30 August 2010

Palas & Pendejos

Over the past several months, a group of My colleagues and I have been making presentations to Municipal governments concerning their potential for requesting federal grant funds. All told, We have approached 19 municipalities that span the Island, covering an almost equal number of "blue" (statehood party) and "red" (commonwealth party) pseudo-administrations. In the process, We have presented over $2.8 billion in programs that target specific problems or needs that local towns have and have delineated a plan to create proposals for them that combines a lower fee per proposal with "no budget impact" fund management consulting. The bottom line? We can do more for these towns than they are doing now, for a lower cost and no drain on their current reduced budgets.

We have had no takers. None. Despite a combined 60+ years of experience and over $44 million in proven proposals, no mayor, no Municipal Assembly, no municipal agency has given us a green light to help their town request funds to help solve local issues.

I was of the opinion that the biggest obstacle was the ongoing fetid spectacle of Our asswipe (Mis)Education Department being raked by investigation after investigation, creating a climate of fear and avoidance to using (and managing) federal funds.

I was wrong.

The primary reason, We found out, was that none of Us had made Our approach to any town "led by the hand" of someone "in the party." That's what We call having a pala--a shovel--to leverage or dig your way into the system. As We checked in town after town, red or blue, the answer was a variation of "Sin pala no hay paso": Without a go-between, you don't get in.

The corollary to that ubiquitous and nefarious point is that by not having a pala, by (in My case) actively eschewing "the patronage system" in favor of presenting a fact-based neutral case, I am a pendejo.

For those of you who need a translation, a pendejo is literally a pubic hair, but in Our slang it refers to a fucking idiot. Figuratively, of course.

The other point that came across, specifically in "blue" towns, was the feeling that the higher-ups in the party, the general herd of vermin that populates the upper echelons of this (non)administration, have warped the "normal" SOP of government (largely worthless, but traditional) and created an "elitist system" where those on the inside are making out--literally--like bandits and those on the outside are sucking a dry tit.

Now it's one thing when the opposition party claims their antagonists are robbing Us blind (pot, meet kettle), but it's an entirely different level of political thuggery when members of their own party are whining that the ill-getting of spoils is ill-distributed. And this did not come from one aggravated individual or two: We heard this sniveling from over two dozen "blues" working at several levels in towns or other branches of government.

So what does this mean?

1) If political patronage from one of the political sides is required for a forward-thinking project to be evaluated, We are in the midst of one of the dumbest periods of Our very dumb recent history. 

2) The leadership gap We have, the one that measures "What We need for true progress" against "What We have now" has not only gotten wider, it's become practically insurmountable.

3) There is no honor amongst thieves, but there are levels of hate and they will find a way to be expressed.

There is no chance whatsoever that We will seek political patronage to get Our federal funding proposal into some decision-maker's hands. For one, the targeted towns have been presented what We have, so political patronage would only serve to "highlight" or direct attention to what We are offering, which is so blatantly obvious, it would be like approaching a leper to tell people that antibiotics are good medicine. Nix that. We'll keep presenting Our proposal to agencies and departments because although the odds might be slim, but there are people in Our government that can judge an idea on its merit without being told to do it for any other reason.

And as for the "They're not letting Us steal" crowd, wait for them to erupt in the primaries, when they will be actively albeit subtly courted with reminders of "Who kept you away from the trove" and promises of access to it after 2012.

Empty promises, of course, like the empty leadership that spurs the whining. Pendejos all.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 August 2010

The (Failing) Business Called "Puerto Rico"

Let's say that you own a small business, with a partner. The two of you work hard at making it a viable business and you're making ends meet. You want to hire more employees and make it grow, but in the course of setting up your business, the debts and constraints you face mean that nearly all your revenue is going out, into other hands, rather than staying in your hands, where you can then turn around and make best use of it for your business.

So what happens? You have three choices: reduce debt, eliminate constraints or find new markets to expand your business beyond the debt and constraint level. Seems simple, right? Obvious even.

But what happens when you're barred from doing any of those things?

You end up caught in the business called "Puerto Rico." A business that cannot grow and thus cannot hire more people to foster more growth. To wit:

--Find new markets?: That would mean We establish ties to foreign markets, attract foreign investment, generate trade ties with countries that aren't the U.S. of part of A. Can We do that? Hell no. For that We have to have permission, We have to get approval, We have to ask Uncle Sam for his damned blessing to stand on Our two feet and act like adults for a fucking change. Idiocy. Official idiocy, as We shall see below.

--Eliminate constraints?: That means We take a good hard look at Our status options and say "This is what We shall do." But have We done that? Hell no. We play patty-cake like retarded monkeys and when the time comes to stop pissing around and make a reasoned choice, We screech in fear and hide. Here's the bottom line: We can choose Our political solution regardless of what the U.S. of part of A. or any fucking body politic opines...but We are too afraid to do it.

--Reduce debt?: That means We stop sucking at the tit with poisoned milk and look to feed Ourselves. Take education, where 36% of the local Department's budget comes from federal funds. Do you honestly think that federal money is "free," that it doesn't come with any fucking strings attached too it? If you do, you're an idiot. At its most basic, federal funds force actions, actions that benefit the money's owners, not its sycophantic users. "But it's a grant," you say, "An investment to develop the nation." Uh-huh. Whose nation? And to whose benefit? The answer to both questions is the same...and it's not "Puerto Rico."

Your next bleat is "But Jenius, those monies don't create debt because We don't have to repay it." Really. Look around you and count the number of U.S.-based companies surrounding you. Back in the early 1900s, the transfer of Our profits to Stateside was 63% and critics pointed out that this trend exacerbated Puerto Rico's weakened and very impoverished economy.

In 2005, the transfer of Our profits to Stateside was 67%. And Our economy is still weakened and very impoverished. The poverty rate in Puerto Rico has remained at the same level it was in the late 1970s. Our real income has declined since the 1970s and the amount of wealth concentrated in the upper 10% of Our population has risen 78%.

