29 November 2006

Test(y) Me

She sat in a corner of Border's, her laptop mute and barely touched. Her expression was that of need and every time her phone buzzed, she jumped on it, only to hang up with soft disappointment.

I waited out her lonely half an hour then said to her: "That's what you get for misbehaving."

"Oh no," she said immediately, "I'm trying to do a test."

I had to ask.

Turns out it was a 50-question (40 multiple-choice, 10 True/False) History of Puerto Rico test, college-level. As I perused it, I noticed only 5 questions had been answered, the rest had checkmarks and blank spaces. "It's due tomorrow," she said. "We've had it for two weeks and nobody's been able to answer it."

Two weeks. History of Puerto Rico. A university student. Like I had a choice.

I asked her to copy the test to my USB drive. Without prompting, she included her e-mail and name.

Bottom line: I started at midnight and sent her a completed test around 2:58 a.m. I used Google and a 7th grade History of Puerto Rico text published in 1959. I expect to score at least 46 and maybe up to 49, depending on the teacher's bias in a couple of subjective questions concerning the Puerto Rico of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Was--am--I showing off? Damn straight. How could I not? Here's a supposedly well-prepared (came from private schools) college student who when a friend of Mine told her she could get plenty of information on Puerto Rican history at the Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation, she gave a weak smile and asked "Do they have a website?" I told her the library had plenty of books and no website.

Two weeks. And a two-day extension. Some thirty students in the course. And this young lady sat in a crowded bookstore cafeteria--a bookstore WITH books on Puerto Rican history--waiting for the answers to drop into her laptop.

They did.

Tying off some loose ends: Her name is Nathalie, she's a student at a San Juan university campus and the course title is History 212.

Let's hear it for higher education in Puerto Rico!!

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 November 2006

Future Headlines

A couple of notes: To those who tuned in to the local 88.9 FM station owned by the Catholic University of Puerto Rico and expected to hear the dulcet tones of My voice, blame the station for not being organized enough to get Felipe Morales and Me on the air at the appointed time. Today's show will air next Monday, at 11:00 a.m. (The Pope is gonna hear about this.) And for those of you searching Google for "geniuses think metaphorically," notice Me as the #2 result. (I try harder.)

Some headlines I expect to see in the next few weeks:

Retail Sales Dropping More Than Expected.

Legislators Seek Amendments to Sales Tax Bills.

Governor Seeks Amendment to Sales Tax Bills.
(Notice, just one amendment.)

Retailers Fall Far Behind on Sales Tax Payments.

Entrepreneurs Stymied by Additional Obstacles.

Bankers Association Lobbies for Deregulation.

Internet Sales Attracting Attention.

Government Revenues Lagging: Rumors of Shutdown Increasing.

Teachers Will Walk Immediately if Shutdown is Announced.
(Hell, the moronic loafers will walk for any damn reason.)

Congress Shelves Bill for P.R. Self-Determination.

Stupid Rosselló.

Local Supreme Court Steps In Again on Sales Tax Issues.

Puerto Rico Slips Again in Regional Tourism.

Unicameral Bill Not on Legislative Agenda.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

24 November 2006

Jenie Wishes

--Maybe I shouldn't mention this, but someone arrived at Jenius Central from a Google search for "venereal diseases that cause lips to look misaligned."

I don't know what to think about that...

Let's say that a Magic Being--a Jenie--offers Me--The Jenius--three wishes. But said Jenie tells Me that I can only use those three wishes to make changes in Our government. Seems the Jenie is some sort of retired bureaucrat-cum-lobbyist with connections to 29th century science. (Arthur Clarke's Third Law spells this scenario out for you.)

Having gotten past My disappointment on so pointless an offer (in less than a fortnight, so I'm feeling chipper), here are My three wishes:

1) I wish government workers didn't "settle" for government work, but chose it as a result of vision. From ex-governors who couldn't cut it as lawyers or are egomaniacal semi-doctors or are pampered rich girls to the average Juan and Julia in a dead-end cubicle, far too many of Our government workers are there because they have to be somewhere, right? The only passion they feel is for 5:00 p.m. and their Christmas bonus. The "eight hours a day for 30 years" mentality is seen as a life plan, when it fact it's simply calling quits on Life and burdening the rest of Us with their indifferent incompetence. And for those who switch "careers" to "make a difference," they confuse ego with talent and burden Us with their overbearing incompetence.

