30 March 2009

Chain Re(Non)actions

Our (mis)educational system loses too many of Our students, under-teaches the majority of those who stay and frustrates the living bejeezus out of the ones who truly want to make progress. This failure leads to a sub-segment of Our population lacking the basic mental and emotional tools to face the challenges of creating a future for themselves, leaving them with the options of welfare parasitism, fringe economy or illegality.

Within that illegality, the drug wars to control product distribution are shredding lives, most of them young men whose potential, even at that point, is still worthy of proper development. The rest of Us act like the deaths happen “over there,” because--in essence--they do, what with Our homes behind gated entrances, fences and security guards. We’ve become a country of medieval villages, fortresses dotting the landscape, and the sojourns “out there” are dealt with as if with the wilderness of yore: go out and get back quickly.

The “Us/Them” mentality is but a variant of the "Us vs. Them” mindset, the notion that it’s either Me or The Other, that My gain has to come at the expense of some Other person(s) and that his/her gain is a ripping out from My hands. That zero-sum mentality means We can talk about unity--talking means We’re nice, doesn’t it?--but when push comes to shove, We are not going to be unified. Even when Our path is clearly leading to widespread loss and the solution cries out for immediate action, even then We turn our backs on making a mature decision and pull away from it all.

Happens with status. Will happen with reducing Our government’s emasculating bloat. We need to bring Our government’s size down. Government jobs don’t increase an economy’s productivity: they detract from it, the same way blowing money on crack ultimately reduces your personal worth. Will We be able to reduce that bloat by the projected 30,000 jobs? Of course not. We’ll be lucky if We make it to 4,000.

Unions, those hypocritical bastions of non-unity, are already rumbling about strikes. In Education. In the Electrical Power Authority. And the Aqueduct Authority. It’s only a matter of time before the government employees’ own union--as useless an appendage as Nature ever gave a fungus--starts raising its hackles. These unions aren’t considering the long-term implications of their proposed “defense” of jobs: they don’t care about the long-term consequences. They only care about “Us.” If “They” lose jobs, great! But don’t you dare take jobs from “Us”!

Multiply that by several dozen other government unions and employee groups and what’s left in government without a “protector” are temps, contractors…and legislators. The same legislators who were ordered 5 years ago by the electorate to merge two outhouses into one…and have done squat about it. (Yes, pun intended. I must amuse Myself.) That legislature is their gated community, a near-impregnable fortress of doom to Us that is unassailable so long as We act like “Our elected leaders" are better than “Their thieving idiots." Meanwhile, all of them wreck Our economy like mad cows staggering drunkenly through a pottery shop. (Pottery, because We haven’t stepped up to china, yet…)

Our economy is stacked with talented people--many of them actually stay here to work on Our Island of (Some)Enchantment. But even amongst the talented there’s the sense of “I’d rather go it alone,” with entrepreneurs practically bending over backwards to avoid “giving anything away.” Toss into that brain spasm the equally-stringent delusion that Puerto Rico is “the whole market” and you get…more zero-sum mentality. When your bright lights act like dim bulbs, is it any wonder there’s darkness?

We look around and see nothing more than what We want to see. Thus We see too little and feel too much for ultimately not enough. We rabidly enthuse over a tin-plated beauty crown while hundreds bleed to death on Our streets. We disgustingly throw money at political hacks who invest the money in their own interests, while they seldom do anything more than pay harelip service to Ours. We wring Our hands about Our children’s education, while acting like consumer zombies who believe learning happens only in schools and only up to age 18. We decry the many killed, but only because it increases the cost of Our fortress villages and the stress of leaving them. We moan about the economy and those who run it into the underground, but We’d rather follow it there than build a new  and truly productive one. 

And yet the head-kicker, the blow-your-brains-out-with-plastique cranial wallop is that We really--deep down and in every way--We want it all. We want the Dream Life in a Dream Society. We want it all, We want it for nothing, We want it now and We don’t want to lift a goddamned finger to earn it.

We want, but don’t act to make it happen. We wish, but expect others to make Our miracles happen. We could, but We don’t bother to try

We should learn. We really should. But who knows if We ever will.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 March 2009

Graduating To Save Lives

The murder rate in the U.S. of part of A. averaged 16,979 killed per year in 2006-2007, placing the U.S at 24th in world rankings for this kind of violence.

Over the same two-year period, Puerto Rico registered an average of 733 murders a year. Its rankings were included within the U.S.

An average day in the U.S. of part of A. sees almost 47 murder victims added as statistics. In Puerto Rico, the average is slightly over 2. But, and some of you are way ahead of Me on this, the population "up there" is 75 times higher than Ours, which means that by equivalency, Our murder rate is 3 times higher than theirs.

(For you statehooders and math teachers out there, if Our population were 75 times larger--300 million instead of 4 million--Our murder rate would be over 150 killed a day, all other things being equal. 47 (the U.S. rate) X 3 is 141. You're welcome.)

Go back to the rankings, where the U.S. of part of A. is 24th. Multiply the rate there by 3. The answer is 0.128406. Where does that rank Puerto Rico?

Seventh. Seventh. In the freaking world.

Ahead of Estonia and just behind Mexico, which We may have caught in 2008.

I just threw up a little bit. Because, you see, We don't give a damn about this. At all.

