31 July 2009


Happy Birthday, Patrik!

If you've driven around Puerto Rico at different times during the year, you would have seen this: Trees laden with fruit, that only occasionally gets picked. Happens a lot with mangos. There's a spot on the main road into Rincón where some 20-25 mango trees flourish every year with hundreds of mangos and some people do stop along the roadside to pick a bag or two. But by and large, in many areas of Puerto Rico, fruits and even coffee are left to drop to the ground and rot, simply because the growers can't pay to have it picked and even when they do pay, they can't find anyone willing to do the work. 

But what if a system were created where anyone could come pick the fruit or coffee, keep one-third of what they pick for themselves, give one-third to the owner of the tree or bush and give the remaining one-third to a food bank to feed the indigent and homeless?

Such a system has been implemented in several places, most notably in British Columbia, under the Powell River Food Security Project. The plan allows for farmers and growers to harvest produce with volunteers, who save money on fruits and vegetables and both groups help provide food for the needy. Once the logistics (delivery to food banks, recruiting of volunteers) are worked out, it is a fabulous system that cleverly meets several needs.

So why do I feel that if I presented this idea to My Bretheren here on My Island, they would look at Me with borderline disgust and say I only get to keep a third of what I pick? or I have to give a third to the owner who's doing nothing?, which ultimately amount to the same thing: I have to work to get only a third?

Maybe I'm wrong.


The Jenius Has Spoken.

29 July 2009

Pirates Lower the Flag

My Pittsburgh Pirates have finally traded away the last two starters they had from Opening Day 2008. In a little over a season and a half, they have traded--if not given away--8 players who are (most of them) starting for other teams now. I'll save My wrathful typing to quote James Lebeau from over at Crave Online:

"How much are we supposed to stomach as fans? It isn’t the losing seasons that bother me, we’ve done that for 16 straight (soon to be 17, a record, woo-hoo!), it’s that any glimmer of hope we have is constantly being brushed aside under the promise that ‘tomorrow’ will bring a winner. Well, guess what, I’m sick and tired of waiting for tomorrow.

I’m sick and tired of waking up to trades and I’m sick and tired of seeing guys that played their heart out for us get shown the door when it’s time to pay them. The team likes to call it ‘rebuilding’ but 17 seasons into it, let’s call it what it is, cheap owners who keep slapping new paint on a house that’s practically falling in just to save a buck.

When the 2009 season opened up, Pirates fans knew that it was a long shot to break .500 but we also knew that we had a talented, scrappy bunch that would give anything to do it. We had talent, we had heart, and we were only a few games out of first place in the National League Central when June rolled around.

Then the bomb hit. Nate McLouth, our power hitter and locker room standout, the only Pirate All-Star from 2008, was traded to the Atlanta Braves.

But it didn’t stop there.

Adam LaRoche was traded to the Boston Red Sox, Freddy Sanchez to the Giants, Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett to the Washington Nationals. Eric Hinske went to the New York Yankees, John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to the Chicago Cubs and the heart of the Pirates, Jack Wilson, was traded to the Washington Nationals.

Enough is enough.

I’m a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and I always will be, but we’re the laughing stock of the league and a sad joke to a community that welcomed two Championship winners in the past year.

And I, for one, am tired of it."

When the latest "5-Year-Going-on-17-Plan" went into nauseating effect, the Bucs were 6 games out of first place in a division where an 8-2 run could have put them in 1st or 2nd place. Sure, they'd have to play through July, August and September to clinch anything, but the team was holding its own. Throwing in the towel, or rather, throwing out the towel, starters and fan loyalty was not necessary.

Some baseball analysts claim that the Pirates' front office is doing the right thing, stating that the team wasn't winning with the players they had, so they went out and found new players. Bullshit. (Two posts with "bullshit" in a row. I must be cranky or something.) If a company's employees are marginally productive, do you dump them all to hire employees whose productivity has never been proven? 

Of course not. What the Pirates should have done is what sport teams have been doing for decades: Keep some core players and find a star or two to gel your team. Winning teams don't have stars at every position, but they do have dedicated, consistent performers willing to play hard every day. The Pirates had that, but instead of following a thousands-times-proven formula, they chose the path of the poverty-stricken whore who gives it away for almost nothing and then wonders why she ain't pretty no more.