But you don't care. You either don't live here or don't live in poverty. What you have is your job, your credit cards and your shopping to do every week, sending over 2/3 of Our money stateside by spending it in Sam's, Costco, Walgreen's, Sears, Macy's, Wal-mart, JC Penney's, Kmart, Starbucks, Office Max, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Chili's, Old Navy, Best Buy, The Gap, Marshall's, Foot Locker and any of the over 200 other U.S-based companies that criss-cross the island...which can be reached almost exclusively by American, JetBlue and Delta.

We're the failing mom-and-pop store that owes too much, has too many corrupt laws and lawmakers to pay off and isn't allowed to look for solutions outside of the narrow confines the corrupt and traitorous have imposed. Our unemployment level thus remains obscenely high and drags the rest of Our economy into shopping mall hell. And all because We haven't the guts to say "Enough," neither to the unfair conditions or to the stupid choices We make every day that promote and sustain the unfairness.

The Jenius Has Spoken

25 August 2010

Words, Past And Present

Let Me run this by you: I have found it necessary, when discussing past and present affairs, to point out in the strongest possible terms the general inability of the majority of this nation for self-government, and unfortunately, that the number of folks that are intelligent, educated and responsible enough (to carry out self-government) is too small when compared to the dumb and irresponsible.

Harsh, yes. Maybe a little over the top. But tell Me, My Brethren, if those words don't have more than a modicum of truth in them? Can you really say that We are capable of self-government, given that, since the Autonomy Charter of 1898, every time We have been faced with the challenge of requesting, demanding or negotiating for true self-government We have either punked out, screwed up or thrown away the chances through inaction, idiocy, incompetence or irresponsibility?

Even if you agree with the words above to a 100% degree, you'd still feel a little corner of regret for acknowledging that We, as a people, have failed to step up in Our favor in so fundamental a role as this. I know do...and I wonder what Brigadier General George Davis would say if he saw Puerto Rico now, some 111 years after he wrote the words above.

General Davis was the last military governor of the Island and wrote his opinion (slightly paraphrased) of the possibility of Puerto Rican self-government in a letter to his Washington superiors in 1899. That a lot of his off-the-cuff, paternalistic and even racist observations ring true over a century later is not his problem: it's definitely Ours.

Now some more words, about people We don't know: "Many of the neediest cases did not accept direct help because they considered it charity...that affected their dignity. This stance was so prevalent that even when they were classified as cases of extreme need, they preferred to go hungry and do without before accepting purchase permits for food. The ideal solution for the problem was the idea of an exchange--a food purchase permit in exchange for a day of work--for this preserved the admirable instinct of self-esteem..."

Of course, if now I ask you "What people are We talking about?" you'll say "Us" (as in "Puerto Ricans"), but let Me ask this instead: When was this written? There, think about that for a minute...

That quote came from the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration (PRERA) Annual Report of 1935.

That's why I say We don't know these people anymore: those of the iron-willed dignity to make their own way in the world, to eschew charity in favor of fair exchange, to deny themselves the easy handout despite incredible hardships, those that We can look up to as a stronger breed of Us, they are either dead or dying out daily. They are certainly not Us, not Us of the fawning sycophancy to Uncle Sam's checkbook, not Us for whom a day's pay for a dishonest half-day's work is dumber than a day's pay for no work, not Us for whom pride, dignity and integrity are words that best apply to somebody else that We scoff at for not having as much ill-gotten gains as We.

Yes, harsh. Painful, too. The same folks that Gen. Davis thought incapable of self-government had a core of self-esteem We seemed to have lost. Instead of growing, We have become smaller, instead of gaining moral values along with material goods We apparently have tossed the former out to better grab at the latter. And then We wonder why We have the government We have, the corruption We fester with and the backsliding capacity for progress that keeps Us running, not in the same place, but backwards.

Words from the past, that haunt Our present and point towards a dark, sad future.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

23 August 2010

Again, Not So Random Thoughts

--My Pittsburgh Pirates have once again, like clockwork, lost their 82nd game of the 2010 season, which means that they have completed their 18th season in a row as a losing professional ball club. Given the economic nature of the sport and the overall situation, I can't expect them to become a winning team anytime soon. Don't take My word for it: let this Salon.com article convince you.

--I understand the Miss Universe Pageant was held sometime in the past few days and Miss Puerto Rico finished...who gives a damn.

--Isn't it funny how the much-vaunted PPP investments that were the primary reason behind the current (non)administration pushing Us into another $11 billion of debt have become mere background shenanigans to the political antics of Fools aiming for the 2012 elections? Anyone who thinks Thomas "Mad Führer" Rivera isn't challenging Luis "The Larva" Fortuño for  the latter's (non)governor's position in the primaries is a blind idiot: that challenge was issued on Election Night 2008.

--My Island has received above-average rainfall since May, close to 30% more than in previous years. The frequent rains from tropical depressions or simple storm fronts is cause or effect of a lower-than-expected hurricane occurrence, but the water dumped on Our heads has been significant. So why does the local Water Authority act as if the damn stuff is actually decreasing its levels? Well, just take a drive around practically any place here and you will see leaks by the dozens. What that means is that We can't properly channel and store water when it's abundant, so it's no wonder that the agency that screws it up is starting to make noises that We should not use it too freely because most of it is already gone and most of what We have left is literally draining away.

--Some recent news reports have brought to Our attention that Our population decreased in the past decade, as per Census results. The culprit? Exodus, and I don't mean the Old Testament book. More of Us have left than have been born (exceeding deaths) or emigrated here. Reverses a growing trend in Our population that started way back in...the 1700s, I think. Or maybe the 1930s, after tuberculosis stopped killing Our folks by the thousands. In any case, it is a significant change, but one you won't hear any of Our """""leaders""""" (extra quotation marks exponentially increases the sarcasm) discussing to any meaningful degree except in one aspect: fewer federal dollars because We have fewer people. The """obvious""" solution: Pay Us to screw more.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 August 2010

Screw-up PRophets

Is Puerto Rico fundamentally different from other countries/nations in the world?

I don't mean in the sense that Puerto Rico is/is not unique--it is--but in the sense that somehow, in some yet-to-be-defined way, Puerto Rico violates basic tenets of cause-effect that are deemed universal.