2) I wish government understood its limits. When your government acts like a drunken sadist in search of victims on which to inflict more pain (see Washington D.C. for recent examples), a whiff of insight into what a democratic government truly is would go far into righting the reckless Ship of State. The same can be said when the captain is mealy-mouthed and spineless, for where the drunken sadist will crash the Ship, the wimp will simply run it aground. A government has only a few basic functions: protection (laws, defense); communication of said laws and implementing plans for stability and growth. But even these functions are curtailed by two additional factors: what the government is allowed to do and what the majority additionally decides. That Our government is acting like it owns Us is the result of watching Big Bully-Boob from up north and playing "stupid monkey see, stupid monkey do." A government that understands its limits is one that will be aimed at its true functions, not one that plays fast and loose to favor a few and endanger the majority.

3) I wish the people saw government as "Us" and not "Them." It ultimately comes down to this simple precept: We are The People, therefore We are The Government. And doesn't it seem funny to you that of all three wishes, only this one doesn't require a Jenie--or a Jenius--to make come true?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 November 2006

Kaleb, My Champion

For the past few weeks, Kaleb would talk about running, about racing during Phys. Ed. class, about coming in first or out of first, of girls versus boys (they outnumber his fellow little guys 3-to-1) and about pain in his left leg. He would run for hours on a court, a ball field or in the yard, but when it came time to talk about the Turkey Race, the leg's pain would come up.

He was uncomfortable, talking about the race. Last year, he didn't run, then talked about running this year. Last Friday he became openly angry at the idea that the race was longer, that the smaller kids would run a shorter race and they, the first graders, would run the same distance as the fourth graders. He vacillated between bragging and complaining, fast as wind or slow as turtle, confidence and fear.

He is My son, who watches My every move and absorbs My every action. He knows I am competitive, that I play to win and expect to win. He also knows I have bailed on My promise to run The World's Best 10K race...because My left knee hurts too much. He was leaning towards skipping his race, too. But both his mom and I assured him We would enjoy seeing him participate. So he ran.

Running with fierce concentration, Kaleb gained no ground lost at the start. He came in last, was downcast, but smiled and laughed with the other boys and climbed back into the grandstand, his green "Participant" ribbon pinned on his shirt. He walked towards Me and only when he buried his head into My body did he let the tears flow.

"I didn't run well," Kaleb said to Me. "I came in last."

I hugged him, holding back My tears. I know full well how painful a loss can be, for they all hurt Me deeply. Therein lies the problem: I only count victories, and they never mean as much to Me as a loss takes away from My heart. I did what I believe a good father does: I grew up enough to help My son. I assured him he ran well, that the most important thing was that he did run, for he could always point to that effort and say "I tried." Kaleb made no excuses, cried a little while longer, then composed himself. It took Me longer.

Later, in the car, he became angry at himself for running last. I pointed out to Kaleb that he had run well, for three boys had jumped the start and one boy got in front of him, breaking his early rhythm. Kaleb told Me that was Marcos. I said that most boys would have tripped or pushed, but that he had run well by avoiding the accidental intrusion, even though it cost him a stronger finish. He accepted the point, but made no excuses.

He later told My sister, My mom and his cousins that he'd come in last, his little body slumped with defeat. My sister encouraged him to prepare for next year, and judging by the way his face softened, that may have been the final salve on his injured pride.

For Kaleb is proud...just like his father. He wants to win, just like Me. But he is so much more than his father, for unlike Me, Kaleb has the courage to face failure as a true possibility and meet it head-on when it happens. Kaleb has learned some lessons from Me, but he has mastered one I haven't: Failure is not final.