Oh, We care when someone from "good people" gets gunned down, you know, middle- or upper class, preferably white. But when its in the projects or Our drug war streets, or some poor woman whose ex-husband or ex-boyfriend (too often a cop) decides he can't let the woman live because he "owns" her, well, We tut-tut and shake Our heads and then flip on the TV to see what celebrity is having plastic surgery or publicly fondling himself in a 767. (In first class, of course...)

We. Don't. Give. A. Damn. Because it isn't really "Us" getting killed, it's "them."

And that's why We are all too often idiots: We don't see the obvious. There is no "them" on an island. There's only Us.

Now let's offer a solution: The Education Equality Project has a link to a study reporting that a 10% increase in graduation rates can reduce murder rates by 20%. Note this isn't a 20% or 40% increase in graduation rates, a percentage that teachers would scream is unreasonable without having a fershlugging clue as to what it really means. It is but a mere 10% increase in graduation rate, an extra 2-3 kids per classroom...to help reduce the murder rate by 20%. 

In Puerto Rico We have a dropout rate of 50% or more, which means Our educational system is scraping the bottom of the industrial world's barrel. We have a murder rate that rivals open gangland warfare. Fixing one--just partially fixing the first--will go far in helping assuage the second.

More graduates. And some 140-150 fewer deaths a year. Let's ask the people here who think there's an "Us" and a "Them" if We should not do this, for after all, helping "them" is wrong, right?


The Jenius Has Spoken.

25 March 2009


I overheard a person commenting that "Puerto Rico is approaching 70% Internet penetration."


Yes, "approaching" if you you choose to round up 27% to 70% as your nearest "significant lame guess."

Despite once having the worldwide lead in digital infrastructure for communications, Puerto Rico has not embraced the power of the Internet to a significant degree. I define significant as 50% or more of the population, for though the oft-mentioned "tipping point" may be less, the fact is that once "50% plus one" is achieved, a "tendency" becomes a "sociocultural platform."

The Internet is the broadest, most flexible sociocultural platform ever created by humankind. But to Us, it is more a foreign land with a porn industry and shopping malls than it is a platform, i.e., a place to develop what Our minds conceive. 

I have stated a number of times that whereas the Anglo-Asian world prefers science fiction over fantasy, the Latin mind prefers fantasy over science fiction. The key difference is the role of technology: in fantasy, technology is never an issue. To the Latin mind--and rest assured, in this We are very much Latin--technology is something from "other places," and unless We can gesticulate with it (cell phones) or dance with it (MP3 players), We ain't that interested.

Oddly enough, I began this blog because of this dichotomy in what I lived and what I saw around Me. I spend too much time living and working on the Web, but too few of Us do and too many of Us don't spend anywhere near enough time with it. Total Internet penetration in Puerto Rico (in terms of percentages) still lags significantly behind the ratings for Top 10 TV shows, even one where a cowardly transvestite pretends to be an old lady while spewing gossip with a witless sidekick also lacking in dignity and self-respect. A dim-witted doll is the fantasy; the plasma screen is science fiction without any thought.

Will We ever see the numbers for Internet usage rise to 55%, 60% or praise the microchip, 75%? Not anytime soon...unless We catch on to its power as a tool for sociocultural and socioeconomic growth. And even then, the acceptance curve will be more related to age groups than to insight. But I've come this far with the disappointment and I can certainly--along with more brilliant colleagues than Me in this realm--be patient as the growth (eventually) comes.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

23 March 2009

Lateral As in "Sidestep"

Back in WWII, the British Navy was concerned about its lack of aircraft carriers, those American and Japanese behemoths of the sea that allowed nifty fighter planes to launch and engage the enemy in new ways. Since building one (or a few) would take years and the German threat was literally days away, the British were brainstorming for ideas.

One did come up: Use icebergs. Drag one out of the North Sea, flatten the top to accommodate airstrips and several buildings and tow it into position. You'd have a massive unsinkable aircraft carrier in weeks rather than years and save tons of (British) pounds to boot.

Quoting the source I read this in: "The idea was too lateral for the British Navy to accept!"

We in Puerto Rico have lateral thinking. Tons of it. Megatons of it. I'm talking metric megatons of lateral thinking that We couldn't throw away if We ever set Our minds to it.

That is, We have all that if by lateral you mean "stepping to the side." Lateral as in "moving aside." Lateral as in "dodging or avoiding." And I might add "Like Satan flees from holy water." (I had an metaphor here about the Pope and his kidneys, but passed [water] on it...)

Yup, We sidestep thinking. Not all of Us, but almost all of the people who should be thinking, like legislators and business leaders and mayors and governor-plus-staff, etc. You see, to engage in lateral thinking you have to at least have some modest acquaintance with actual thinking, with peering deep into a problem and finding a reasonable solution. Once you can do that, then you can toss in some imagination and let your thoughts romp like fluffy lambs in fragrant clover and pretty soon, something new and clever will appear. Might not be reasonable, might not even work, really, but it will be different. And different--when things are looking damn bleak--is very good.

Instead, what We have leading the Charge of the Light(Weight) Brigands is a posse of flatliners with self-delusions of adequacy, burnt-out sparkplugs in an engine crusted through and through with decades of sludge. If these lead-heads had been faced with the British aircraft carrier problem, they could have never come up with an idea as quirkily brilliant as that of using icebergs. I'm not talking about lack of brainpower, in this case: what Our so-called leaders lack is the will to see beyond the obvious.