For example, I know several people who are serial screw-ups, people for whom the phrase "historical failures" was coined. People who fail miserably at project after project, who burn clients left and right, who leave behind them a long and lengthening trail of broken promises and negative results and yet--and yet--they are still hired, still viewed as viable producers, still have open doors.

Now given that Puerto Rico is basically a big city (4 million people in 3,600 square miles) and that, like a village, practically everyone (eventually) knows about everyone else, how is it possible that there are dozens, nay hundreds, of these serial screw-ups still running around amongst Us?

Asking this, I've been given three asnwers:

1) The "Ay bendito" tendency We have, that sighs and tosses hands in the air to basically give even the biggest serial screw-ups another chance. I tend to agree, but I've also seen the vindictive and vicious other side of that mentality, where accidental failure has been slammed with merciless impunity far beyond the actual loss. Why doesn't that dark side come out more, if only to balance out the woebegone "Ay bendito" side?

2) Sheer chutzpah, known colloquially as "fuerza de cara," literally having a strong face. I have encountered several of the worst serial screw-ups I've ever met, who know I know they are serial screw-ups, people I've told in no uncertain (and often insulting) terms that they are lower than a cockroach's balls in My estimation, and yet they greet Me in new projects as if the past were gone and done with, having no bearing on the present or the future. Maybe they are right, but observation and common sense tells you that if a person screws up a few times in the same way, they are more likely to continue screwing up. So why do they keep appearing time and again, unqualified to be even be on the bench and yet playing game after game?

3) Our tendency to consistently pick style over substance. The serial screw-ups look competent, sound like they know what they are talking about and project the image of success (clothing, car, spending, etc.) They are often incapable of taking any stand, so they are deemed to be on everybody's side, when in fact they are on nobody's but their own. They are seen "everywhere," most likely because they aren't welcome anywhere for very long (especially when they screw up.) They agree to everything and with everybody, so their easy entrance is often the prelude to a lousy performance and a rushed exit. And they find open door after open door, for years.

The best consultants, colleagues, project managers and advisors I know are people who "don't fit the mold." They are quirky, informal, proud, competitive, opinionated iconoclasts for whom success is measured by their own standards and no one else's. To Us, a job well done involves a variety of factors beyond that of money. Because of this, We don't tolerate anything We feel would jeopardize the success We see is possible, and if that obstacle turns out to be the client itself, then We are most certainly going to let him or her know about it. If Our effort doesn't alter the situation, then We're more likely to walk away from the project or task rather than settle for less.

And therein lies the problem: We're "difficult." We're "hard to work with." Our single-minded insistence on doing Our best for the client means that accepting less is not tolerable to Us, so rather than risking failure, We let others take on the task, people whose integrity is less a motivating factor. They come in and do whatever it is that springs up and, when failure follows, they move on--money in hand--to waste someone else's time and money. They are incompetent, but supremely flexible, like dumb acrobatic whores in back alleys.

On the hiring side, the folks with the money firmly believe that their money means an entitlement to know exactly what's right and hearing someone espouse a differing opinion is an insult to their pocketbook. Their insecurity leads them to reject what is of huge value often offered for nothing simply because it isn't what they expected to hear. What they want is obeisance and recognition that their wallet reigns supreme in this relationship; that's what the serial screw-ups give them. What they get from Me and the other better options is competence that they have to adapt to...too much to accept for someone fixated on having their money rule the roost.

My experience with other countries and cultures is limited, with about 12-14 countries and maybe an equal number of cultures in limited encounters. And maybe the fact that most of those encounters were of the foreign investment kind automatically placed Me at the "top" of the information pile (they need My input more than a local business person would), so whatever I had to say automatically merited attention. But even given that set of factors, I have been much more readily accepted as an asset for disagreeing and trying to enlighten a client from outside Puerto Rico than for doing the same with My Brethren.

Maybe the phrase that applies best is "Nadie es profeta en su tierra," nobody is a prophet in their own land. But then, given that We're really a big city, wouldn't it be better if We learned positive things from each other rather than settling for learning over and over again the same negative results?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

18 August 2010

To Build A Bigger Pie

Here, let Me bring together My Idol, Roberto Clemente (today would have been his 76th birthday), along with Albert Einstein and Adolph Hitler to make My next point:

Albert Einstein: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

Adolph Hitler: "It is lebensraum that will determine whether We survive and grow or diminish and die as a people."

Roberto Clemente: "Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.''

Of course I tossed in Hitler for the shock value, but his point about lebensraum--living space--is at the crux of My upcoming point. Whereas Hitler, the descendant of Jewish grandparents, was thinking in terms of military conquest of lands and resources, I am thinking of "living space" in terms of the socioeconomic resources and opportunities We need for Puerto Rico to grow as a nation. We need to create more lebensraum for Ourselves. It's a process long overdue.

(Some of you will now equate Me with Hitler. Join the club.)

Advocating more lebensraum for Us brings Us to the Einstein quote, a very familiar one for many folks. It places the responsibility--and ability--to overcome any created situation upon the people who wittingly or unwittingly created it. In short: We can overcome Our problems...if We choose to.

Quoting Albert again: "Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them." (He didn't capitalize "we" and neither shall I. This time.) But what Albert left out was what Clemente added: We have to make the difference because the alternative is a waste of time.

Take a glance or three over at Dondequiera, where Don Dees returns after a short break to encourage Us to "make more pie," i.e., overcome the sheer idiocy of seeing Our entire society as a "zero-sum game." Mr. Dees and I have spoken at length about this topic, he from the point of view of an American who cares about the present and future he and his family have here and Me from the POV of a boricua who's tired of seeing his Island consistently come up short when it comes to achieving real progress (and concerned about his family's present and future as well.)

Now for those of you who may not know what the term means, a "zero-sum game" is one where My victory is your loss. Think "chess" or "football." One winner, one or some losers and victory cannot happen without an equal (or greater) loss. Political campaigns are another example of a zero-sum game, with one winner and one or more losers. To see everything as a zero-sum game--as We so frequently do in Puerto Rico--leads to zero-sum mentality, where every gain is viewed as punishing the losers, every loss is viewed as an unfair gain by others and the idea of cooperating to build something bigger is thwarted over and over again by the "What's in for Me?" mentality that places "gains" well before "results."