For you see, My son, I don't see it that way. I seem to take risks, more so than the average person, but in fact, I really play it safe. Facing a race I cannot succeed in--to My standards--I bail, rather than accepting what I can do and doing it, with fierce concentration and accepting whatever the result might be. Unlike you, Kaleb, I am often so fearful of My failure that I don't even try.

It is now up to Me to ponder long and hard on the lessons I am knowingly and unknowingly teaching My son and on the lessons Kaleb can teach Me. I'm hoping that someday I can grow up to be more like him.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 November 2006

For The Record

A few things that should migrate from My Mind to the blogosphere:

Correction: The person who has selected My posts for Global Voices Online is not really Ethan Zuckerman, but Georgia Popplewell, of Trinidad & Tobago, whose Caribbean Free Radio features a lively, interesting podcast. My Thanks to Ms. Popplewell and here's to more sharing.

If you've seen the colorful Visa commercial with the CGI-enhanced whirling cavalcade of intricate actions in a fantasy breakfast cafe that grinds to a catastrophic halt when a guy pays in cash, here's My reponse: Screw you, Visa. I for one am happy to grind your debt-slavery treadmill to a freaking halt. And if any of you think I'm over-reacting, think about this: Mismanaged credit, as portrayed in "easy spending, instant debt and gratification" campaigns by the banking and credit industry, is the single largest cause of money problems in the U.S. And that goes for the government as well. So let Me repeat: Screw you, Visa.

A so-called man kills two people and gets away with it when the so-called legal system acts like a constipated cat and coughs up one of the ugliest hairballs in judicial history. Now that same so-called man, O.J. Simpson, gets paid to speculate "How I Did It." (Yes, the title says "If", but We know it really says "How".) O.J. is a murderer twice over: That is fact beyond doubt. For the first time in My life I'm tempted to call him a word I've never used, but though "murderer" fits him to a "T", the "n" word--barely--doesn't.

The sales tax cometh and taketh away: Early results indicate a larger-than-expected dropoff in retail sales. Hell, economists have said for decades that if you want to reduce something, tax it. Now tack on to this how Our slimy legislators are getting a cost-of-living adjustment to cover the 7% sales tax while simultaneously trying to exempt themselves from paying it (military stores) and you have the makings of some serious smackdown in the near future. Maybe We should ask O.J. to come here and "not" do The Fools any harm...

Stupid Rosselló. Bears repeating.

To Gabriel, who asked what radio station My upcoming show will be on, it's WUCP 88.9 FM, every Monday, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. The show launches November 27th and you can hear it over the Web at www.catolicaradiopr.com. (Yes, the station belongs to the Catholic Church. Somebody has to spout sense from there, no?) The show's segments will be uploaded later this year on the show's website, so feel free to suggest topics, people and themes and We'll do Our best to make 'em happen.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

17 November 2006


Lagos is a city that most of its own residents acknowledge to be hell on Earth, but still struggle and scrape through each day with the grim determination to survive and, just maybe, buck all the odds and climb out of destitution. This is a city of staggering inequality and inequity, with a Gini index nearing a 'perfect' 1.0 -- almost all the wealth is held by a tiny minority of corrupt officials, criminals and mob leaders, and corruption and crime pervades all economic activity. This is a city of horrific and constant violence and the threat of violence -- dead and mutilated human bodies are ignored the way we ignore roadkill. This is a city of absolute hierarchy -- everyone is in thrall to those (ogas, -- literally 'masters') one step higher in the pyramid, from whom they get 'security' and a chance at the few pitiful jobs, and to whom they pay 90% of what they earn. This pyramid is entirely unofficial, but ironclad -- the cost of disregarding it is often your life. The struggle to survive is a 24/7 ordeal, so that, as one of the people in George Packer's New Yorker report puts it, in Lagos, "if you sit down, you die".