It takes a mature mind--or a child-like one--to blend imagnation and thought into a powerful process for creativity. We can blame the educational system for quashing creativity--for destroying that most powerful of tools--because creativity is hard to control and hard to control means threatening. So Our children are bashed over the head with "facts" that often resemble "crap" and when too many questions are asked (and one is often too many), the response is to stop that nonsense right now.

Then Our business environment takes the tone of "the boss knows best" when it is often patently evident that "the boss has no clue and given a map to a stapled clue on his right butt cheek, s/he couldn't find it in a month of Mondays."

And finally, Our political swamp has the heightened awareness of a dozing sloth clinging to a mossy rotted branch, and woe betide any upstart who deems to bring new ideas to the political swamp for s/he shall be drowned in mustiness and kicked over to dry land. 

No one needs to wonder why We are stuck where We are once boricua "lateral" thinking is explained. As Einstein is reputed have said: The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them. If idiots created them--and they did--then idiots will never--never--be able to solve them.

Quoting the inimitable Linda Ellerbee: And so it goes.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


20 March 2009

Jellyfish Jam--Not (Guilty)

I was wrong.

Former (un)governor Aníbal "The Jellyfish" Acevedo was found not guilty by a jury of vertebrates on the 9 remaining fraud charges pending against him (24 were filed in 2008.) In a case that seemed to melt in the light of the courtroom, the result clearly upsets a series of (road) apple carts:

1) The want-more-for-nothing party The Jellyfish once led can now gloat and scream its Fool head off that the case--actually, cases--were nothing more than political persecution. Most likely not true, but then again, what other argument has equal force now? 

2) The want-something-they-can't-get statehood party is now sitting on the horns of three dilemmas: Their party's "parallel" case--that of former senator Jorge "Il Castrao" De Castro--ended in serious jail time; strike one. They also claimed that The Jellyfish's case was vindication for what didn't happen with their former (faux)governor Pedro Stupid Rosselló; strike two. And their political advantage gained via the elections, one that left the w-m-f-n party in shadows has now been seriously undermined; strike three. 

3) (Non)governor Luis "The Larva" Fortuño was enjoying a rare moment in local politics: no serious opposition party challenger. The feckless Hector "Huh?" Ferrer, who wasn't smart enough to avoid being elected current party president, is--sound of total shock here--even less charismatic than The Larva, making the two of them Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dead. Even without that opponent, The Larva was struggling, playing Blindman's Bluff with the executive position. Now with The Jellyfish freed from his glass jar, The Larva is definitely in for some political heat. Political only, because The Jelyfish has no original ideas, anyway.

4) The federal judicial system, specifically the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, are in for a major heap of sass in the coming months. For decades, the feds have acted like they walk on water and We drink their piss. But after all this, after daring to take on a sitting governor, even one as useless as The Jellyfish--but still Our own--they have fallen flat on their dimwit faces. And We will not let them forget that.  Oh, no We won't.

5) And once again, a high-profile judicial case is larded over with money, much of it requested of supporters, seemingly indicating that enough money can buy a verdict. Don't ignore this aspect, but more than the other four, which play in limited arenas, this one plays at every level of society...and it doesn't play well in most of it.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

18 March 2009

Venting, Vending and Inventing

I just have to get a few things off My chest...

First of all, take a peek over at Dondequiera, where Don Dees is picking up on dying canaries in Our coal Mine. (Er, I mean "mine." Force of habit...) Although he's a Genius, it doesn't take that or a Jenius to see the economic writing is on the wall, fence, street, telephone pole and stripper's butt: We are killing Our economy by not making it more accessible. 

Flea markets proliferate. Street vendors pop up like mushrooms. Work-at-home is now an open venture, not a secret to be hidden for fear of appearing "unprofessional." If you have a job in these troubled times, you are clinging to it like a barnacle on the Titanic. If you're smart, you're looking for a revenue stream, not a job.

The problem is, most people aren't smart, at least not in that sense. They want the "security" of a steady paycheck, though that "security" comes at the cost of being under-valued and treated like a throwaway commodity. And when throwaway time is here--and you bet your bottom dollar it's here in spades--your "security" is now as valuable as a politician's last dozen lies.

So opening a business, starting a new revenue stream, selling your talent, time and/or some products becomes a truly viable option. Except. Except that Our Fools have made going into business an absolute enema of a nightmare.

Nothing We haven't discussed before. But now, when the time has come to open up the economy to those who seek to make something good happen instead of sidewinding through the rotting carcass of a busted system, Our "leaders"--The Larva (non)governor We elected and his opposing-though-allied Fools--are trying to make the whole damn process even harder and more expensive.


Meanwhile, take a gander at this little snippet of information I just found: Ireland has launched an Ideas Campaign aimed at getting citizens to propose solutions to rebuilding the country's economy. In essence, a nationwide Brain Squad.

Why does this also cause Me to vent? Because My post was going to answer My Brain Squad post's closing question on how to launch such an effort without government money. In other words, I was beaten to the punch on what I was going to propose. By Ireland.

Geniuses. The same kind of Geniuses We could be if We did the same.  