My Pittsburgh Pirates will, sometime in early September, lose their 82nd game of the 2009 season and thus officially become the poster children for Capital L Losers. A franchise that until 1992 boasted one of the best winning percentages in pro baseball history and 5 World Series titles is playing the game with "prospects," young players whose primary qualification for becoming a Pirate is that they are cheap.

There are times when being a sports fan sucks. And no matter how well My Steelers do (Super Bowl Champions) and My new-found Penguins do (Stanley Cup Champions), My heart will hang heavy until My Pirates contend for a pennant and baseball supremacy once again.

But that still beats being a Cubs fan by a thousand miles...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 July 2009

Pin the Fail on the Donkey

Remember the Horse in Animal Farm

Okay, I guess I'll have to start further back. Animal Farm is a satirical novel written by George Orwell, of 1984 fame, that portrays governments and their personnel as members of the animal kingdom. But some animals, like the Horse, are noble creatures. In the Horse's case, he works hard, and as more and more unfair demands are made on him, his only response is to bunch his massive shoulders and grunt "I must work harder!"

Until he dies. Yeah, I know, spoiler, but it's not like you were actually going to go out and read the darn book. Doesn't matter that Orwell is one of the greatest and most influential writers of the 20th century. No. No big deal. You never covered him in school, right?

Could it have been because you didn't have enough time? Not enough hours in the school day throughout 12 years to get to Orwell, Vespucci, hydrolysis, quantum theory, transcript RNA, matrices, the Magna Carta, subjunctives, Caligula, Oppenheimer, phlogistum, Keppler's Laws of Planetary Motion and MacBeth?

Well, golly. Not enough time, huh? So how about We, or rather the insipid excuse We have for a (mis)Education Department, adding 1 hour of school every day? You know, in a "More time is better" kinda way. Now Our kids--Our poorly-taught, poorly-treated public school kids--can enjoy the dubious benefits of ramshackle buildings, insufficient facilities and irregularly trained simians pretending to care about teaching an extra hour a day.


Here's My three strikes version of why this is a monumental, colossal, gigantic, enormous, massive, humongous, gargantuan, titanic and super-sized waste of time:

1) By and large, Our teachers are incompetent, or as I put it, too lazy and too stupid. A very good friend of Mine recently passed the College Board test required to become a teacher. His scores were 136, 134 and 131 on a max per section of 160. Pretty good. But the median and average scores per section were across the board (pun!) 100 to 102. The test is worth 160 points, the median (most common) and average scores were about 101...and the lowest freaking score a person could get was 40! FORTY!! You could keel over dead after writing your name on the damned test and you'd get a FORTY! 

My friend's scores ranked him in the top 5% in one category and Top 10% in the others...and he hadn't taken an Education course in over 3 years. Too many teachers out there are in the "100" category--on a scale of 1 to 1,000. Giving these mental defectives more time to prove their worthessness is idiotic. You can't make stupid less so by spending more time with it.

2) There aren't enough resources for the present or the immediate future. Our schools lack adequate science equipment, computers and support materials. Most of Our kids don't know what an Art class really is, what a Music teacher can add to their lives and too many of them are even missing out on Phys Ed. So in this "sheet too short for the bed" melodrama We are going to ask the system to make another hour "educational"? Bullshit. As the school My oldest nephew is going to now decided, they will change their class schedule from the traditional 8-12 noon, 1-3 p.m. set-up to a new 8-11 a.m., 1-4 p.m. deal. Uh-huh. A 2-hour gap in the middle of the day where students can do what they do in classrooms: nothing. Why? No teachers, no materials, no way no how. When you ask lazy stupid people to make an effort, their only effort will be to find a way to not have to make the effort.

3) It doesn't work. Here's the $100 million proof. Three years, 39 schools, longer day, longer school year and in the end: "...(B)oth students and teachers said they were exhausted by the extra hour a day in the classroom and the heavy workload." Oh really? Like students ever complain of being underworked and teachers ever ask for closer scrutiny of their (feeble attempts at) work?


This is a donkey's ass of an idea. I'd call it a Horse's ass of an idea, but at least the Horse wanted to work harder...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

24 July 2009

Pro-Statehood FAIL

Like The Da Vinci Code and UFOs and Donald Trump's sorry head adornment, way too many people feel they have a right to emit an opinion on the topic, often by throwing in any tangential nuance they feel can be wispily connected to the subject and thus claim for themselves a mountaintop of intellectuality only they--or bigger idiots--can see.