This is a city that doesn't have slums, it is a slum, all fifteen million people in every quarter of the city. It is a city where garbage and sewage and toxic waste is everywhere, where clean running water and flush toilets are virtually non-existent. Where disease is everywhere and ever-threatening. Where pollution is so bad that residents' faces are grey. Where police, authorities and gangs all extort money from anyone who wants anything or dares to enter their turf. Where fuel dumps and waste fuel spills lit afire constantly light up the night and choke the lungs with toxins. Where the only significant change from year to year are the endless streams of new immigrants and the building husks left behind from rampant arson. Where most of the population sleeps outdoors, often surrounded by mosquitos, garbage and sewage. Where gang wars between Moslems and Christians, often precipitated by trivial events, kill thousands.

Packer says "the human misery of Lagos not only overwhelms one's senses and sympathy but also seem irreversible". He quotes a city district senior administrator who describes the city as "an impending disaster...a powder keg...it's just going to boil over" as it grows to 23 million people by 2015, and by another million a year after that.

When Packer asked the editor of the city's largest newspaper what keeps the people of Lagos going, when they have no homes, no basic government services, no utilities, no jobs, and no order or security, he replies "They never believe there's no chance". Religion is big business in Lagos, and the people not only cling to the hope of salvation in the afterlife, they cling to the promise of capitalism and civilization that if they work hard enough they will succeed in pulling themselves out of their desperate situation. Both promises seem leaps of impossible faith, since there is no evidence anywhere to support either of them. This, it seems, is the nature of humanity -- no matter how far we fall from the grace of a joyful, easy, natural life, no matter how grim and brutal and full of pain and suffering our lives are, we plug on, never seeing how far we are from where we once were, never giving up, never becoming so full of grief for what we have lost, and forgotten, as to diminish our faith that, despite the fact that what we have been doing has got us into desperate straits, doing a little bit more of it will somehow get us out, lead us to salvation.

From How to Save the World, by Dave Pollard, discussing an article in The New Yorker, written by George Packer.

PeRspective indeed.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

13 November 2006


Welcome to PuRgatory. Please listen carefully as the options menu has been severely reduced. We are in the process of enhanced deconstruction, so please be patient. Like you have a choice.

If you want better utilities, please call 1-800-PIGS FLY. The pigs in charge don't fly by themselves, but you get the picture.

If you want better roads, schools and medical services, call 1-800-FAT CATS; 1-800-EAT SHIT was already taken.

If you want taxes lowered and handled for the better welfare--uh--well-being of all, call your representative or senator. If you don't know who he or she is, you deserve to keep paying their overinflated salaries. If you do know, call 1-800-PARASITE and punch in the person's full name, age, office extension number, e-mail address, spouse's name and weight (if spouse is female, her height), then press the "number" key. The looping hyena laugh track is scratchy, but serviceable.

If you moved away and are calling to find out how things really are in PuRgatory, please dial 1-800-I AM A RAT and hang up. We'll call you back when We give a damn.

Please note that all internal exits from PuRgatory are closed. Not really, but since you act like they are, it amounts to the same thing.

Note: All 800 numbers have been suspended until further notice. Please dial 1-787-SCREWED. There's a nominal charge of $7.77 a second for the call. The average waiting time is four years, at which point you will hang up and spend a day helping PIGS FLY, FAT CATS and PARASITES keep you SCREWED again for another four years.

Although maybe by then, 1-800-EAT SHIT will be available. (Currently in use by the Spineless Wonder of the governor's mansion.)

You may now wildly wave your pathetic party flag and thunderously belt out Our national anthem while continuing to whine with your hand held out, waiting for the handout you neither earn nor deserve.

Thank you for making PuRgatory possible.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

Many Words

My Thanks to Ethan Zuckerman, of Global Voices, for picking up another of My posts.

There's The Jenius. Then there's Tecno Sapiens, a when-I-get-to-it e-zine about the conjuncton of technology and a career. There's The Grant Planner Report, a weekly notice of Federal grant opportunities. Beginning November 27th, I'll be co-hosting a radio show called DESO Te Voy a Hablar, "DESO" being "Desarrollo Socioeconómico", so the show title is a pun. And in February, I'll be Editor-in-Chief of a newly-revamped Computers & Business World print magazine.

All them words, but what am I saying?

And the honest answer is: I'm not sure.

