31 March 2010

The 70% "Solution"

From The Washington Times, this Cato Institute observation:

"The underground or 'black' economy is rapidly rising, and the fault is mainly due to government policies. 

Here is the evidence. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) released a report last week [December 2009] concluding that 7.7 percent of U.S. households, containing at least 17 million adults, are unbanked (i.e. those who do not have bank accounts), and an "estimated 17.9 percent of U.S. households, roughly 21 million, are underbanked" (i.e., those who rely heavily on nonbank institutions, such as check cashing and money transmitting services). As an economy becomes richer and incomes rise, the normal expectation is that the proportion of the unbanked population falls and does not rise as is now happening in the United States."

The Cato Institute often suffers from Strabismus Rectum, or seeing cross-eyed out their asses, but even a cross-eyed squirrel can find its nuts every once in a while. By focusing on the growth of the non-banking percentage of the population, We can see the yellow tint of a canary in a deepening coal Mine. (I mean, "coal mine." Force of habit.)

More from the article:

"Countries such as the United States, Switzerland and Japan historically have had relatively small, nonreporting and/or illegal sectors, a typical estimate being 13 percent of GDP. 

Most European countries have had somewhat larger underground sectors (typically 20 percent or so) in part because of the desire to escape higher tax rates. Italy and some of the other Southern European countries are believed to have underground sectors that account for 30 percent or more of all economic activity... In some developing countries and/or highly corrupt countries, underground or "off the books" activities are estimated to be as high as 70 percent of all economic activity."

Uh-huh. So what contributes to this increase in the black economy, according to the Cato folks? Government regulations, bank fees and taxes: "Many studies have shown that when people believe the taxes they are required to pay are reasonable and the political leaders tend to spend their tax dollars wisely, tax compliance rises, and vice versa. In the United States, there is increased evidence that many tax dollars are not being spent wisely and are often used to pay off political cronies."

Oh. Kay. Anything else you want to add to this picture? "Not surprisingly, a majority (71 percent) of the unbanked have household incomes of less than $30,000 per year."

Now let Me see if I have this straight: the estimated size of the "black" or "underground" economy depends on whether people feel they have a chance to overcome government regulations, pay increasing bank fees, have reasonable taxes and a perception that said taxes are used largely free of corruption. Oh, and have incomes over $30,000. In countries with good economies and fairly honest governments, We're looking at roughly 20% "black" economy; in bad economies and corrupt government, more like 70%.

Therefore, given that We have a depressed economy, long burdened with over-regulation and outright obstacles for growth, unreasonable taxes on the rise, higher banking fees, an openly corrupt government and an income hovering around $18,000, would you place Our underground economy closer to 20% or 70%?

Then think about what that means to all of Us, because when the "underground" economy is bigger than the "ground," where do We go with it?

The Jenius Has Spoken. 

29 March 2010


Once again, like a seasonal bout of malaria, the muddle-headed EnterPRize "Business Idea for Venture Capital" ripoff is amongst Us.

For the past several years, Guayacán Venture Capital Fund, along with cronies, has put on a "competition" wherein local entrepreneurs can fling themselves through hoops like sun-stroked seals in the hopes--dim if not totally blind--of receiving a small bucket of cash.

Now the bucket is a thimble: $1,000. For a business idea. In 2010. Uh-huh.

Now I have met several of the "winners" of the EnterPRize competitions and remain in frequent contact with one of the first year winners. By and large, none of the companies selected as winners has set the world on fire, though some have done fairly well.

The problem with the EnterPRize and most venture capital efforts locally are due to 2 factors:

1) The "Every swing a home run" mentality. This mindset leads to two interrelated problems: (1) Not enough money is placed for venture capital to truly develop, and (2) Each potential project is squeezed to a point of paralysis. Venture capital is not a game of home runs, but a game of at bats. It's a game of numbers where the more projects you help develop, the greater the return. Played "Our way," venture capital becomes a miser's dance of well-meaning pressure brokers (the minority) undermining creativity and outright gangsters (the majority) angling to make their money and only their money grow. That isn't venture capital: that is loan sharking. And if you run into a local "venture capitalist" whose initals are "CM," I would advise you to run like hell in any direction away from it.