Therein lies the problem. A zero-sum mentality in a corporation leads to political in-fighting that leaves the company weak and incapable of competing. A zero-sum mentality in a marriage leads to a stubborn refusal to even try to seek common ground, forge a compromise or better yet, grow with and beyond the conflict itself. When a society is dominated by zero-sum mentality--like Germany in the 1920s and 30s or Us since the 1970s--the results are either catastrophic self-destruction or soul-sucking stagnation that can lead to self-destruction. Guess which one We are in.

A society has zero-sum elements, such as the political campaign and sports examples noted above. But what a society can create and achieve is never--repeat: never--a zero-sum game because every individual has the capacity to create more than he or she can ever consume or control. What that means is that each and every one of Us can, if We choose, drastically change Our world by simply creating opportunities and results that forge new lebensraum for Ourselves and others. My victory doesn't necessarily come with your loss and in fact, My victory can often become yours as well. Just ask the dozens of millionaires created by Bill Gates. 

But this capacity for creation applies to both the good--profits, jobs, art, lessons--as well as the bad, as exemplified by Hitler and countless other harbingers of death and destruction. What makes the difference is built upon two basic elements: wanting to make a positive difference and conscience.

Wanting to make a positive difference means going beyond current limits and breaking new ground, using a higher level of intelligence to find and forge a new path that leads to a greater good. The easiest way to do this--as has been demonstrated throughout history--is to cooperate with like-minded individuals. Gates didn't build his company alone, nor did Michelangelo produce his art in strict isolation. Even Einstein's "solitary theorizing" relied on the work of dozens of other scientists to prove their worth.

The people that come together to create more lebensraum for Us have to believe that the world is not a zero-sum game: if only one of them believes the idiocy, the rate and potential for progress are hampered until that person goes away. Or if the group is dominated by that zero-sum mentality, then whatever they gain is at the expense of force, fraud, fear and/or folly, which like castles on sand, must be constantly watched and shored to last. That isn't progress: that is conflict, ranging from deadly to petty. For an example, see the embattled excuse We have for a legislature, a latrine of zero-sum crap flung by syphillis-crazed monkeys.

Where does that leave Us, mired as We are in Our society-wide zero-sum asylum? It leaves Us exactly where We are and have been for decades: forced to choose. Our choice has always been the same: continue to act like fearful whiners or step up and face Our future with the confidence that tomorrow can be a better day because We choose to make it so. To make a bigger pie, not because We'll get a bigger piece but because making a bigger pie is infinitely more rewarding that being a perennial crybaby.

And because, to quote Albert one more time: "All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual." It starts with the individual, with his or her choice as to what kind of society he or she wants to have. We deserve the best We can be...only too few Us actually believe and act upon that simple Truth.

Let's build a bigger pie.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

16 August 2010

Mulling And Pondering

You may or may not be interested to know that I bookmark dozens of articles and websites for The Jenius, but that I eventually end up using only a few. I once did a post of stuff I had bookmarked and then left filed, but don't want to repeat that format until some day in the future when I'm too nauseous to sit up straight for more than a few minutes at a time. (I like the format: it's just that I could write that anytime, you know?)

(The song now playing is "Since I Fell For You," the Lenny Welch cover. Hold on while I take it in...)

The point of My bookmarking is that for many of the posts I write, I go through about 10-12 "items" related to it. For example, for My recent "Statistics" posts, I ended up using only a handful of sites after reading through several more for each post. What happens is that I take My starting point ("Puerto Rico's unemployment rate," for example) and then go down a variety of paths to explore whatever strikes My fancy and often end up someplace unexpected.

In this case, My original "angle" was to get snarky about how lazy We as a people are for (a) not really wanting to work at being worthy to work and (b) having a government too lazy, too stupid and too greedy to make actual progress happen (thus creating more jobs.) However, (a) didn't strike Me as being something I wanted to jump on yet and (b) is something I've jumped on to the point where I want to bitch-slap the next Fool I trip over. (Been feeling that way since 1981. My self-control is admirable. I know.)

And yet in that search, I noticed that Our unemployment rate had always been 2-3 times higher than that reported by Uncle Sam. That observation led to the post you may or may not have read. In any case, I'm stating that although there are times when I sit down and just start typing away (like now), there are many times when My typing is the end result of hours of mulling and pondering.


So who else is doing this? Who else is mulling and pondering what We are, what We are doing and where We are going to a serious extent? The Jenius is not the only one, and there are only a few more I know about: Don Dees over at Dondequiera; and formerly Gabo Pagán over at I Can't Spell are two that come to mind immediately, with maybe 2-3 others I could mention, mainly Spanish-language bloggers. Maybe blogs aren't the most fertile ground for this kind of pensive analysis, but given the decrepit spinelessness and water-logged brains We have in Our traditional media, what else is there?

(Hold on: Aaron Neville. I gotta take this in...)

Now I don't think a blog, or a newspaper column, is going to magically transform Puerto Rico by the power of words. If that could be done, The Jenius would have had all Fools tossed into the ocean for shark bait by late 2007. No, what I am aiming at is a push for a higher quality of expression about Puerto Rico, a deeper form of mulling and pondering and writing/commenting about Our society and its actions. Which also means having a people who actively seek this input in order for them to mull and ponder what it might mean. In effect, I'm asking for a wider spread of the higher intellectual level of Us.

Yes, I'm saying that (a) I'm squarely in the group representing "the higher intellectual level of Us," and (b) that We need more of it, now, immediately and for the long term. Frankly, (a) should not surprise you and neither should (b): Brainpower alone can't solve everything, but a deficit of brainpower in a human society makes everything worse.

And when it comes to analyzing Ourselves and bringing solutions to the fore, We are definitely in a brainpower deficit.

Okay, I started out with My bookmarks, passed sublimely through Lenny Welch and Aaron Neville and ended up calling Us "not smart enough as a people" to effectively deal with Our current crises. Yeah. I'm done here.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 August 2010

Statistics: Part Three

 I have been espousing the notion that the University of Puerto Rico is largely a day-care center for overindulged lazy teenagers and 20-somethings. That the best course to improve the university (not anywhere near a priority in My book, but for the sake of argument) is to simply cut enrollment in half and let the rest go out and do something with their lives (aside from suckling at the welfare tit. We may dream.)