Example: About The Da Vinci Code--a second fictionalization of a story told in Holy Blood, Holy Grail--I overheard a person say, with absolute aplomb: "Mary Magdalene wrapped her babies in the Shroud of Turin to remind them who their father was."


The "loony bin magnet" topic We have in Puerto Rico--and especially out in the U.S. of part of A.--is statehood for the Isle of Enchantment. I'm already on record as saying "Not happening ever." Now I can add "Book it." But in UFOlogy fashion, the weirdos and cranks come out and there's no other choice but to set them straight.

Case in point: Julia Torres Barden writing in that hotbed of geopolitical analysis known as Latina Magazine. Ms. Torres comes out in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico, which is okay. (She is entitled to wish for that, world peace and cars that run solely on nice thoughts, as well.) The problem comes from her, uh...well, arguments, leaving no doubt she came with Kool-Aid to a whiskey party.

"...I cannot accept the inaction of Congress, especially while nations like Cuba, Venezuela and Iran have testified in support of the island’s fringe independence movement during anti-colonialism hearings at the United Nations."

 You...cannot...accept Congresional inaction because Cuba (twitch), Venezuela (spasm) and Iran (gut-wrenching cramp) have come out in favor of Our independence? Let Me see if I can put it in Latina terms you might--possibly--maybe--understand: You want the local deli to serve pizza, but the deli owner's three money-grubbing, frigid, ball-busting, screeching ex-wives bitch about serving pizza to him all the time. And he HATES pizza. Good luck.

So you are advocating that the U.S of part of A. Congress pay attention to three fringe countries it has severed diplomatic relations with or keeps at arm's length, debating only occasionally in a non-jurisdictional forum (look it up) in order to give credence to a "fringe independence movement" of an island-nation that hasn't ever made up its mind and that is a pillar of your pro-statehood argument?

Why didn't you throw in the Shroud of Turin, for Christ's sake?

The rest of your argument is equally unsound, but not as pathetic. Calling Puerto Ricans "second-class" citizens is like calling Latina women "chubby": it might apply, but it depends on each person's viewpoint. I think a second-class citizen is one who writes goofy arguments about serious sociopolitical issues in third-rate fluff mags.

But that's just Me.

As to the argument that Our People fought in many U.S. of part of A. wars (the specious "We paid in blood for statehood" error), look around you at what Puerto Rico has and know that We defend the liberty We have--and continue to have--because it is Ours. And allow Me to point out that We have done it and continue to do it better than almost anyone else in the whole U.S. of part of A.

And as for the idea that mainland Puerto Ricans push for "voting rights" and statehood, why don't you suggest that the French push for Quebecois independence? They definitely want it, they speak, feel and often are French, so why don't the French rally to get their Quebecois brethren the independence they often cry out for?

Because it's a matter between Quebecois and Canadians. In other words, you "Nuyoricans" who can't spell the name of the town "Manatí" and probably get sick at the notion of living in Puerto Rico can learn from the French and just keep your opinions to yourself. If you really gave a damn about Puerto Rico, you would push for statehood here, not up in the "NuYores." 

Sitting on the sidelines and coughing out inanities is not the way to build a country. Or even a magazine. You just end up looking like the wispy roadkill on The Donald's noggin.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 July 2009

Facts in Five (Minutes)

Facts We should be looking at:

The current local swine flu "super-catastrophic-apocalyptic-doom" epidemic has claimed fewer lives--3--than the number of people shot since the headlines went insane: 7.

The local legislature--a latrine in the same spot would be more useful and morally fragrant--has spent more hours debating their own consulting contracts than tending to health and education issues.  

The local Department of (Mis)Education is headed for a shakedown of "chief heads rolling" level. Proof: (non)governor Luis "The Larva" Fortuño has stopped using education as a topic to divert attention and the DoE itself has stopped seeking to get into the news. 

According to a Civil Defense report, issued in May of this year, the level of preparedeness Puerto Rico has for a major hurricane is "5" on a scale of 1 to 10. How bad is "5"? A "10" means that 80% of the people injured or displaced by a hurricane are tended to with food, shelter and medical help within 48 hours. A "5" means 60% of the "refugees" would be left to fend for themselves for as long as 10 days. The estimate of "refugees" in a Category 4 storm that hits the Island head-on is estimated at 45,000 to over 600,000, depending on the level of flooding and shore damage.