2) The lack of a "global vision" in Our business community. Very few of Our entrepreneurs have a global vision, an ability to see themselves as affecting people all over the world. Even fewer people on the so-called venture capital side have the global vision. Taken together, what We have is an "Island mentality" further narrowed down by greed. VC business development is not a matter of flinging money blindly at every cockamamie idea that floats by, but it is definitely not achievable with "gator arms" thinking. (To clarify: gators have really short "arms" with barely any reach. Think the rest of it out yourself.)  Hell, We'd be better off with the wild flinging for at least that way We'd get more "at bats" than We have now.

Now when Our (non)government tries to "finance business development," a third factor kicks in: cronyism. Or in its more legal sense: corruption. Our government's track record on helping destroy businesses far far outweighs any pitiful efforts it may have made in developing them. The only reason these programs keep getting funded is so that the ruling party can buy votes.

How should We do venture capital? Glad you asked:

--Establish a VC fund with a minimum of $10 million. Better yet, $25 million. 

--Set a deadline for investing the entire amount at a rate of at least $1 million a month. (A $10 million fund goes out in 10 months or less.)

--Open the competition for funding ONLY to projects that meet the following criteria: Are aimed at existing markets or creating markets of at least 100 million users/clients; aimed at middle-income and low-income users/buyers; are based on integrative technology (not necessarily software, but all technology, capable of linking with exisiting technology, i.e. no "stand alone" products/services) and capable of outsourcing qualified components.

--Have prospective entrepreneurs develop their ideas in 5-10 day workshops running continuously, with the best projects in each group geting $35,000-$50,000 to launch their new businesses.

--Provide the start-ups with "smart offices" in a central facility (if they choose) under a rising commercial rent scale: 0% for 120 days; 33% rent for the next 120 days and 100% rent after that. The purpose: Grow or get out.

--Review each start-up every 90 days. Growers get more resources to speed up; those stuck in neutral get a review to give them 90 more days to get growing; start-ups that aren't holding their own are cut off from the fund and its resources. The 90-day period allows start-ups a chance to flex their skills and creativity without having someone riding their shoulders every day (unless they request that.) Winners get more support and losers get dumped. Simple system to understand and by Jiminy, it works.

--The VC fund investors will get a share of 10% of every start-up launched, with additional percentages per business available through negotiation. If the start-up wants to go elsewhere for funds, fine: that's global thinking. What they cannot do is sell the business without the VC fund's consent. Why? To avoid the flipping of marginal businesses that could undercut the VC fund's long-term gains.

Does any local VC find fit this model? Does the Pope cover up for pederasts? (Oh, sorry, wrong answer.) Of course no local VC fund fits this model. Y Combinator kinda does, but it's up in Yankee territory. No, what We need to do is develop Our own similar model, start giving an incentive to develop global vision amongst Our entrepreneurs and make venture capital an economic engine in its own niche, not to build all of Our economy, but to build Our economy's new cutting edge.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

19 March 2010

Bonuses For Nothing

Okay. So the plan now is to reduce the legislature--Our Outhouse of Otherwise Otherwordly Outcasts--by some 29 hyenas in order to save, oh, about $15 million. More or less. The focus is, of course, on the number of vermin to be culled from the pack and the money is just a drop in an otherwise endless ocean of glut.

But wait! There' s more!

Bonus #1: The plan on the table now--like a decapitated hog ready for the butcher--comes from Our (non)governor Luis "The Larva" Fortuño, that shining example of dullness. His plan is actually less severe than the plan floated/wafted by senate alpha dog Tomas "Tantrum" Rivera. Keep that in mind as We mosey on along here.

Bonus #2: The Larva's plan calls for redistricting, better known as  gerrymandering. Why? Because the proposed plan would protect current statehood party seats while asborbing or eliminating mainly commonwealth party seats.  Don't believe Me? Even based as it is on the current (2010) Census, the Redistricting Board (for lack of a name) will be composed of the Chief Justice of the local Supreme Court--a man already under siege by statehood-supporting fellow judges on that court--and other members. And guess who is trying to remake that "Board" as We speak? The (Out)house of representatives led by Jenniffer "Gluttonny" González.

So let Me add this up: The Larva proposes a plan that treats the senate better than what Tantrum had proposed while the reorganization of districts will take place led by an increasingly notorious statehood-supporting "justice" group and Gluttonny is trying to change the composition of that group for reasons that seem blatantly obvious.

Do tell.

Bonus #3: The plan calls for a referendum early next year. Woo. And hoo.

Bonus #4: Didja realize that if the people vote "Aye" (as opposed to "¡Ay!), then this plan would entail the first amendment ever to Our Constitution? Dem's big words, Kemosabe. Dem words be bigger by early next year, you betchum.