And if you think We have a real choice in this matter, that We actually do have other ways to drag Our butts out of this mess, please join the idiots and leave the rest of Us alone.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


16 March 2009

True Leadership Needed

To wit: two charts that say much about the U.S. of part of A. and by Jupiter's right kneecap, I don't think any of it is good. Chart #1 tells Us something horrendously wrong happened in 1980-1981 and Chart #2 tells Us where monies are going that make...no...sense.

On to the next subject: leadership. Or lack thereof. From Slow Leadership, a blog that's much better than the title might imply, comes this essay on "The Mark of a True Leadership Role." A couple of quotes suffice:

"The distinguishing mark of a true leader is the ability to function where all existing ideas and past experience stop being any help.

It’s pretty obvious, once you think about it clearly. For any role to be a leadership role, or for any situation truly to demand leadership to deal with it, it needs to be solvable only by thinking the answer out for yourself. If you can deal with it on the basis of applying a known rule, technique or approach—or you can find the right thing to do by copying what someone else has done before you—it isn’t a true leadership situation...

...Faced with this kind of situation (an unknown), it’s little wonder that the most visible characteristics of many leaders are acting ability and fear. They become good actors (after all, they’ve studied the part extensively), but they’re terrified most of the time. When things are humming along nicely, they can maybe get by through their acting. There are no genuine leadership situations to be dealt with. It’s all management and administration. But when things go wrong and the only way forward is through true leadership—thinking out the answer for yourself—they are lost. All they can do is repeat what they have learned, copy what others have done or look for someone ‘safe’ to tell them what to do. That’s not any kind of leadership."

Now Carmine Coyote's take on leadership (and yes, that is the author's real name) is not only sensible, it is downright abusive of the so-called "leadership" We "enjoy" now. Though the essay is primarily aimed at business leaders, one can clearly see the application of this very basic trait to political leaders; in Our case, to a Jellyfish and a Larva.

The Jellyfish, former (un)governor Aníbal Acevedo, whose fraud charges trial is pretty much in a jury's hands right now, couldn't think his way into a paper bag, for though his political savvy is regarded by even enemies as top-notch, that save-the-skin knack had nothing to do with true save-the-nation thinking skills. In one you seek to avoid drowning; in the other, you build a lifeboat.

The Larva, current (non)governor Luis Fortuño, who could face impeachment if We get (non)lucky, couldn't think his way out of a paper bag. Lacking political savvy, he deems it enough to have dozens of people tell him what to do and then...nothing. He can't make a decision simply because he can't think "out of the box--bag--whatever." Where The Jellyfish had "survival imagination" to keep his fraud-filled political career going, The Larva is lucky to have any imagination whatsoever, and what little he has seems to be used to pick a new tie every week.

Why are We--in Puerto Rico and the rest of the world--saddled with half-half-wit leadership? Because We train people to rely on "experience and expertise" rather than "facts plus imagination." The first is subjective layered with subjectivity; the second is reality layered with "what could and should be." The first is--at best--mechanical; the second can be magical. The first is id-based, with vices as often primary movers; the second is rational and demands virtues to make its impact. We teach and train and trundle under the first; We seek and strive and seriously need and should have the second.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 March 2009

Irrationality All Around

Allow Me to throw some now-connected quotes at you, carefully chosen to not only make My point unassailable, but also make a case for anarchy.

(Yes, I wrote anarchy. Some days I just feel like that...)

"The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies is a 2007 book written by Bryan Caplan challenging the notion that voters are reasonable people that society can trust to make laws. Rather, Caplan contends that voters are irrational in the political sphere and have systematically bad ideas concerning economics."

Welcome to Puerto Rico. Please clear the platform in order to accomodate further mass stupidity. Thank you.

"Caplan refers to the make-work bias as a “tendency to underestimate the economic benefits from conserving labor.” (p. 40) People tend to equate economic growth with job creation, even if those jobs are wasteful or outright detrimental to growth. Economists argue that this is precisely wrong: growth comes from increases from the productivity of labor. The resulting increase in productivity, (other things being equal), causes people to be fired and allows them to accomplish other things."

How do We get 24% of Our workforce jammed like wretched sardines in a rancid thimble called government? Yeah-huh.

"Caplan refers to the anti-market bias as a “tendency to underestimate the benefits of the market mechanism.” (p. 30) The populace tends to view themselves as victims of the market, rather than participants of it. Corporations, and even small-scale suppliers, are greedy monopolists that prey on the consumer. Economists argue that all trade is a two-way street. A company will only sell someone a product if that person buys it from them. Cheating people is bad for business and the existence of multiple firms offering similar products demonstrates there is competition, not monopoly power."

Market competition in Puerto Rico is viewed as a "We are weak and need protection" keening whine rather than an "I can sell to My people better than any outsider" rise to the challenge. 

"Conventional public choice either emphasizes the efficiency of democracy... or, more commonly, democratic failure due to self-interested politicians, bureaucrats, and other rent seekers... Caplan, however, emphasizes that (a) democratic failure does exist and (b) it’s the public’s fault."

Oh, rats. And here We are blaming Fools of every stripe.  You know, those politicians, bureaucrats and...

"Rent seeking generally implies the extraction of uncompensated value from others without making any contribution to productivity, such as by gaining control of land and other pre-existing natural resources, or by imposing burdensome regulations or other government decisions that may affect consumers or businesses."

