so ingrained that even this setback will not temper the problem.

Clinton was criticized for governing by polls. That is not such a bad thing when the alternative is decision making by people who have little interest in popular causes, who show not a grain of human kindness.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico FlagPuerto Rico may be an economic territory of the United States, but its people are fiercely independent. Rarely will you find an American flag flying high, without a corresponding Puerto Rican flag nearby, sometimes flying even higher. The island’s capitol and largest city San Juan is a maze of old and new, with modern shops and restaurants, shanties, a fortress musuem, sky-scrapers and casinos, and shopping malls all standing in conjunction with each other. Maybe more so than any other place in the Caribbean, old mingles with new in Puerto Rico, and the streets of San Juan are just the beginning.

But the island’s population has much more humble origins. in pre-Columbian times, the Taino people–a mostly peaceful indigenous group–had developed an already complex culture on the island that would become known as Puerto Rico. When the conqistador (and later, governor) Juan Ponce de León arrived in 1508, the Taino were ill-prepared to defend themselves against his advances. They were taken as slaves, and by the seventeenth century, nearly all the Taino had been wiped out.

With the Spanish-American War, the U.S. occupied Puerto Rico and has stood by as the island’s economy has gone up and down over the last century. Compared to many other Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico has a high standard of living, but it still falls far short of average compared to the mainland U.S.

In recent years, tempers have flared as the debate over Puerto Rican idependence heats up and the U.S. military presense on the island of Vieques has gathered critical attention. But the population continues to reap many fiscal benefits from its commonwealth relationship with the United States. And because Puerto Rico cannot vote in U.S. national elections, achieving control over its future will require complete cecession from America.

Traveling in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico MapWhile Puerto Rico is comparatively inexpensive, it’s easy to spend a lot if you want to. Budget accommodations will cost you US$40-75, while high-end rooms can be as much as US$150 and up. Just glance out the airplane window as you land at San Juan’s international airport and you’ll see the many skyscrapers bearing the names of worldwide banks: ATMs, traveler’s checks, and of course cash are all readily accessible and accepted.

Renting a car is easily the most convenient way to see the island. There are also busses and a ferry system, which will take you to the eastern islands of Vieques and Culebra. Take a drive through the mountainous center of Puerto Rico to the U.S.’s only tropical rainforest national park, El Yunque. Or head up to the Arecibo Radio Telescope–the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world. Visit the old city of Ponce, or the vast strecthes of beach at Luquillo. No matter where you go in Puerto Rico, you’ll end up just where you want to be.

Weather in Puerto Rico
The tourist high season in Puerto Rico is the Northern Hemisphere wintertime. This is due mainly to the number of North Americans who want to escape the cold of their own hometowns. Weather in Puerto Rico is nice year round, but to get the best deals go during hurricane season. The weather doesn’t often turn bad there this time of year, but be sure to check the forecast before you go.

Puerto Rico Information
Population: 3,915,798
Government: Commonwealth of the United States
Square Miles: 3500 sq miles (9100 sq km)
Capitol: San Juan (pop 1.6 million)
Official Languages: Spanish, English
Religion: Roman Catholic (85%), Protestant
Major products/industries: Textiles, pharmaceuticals, electronics, agriculture, rum, tourism