Bonus #5: The plan will be gutted right before Our ayes. Pun definitely intended. For you see, gutting this plan will also help forestall the other "plan" We already voted on: unicamerality. Whatever the hell happened to that baby, Rosemary? It was thrown out without even the benefit of bathwater and by hobbling this plan to some vague concept of future possible action and some framework of time that boils down to "When Hell freezes over," the hyenas at large can remain just that: hyenas at large.

For you see, it is the very "at large" concept that is (rightly!) being attacked by The Larva's plan. The concept is that We recklessly and stupidly elect senators and representatives who represent no specific district; they are "at large," out there (some more out than others) and running rampant. Always have. Always will. They are the powers without accountability, except to themselves and maybe their party. Il Castrao, anyone?

Now guess, people, go ahead and guess whose names you will find so very prominently listed amongst the "elected at large" to Our pathetic excuses for senate and house?

I'll give you their initials: Tantrum. And Gluttonny.

Oh yeah, let the butchering begin.

The Jenius Has Spoken. 

17 March 2010

From "Under" To "Above"

Let Me revisit a theme...

The average business set-up time in Puerto Rico is over 290 days. The average set-up time in a local flea market is 70 minutes. I know because I've done both.

We have agencies on this island, whose PRIDCO I won't mention, that make a fetish, if not a sacrosanct cargo cult out of being as ineffective and inefficient as possible. To the nameless PRIDCO, the attitude is "Why do in ten weeks what can take forever?" And yes, "forever," with them, is in play at all times.

Or how about the other nameless Labor Department that takes anywhere from 75 to over 180 days to approve worker training funds already specifically earmarked for that purpose. Fill out the forms, go through the idiotic hoops and then wait. And wait. And wait. For what is sold to you as an "automatic" process.

Ass-o-matic is what they mean.

Even a simple home-based business can take well over 250 days with pages and pages of forms and zero collaboration between agencies. For example, the local Treasury Department will ask you to submit proof that you don't owe them money...by going to a separate office and filling out the forms there. Why? Because it preserves the jobs of several dozen cud-chewing cretins whose political affiliations are mirrored exactly by a flea on a dog's ass.

Now take the local flea market. Sure, its scale is much smaller than government. But it has a notable core difference, a fundamentally, exponentially different goal from that of the government: It truly wants new businesses.

Let Me explain Myself to the coprophagic Fools: You--as government--say you want new businesses, but you work against them at every level. From legislation to implementation to taxation, you block, impede, marginalize, diminish, undercut, sabotage and poison the creation of businesses here. Why? Because they reduce your power unless you can straight-jacket them. Because you are cowards. Because you are vermin.

Now maybe the flea market people are deranged serial killers, but their business base has grown from 17 in late 2008 to 79 as of March 2010. That's an impressive growth rate. And they've done it by providing a range of support services aimed at getting the business started the same day. Simple. Effective. Efficient. With more to come.

Obviously, there is more to come. As what We laughingly call "government" here drags its slimy ass on business creation issues, the underground economy will continue to grow. Quickly. For make no mistake, the underground economy exists and grows because the "real" economy sucks like a Dyson Ball.

With tax revenues dropping and the economy souring, the usual government response is to make it harder for businesses to operate, either through taxation, fees, licensing or sheer theft. It is only a matter of time--well before the next election--before the "underground" economy will surpass the "real" one in terms of money flow. It will, without a doubt. When that day comes, either the way the Fools wreck business creation changes or We will wreck what the Fools have aborted in lieu of a system.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

15 March 2010

Public/Private Costs

Sometimes it amazes Me how people will see the trees and not the forest. Here's two statements I've heard to the point of nausea:

"It's a government job, but the benefits are really good."

"Firing government workers is wrong."

Both of these statements encompass a series of "unspoken ideas." For example, that government jobs aren't all that good what with the politicking and unfairness in promotion and the reaching into your pocket for "voluntary" support and the image problem and so on. For most people, government jobs are dreck. But oh, the benefits! That's what makes a government job worth tolerating.

Now  take the other statement, enclosing in its folds the notion that government has always hired people so why fire them now and that I'm/We're entitled to a government job and "they" are firing "My" people and who else is going to hire when the government fires and isn't it all useless anyway. No effort at any thought except "They are trying to screw Us." (They are, but not 100% of the time...)

With a little effort that even a politician can make, the two statements merge quite nicely into a whole picture, like two tree groves make a forest: The cost of government job benefits means that eventually--as in right now--We have to fire government workers.