From the same report: Number of the 78 local Municipalities that are rated "7" or higher: 0. Number rated "1" or "2": 16.

Tax revenues are declining again, far more than ever projected by government wartheads incapable of spelling "projections." As the sales tax revenues drop even faster, the pressure on the government to slash costs increases only slightly less than the nerve of The Fools to find new tax revenues. Some targets: homeschooling (pay again to keep your child out of public schools), cell phone usage (under the notion that "minutes" are actually a "product"... I swear The Fools need large doses of rat posion) and--ta da!--flea markets.

And kudos to anyone who recognizes the origin of this post's title (related to a couple of letters: AH.)

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 July 2009

Poverty, Choice and Responsibility

[Jenius Thanks to Janine Mendes-Franco for picking up two of My posts, including one by request-for-review. I'm always honored to be selected for Global Voices Online.]

Many people in the States don't "get" poverty. They don't "grok" its impact. Not on the economy, but on the individual. These folks tend to think of poverty as "laziness" or "freeloading," depending on how close they are on the political spectrum to "brain-dead Republican."

Many people here don't "get" poverty either, but We have far more examples to deal with--relatively--what with a lower income per capita than Statesiders. So along comes an article that literally spells out examples of the high cost of poverty.

Take food, for example. By being poor, living in low-cost housing in a dilapidated urban center or semi-isolated outskirt and possibly without a car, you pay more for food because you're buying in smaller "convenience" stores rather than in supermarkets.

Washing clothes? When you're poor, you can't afford a washer, you end up paying more for washing clothes at a laundromat, where you also pay for drying them. Too poor for a bank account? Pay fees to get checks cashed or to pay bills. Too poor for credit? Forget car loans to help you move around more easily and mortgages to take you away from the run-down or far-off parts of town.

Now in the senile fashion of Reaganites who think the poor would be better off if they had more money, many folks see the problems of the poor as solely one of money. But as the article points out, it is also one of time. Time to get from home to work and back without a car, waiting for buses that run off schedule. Time to provide for services that others get in the comfort of their home: clean clothes, paying bills by phone, mail or Web, deliveries.

And the cumulative effect of all this is a burden on the emotions. Being poor sucks and it sucks at your will and soul. To be working hard and still be poor is even more damning, as it shreds your pride and dignity for avoiding handouts while running on a treadmill of despair.

Now I agree that a lot of poor people--a high percentage of them--CAN overcome poverty. It isn't easy, the bar is set high (higher than for middle-class, certainly), but it isn't impossible. At least in the U.S. of part of A. it is easier than, say, Burkina Faso. (Or not. Depends on how legal and moral your path up and out of poverty may be.)

In any case, poverty is a system than can be defeated. What seems odd is that those who wish to profit from the poor do so by strengthening the system instead of making it useless or irrelevant, For example, payday loans that used to be 800+% a year interest instead of 24%. (See the article, page 3.) Once the system changed from 806% to 24%, almost all the payday loan places closed. Why? Isn't 24% profit enough? 

Where's the payday loan at 10%? Hell, banks trumpet a 3% interest on your savings as if it were gold bricks heaved into your pocket, so wouldn't a 10% interest rate be a better option than just saving your money? Risk? Of course there's risk: some people might not be able to pay you back. But managing risk to secure profit is not rocket science, it's business.

Yes, it is easier to become part of the system rather than buck it, but it comes down to the choice of whether you want profit no matter what or profit that also benefits others. Call it by its new moniker: corporate social responsibility. Corporations are hurtling dizzily to embrace that trend to remake themselves from "profiteers" to "pioneers," however, are they rushing at the poor with similar zeal? Grameen Bank centered its lending policies on low-interest microloans to poor people, some as small as $10, and look at what they have accomplished: A worldwide banking profit leader and a Nobel Peace Prize.

Uh-huh, you say, Microloans in the Third World. Over here it's a whole different ballgame, Jenius. Oh really? Allow Me to coin a phrase (pun intended): Put your money where your mouth is. Has any bank, or any company for that matter, actually tried to provide Our poor with that most precious of commodities: options?  That is what Grameen Bank did and that is what the article says is the true chain that weighs down the poor: the lack of options.