Oh-ho! Bryan Caplan, meet the Fools of Puerto Rico! Here's the useless ideal commonwealth party, the idiotic wannabes of the statehood party, the craven sell-outs of the independence party and the limp-wristed lackwits of the latest party to go down flaming--I mean, in flames. And over here We have Banco Popular, El Nuevo Día, Cemex, Verizon...

"Most studies of rent seeking focus on efforts to capture special monopoly privileges, such as government regulation of free enterprise competition, though the term itself is derived from the far older and more established practice of appropriating a portion of production by gaining ownership or control of land. The term "monopoly privilege rent seeking" is an often-used label for the former type of rent seeking. Often-cited examples include a farm lobby that seeks tariff protection or an entertainment lobby that seeks expansion of the scope of copyright. Other rent seeking is held to be associated with efforts to cause a redistribution of wealth by, for example, shifting the government tax burden or government spending allocation."

In the absence of Our own economy, dependent little trolls that We be, and incapable of mustering the will, imagination and vigor to create Our own, I can confidently say that We didn't invent rent seeking, but by Jove's left butt cheek, We damn well perfected it!

"The concept of rent seeking has been applied to corruption by bureaucrats who solicit and extract ‘bribe’ or ‘rent’ for applying their legal but discretionary authority for awarding legitimate or illegitimate benefits to clients."

I love how My observations are proven so quickly...

My point? We are responsible for Our own situation, whether We look at being irrational voters or We look at Our vice-addled, self-serving "leaders."

Why the appeal to anarchy? We already have it, so why not crank it up to 11 and see what shakes out? Can it really be worse than We have? Or will continue to have?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

11 March 2009

Brain Squad Idea

---Jenius Thanks to Janine Mendes-Franco for selecting another of My posts for Global Voices. New item (long overdue) on My agenda for 2009: Meet Janine Mendes-Franco.

Here's an idea from the "What the hell" file:

Because one of the very few absolutes in economic theory is the high-return impact of government-sponsored research and development (averaging 25% with highs of 155% in numerous global studies), I propose that Puerto Rico launch a "brain squad" initiative to develop ways of radically transforming Our economy to not only compete but dominate in world markets.

In other words, pay some of Us to make Our economy what it should be. With government money. 

Now this goes against one of My basic tenets, which is that government money should not be part of a business plan, but I'm not talking about a business plan: I'm talking about doing the job the government should have done decades ago.

If We had implemented My Talent Bank suggestion of a year ago, the selection of the people to carry out this R&D project would be easier. But I'll do My part (like you can stop Me) and flesh out what We'd need to make this work:

1) An eclectic group of 60-80 persons that would serve as the "core" group, and the criteria for selection would include nothing more than interest. No minimal degreees, no minimal amount or kind of experience, no track record except lack of criminal record, nothing but the desire to make a true difference. One week to submit bona fides and then a lottery to select the core group, with 20 "reserve list" names in case some of the selected are unable to participate.

2) A one-year contract per person for $36,000. Everybody gets paid the same, from "director" to "associate." No exceptions. The director and 2 sub-directors are chosen from within the Brain Squad by vote. Their initial task is to start the brainstorming process and settle intransigence issues. These three directors are re-elected as needed. Not enough salary to attract top prospects? Most of the so-called "top prospects" are already esconced in the system; the Brain Squad is about breaking new ground and having a burning desire to do so.

3) At the end of each year, there will be a peer review and evaluation for all associates, no exceptions. The bottom 20% in overall scoring are released. No exceptions.

4) Review and evaluation are based on two simple questions: (1) Is this person working well to achieve the goal of radically transforming Our economy? (scale of 1-100) and (2) How much do you estimate this person's work will generate for Our economy? (in dollars). Multiply the two numbers and drop the lowest 20%. Fuzzy? Yes. But it forces an analytical thought process that doesn't lend itself well to tit-for-tat nonchalance.

5) Additional people are added to the core group in a three-step process: (1) Only people who provide volunteer work first can be recruited for a one-year contract; (2) At least 3 Brain Squad project teams must request the person and (3) Each recruit gets paid $36,000 a year, just like the core group associates; no exceptions.

6) The Brain Squad is given one month to list initial ideas or angles for R&D. In this case, R&D is brainstorming, modeling and planning, not product development. The entire corpus of internally approved ideas and angles is presented to the public and then the Squad has 2 months to narrow the list down to a Priorities Plan. How that'a done and what that turns out to be is up to the Brain Squad. Every six months after that, the Squad must present three simple reports (prepared by volunteer college students who collect the data and prepare the narrative sections): New Ideas/Angles, Current Project Results and Questions. The Questions Report is the Brain Squad's "idea magnet" combining "what We see" with "what We wish We knew" to stimulate greater participation in its central mission.

7) The Brain Squad is assigned a 5-year budget, but associates can change every year (or every month, with recruits.) At no point can the Brain Squad have more than 140 associates. Fiscal oversight on the budget will be in the hands of a 3-person Board representing government, business and industry. The Board only has fiscal oversight powers, to ensure that monies are spent according to regulations; they have no say in Brain Squad R&D development processes.

8) Brain Squad project teams compete for funding at three levels: $50,000, $200,000 and $500,000. Projects are approved by non-involved associates, meaning that Brain Squad members are both developers and approvers of projects. Projects must present clear objectives and goals and provide a range of expected measurable results. Projects with outstanding merit can receive additional approved funding once early-phase objectives are reached, thus avoiding another project review.