Now that wasn't so hard, was it? You and I did it in seconds, and yet there's some 78.6% of Our Brethren here who simply cannot or simply refuse to see this basic truth. And yes, that 78.6% is scientifically accurate if by "scientifically" you mean "Texas Board of Education worthy."

Take a look at this graph comparing private sector salaries plus benefits with public sector salaries plus benefits. Go ahead. Okay, seeing as how you didn't, guess which sector is 44.5% higher?

Uh-huh. "It's a government job, but the benefits are really good."


"Firing government workers is wrong." No, not firing them is wrong. When an economy tanks and revenue decreases across the board, firing government workers is the best thing to do because government jobs are pure cost. There is no "productivity" in government jobs, only costs. And what do you do when costs exceed revenue? You cut costs, not revenue.

Sure you can blame "that party" or "those idiots" for the firings, but the bottom line is--at least here in Puerto Rico--that both parties created the problem and they will rightly blame each other for it even as they have to face the reality of solving it...by firing government workers.

Now how they go about it is a matter for a separate set of accusations, criticisms, insults, threats and just plain snark. Have at it and don't forget I'll be firing My own shots. But stop doing the "I see the trees clearly, but what do you mean there's a forest there?" lazybrain mambo because it isn't getting Us anywhere.

Unless you're actually trying to avoid Us getting anywhere, in which case drop dead. On private land, please, where it will be 44.5% cheaper to dispose of your carcass.

The Jenius Has Spoken. 

12 March 2010


And the status idiocies roll on...

From something called the Lexington Institute, a self-defined poster child for oxymoron, comes this...What? Oh, you want proof of My claim? Okay. Here's a quote from their own Mission page:

"By promoting America's ability to project power around the globe we not only defend the homeland of democracy, but also sustain the international stability in which other free-market democracies can thrive.

The Lexington Institute believes in limiting the role of the federal government to those functions explicitly stated or implicitly defined by the Constitution."

Uh, projection of power--by your own definition requiring military might--was not something the Founding Fathers put into the Constitution. If anything, they were largely isolationists, avoiding any system that would require getting involved in "foreign wars." If the poopyheads at the Lexington Institute for the Criminally Dense were able to read a history book, they'd learn something. Finally.

But that's just in general. In specific, the doodooheads at the Lexingtom Institute for the Mentally Impaired have released a study titled "Statehood for Puerto Rico and the Potential Fiscal Impact of Official Bilingualism for the United States." It could easily have been subtitled "The Darkies Are Coming! The Darkies Are Coming!"

The 20-page roll of toilet paper basically argues against statehood for Puerto Rico by stating it would potentially cost the U.S. of part of A. about $25.7 billion a year to be "officially bilingual," or "about $85 per American."

Uh, didja include Us in the calculation? We are "Americans" too, Lexington Insititute of the Consistently Incontinent.

By sidestepping the mind-numbing complexity of calculating how much statehood would siphon from the Treasury--but still pointing out that We have a median income of 1/3 the national average--the Lexington Intitute for the Learning Disabled throws out some verbal diarrhea about how "costly" adding Spanish to the nation's "official-but-not-official" English-based system would be.

It's all pure bullshit. Or in terms some if Us can read and understand: Eso es pura mierda.

That the Lexington Institute for the Shitty-Brained tries to frame the anti-statehood debate on "the evils of bilingualism" is a clear example of the witless trying to outhink themselves and merely exposing their biases for all to see. The witlessness is based on three obvious mistakes:

1) That knowing and using one language is better than knowing and using 2 or more.

2) That the addition of another language has not happened at the government level, when as Florida, Texas, California, New York, New Mexico. Arizona, New Jersey and other states can attest, it's been going on for a long time.

3) That $25.7 billion is a cost too high to pay. Here's a thought: Stop the criminal Iraq War and you can save enough to pay for 13 years of "bilingualism" in the first year of peace alone.

No, the Lexington Institute for the Morally Defective doesn't give a rat's ass about the money: their objection is Us. Us as a people, who by and large speak Spanish and many if Us speak English, too. Their objection is that We are poor, not "like them" and thus must be barred from the "heavenly" status of statehood.

Do tell.

Statehood is never--never--going to happen for Puerto Rico because of this gut-level rejection factor. No, one language is not better than two and pretending otherwise, to the ridiculous extent of faking a "study" as "proof" of this idiocy is the act of morons who lack the moral fiber to express themselves clearly.