Now I mean that in the sense of "I'm not sure what the central message is, if any," not in the sense of "I'm not sure what I'm talking about." (Some of you may doubt that distinction. It's an almost free country, so you can disagree. For now.) For in Jenius, I go after whatever interests or irks Me in the realms of business, economy, politics and social mores. In Tecno Sapiens, I'm concerned with helping the reader improve his or her outlook on having a globally-oriented career, the idea that what you do is only limited by your skill set and access to information.

The Grant Planner Report is pretty straightforward: Here Be Opportunities For Money...and you can hire Me to pursue them. The radio show will discuss issues that My co-host, Industrial Engineer Felipe Morales, and I deem of interest in making a difference for Puerto Rico. And We will showcase Our abilities as consultants...for hire.

The new Computers & Business World will be--needs to be--a magazine aimed at truly reflecting the local business environment and its relationship with the global economy. This as opposed to the "pay to sway," "cash for trash" attitude of the useless Caribbean Business.

First of all, I'm surprised that this is where My career is headed. I've gone (will be going, actually) from hands-on consulting to education, a transition I feel reduces My overall effectiveness. As a consultant, I can see the results of My input and make things happen. Focusing on being a writer/communicator in a society that views reading as punishment and radio as a music box with maniacally-stupid barking thrown in for fun, seems like condemning My work to trash-heap obscurity.

But then again, I'm not interested in the masses. Not everyone can read or grasp The Jenius (the debate is whether anyone can.) Tecno Sapiens is for those who want to make their own way through Life and the Economy, not for those who want to be kept in a box and feed through a slot. The Grant Planner Report is aimed at those who can try to make a difference at the community, city or state level. The radio show will attract those who want to hear smart talk about problems and solutions, not finger-pointing and trash-talking. And C&BW will reach out to those many businesses and individuals who labor in unneeded and undeserved obscurity, those who are blazing a new and often difficult path to a brighter future for their clients and themselves.

Central message? Maybe it's "You can do it." Central theme? Maybe it's "Waves of change." Or maybe it's all "Hey! Look at Me!" But in any case, it's there--or will be there--trying to make a difference. For no matter how varied or abundant the words and efforts, the bottom line remains the same: positive change must be achieved.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 November 2006

Trusting Our Blogs

Over at The Information Soldier, Aníbal muses (in Spanish) on how he's come to rely on local bloggers for his "take" on Our realities, as opposed to the "foreignized" versions We seem to be getting from Our media.

Although I feel his point was well-made, The Soldier tossed the ball in My court for a more complete analysis. As they say, Soldier, your command is My wish.

The tendency to seek out alternative media or non-standard aspects of the traditonal news media has been well-observed in the States. Bloggers have directly influenced the political process by zeroing in on key issues (usually mistakes by politicians) and only later do the traditional media pick them up. And the phenomenon of a growing number of young adults eschewing the nightly news in favor of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and (in My case) Countdown with Keith Olbermann is well-documented.

Less well-documented is a recent study that indicates that the amount of content in national news shows and "comedy news shows" is just about the same. In other words, you're just as likely to receive hard facts and weighed analysis with Jon or Stephen or Keith as with Katie and the hairpieces.

And therein lies the rub, as Billy (Shakespeare) used to say. For just as you can learn as much as with a serious teacher as with a funny one, We prefer the funny ones. Not just because they're funny, but because We get them. We feel We understand them, know them, can connect with them. Instead of ol' serious face, We get "Nice Guy," "Smart Aleck" or as a friend of Mine thinks of Olbermann, "Sexy Keith."

The problem for traditional media grows exponentially as We are increasingly deluged by data and information. As I wrote a while back (learning to learn and the Socratic Method) unless context is provided, information will not become knowledge. Most people rely on others for context, many can provide it themselves (self-teachers), but any method that can increase contextualization will (a) make learning easier, (b) provide an expanded perspective and (c) create trust.

Funny teacher: makes learning fun, you "see" more, you like him or her because you feel you get him or her, so you develop a bond of trust.