Here are some statistics on the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus, the "main" campus, as in "largest of Our 'adultgardens'":

Four-year graduation rate 9.9%
Five-year graduation rate 31.5%
Six-year graduation rate 45.2%

Uh, come again? Less than 10% graduate in 4 years, a little over 31% in five and barely 45% graduate in 6 years? Six freaking years?

For comparison, here are the University of Mississippi's statistics:

Four-year graduation rate 32.5%
Five-year graduation rate 50.6%
Six-year graduation rate 55.7%

Now Ole Miss is definitely no great shakes as an institution of higher learning: just check out My first blog GCSPrank Is Here for some personal perspective on that. Ole Miss is a middling piddling university best known for racial tension, but even it can graduate more than half of its students in 5 years. The UPR can't do that in 6 years.

Is it because Ole Miss is selecting a better quality of students? Compare their freshman SAT Verbal and Math scores:

Ole Miss: Median SAT Verbal: 510; Median SAT Math: 515
UPR/RP: Median SAT Verbal: 594; Median SAT Math: 610

UPR pretty much smokes the faux-gentility up in Oxford, especially when you consider that the SAT is in English, a language We as a people dominate the way Israelis understand diplomacy without hidden agendas. So what's going on? The freshman retention rate in UPR is 90%, while at Ole Miss it is 78%. Maybe that means that the losers are getting out of Oxford faster than they do from Río Piedras. But wait: although the transfer rate from Ole Miss is unknown, that of the UPR is a mere 2.3%. Any way you slice this, it means that the vast majority of students that enter UPR stay there...and most of those don't graduate.

Could it be that the UPR is "tougher" than Ole Miss? Check out the graduation rates for Harvard, Yale, Stanford or M.I.T.: they're all well into the 90s in percentages. So by that standard, Ole Miss is more successful and that "tougher" label is for the birds.

No, what We have is a university that serves as a halfway house for Our socioeconomic orphans, one where they can spend 6, 7, 8 even 10 years in an extended excuse for an incubator that is half bar hopping and half social club. The other half is left over for education.

Maybe there's another factor at work: 58% of  the UPR students receive Pell Grants while only 18% of Ole Miss students do. Well, there is more money in Mississippi (income per capita/median income) than in Puerto Rico, but when more than half your students are on the education dole, doesn't that substantially change how they view the educational experience? It becomes not a matter of a degree, but of "easy money."

As for the rest of Us, why should We care? That money's coming from Uncle Sam, not Our taxes, so in essence, it's free money. Whee!  But money is never handed out without strings attached to it, and what We have in Puerto Rico is free money masking a problem with Our educational system, Our economy and Our potential for success as a nation.

Our educational system largely produces a student incapable of properly completing a college degree and even more incapable of attending a university anywhere else.

Our economy has been unwilling and incapable of creating more jobs and establishing a stronger platform for entrepreneurship to absorb the thousands of teenager and young adults for whom college is truly not an option.

Our future is anchored in a revolting ditch of political demagoguery, stupid conformity and willful ignorance that makes addressing vital issues a task akin to herding cats who are either (a) comatose or (b) with their tails on fire.

Is an institution with a greater-than-50% failure rate worth propping up? Not in My book.

Is this the institution that will "lead" Us into a new Puerto Rico, as so many have postulated lately? It may have has that capability once, but it hasn't in many years...and won't do so anytime soon. A battle's best leaders never come--never will come--from the slothful and disengaged rear guard.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

P.S. For those who want to know how UPR-Mayagüez fares, here are the stats for that campus: Median SAT Verbal: 579; Median SAT Math: 627.  Four-year graduation rate: 6.1%; Five-year graduation rate: 25.5%; Six-year graduation rate: 44.6%. Apparently the bars and socializing in Mayagüez are not as good as those in Río Piedras...or maybe they're better.

[Update: 17 August 2010: From The New York Times Magazine, "What Is It About 20-Somethings?"]

[Update: 26 Sept 2010: From the recently-released book, Higher Education? (yes, with a question mark), by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, comes a quirky Top 10 list placing Ole Miss as the school offering the best undergraduate education per dollar in the country. Makes sense: a Division 1A state university in the state with the lowest income per capita in the nation. By those admittedly self-selected standards, the University of Puerto Rico should--should--top the list. I'm sure it doesn't even come close.]

11 August 2010

Statistics: Part Two

Click on this here link.

Go ahead. Then scroll and find "Puerto Rico" (if it doesn't appear on the graph.) Check the box next to it. Then sit back and let the gap between the yellow line representing Us and the carmine line representing the U.S. (of part of A.) You might even see a blue line representing Florida, just for perspective.

What does this graph mean? That We have a subservient--slave--economy to that of Uncle Sam.

Strong words, Jenius. Back 'em up.

At its most basic, the unemployment rate is the comparison between the number of eligible employable people and the number of jobs available in the designated market. The space for fudging the numbers in that comparison is huge (governments measure and compare what they want, not the actual base numbers.) But what can be seen as legitimately reliable is the overall trend the numbers reflect.

In the case of Our 20-year sample, the relationship between the yellow and red lines shows a prominent consistent gap. If you check out the blue line (representing Florida, in this case) you will notice something the yellow line never does: the blue line dips below thee red line, meaning that during that period, unemployment in Florida was lower than the overall national rate.

How often has that happened in Puerto Rico's shared history with Uncle Sam? Never. Not once. Not even close. By and large, Our unemployment rate has been roughly double or even triple the rate of the U.S. of part of A. Despite the billions poured in as "investment." Despite the billions poured in as "social support." Despite the billions poured in by "visitors." How can it be that after billions and billions of dollars are funneled into Our economy, We continuously have an unemployment rate that sucks bull balls?

Because there are even more billions pulled out of Puerto Rico. Way more than what's put in my "investment,' "government support" and "visitors." Way. More.