So in the proper spirit of bilingualism, an advantage not bought and paid for by condescending pricks pretending to be idealists, I close this post with some words for the Lexington Institute of the Cowardly Biased: Sáquense la cabeza del culo, hagan que sus madres se la limpien con la lengua y Bésenme el bicho, cabrones.

Google Translate that, Lexington Institute bitches.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

P.S. From The Guardian Weekly: Learning another language increases thinking skills. Duh.

[Update; 30 April 2010: Take a look at this piece from the conservative-leaning New American. Note the overall tone of the writing and also note how, at the end, it makes becoming " a bilingual country" a negative. Two things, "New American": The U.S. of part of A. has no legally official language and the fact that I and many of My Brethren know two while you barely manage one puts Us one up on you. Cabezas de mierda es lo que tienen ustedes.]

10 March 2010

F___ The Tourism Company

Here's a way Our (non)governor Luis "The Larva" Fortuño can save about $175 million from what passes for a budget in his (non)administration: Fire the Tourism Company. (You thought it was some other verb with the letter "f," right? So did I. Still do.)

Fire them all. Close down the damn pigpen of corporate interests unrelated to true Puerto Rico tourism growth. Do. It. Now. Before We lose more than We can recover in a generation.

Think I exaggerate? A generation ago (circa 1990), We were the Number 1 Caribbean destination. We had slipped in Our lead, but We were Number 1. Guess where We are now? Not Number 1. And slipping year after year.

The Tourism Company is to marketing Puerto Rico what Genghis Khan was to the Church of Rome: a smelly scourge. The pigpen serves a master of rapine beast called the "Big Industry Airline Travel Corporate Hotels" cartel, better known as BIATCH. They call the shots and narrowly define tourism as "what's good for them" rather than "what's good for Puerto Rico." And so far, the twain seldom if ever meet.

What airline dominates air travel to Puerto Rico? American Airlines. What airline has the most former high-ranking employees now "serving" in the Tourism Company? Uh-huh. What percentage of the estimated $175 million budget goes to marketing Puerto Rico? About 13% if you round way up. How much goes to marketing Puerto Rico outside of the U.S. of part of A.? 11%, if you round up in a good year. That means that roughly 1.5% of the puny marketing budget of the BIATCH-led pigpen goes to advertise in markets other than that dominated by...American Airlines.

Is it any wonder that the Dominican Republic gets about 2.4 million tourists a year from Europe while We get about 200,000--basically those stranded at Our airport on the way to some other place?

How much of the BIATCH-pigpen "marketing" effort goes to the Internet? Guess. No, go ahead, guess. Yours is as good as Mine which is as good as "who the f--- knows?" Here's what We do know and can prove easily: Do a search as if you were traveling to Puerto Rico then rate the results as either positive or negative about Us. That's where the money should be spent, where roughly 61% of travelers are starting their travel plans. Then notice how many of the Puerto Rico sites are in a language other than English or Spanish...

The Tourism Company has had one brilliant idea in the past 20 years and because it happened on a holiday weekend, no one knew what it was. From changing slogans just to spend money ("Come to the Continent of Puerto Rico," "Puerto Rico Does It Better," "Puerto Rico U.S.A.," "Go Puerto Rico" and My suggested-but-never-used "Puerto Rico: Closed For Repairs") to subdividing the Island into "tourism regions" and then STILL spending money to push only the BIATCH-rich San Juan area, the Tourism Company is to Our beaches what an oil spill is: a noxious ugly stain.

So, fire 'em.

What do We replace them with? Why slap My buns and call Me Trixie, I got ideas:

--Create a contest and pick the 10 best website designs and campaigns to promote Puerto Rico.

--Hire 10 local ad agencies and have them compete for tourism marketing contracts ranging from one to 3 years in duration. Cap the maximum contract at $3 million and all the others maxing out at $1 million.

--Spread funds to the regional areas such as Porta del Sol (west coast) and Porta Caribe (south coast) so they can implement their own marketing campaigns. Give the small hotel associations their own funding for marketing.

--Create a "Tourism Evaluation System" database that not only targets visitors to Puerto Rico for their opinions, but also monitors what's being said about Our tourism components on the Web. Use that to improve the overall quality of experience amongst the related companies (hotels, airlines, transportation, restaurants, shops, etc.)

--Partner with the Dominican Republic to offer 2-for-1 deals--2 Islands for the Price of 1. Yes, they have lower labor costs and more hotel rooms, but if We focus on what We have instead of what they have, We can find a solid market that benefits both countries. First step: We need to lose the attitude that they are "beneath" Us. My Brethren know exactly what I mean.