Who's considered the most trustworthy "anchor" in the States right now? Many have voted for Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show. (He does rate much higher in popularity than the murderous loser in the Oval Office.) That doesn't mean Jon is a better news "reporter," only that We think he is...because We feel better with him than with the others.

And that (finally) goes back to bloggers. Aníbal himself points out he trusts local bloggers (including Yours Truly) more than the media. He found voices that resonated with him, that viewed the same world he lives in and commented on it in a personal way he could identify with. That's context. Agree or disagree, The Soldier feels a resonance with what he reads and eventually develops a feeling of trust, so in the end, he moves away from traditional media and relies more and more on what he feels is a truer (more in tune with his own) vision.

All consistent bloggers have one thing in common: a strong need to share. In order to feed that need, the blogger must adhere to certain principles: Be clear, be interesting and above all, be passionate. In essence, be honest and forthcoming so that the sharing creates and builds trust.

What The Soldier and many others see in traditional media is the opposite: unclear, slanted views verging on hysteria that turn Us off and make Us leery. I'm not saying that bloggers don't lie, go ballistic over trivia and are all as interesting as gift-wrapped boxes on your birthday (November 12th, n'est-ce pas?)--what I'm saying is that bloggers are already closer to earning Our trust than the discounted media because blogging is personal and it is in that personal context that bloggers can make the greatest impact.

That Aníbal urges local bloggers to "Puerto Ricanize" their blogs is a good thing. I hope I succeed in doing that, but if I don't, I hope The Soldier or someone else I respect will tell me how to make the needed corrections. Because The Soldier is right: Given Our current situation, Our media dominated by an outlook that's best described as "Americanized modified by Mexican/Venezuelan hybridization" (it's worse than it sounds) and a seeming paucity of rational voices aimed at finding ways to achieve progress, Our best bet is blogging. On Our blogs We can blast away, illustrate, pontificate, evaluate, denigrate, compliment, solve, display and do so much more to Our heart's and mind's content. But We need to remember, too, that We have no better, no more powerful topic, than Ourselves.

[Note: This post turned out longer and more involved than I expected. But I'd hate to have The Soldier feel My effort was weak and have him bark: "Drop and give me 20!!" Because I know I'd answer: "Twenty what?...Sir."]

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 November 2006

Jenius Gratitude

I have been called cynical, sarcastic, overbearing, hysterical, handsome (thanks, Yvonne!), savvy, insulting, perceptive, prescient, funny, obnoxious (in a misquote, but repeated a few times), bobo, absurd, crazy, heroic, annoying, prolific and most recently, "weird, but cute."

Sigh. And satisfaction. For not once has anyone questioned--at least to My face--that what I write is honest. It is taken as a given that positive or negative, would-be-witty or aiming-for-a-jugular, whether I'm right or whether I'm really right, My words are accurate reflections of what I think and feel.

I'm fortunate in that I have friends and colleagues who may not leave comments around here, but will ask Me about what I wrote or bring up a subject I touched upon and explore it with Me. In The Jenius' early days (The Prodigy Stage, I like to call it), a very dear friend would point out that I may have been "excessive" in My wordings. I almost always agreed with her, and kept doing it. Not in defiance of her, but in search of what I felt I needed to say. She may still consider My wordings excessive--probably more often than before--but she still reads Me and reinforces her support by becoming The Picky Grammar Lady, the World's Most Endearing Editor.

I have resisted writing about writing because it really isn't all that interesting. One sits at a keyboard, taps keys in a certain order and either reveals the result to the world or saves it for posterity. But one aspect of writing is very important and must be mentioned: it is lonely work. Hour after hour, I stare at a screen as it fills up with the product of My thoughts...which is just wonderful because I am a Jenius and only Jeniuses can know the feeling of being in perfect communion with a superior brain.

However, how does one spend over 400 hours writing for absolutely no pay? What force can compel an otherwise productive person to invest 10 full workweeks (so far) in writing His thoughts on whatever comes to Mind, hopefully in a clear, cogent and effective manner?

Support. Or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I have the first and may have the second. But without the first, the lonely task of writing would be lonelier still.