Coming up with options for the poor is demostrably good business. For those who say that helping poor people is bad business because you are simply reducing your customer base, I have two responses: until We evolve into a higher species, there will always be poor people and Grameen Bank.

And I'll toss in one more, free of charge: anyone can launch a Grameen Bank. Think about it... and you'll know how right I am. Again.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

17 July 2009

Youth Citizen Journalist Network

What began as a conversation about citizen journalism education between Claudio Alvarez-Dunn and Me in mid-2007 is now the Youth Citizen Journalist Network--YCJN. In partnership with the National Student/Parent Mock Election, the largest civic education organization in the world, the YCJN will launch this year as a pilot project in several schools in New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Florida, Maryland and Montana.

Yes, Montana. 

Other states will be added in a blend of citizen journalism and civic education--the basis of citizenship and democracy--that We are calling "Informed Democracy 101." To quote Ralph Nader: There is no daily democracy without daily citizenship. To build the democracy of the present and for the future requires that We educate Ourselves on becoming well-informed citizens about Our democracy and its issues.

Thanks to the support of Gloria Kirshner, President of the NS/PME and Tom Engleman, National Mock Election Coordinator and Board Member of the Dow Jones News Fund, the YCJN has a presence today at the National Civic Summit (the merging of new technologies and citizen journalism) and at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference, both being held in Minneapolis.

The YCJN will focus on middle- and high school students and the use of cell phones to help capture their community interests. Layered with this local (or hyper-local) focus will be a group of experienced journalists editing content and selecting national and international news that relate to developing an Informed Democracy. As newspapers and their influence dwindle, the need for the Fourth Estate to carry out its pivotal role as paladin of democracy increases and what was once the responsibility and privilege of a few is now the responsibility and privilege of all of Us. In the words of Bill Moyers: The quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined.

On a day that closes with the loss of the embodiment of trusted journalism, Walter Cronkite, the YCJN takes its first steps towards becoming a forum for developing engaged, enlightened and expressive citizens who apply the skills and standards of ethical journalism to build democracy, at home and around the world.

The Youth Citizen Journalist will develop with more partners, in more schools, communities, states and countries. It will grow in small steps, but each small step, each person who joins the effort, represents a quantum leap in the potential of developing Our democracy, or any democracy, now and well into the future.

As Abbie Hoffman wrote: Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it's something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.

Say Hello to the Youth Citizen Journalist Network and get to know Us better. If you want to make a positive difference, rest assured We'd love to work with you.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

Boricua U.S. of part of A. Stats

It's the Pew Hispanic Center's Factsheet #48.

Go ahead, click the link and download the darn thing. Takes about 53 seconds. You can read the whole thing in about 142 seconds, unless you're a government employee, in which case it will take 5.2 hours for someone else to read it to you. Make sure to put in for overtime.

Some excerpts: 

"As a group, Puerto Ricans are older than Hispanics on average but they are younger than the U.S. population. They are less likely to be married than either Hispanics overall or the U.S. population overall. The majority (55.9%) of Puerto Rican women ages 15 to 44 who had a birth in the 12 months prior to the survey were unmarried. The comparable share for all Hispanic women was 38.1% and the figure for all U.S. women was 33.4%."

Uh, more than half of Puerto Rican women who gave birth did so as single women? Woo-hoo! Boricua family values! And Let's not forget Boricua sex (non)education!!

"Puerto Ricans have lower levels of education and lower incomes than average for the U.S. population. They are less likely to be in the labor force, and among those in the labor force they have a higher rate of unemployment than either all Hispanics or the overall population. The rate of homeownership among Puerto Ricans is lower than the rate for Hispanics overall and the U.S. population overall. "

Okay, translation: "...less likely to be in the labor force..." means "Welfare parasites"!! Woo-hoo! Boricua work ethic!! 

Uh, any positives? Uh-huh: "Among Puerto Ricans ages 5 and older living in the U.S., most do not speak English at home. Some 20.5% of Puerto Ricans ages 5 and older report speaking English less than very well, compared with 38.8% of all Hispanics." Boricuas speak better English than the average Hispanic!! Yeah!! So, uh, why do We have higher unemployent and, uh, lower income, which translates into lower homeownership than the average Hispanic?


Welfare parasites!! Woo-hoo!