--Create Our own airline, by either buying into someone other than American Airlines and its prima puta attitude or partnering routes with other airlines. As for the other way to bring people here, lower the damn port fees for cruise ships and add companies capable of providing "4 Hour Experiences" to cruise ship passengers. Unless We offer them Our unique attractions in user-friendly ways, We'll never get them off the damn boats to spend more money here. (Yes, I called them "boats.")

I've got more ideas, but so do you if you set your mind to it. Making Our tourism better is one of the few industries We have near-total control over, thus it is a powerful tool in Our arsenal of economic growth. We need to improve it by making it Our own tool again, wresting it from the hands of a greedy BIATCH who for all intents and purposes hates Us.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 March 2010

Fiscal (Mis)Education

This won't take long...

A long-anticipated Federal raid on Our (Mis)Education Department showed that:

a) Our handling of Federal funds ranks up there with baboons playing shogi;

b) Receivership is in the eye of beholder, and

c) We get horrendous results for the money in hand because We aim for horrendous results.

Get that look off your face: Of course We aim for horrendous results. How else can We be so damnably consistent in Our miseducation system?

By any standard of measurement, We rank as the the worst education system in the U.S. of part of A., which in itself ranks barely in the Top 20 worldwide. Maybe that means We rank somewhere between 20th and, oh say, 44th in the world. But We spend--between Our taxes and Uncle Sam's imperial largesse--more money per student than almost anywhere in the world. We rank in the top 15 States and according to some methods of determining school expenditures, We rank in the Top 5 in dollars per pupil.

So: Top 10 (on average) in money-per-student, Top 35 (or so) in the world in results.

The conclusions are painfully obvious: We are wasting Our money, Our children's precious time and blasting an ever-growing gaping hole in Our future.

We are like the pathetic dweeb who spends money trying to achieve a goal and ends up barely hanging on to subsistence-level living out of his car. Only We are crooks as much as much as dweebs.

When you have "supplemental education service providers" more intent on "counting heads" than achieving results, you have crooks.

When you have "teachers" more intent on holidays and paid leave than on academic achievement--their own and that of their students--you have crooks.

When you have an "education department" more intent on the color of party affiliation than any other damned thing in the freaking world, you have crooks. Scum-sucking crooks.

And when you have a system that allows crooks to flourish, you can't only blame the crooks for the thievery: you can blame the system creators and supervisors for lacking the courage to fix it.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

05 March 2010

Snapshots Of A Morning

---I drive into town to have My car checked. Just up from the públicos station, a woman with a heavy speech impediment who also stutters is walking timidly, eyes downcast, shuffling along. She's on her way back to the van café she and her husband run in the parking area past the station. She sees Me and starts to raise her hand, then stops and yanks it down, looking away. I slow down as she comes up level with My window and say "Hola." I startle her. She waves quickly, her smile a flash and gone. She speeds up her step and passes by.

---Ten seconds later, a heavy-set woman walks a pace and a half ahead of a uniformed schoolgirl holding a tiny baby up to her shoulder. The woman works at the bank I sometimes go to for services other than cash. The girl looks like the woman did two decades ago, slimmer, sharper, brighter, younger. As I nod a hello to the woman, she turns abruptly away, leaving the girl and baby clearly behind. As I drive by, the girl is cooing to the baby, her face turned up to the morning sun, enfolded in a world of two. She's probably 16.

---I arrive at My mechanic's garage and bustle is all around. An elderly gentleman, a retired mechanic who started his own garage back when the Ford F150 was first rolling off the assembly line, walks quietly from car to car, a bony jangle of a walk that somehow doesn't waste motion. His shirt is stained with grease and oil, his slacks creased but stained as well. He peers into an engine and mumbles a soft phrase, jangling away towards a toolbox. He squats. Easily. Rummages through the box, finds the tool he wants and rises. Easily. Jangles back and hands over the tool, moving seamlessly towards another car. He squats again. Easily. Stays for almost a minute, then rises as if lifted by grace and heads for another toolbox. He is 77. I want to squat and rise like him at that age.