So in a moment long overdue, My thanks to you who read My words, who drop Me a line here or through e-mail, who approach Me and fire verbal darts or ask Me why I wrote what I did or simply tell Me I'm wasting My time or that I'm headed for trouble because I compare Fools to crap and crap wins every time. Thank you. My mistake was in never understanding that, as much as I want to say and take the time to say it, the task would become unbearable unless others shared it with Me.

But not the credit. That's all Mine. So there.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 November 2006

Stupid Roselló

Former governor, current senator-in-absentia, monkey-wrench of progress Pedro "I Be Stupid" Rosselló claims that during his 8 years in the governor's mansion, the events and people involved in more than 60 Federal and State investigations, with more than 35 convictions, were things and happenstances he wasn't aware of, had no knowledge of, just didn't know were going on.

Because he's stupid.

The latest two examples are the former secretary-general of the party Stupid Pedro was the president of AND Stupid Pedro's own campaign manager. Both were found guilty of multiple charges of fraud and bribery concerning the vaunted "Super Tube" project Super Stupid Pedro used as one of his many boondoggles. Some of the monies even found their way into the statehood party's coffers, a routine donation along the lines of "Businessmen for Stupid Pedro."

Now let's get this straight: When you are the president of the party, the secretary-general is your real #2, the guy or gal who does the daily work that lets the party prez act all visionary or psycho or whatever. As party prez, you deal directly and constantly with the secretary-general and his or her actions are a direct reflection of party stances and politics, for which the prez is ultimately responsible. Can anyone honestly claim that what this person was doing was "unknown to me"?

A campaign manager is closer to his or her candidate than their spouse. If not, then you need a new campaign manager, because the campaign manager literally holds the candidate's entire political career in his or her hands. When you have the same campaign manager for four campaigns you are indicating, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this person works very closely with you, sharing time and space in large quantities. Can anyone honestly claim that what this person was doing was "unknown to me"?

Stupid Pedro adamantly refuses to acknowledge that he is lying about what he knew or didn't know. So let's say he isn't lying. (Pardon Me while I note the passing of a flock of pigs overhead...) Then there's no other choice--no other option--than to declare Stupid Pedro stupid to the nth degree. Stupid to the max. Stupid and a day. Stupid beyond stupid. Because as the convictions mount up, as the sentences pile on years and years of penal servitude on the now dozens of associates Stupid Pedro was too stupid to acknowledge and too stupid to lead, there will come a day when Stupid Pedro will sit in a stupid courtroom and claim he was too stupid to know the deal and some unstupid judge is going to say: That's stupid, Pedro.

And Stupid Pedro will spend some stupid years wondering just how really, really stupid he is.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 November 2006

System Beatdown

My Thanks to Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online for picking up another one of My posts.

Haven't done My "Jenius on the Street" (or "Jenius in the Mall") bit for a while. Decided to do it again because (a) I get a kick out of asking people questions that make their eyes go blank for several seconds and (b) the sales tax issue looms large.

So I went to several different places over a two-week period and asked owners of small businesses what they thought would happen with the sales tax. Of course, the initial reaction was negative, but I waited that out to uncover some interesting points:

---Compliance with reporting and paying the tax is already a bugaboo and will simply grow into a monster. Most of the business folks I spoke with operate with 1-4 persons, maxed out as it is. Toss into the mix a potential $5,000 fine for missing a report/payment deadline and you have the makings of major stress.

---Accountants will either have to lower their rates or face fierce competition in the form of software. One CPA butted into a group conversation on the subject and said that he didn't see why people were avoiding the use of accountants. The idiot (hang on: you'll see why) told us he had more clients now than before (at $120 an hour) and revealed he'd raised his rates because...of the sales tax. To business people, that was spitting in their coffee. The guy slunk away as the group turned against him.

And the competition? Software and either a computer or a mid-line cash register, to keep track of the taxes and print out a daily, weekly or monthly report. Oh, with automatic on-site or online backup. Put a package together like that for under $500 and you have thousands of clients ready to buy. Internet, anyone?