Stereotype? Well, if the statistics bear out the percentage concept of the single welfare mom with freeloading welfare chillo surrounded by 3.2 kids also headed for high school dropout status, then is it a "stereotype"...or is it a "type"?

A quien le caiga el sayo, que se lo ponga. 

If the shoe fits...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 July 2009

Standardized Suckiness

This won't take long...

Has anyone else noticed that the local Department of Education has not released any figures about this past academic year's standardized tests?

The reason is stunningly obvious: The results suck, like a hyper-powered Hoover with nitrofuel in the enhanced turbo engine bolted to the ramjet booster.

Now, We need to assign blame here. That's S.O.P. and The Jenius is an S.O.P. fiend when it suits His mood. And this, My Friends, suits My mood:

1) The (maladroit)educational system's focus: You can say--and many have--that the educational system is a wasteland of freeloaders, freaks and freebasing felons, and you'd be right. But no system is designed that way (except for the legislature) and by lacking a coherent focus, the system ends up being a lurching wreck instead of a rolling wagon.

2) The teachers' union: Yes, I know there were two and now there's one, but they were all essentially the same "union," each pretty much divided along political lines. Not focused on educating, but on pushing propaganda, pay raises and more downtime for lazy, stupid people. Plenty of independent studies have shown that the stronger the teacher unions, the lower the quality of education. And We have a teacher's union that has the indomitable strength of a moronic autistic donkey on downers.

3) Parents: Let's face it: We are doing a sucky job as parents. We preach good grades, but Mammon forbid We actually read anything or watch educational TV, or better yet, dump TV for doing something creative and constructive. We preach applying yourself in school, but make heroes of those who excel at anything except school. We dump Our kids in school and expect the school to do the job We refuse to do and We also expect the school to reward Our little bundle of parent-induced neuroses with good grades just for breathing. We act as if learning were limited to school and meander about in a shopping/beery/ostrich-like haze that makes even the idea of learning a non-happening.

Here's what We can expect from the results: Major--and I mean major-- massaging of the report, to the extent it breaks almost entirely from past formats and measurements, in a lame smoky mirror attempt to divert attention from the core conclusion: Our kids are failing worse than before because We are failing them worse than before.

Let's see some freebasing felon in the Department of (Mis)Education stick that in his crack pipe and smoke it.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 July 2009

Business Tax (Dis)Incentives

"Giving a tax incentive to a business to encourage economic development sounds like a great idea, but it is not. Tax breaks for businesses are little more than corporate welfare at the expense of hard-working Georgians. They amount to subsidies favoring a select few businesses over Georgia’s residents and existing businesses.

Proponents of tax breaks for new businesses argue the increase in jobs will make up for the reduction in revenue, but tax breaks for businesses rarely pay for themselves and often end up costing the state a great deal of money. That shortfall must be paid for by Georgia’s taxpaying citizens and business, which don’t have the benefit of that break.

Giving a business a tax incentive to move here may help that business in the short term, but in the long term the people who pay for that tax break also happen to be the employees and the customers of that company. Plus, it sends the wrong message to existing Georgia businesses: “If you stay in the state, we will use your tax dollars to subsidize your competitors.”

In June, after the North Carolina Legislature approved a $46 million tax break designed to induce Apple, Inc. to build data warehouses in the Tar Heel State, Scott Hodge, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, had this response: “Too many legislators confuse targeted business incentives with policies that truly create a better business climate.”

“They are not. They only provide an excuse for lawmakers to avoid real tax reform. Targeted incentives are to a state’s economy what steroids are to the human body – short-term results that eventually weaken the bones, cause heart failure, or worse, impotency. Tax systems should not be used to pick winners and losers or micromanage the economy. Data farms in North Carolina might be a good thing, but it is much better for the marketplace to decide that, not government. The key to a prosperous economy is a tax system that provides a level playing field for all businesses and all industries...”

...The most equitable tax incentive that Georgia could offer would be to cut taxes on individuals as well as corporations to make Georgia more attractive to individuals and businesses – both old and new. This would lead to investment and job creation, encourage more businesses to move to Georgia and send the correct message to Georgia’s current businesses." (Emphasis Mine.)

No, I ain't moved to Georgia. I just used this article to answer this question: Guess what "economic strategy" Puerto Rico has surgically grafted (heavy emphasis on "graft") to its low sloping forehead of business development for 40+ years?