---My mechanic has the startling nickname of "Gnomo," Gnome. A small spry man between 35 and 45 with an almost manic drive to be precise in how he deals with cars and clients. I've asked him to check My car to see why it's losing water and thus overheating. He discusses options and factors with Me. I can follow, somewhat. The elderly gentleman makes suggestions that My mechanic agrees to, then heads underneath the car with a bright light. Half a minute later, he breaks the silence with a note of victory in his voice. 'We found it," he says. "We found it!" He slides out from the under the car and beckons Me over. "We always find it. We always do." As I crane underneath the car to notice the tell-tale signs of a leaky water pump, I'm realizing that his "We" includes Me, as if I were as expert as he. I nod and smile, accepting that We did it. Again.

---Just before noon, the water pump We replaced turning over nicely, I drive by the town's plaza, the central area that in Our town--Cabo Rojo--has a vibrancy and life like few others. Pigeons flutter, schoolkids wander and well-dressed adults stride in myriad directions beneath the bright sun. Only one person isn't moving in all this, an elderly woman, stooped into a question mark by age and frailty. She's selling cookies from a cloth bag on her shoulder. The cookies are in small packages wrapped in clear cellophane, a wooden cane dangling from her left arm. No one walks near her and for a moment, she strains to raise her head to be able to see the passersby. She seems to wobble, to shimmer under the cloudless sky. She looks down, slumping even further, then grabs her cane and as she starts walking, she sees Me. She raises a batch of cookies and I quickly wave a no. She turns and walks away, painfully slow in the noonday sun. I drive back to My house feeling like I should have bought the cookies.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 March 2010

From Me To We

I have a habit of taking things at the personal level--call it the "micro"--and projecting them to the national level--the "macro." Some could say I'm extrapolating trends from related data and others that I'm making a mountain out of a molehill.


From the Christian PF blog comes a post titled "3 Sure-Fire Ways to Fail Financially." Watch Me go from Me to We: it all applies to both.

1. Spend over 1/3 of your income on a house or an apartment. You can't thrive financially if your basic living expense--rent or mortgage--guts your income. What would be the applicable "cost" at the national level, the We level?

Debt. How much We owe. As it stands right now, Our Island's debt is pegged at $49 billion. And Our income--GDP--is estimated at $64 billion. That means Our "mortgage balance" is about 77% of Our "income."

Now I know your mortgage/salary is not exactly the same as Our collective debt/GDP, but the underlying principle is the same: Too much cost restricts financial growth.  What happens if your mortgage payment rises and your income drops? You increasingly risk losing your property. What happens if Our debt keeps rising--and it rapidly is--as Our economy weakens--as it has for at least 4 years running? We increasingly risk losing Our property. You know it's true.

2. Wait until tomorrow to make changes. Ma-ña-na. The snide sing-song putdown of the  "lazy" by the "go-getter." Nothing happens fast for the procrastinator, the easy-goer, the shuffler, the slow walker. The undisciplined look at change as a burden too heavy to bear. The indifferent can't bother to care enough to change. The greedy--for We are talking about finances here--don't see that their greed undercuts their progress, that they ultimately will pay the piper, or in other terms, karma is a bitch.

But when changes need to be made--and they always need to be made--putting them off costs money. It happens to your wallet when you spend too much and save too little, when you live beyond your means because you won't modify your actions. It happens to Our economy when the government chooses to expand today and ignore tomorrow, when it decides--against Our wishes--that feeding itself is more important than working for Us.  Short-sightedness and laziness fail for Me and We.

3. Stay where you are. Conformity. Starts with a "C", just like cancer. Rots your potential, it does. Just like unbridled ambition can launch you speedily into a wall, conformity can wreck you...but from the inside. For Me, conformity is akin to giving up, to throwing one's hands in the air and saying "I quit trying to be better." What's the point of Life if you just quit?

For We, conformity is giving up, throwing one's hands in the air and whining "But what can We do?" It's the fatalistic bleating of lambs lead to slaughter. Conformity kills the lambs...but it feeds somebody else. That somebody else is where the problem is, for government is Our servant, they are Our work-for-hire and yet Our conformity, Our cancerous yielding, has led them to become Our predators. How can "We" prosper when "We" give up and are fed upon?

From Me to We. Financial prosperity linked to what "Me" does and doesn't do, which defines what "We" can do...and gets away with at Our expense.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 March 2010

Washington Times 0-pines

The Washington Times ran an editorial on February 26th, 2010 about the current House bill to hold a plebiscite or referendum or straw poll vote or chimichanga laxative festival concerning Puerto Rico's status. The point: Stir up the issue and maybe, according to The Washington Times, "back dooring" statehood for the Island.

Yes, I said "back dooring."

Here's the editorial with My incisive remarks in [brackets]. Parentheses are from the original.