---From a former government auditor and retired CPA: The claims for inventory losses will reach near-record or record proportions in 2007. Simple: Buy 50 units of some expensive item, like PCs. Claim 4 were damaged. Sell the four PCs through "the back door," for cash. Take the deduction, take the cash...pure profit. Works very well with electronic items, furniture and some appliances. Another hint this is happening? Insurance claims will rise for a limited range of businesses and drop for the others. Why? Insurance companies investigate almost every claim, unlike the local Treasury Department, so people would rather pretend to take a loss on insurance while gaining in gray-market activities. I keep telling you, the sales tax is going to perfect the underground economy of Puerto Rico.

---Internet, anyone? I buy books like I have incipient bibliomania. I get a 20% discount at Borders, so a $10 book comes out (will come out) to $8.56. That's a 14.4% discount rate. But if I buy the book over the Web, I pay $7.88, with shipping, for the same book. (Your mileage may vary.) That's a 22.2% discount. Internet purchases are not taxable and if I switched to buying as much as I could over the Web and simply use local businesses for service, I'd save about $347-$378 a month.

But note:

1) I am not an avid consumer. The estimate above is based only on books, non-perishable household goods and office supplies.

2) The average family could save closer to $1,000 if they factor in clothing, toys, bulk food purchases, music and entertainment (DVDs). Oh, wait, many already factor in DVDs...on the gray market.

3) If We don't find ways to beat the system, the system will certainly beat Us. That is not hyperbole: it is fact. It is tragic and repulsive, but it is fact. A 7% sales tax on a $12,750 income (local average) is like a 14.5% sales tax on a $26,300 income, a general average for the States. Do you see any State slamming its people at 14.5%? Of course not. We're Number One!

---Bottom line: When small businesses get hammered, have more obstacles thrown in their way and are threatened by local forces rather than "global" ones, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that they will make themselves heard. Whether they can be organized into an effective tool for change remains to be seen, because the local Retailers Union (Centro Unido de Detallistas) has the leadership ability of slimy moss.

And the rest of Us? We'd better start cracking on kicking The Fools out. If We don't, We can expect more hammering between 2008 and 2012.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 November 2006

Virtual Escape

How much freedom do you really have if you have to remain in an untenable, disagreeable, humiliating and/or damaging situation?

Forget extremes: let's head for common. How much freedom do you have if you have to keep putting up with your job because you can't afford to quit?

I touched on this long ago, twice. I have a brief update: Nina eventually suffered a nervous breakdown, quit her job, lost her home and now lives with her mother. She is still deeply in debt and is pondering bankruptcy.

If Nina were simply an odd statistic, We could bypass this whole angst deal and simply continue with Our lives. But Nina has passed beyond statistic to metaphor: she has become a canary in a suffocating coal mine.

Nina made more money than the average Puerto Rican worker. She spent about average or slightly more, for though she was loaded with debt, it was all linked in some way to her salary, credit rating and other commitments. In essence, there are thousands of Ninas out there and thousands of Ninos, too.

But where Nina fell off the financial trolley to Hell was in not having a cash-based second income.

Nina didn't do odd jobs, sell retail, provide a service or deal with folks on a cash-only basis. Those of you who live here know exactly what I mean. Nina didn't "hustle" for that extra money, so she was taxed on what she earned and gouged to pieces by interest rates as subtle as a chainsaw to the jugular.

Nina made two mistakes: she played by the rules...and she played by their rules. She played by the sociocultural rules that say you must buy your way to happiness through instant gratification via things you don't really need. And she adhered to their rules that say you must stay within the system in order to support their game.

Now imagine what thousands of Ninas and Ninos will do when that game of theirs makes staying within the game an obviously stupid strategy. Will they be able to cut the fiendish addiction to buybuybuy? Of course not; there's simply too much pressure from keeping up with the Jimenez's.

So if cutting back isn't really an option, what remains? More cash. More untraceable, untaxable, unimpeded cash.

And here's a borderline non sequitur worth its weight in cash: Internet, anyone?

And some of you think I'm joking...

The Jenius Has Spoken.