Let's go back to the basics. Unemployment compares eligible candidates and available jobs. When there are too many candidates, they either have to leave or more jobs need to be created, preferably both. We had that scenario in the 1950s and 1960s, when Puerto Rico's island  population was growing slower because migration was reducing the number of eligible workers locally, while Operation Bootstrap and the Fomento Miracle were ramping up Our economy at historically high rates. But not even then did Our unemployment rate come down to Stateside levels.

And how was it expected to ever do so since then, with the eventual gutting of Our economy by Congress, aided by local idiots, morons and cretins--most of them statehooders, but from other local parties as well--who argued, nay demanded, that the economic props We had be kicked from underneath Us, ostensibly to "strengthen" Our economic potential? That's like pinching the oxygen tube of a guy whose head is encased in a plastic bag, ostensibly to "strengthen" his resistance to suffocation.

For an economy to truly reduce unemployment, it must have at its disposal the policy tools that allow for job creation, increased trade and cost controls. Cost controls? Yes. Imagine a government hiring people left and right (or in Our case, red and blue) in order to simulate job creation. How could they afford to do that for decade after decade when each new employee represents a huge cost to the public coffers and taxing the natives has reached its limit? They had--and have--a Sugar Daddy. The U.S. of part of A. as Sugar Daddy. And just how free is the person (synonym: skank) kept by a Sugar Daddy?

Trade and job creation are both closely linked, involving as they do foreign investment, access to foreign markets and competition. Guess what area Uncle Sam reserves for himself concerning Puerto Rico? Uh-huh: Trade. We are "free" to trade with a-ny-one in the world...provided Sugar Daddy approves. Gee, if I'm only "free" to the extent someone else says I am, then I am...not.

Guess who ranks as one of the largest consumers of U.S. goods in the world, year after year after year after year? Uh-huh. We do. We rank up there with Canada as a buyer of U.S. goods, a country that not only shares a border with Uncle Sam, it also has 8 times Our population. The fact that We buy so much from the U.S of part of A. and that--being an island--practically every thing has to be brought in by ship, guess whose ships are the only ones We are allowed to use, not only for importing, but for exporting whatever We make? Right again.

If you are not free to make your own decisions, if you are beholden to another as to practically what you buy, how you get it and how you can share it, and the monies given to you come with dozens of strings attached, then you, as an economy, are a slave to that other one. There is no other term to accurately define such a relationship. We are a slave economy. We see it in unemployment and in Our consistent inability to make serious inroads against it.

And We continue to put up with it, with some of Us longing for the day when Sugar Daddy gets to screw Us more often.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

09 August 2010

Statistics: Part One

Would you, Brethren O' Mine, choose to live in Monterrey, Mexico? 

I bet most of you would (a) not know where Monterrey actually is in Mexico and (b) would choose not to live there. Your reasons for not choosing to live there would range from "It's not Puerto Rico," which means you are never going to explore the world in any meaningful way, to "Mexico is not the kind of place I like," which might either be insightful (you've been there and know first-hand) to idiotic (you've never been there.) In any case, think hard about the question: Would you live in Monterrey?

Let's look at some statistics. Click here and (go ahead, click) absorb the information:

--Consumer Prices in Monterrey are 57.83% lower than in San Juan
--Consumer Prices Including Rent in Monterrey are 55.27% lower than in San Juan
--Rent Prices in Monterrey are 46.66% lower than in San Juan
--Restaurant Prices in Monterrey are 44.57% lower than in San Juan
--Groceries Prices in Monterrey are 51.89% lower than in San Juan
--Local Purchasing Power in Monterrey is 251.80% higher than in San Juan

Here's the statistic you should look at to properly ponder a potential move. Compare these Cost of Living Index numbers: New York: 100;  San Juan: 114.61; Monterrey: 48.61.

Wrapping it all up: Monterrey is 57.83% cheaper than San Juan.

Now some of you are saying that Monterrey's quality of life is simply not comparable to San Juan. (You might not know squat about Monterrey, but you might say this anyway.) Before We tackle that little acorn, how 'bout looking back at those CPIs and noticing--noticing--that San Juan is more expensive on a day-to-day basis than The Big Apple? Do you, sanjuanero or defender of the metroplex, want to tell Me that the significance of such a difference tilts the balance in favor of San Juan? Really?

Some other statistics about Monterrey: It has the lowest crime rate amongst Mexican cities, although the rate has risen recently. Since 2005, the crime rates of San Juan and Monterrey have been fairly even (San Juan ranked first and Monterrey 2nd amongst Latin American cities), but Let's not forget that Our crime rate--particularly murder--has also gone up since 2007. Monterrey, like San Juan, is home to renowned universities, museums (Monterrey has 13, San Juan has 11) and international business centers. Both cities boast a highly-educated, tech-savvy population with San Juan topping out at about 1.1 million and Monterrey at about 1.3 million (although the surrounding urban area is larger in Monterrey.)

I'll show you the money: the income per capita in Monterrey is about $17,100 a year; San Juan is at about $17,800 a year. By general measures, San Juan and Monterrey are about even.


Local Purchasing Power in Monterrey is 251.80% higher than in San Juan. Which means that living in Monterrey is 57.83% cheaper than San Juan. Think about it.

Say you go to the grocery store. Here's your receipt for a simple small purchase in San Juan: Milk (regular), 1 liter $1.70; Loaf of Fresh Bread $2.05; Eggs (12) $2.50; Water (1.5 liters) $2.50. Your total?: $10.85. The same purchases in Monterrey would set you back $4.93. (And you may not need to buy bottled water since Monterrey's water is rated ISO-14000, higher than almost all U.S. of A. cities. San Juan's? Not. So. Good.) What about utilities? Adding up power, water, garbage, gas, mobile phone and Internet, you'd spend about $445.00 in San Juan; in Monterrey you'd average about $152.30.

So what does this mean, all this folderol with numbers? After taxes, your median monthly disposable income in each city would be:

--San Juan: $615.00
--Monterrey: $968.00...and living here is 58% cheaper.

Still think San Juan is a better choice than Monterrey? Good. For those who said "Yes," here's My response: Make the city better so that the rest of Us will have no doubts.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 August 2010

Down With "Political Royalty"

Here. Read  this. See how aptly it describes its target group. (Emphasis in the original):

"What we have here in the United States of America is our very own political royalty who ride in luxury limousines to luxury homes sometimes on government planes to luxury hotels at luxury resorts and back to the luxury limousines to one of their luxury homes where they feast on the finest organic free range meats, seafood, and the finest and freshest organic vegetables and beautiful fruits few of us citizens can afford.