Puerto Rican run
The deck is stacked for statehood

Rigging an election is nice work if you can pull it off. [Ask the murderous moron, you Dubya-sycophantic twits.] [Nothing like a fast start, I say.] That's what the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives appears to be trying to do as it votes next week on the misleadingly named Puerto Rico Democracy Act, [Not as misleading as The Patriot Act.] which is designed to confer statehood on the island commonwealth by hook or crook. The bill is wrongheaded on so many levels that opponents in the Senate ought to filibuster it to death if it passes the House, as expected. [Filibuster being a Republican term for "debate."]

Since being formed as a commonwealth in 1950 [Actually, 1952.] under a self-drafted constitution, [Heavily edited by Congress, i.e., anything deemed "progressive" or "socialist"...shades of the present, huh?] Puerto Rico has enjoyed a special status with a degree of autonomy. Since 1976, it has enjoyed the unique advantage of offering tax-free profits to American companies that do business there. [You lie! Not all companies and not that many tax benefits anymore, as you well know.] Occasional plebiscites have been held asking island residents if they wanted statehood instead of their special status, but voters rejected change each time. [Never in an either/or fashion, as this phrasing implies.] The statehood option garnered just 46.3 percent and 46.5 percent of the vote in the last two attempts, the most recent in 1998. But because Puerto Rico leans heavily Democratic, congressional Democrats pine after the two new senators and perhaps six new House members who would be added to their caucus if statehood passed. [Pathetic, seeing as how Democrats can't run Congress even with a majority in both chambers.]

The Democrats' solution is ingenious - and underhanded. The new bill would call for a two-stage vote rather than a straightforward one. [Oh, you no likee the two-option system? You likee the "My option pretend-vote system," no?]

Past elections have shown that commonwealth status is favored directly over statehood, directly against independence and directly against some sort of hybrid arrangement. [Not true... Commonwealth candidates have been favored on most occasions.] Yet among all four options, commonwealth support appears to enjoy only a strong plurality, but maybe not an absolute majority. [Bingo! Ya got that right.] Presto: The Democrats' scheme is to first hold a vote with just two options: commonwealth on one side, anything else on the other. If supporters of all three other options ban together, they might vote to rule out the commonwealth without knowing what would replace it. [That's not bad in and of itself: what's bad is having no certainty that another option, when chosen, will be directly implemented.]

Only if and when that first vote succeeds would a second vote be held to determine which of the other three options would apply - with commonwealth status off the table. [So what's your point? That this would force the U.S. of part of A. to really look at Us politically?]

To stack the deck even more, the House bill would explicitly allow people to vote in this election who were born in Puerto Rico but no longer live there. Nothing appears to bar somebody from voting on statehood while being a registered voter of, say, New York or Rhode Island or even the District of Columbia. [Score one for your side. That's like Us letting people in jail vote: it's ridiculous. The deciders--you love that idiotic word, right?--should be the current residents of Puerto Rico for whom any change is directly material; the rest can lump it.]

To be sure, if Congress passes this bill and the Puerto Rican (and former Puerto Rican) voters choose the statehood option, Congress still would control the ultimate decision to make the island a state. ["And that ain't gonna happen ever never ever in a million years! Hahahachortle."] But the thought is that if Puerto Rico sends a full delegation claiming official status and the (false) legitimacy of a (tainted) popular vote, a Democrat-majority Congress would seat the delegation in an instant. [And what, serve them tea? Play Vivaldi while they cool their heels for another, say, 58 years?]

From the standpoint of the rest of us mainlanders, major problems present themselves. [No! Reaallly?] Most important, Puerto Rico does not consider English its sole official language of government, and islanders predominantly speak Spanish. No non-official-English state has ever joined the union, and for good reason. ["Because We don't want 'em!"] As Canada's experience shows, official bilingualism almost inevitably leads to discord and balkanization. [Here's a list you should read, numbnuts: Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Peru and Hong Kong. Oh, and Hawai'i. Officially bilingual or multilingual. How much "discord and balkanization" there?]

There's nothing wrong with letting a free people occasionally reanalyze their governing status. Everything is wrong with dishonoring that free people by rigging the very democracy statehood is meant to celebrate. ["Free"?! Free as in speech or free as in "allowed to"? Free as in "Check with Us first"? Free as in "Only as far as We let you"? That kind of free? Here's some free advice: Don't stick your nose in what you don't know anything about and don't try to write smart editorials when your IQ and outlook are limited to the Roaring Twenties.]

The Jenius Has Spoken.