9) Projects must be reviewed and decided upon within 10 business days by the randomly-assigned 5-person Review Team. The Review Team can seek outside help to evaluate the project, but can only ask for one 5-day extension. If after 15 days the project has not been decided upon, Review Team members are docked 5% of their respective salaries to provide seed money for the unreviewed project.

10) Companies whose employees provide in-house assistance (minimum 20 hours) to the Brain Squad receive a tax credit equal to 1.5 times that person's wages for the time provided.

11) Brain Squad initiatives for economic change are presented to the government, leading business organizations and industry groups, as well as citizens. Initiatives are evaluated as "Pass-Fail" within government and commerce groups. Any "Failed" initiative can be re-presented for a populace vote, and if it receives 300,000 votes in a 10-day period (secure online process), it must be implemented. Even so, many initiatives will not require direct government or commerce group intervention to make happen.

12) No Brain Squad associate can become an immediately salaried or fee-based asset to any business or entity launched from developed initiatives (for a minimum of one year after leaving Brain Squad.) However, the associate may become a partner and receive deferred compensation if s/he invests at least 30 hours a week for one year in that business or entity.

In salaries and project budgets alone We're looking at about $60 million for 5 years. Throw in infrastructure and operating expenses (low, but 5 years' worth) and We can put the Brain Squad together for well under $75 million. Call it $80 million just in case.

The Department of Education has a $1.4 billion budget and all they produce is crap. Three weeks of their annual budget would fund the Brain Squad for five years. And I guarantee that the Brain Squad would return far more than the current $600 million thrown away every year like shredded lettuce in the maw of "Education" sycophants.

Then again, do We really need the government to fund the Brain Squad? Discuss.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


09 March 2009

Puerto Rico Is Poor

Hold your horses until I've had My say. 

Puerto Rico is better off than 80% of the world's population, so in that sense, We are definitely not poor. But since poverty is very much a relativistic perception, and Our standard of comparison is the U.S. of part of A. and similarly industrialzed nations--all of them larger and with greater resources--then We, by comparison, are poor.

But We are poor because We--primarily Our so-called leaders--chose to be.

Singapore is a lot smaller and much more densely populated than Us; they have a higher standard of living than We do, though 40 years ago, We left them in the dust. So size and population density are not obstacles. Our obstacles are largely self-inflicted, just as many times the poverty level of an individual is largely self-inflicted.

Here, from the desk of Armstrong Williams, comes a simple, common sense list of ways that show you how to be poor. I'll list only the reasons, substituting My commentary on each to focus on Puerto Rico:

Step 1: Live on Credit: Credit means you lack the cash--and discipline--to avoid spending. It means you spend what you don't have, you over-buy, you over-extend yourself by promising too much. Our government has done that for four decades with the consistency of a cretin playing with its nipples. They romped and looted, padded and spreed, then when things got tight, they jiggered and faked, begged from Uncle Sam and ultimately tapped into Our pockets to pretend to stay afloat. No matter: those "easy credit" bonds brokers nailed Our increasingly-worthless fiscal hide to the wall because credit may be sweet, but cash is always king.

Step 2: Never Develop a Good Work Ethic: A work ethic--or any ethics system, for that matter--begins with accepting personal responsibility for what happens. A work ethic needs to acknowledge that one will make an honest effort, that one strives for productive, positive results and that one encourages the same in others.

What We have at Our "leadership" levels is a culture of opportunism, of short-cuts, of under the table and boot(y) licking craven greed. It trickles down to others as a sense of entitlement, of "They owe  Me" when "they" could be anybody from the feds to the Mayor and easy checks for non-work are just a lie or two away.

Step 3: Don’t Set Goals: Another way of saying this is "don't make commitments." Fill the air with words, bandy about concept and ideas from cheap to stupid with the frenzied abandon of macaque monkeys flinging poo. Keep the howling loud and constant, so that nothing of substance is discussed with any semblance of intelligence. That ensures that commitments are both ridiculous and weak, outlines instead of targets, penciled-in appointments rather than written in stone.

Goals require discipline and brains to both set and achieve. Not having them makes everything spurious easier, though nothing serious really gets done.

Step 4: Give Up On Yourself and Your Family: Divorce rises to 50% of all marriages? Focus on gays! Drugs cause hundreds of shooting deaths a year? Gated communities! Dropout rates surpass 40%? Beg for more funds to hire more people to not teach! And keep your own kids out of public schools!

Our leaders are endless fountains of hypocrisy when it comes to family issues.  Particularly worthy of scorn are the religious "leaders" who ignore the rising trend of divorces, of shattered families and community despair to parade their holier-than-cow mugs in political events or anti-gay marriage marches. Yes! Let's focus on politics and 1% of possible marriages and ignore the Island's real needs and 100% of actual marriages!

Step 5: Fail to Plan Ahead: Status? Someday. Agriculture? Maybe soon. Energy? We'll get there. Education? Eventually. Health care? On the front burner. Unicamerality? On someone's desk as We speak. Tourism? On the agenda. Economic solutions? The check is in the mail.

But on the other hand: Legislative raises? Now! Taxes? Now! Super-(stupid)-projects? Now! Additional lotteries? Now! Stifling business laws?* Now! Short-term gain, long-term loss? Now! Now! Now!