As a taxpaying citizen standing in line for everything, standing in line at the airport, at the supermarket, at the DMV, waiting at the doctor's office, waiting and standing in line while the political royalty whose salaries we pay live another kind of luxury life. A life of privilege which I cannot afford. I only pay them so they can afford it without using their own money.

Meanwhile, for the actual job I pay them to do, which is to make laws to keep us free and safe seems to be lost somewhere. Let's see, roads, bridges, trains, unsafe lakes, rivers and drinking water polluted, cities crime ridden, industry jobs outsourced. Household products foreign made, a question about my credit card takes me to a foreign land. My groceries, fruits and vegetables are mostly imports. What- we can't grow our own grapes or broccoli anymore? We can't make a wrench, a wreath or a towel anymore.

Crimes in the public schools have increased when they should have decreased 20 years ago. The obscenities on TV and the movies have become commonplace and accepted. This is our America today."

The superstate that has been created in your country is for the benefit primarily of those in the national government, lobbyists and the industries the lobbyists represent, often to the detriment to the majority of the American people. A new slogan has emerged for the republic: A country for the few, by the few but of the many. They have taken to calling Medicare and Social Security entitlements, which are really necessary government services while almost everything else in the government, including their perks and privileges are nothing more than "entitlements."

Henry Pelifian wrote this, as "Maggy the Robin," in a piece titled "Political Royalty." He is right. You know he is. And when We take that same description of folks--parasites and thieves, really--who live in luxury amongst Us at Our expense while too many of Us struggle with bills, pathetic schools, crappy job prospects, crime, horrible roads and disgustingly moronic service, then it is time We simply said "That's it. You scum are out."

Why don't We do it? In the U.S. of part of A., a large part of the argument is that "It's too big a system and it's centered in D.C. and almost everybody lives far away..." Poppycock. Every year in most places, and every two years in the country, the average person has a chance to take a stand. "But a vote's not worth much," some mealy-mouthed wimps will say. Here's the truth: A vote's value is the value you place on it based on yourself. If you say it's worthless, it's because you are.

(And yes, I voted for SpongeBob Squarepants and Pepe LePew in the past election. No other votes cast. I voted. But I do more, as you shall see.)

A citizen is one every day, not just every election day. In every possible way except one, this is OUR government, to be run for OUR protection and benefit and to serve OUR greatest group needs. Why it isn't doing that, why it has become a haven for cretins with the morals of crack-addled pus-brained skanks living high off the hog is because We have created the one way it could be done: We let it happen.

We figured "Let someone else handle it. Let them deal with it. Let's just focus on other things, like reality TV and celebrity gossip." We are idiots.

But in Puerto Rico, We could, if We dared, sweep the place clean and start all over again. Literally. At the most basic level, several thousand of Us could charge the Capitol Building, La Fortaleza, the Supreme Court building and a handful of other chief agency buildings and stomp these vermin flat. I mean f-l-a-t flat. (Yes, I am talking about outright violence here.) Kosher? Ethical? Fair? Here's a non-answer: Is their "political royalty" kosher? Ethical? Fair?

As much as it pains Me to step away from that idea--and it does--what I am saying is that We can take back this "political royalty" gang-bang and establish the kind of government We truly want. It starts by acknowledging that the whole system is broken, not just the "blue" side or the "red" side. That means We don't defend either side at any point because the weight of the evidence shows--beyond any freaking shadow of doubt--that neither side is worthy of any support from any rational being more evolved than mold. 

I'm already there. Why is this step necessary? Because the "political royalty" disease is like cancer: you get it all out at once or you never will get it all out.

Once enough of Us reach that point, some of Us rationally, the majority through rage, We then target every piece of scum in elected positions and We literally ostracize him or her in favor of someone--anyone--with no prior political position. Look, the bottom line is that the government is run not by the elected chimps, but by the cross-eyed apes that make a career of sponging off the public tit. We can't fire that "permanent" government, but We can stop the elected vermin from using that swamp herd to build their luxury lifestyle, in exchange for making the permanent parasites more permanent and parasitic. How? Because the permanent government needs elected officials to keep itself alive. If We catch the electables getting too cozy with the over-hired help, We lean on them. Hard. If the electables want to stay where they are, they will play by Our rules or be gone. When the swamp herd stops getting its cozies, the next step is to make them do what We need or get out. (Remember: the laws that make it difficult to fire government parasites can be changed by elected officials...)

All new people in elected positions doesn't mean chaos, and if it does, could the chaos be any worse than the shitfest We've been stewing in since Sila "Quitter" Calderón decided she wasn't man enough to hack out another two years as governor? Puh-lease. We're at the point where the cure for this "political royalty cancer is either total extirpation or full-blast radiation: We either kick them out or make it so they never "serve" again. All of them, regardless of "political color." 'Cause a red cancer cell is just as deadly as a blue one...and if in that example you found yourself immediately thinking about arguing for one color or against another, then you are still part of the problem.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

04 August 2010

Enough (With) Corruption

[Once again, a Jenial Thanks to Janine Mendes-Franco for picking up another of My posts. In this case, she highlighted some words My dad used to say. Today would have been his 83rd birthday. I miss him.]

Yes, there seems to be such a thing as "enough corruption," or at least, "stable corruption."

In this Foreign Policy article, Ray Fisman points out that, up to a certain point, corruption is like a tax: when you know you have to pay it and can estimate fairly closely how much, you factor it into your economic calculations. So, to explain this to statehooders, if My apartment building will net Me about $11 million with a construction cost of about $5 million, then the permit "facilitation" costs under a certain (mis)administration will run about 10% of net total, or roughly $110,000. Factor that into the building cost, tack on a little bit on every apartment and voilá!

Any similarity to an actual apartment building erected under the Pedro Stupid Rosselló (mis)administration is entirely purposeful.