Watch a person buy what they can't afford, act as if the world owes them something, drifts aimlessly without a thought for the future and add people to the population without regard to their future needs and you have an unimpeachable formula for poverty.

We've watched Our leaders, Our lazy, greedy, short-sighted, hypocritical leaders obfuscate and practically obliterate Our future.

Puerto Rico is poor...because We let it become that way.

The Jenius has Spoken.

* From "Poor Planning: How to achieve the miracle of poverty," in Reason Magazine:

"...In addition, your legal system should make it nearly impossible for anyone to license a new business, however small. This will offer opportunities for your bureaucrats to make a living through corruption and will protect your cronies from domestic competition. An added advantage is that most commerce will be made illegal and subject to arbitrary enforcement."

06 March 2009

A Predicted Word

This won't take long...

I made a remark some time ago that unless the economy, education and health care improved noticeably, current (non)governor Luis "The Larva" Fortuño would be a 4-year guy.

But that was before he took office--"took" as in "sat in"--and proceeded to open a gnarly can of DumbAss on Us. Between faltering and flip-flopping, not much got done, but then he moved on to "furgonazo" and "funding government debt" and I for one am sure We were better off when The Larva was just mulling.

But here's the thought that comes to mind: We know--because We do--that the "furgonazo" tax is a fait accompli and that it will--yes it will--screw Our pocketbooks like a satyr in a brothel. Tack on the impending doom in education and the impossibility of fixing a health care system that is suffering full systemic failure and where are We?

Don't forget that some 30,000 people are scheduled to be dropped from the government payroll, turning Puerto Rico's historical "safety net" into a potential buzzsaw. But I don't think We'll make it to 30,000: I'm positive the whole effort will grind to a resounding halt before 5,000 jobs are dropped because the employees themselves will strike.


A paralyzed government where employees dig in to stop the basic process of trimming the fat We desperately need to get rid of. An excise tax that hits every freaking product that comes onto this Island and practically doubles itself out in the already-stressed marketplace. An education system that will suffer open ridicule and sanctions because of historical--dare I say traditional--administrative incompetence and fiscal weaselry. (Yes, that's a word. I just used it, didn't I?) A health care system that depends largely on government workers and disposable income to barely provide services: what will happen when both are unavailable? And an economy stalled, stagnant, incapable of addressing any viable solutions because of overly-complex bureaucracy, irrelevant special interests and long-standing idiocy?

Then look at a (non)governor whose primary supporters are not his party's executive leaders and whose support in the legislature is practically non-existent. In fact, at the presidency level in both chamber(pot)s, The Larva is nothing more than a stepping-stone. And when the whole shooting match I outline above gets serious, here's the word you'll be hearing, first as a whisper, then as an accustation and very quickly as a widely-accepted "solution"...


And who will The Larva turn to then?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

04 March 2009

Furgonazo Time

On the heels--or under, actually--of Our (non)governor's presentation of his government recovery plan, wherein some 30,000 public sector deadbeats need to be culled (not enough, but that's a topic for another day), can you guess what appears as part of the "We have to avoid junk bond status" plan?

A tax on every shipping container coming into the Isle of Enchantment.

Uh-huh. A tax. On every shipping container. And We being an island, you know.

Was this part of Luis "The Larva" Fortuño's address to the people? Nuh-uh. It was released as part of the plan, tucked into the middle somewhere, like a forgotten shopping list in a really boring book. Only this particular shopping list kills any chance of a recovery We might have had for at least several years.

Remember when I said the impact of the 7% sales tax would be actually closer to twice that much? According to recent (January 2009) economic studies, the cost to the consumer of the sales tax is just over 14%. The 7% tax didn't replace the former 6.6%: it got added to it. 

Took the damn economists three years to catch up with Me. The Fools never will.

The shipping container tax already has a moniker: furgonazo. "Furgón" means shipping container and the -azo suffix means "Holy shit." Even if the tax is as low as 2.5% (the chances of it being that "reasonable" are the same as The Larva growing a pair...), the impact will severely cut into every aspect of business and daily life here. If it is as high as the expected 5-6%, in essence re-placing the import tax the sales tax was supposed to replace (only this time, nothing is exempt), then you can expect the same doubling effect, though this time, it won't be because of business "friction," but because of sheer added cost.

This is a recovery plan? The worst part about this is that it's the best The Larva can do, not only because he's lacking a notochord, but because We have been brought to this point by 6 successive dolts with egos the size of stadiums, with brains and integrity that fit in a thimble with space left over for a teaspoon of sugar.

These 6 numbskulls--Ferré, Hernández (three terms), Romero (two terms), Rosselló (two terms), Calderón and Acevedo--made this mess and made it worse. Now after 40 years of multi-party incompetence, We are left with The Larva to somehow find a way to clean it all up. That's like having the Mafia take over the docks and sending Spongebob in to kick them out.

Spongebob... heh-heh. I actually voted for him over The Larva. 

Will We have to deal with the furgonazo? Damn right We will. We're no longer even in supposed control of Our economy. The shot-callers now are bond raters, those happy-go-lucky tapeworms who buy and sell mathematical illusions. Only Our illusion has come crashing apart and We gotta do what incompetent money-handlers gotta do.