Now where does My Island rank on the worldwide list of corruption? Glad you asked. According to the 2009 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Puerto Rico has a ranking of 5.8 on a scale of 0 (Hell, the New Progressive Party or Popular Democratic Party headquarters; the independentistas don't bother with an HQ anymore...) to 10 (My living room.)  Because you wonder about these things, the U.S. of part of A. came in at 7.5; the world leaders are New Zealand (9.4), Denmark (9.3), with Singapore and Sweden tied at 9.2.

Suck that, gringos.

Now, it's painfully obvious even to a zombie--politicians wish they were that smart--that the higher-ranking countries, the ones that, say, are 8.0 or higher, are growth economy nations. Places like Canada, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Hong Kong and others are certainly hit by the global recession, but are coming out of it strongly. Those under 8.0 are struggling, some of them, like the United Kingdom, Japan (both at 7.7) and the U.S. of part of A. are giving foreign ministers late-night headaches. But at what point under 8.0 is the CPI morphing from Fisman's "good side" to the "bad side"?

It has to happen at less than 8.0 since the countries above it are by and large doing a splendid job of keeping their economies fairly robust, so either corruption is not really a problem, or it's managed so well that it has become a "tax.". Could it be that the worm turns at 7.5? Could that explain why Uncle Sam's economy is thrashing for air like a bottom-feeder on the high bank? (I'd ask you to pardon the pun, but I can't bring Myself to care.) But if 7.5 is still on Fisman's "good side," then what do We think/say about 5.8?

In that neighborhood, we have Israel and Spain (both 6.1),  Portugal (5.8) and Botswana at 5.6. Portugal is listed as "the next Greece," along with 20 others in this fascinating May 13th article in The Week. (Yay! Great magazine!) Portugal and Puerto Rico have equal CPIs. Look at some of the countries in that list (many of the candidates are States and U.S. cities...yeah, have fun with that.): UK, Japan and France (6.9). Along with Portugal and the U.S. of part of A. that makes 5 candidates for an economic meltdown that have CPIs between 5.8 and 7.7.

True, China, Vietnam, Italy and Malaysia are also listed, none of which passes 4.5 on the CPI scale. But think about this: none of the economies deemed be "the next Greece" (3.8) ranked above 8.0. Coincidence? Somehow, I don't think so.

If the Fisman Line is 8.0, then the over is the good side and the under is on the bad side. If Portugal is on the financial rocks--and it is--then Let's look at Our situation: unemployment hovering at 24-27% (screw what the (non)administration says about "15%": by their math, Babe Ruth hit only 414 home runs in his career), tax revenue dropping by some 22%, budget overages rising, an extra $15 billion in government debt since August 2009, and a GDP/debt ratio of 1:1, which means We are just about owing more than We can produce. Does that sound like a candidate for "the next Greece" to you? Throw in an overburdened government (far far too many people "working" as parasites) and a pension system that holds water like a senile old coot's flaccid bladder (same as in Greece...and Portugal and Italy...) and We, people, are on the wrong end of the screw.

Does the CPI have a direct correlation with an "economic meltdown" prediction? I'd say yes, pending more research on direct and indirect factors. On the surface, it seems like it makes a great deal of sense. So put it to the test, My Brethren: doesn't the 5.8 seem right when compared to Our economic situation? And doesn't the implication of that "rightness" make you pause?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Update: 12 August 2010: Germany had 2.2% economic growth during the second quarter of 2010, its largest growth in over 20 years. Greece? Down 1.5%. And the U.S. of part of A.? 0.6%, down from the previous quarter's 0.9%.]

02 August 2010

Mushrooming Corruption

That Our government is corrupt, crooked, criminally-inclined and disgusting is an understatement. Why it is that way, when handled with the disconnect typical of a scientist, reveals a less revolting yet equally disgusting result.

Here's a take on government corruption, Stateside, from Richard J. Tofel, who says that it stems from fewer reporters keeping an eye on government and the distance from state capitals to population/media centers. In other words, the media is not living up to its duty and the politicians are hiding "out there."

Now that might be a fairly accurate portrayal of things in California (Sacramento versus L.A./Hollywood glamour and San Francisco/Silicon Valley tech-glitz), New York (Albany versus NYC) or Texas (Austin versus Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and a murderous moron), but it doesn't hold much water in the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho and other such states where the capital is practically the only big city around. (Then again, these are not your most influential states, right?)

But does Tofel's observation hold water on My Island? Not really, as San Juan is in the Fargo/Pierre/Helena/Boise mold of being the biggest city around here, albeit on a densely-packed bit of rock. In fact, distance is not an issue here, as the guy who came in from Culebra to the recent CAC Games attests. (For you gringos, Culebra is an island-municipality east of PR and the Games were being held in Mayagüez, at the western end of the island.)

However, change Tofel's observation of "distance" to the concomitant results--ignorance and/or indifference to what's really going on--and his formula for government corruption fits Us like body paint. Our media has the collective IQ of sand, the collective guts of punctured amoeba and the collective integrity of fog in a gale, so in a sense, We do have "fewer" reporters, since as math has proven, hundreds of zeros are still equal to zero. And it is Our "distance" that causes the ignorance and indifference that characterizes the worst of Our political environment, one in which the same idiots vote for the same idiots every idiotic time they can.

Can We change this? Of course We can. But We don't want to. We prefer gossip to policy, innuendo to facts and salaciousness to analysis. We don't really want to know how big a thief/con artist "Our guy/gal" is because We're too busy slurping up the drool the media feeds Us about how big a thief/con artist "their guy/gal" is. The media "feeds" Us because they say "that's what We want" and We continue to let them do it because--and this cannot be overstated--IT IS WHAT WE WANT. As My dad used to comment wryly, We're a "Don't confuse Me with the facts" kind of people.

And because We're this way, We are implicitly condoning corruption. And because We expect it to benefit Us eventually, We only get enraged when it's propagated by and to the benefit of "them." And ultimately because We're thirsty for the next batch of warm spittle the media will plunk before Us. As the old joke goes, We're like mushrooms, voluntarily keeping Ourselves in the dark and eager to have shit shoveled over Us, day after day.

Only some of Us aren't and never will be mushrooms. That's Our hope for the future.

The Jenius Has Spoken.