Except that the money-handlers aren't paying as much as We--the people that cheered them and voted them in--are going to pay. 

Cheer now, suckers. The wake-up call was long overdue.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

02 March 2009

Education Solutions Redux

Some time ago, I blogged about Our (non)Education system, to which James O'Malley, El Gringoqueño, commented in part: "...How can we possibly fix this mess? What discreet steps can we take to pull our public education out of the sewer?... If I had the ear of the education secretary, what would I tell him?"

Nothing like a friend to make Me work...

Back in 2007, I wrote a three-post series offering solutions to Our educational system (1, 2 and 3.) If you want to (re)read them, feel free. But I'll save you some time and offer the short version here, with brief updated comments.

1. Flatten the Department: Apropos of the current government contraction, get rid of 30% of the Department's employees, where 49% of them all are NOT teachers. One "boss" per "teacher"? Are you kidding Me? Lose that "upper" 30% and you save about 40-45% of the largest single budget in Our (non)government...and you improve performance. 

2. Make Regions compete for funding within the Department:  Especially now when the intestinal offal is proximate to impacting the rotating oscillator, We need to make Our schools improve by making their bottom line a true bottom line: Get better or prepare to work someplace else.

3. Provide a tax break for home schooling: This one's long overdue. Although public system teachers then complain that the best students leave the classroom, the fact is that many of the best students have already left the classroom, either in private schools or by plunging into indifference. Let's face it: schools are much--much--better equipped to deal with sub-par performers than aces. Letting the aces fly at their own speed--or at least letting them have the option to do so--frees up resources and generates a more hopeful outcome than the dreadful crashing bore We have now.

4. Raise teacher standards to world-class levels:  The U.S. of part of A. has sucky standards. Pick the best standards (Finland will do), make them known to one and all in the Education system and aim for nothing less. Don't tell Me the Finnish are smarter or more capable. They aren't. But they have Us beat by miles in one simple aspect: They care more about education than We do.

5. Have teachers pass certification tests to teach and be recertified every five years: Teachers, shut up. Just shut the hell up. You all act like learning is a burden only you are entitled to avoid while placing on others. Get over your lackwit attitude and wrap your minds around this: until you prove you are worth more--and the evidence right now is very much against you--you are not entitled to get more.

6. To secure world-class standards, pay world-class teachers what they are worth: Money isn't an issue in Finland, but We aren't them and money is an issue here. So here's the offer to teachers: Get better, get better people coming in instead of the university dregs who can't qualify for anything except a Pell Grant and begining in 2015, your salary will go up 5% a year--but only if you requalify every 5 years. Over a 30-year career, this plan will quadruple your initial salary...but you have to earn it. (We can start pooling the future salary fund with the money We save throwing out the rotten vegetables that clog the "administrative" levels of the Department. The money should overwhelmingly go to teachers, not parasites.)

7. Make education the reason for progress, not the excuse: Like Finland, Singapore, South Korea and other countries kicking Our sorry asses with their education systems, We have to actually give a damn about education as the priority for Our children. Not "American Idolatry," not surgically-altered airheads strutting a runway, not consumerism: education. If We want Our future in Our hands and not in those of an indifferent and often-idiotic world, then We have to focus on education as the principal path to progress. And demand, every day, that it get better.

8. Refocus Our curriculum to create leaders, not followers: The days of factory drones and cubicle rats is over. The future is here and it belongs to people who can think and learn and analyze and use their creativity to come up with a better idea, process or method...and do it again and again and again. People who lead, not people who sit back waiting for the Big Boss to condescendingly hand them a check and maybe a pat on the back. Is that scary? To those who haven't been taught how to use their minds and energies to keep learning, it's terrifying. Why do you think We have so many morons in Our government? But to those of Us who have learned that We can learn, that every situation encapsulates opportunity and that living and learning is far better than boring serfdom, We're not terrified: We're energized. We're the future. Our children need to be, too.

And here's one more:

9. Open the classroom to anyone who wants to teach something: This seems contrary to raising teacher standards, but it isn't. Think about the best teacher you ever had. What two qualities did s/he have that made him or her such an influence on you? I bet you mentioned one or both of these: passion and knowledge. The best teachers are those who want to teach, who seem to vibrate with intensity when teaching. And they are often the best-prepared and most knowledgeable teachers you ever had, able to teach you not only their subject matter, but how it connected to Life. There are plenty of people out there who would love to teach math, history, sciences, literature, not every day, but for a day or even a week. Imagine the impact in a classroom of an actual chemical engineer teaching chemistry, or a lawyer describing the influence of Julius Caesar on Our legal system or a boat captain describing how daunting and challenging Columbus' voyage really was. Think the kids won't care? You think they'd rather listen to a dry recitation of formulas or a litany of dates instead of exploring a topic with someone who loves it so much they came to teach it? If you're worried about standards, have the person apply for the "Guest Teacher" role they want and submit an outline of what they will say. Nothing fancy; 1-2 pages will do. And then let them unleash their passion and knowledge on students... while the regular teacher takes a break. (Now I got the teachers' support!)

As to what (else) I'd say to the Education Secretary if I had his ear, it'd be this: If you can't see the future of education as vividly as you see the present, get out. 

He most likely will lie to himself and stay, but the standard for his position is right there: see the future of education as vividly as you see the present. And help Us get there.

The Jenius Has Spoken.