The Jenius Has Quoted.

08 July 2009

Two Optimists

I love how languages can express ways of thinking. I know two languages intimately and I've heard of others, so I know there's more than one way to think about a concept.

For example, English separates the concept of "being alone" into two distinctions: lonely and solitude. Lonely is the painful feeling of isolation, while solitude is the joyful state of feeling complete and in harmony. Spanish has only one word for "being alone"--soldedad--which means loneliness. In Spanish, soledad is forever negative, and for someone like Me who enjoys solitude, expressing it in Spanish would be akin to saying "I like being lonely" in English.

That just don't sound right, right?

I recently found out that another of My favorite words--optimism--has a dual nature in Japanese. On one hand, they say Rakutenteki to mean "hope that things will turn out well; a positive outlook," a similar definition to English. On the other hand, they also say Rakkanteki, meaning "facing challenges to give life meaning."

I was instantly taken by this dual nature of optimism in Japanese, grokking it fully. Life without challenges is Life without flavor, drab and dull. My oldest nephew once asked Me what My favorite games are, and when I replied he said "Why do You like difficult games so much?" and My answer was "They are the ones that challenge the most." Sometimes projects I undertake are far outside the realm of what others call "realistic" (namby-pamby dullards all), but they involve a whole lot of challenges that make Life (for Me) a lot more interesting.

I know for a fact I'm in a minority here. Most of the people I encounter are optimists in the "I hope I win the Lotto" mode, not in the "I have to get better to solve this" mode. To them, doing logic puzzles is akin to learning Sanskrit, reading anything other than gossip is like sawing their face in half and thinking to solve problems no one else sees yet is like baptizing a TV set in vinegar.

Sad. But then one can see how they are incapable of being true optimists, of embracing the energy of challenges and of rising to new heights to see farther and do more. That they are the majority is tragic. That I often feel as if I'm alone in this just means I feel...solitude.

The Jenius Has Spoken. 

06 July 2009

DisEducation Triage

If a restaurant failed health standards 8 years in a row, should it remain open?

So what should be done with schools that have failed educational standards 8 years in a row?

Well, if you're the Puerto Rico Department of DisEducation, you pretend they don't exist. You act as if those schools were aberrations, even though schools that have failed No Child Left Behind standards (the Enron/AIG of educational standards) for 5+ years amount to 19% of Our total school system.

Nineteen. Freaking. Percent. That means that for 5, 6, 7 or 8 years--and now 9--19% or more of Our revolting excuses for schools have utterly failed in meeting the agreed-upon standards. Add in the schools at 3+ years of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) failure and you have over 34% of Our schools in sub-standard mode.

But look more closely at the problem and you see an even more alarming trend: Over 61% of the failed schools are junior high/intermediate schools, encompassing 7th, 8th and 9th grades. Almost half of the intermediate public schools We have are abject failures, not only at teaching, but at retaining students. For not only is there a teaching problem, the dropout rates in those grades starts soaring to disastrous heights and in full ostrich mode, the DisEducation herd pretends it isn't happening.

Billions of dollars have been funneled into this bottomless pit, made so by incompetence, politicking, ignorance, theft, immorality and short-sightedness. DisEducation is the department where Our Past lies buried, Our Present gets embalmed and Our Future is a wake.

If this (non)Administration, this (outhouse)legislature and DisEducation department were truly--truly--interested in resuscitating Our Future and making a true positive change in education, it would aggressively target intermediate schools to both reduce the failed-standards rate and dramatically decrease the dropout rate.

From restaurants to hospitals: Triage is the process by which the highest priority gets the swiftest treatment. Somebody explain to the Fools that triage is not a fancy word for raping the public treasury, but the conceptual lens needed to actually do something useful for a change.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 July 2009

The Puerto Rican Dream

Belated Notice of Thanks to Rebecca MacKinnon, who selected the last few of My posts that appeared on Global Voices Online. Ms. MacKinnon is one of the co-founders of GVO. Yes, I know it took Me a while to notice all this, but you know I'm just a Jenius...

What is The Puerto Rican Dream?

No, seriously. What is The Puerto Rican Dream? In 150 words or more, We can try to define The American Dream, and though there might be some debate on what it actually is, there is no debate on whether there is one or not.

For example, The American Dream can be seen as "rags to riches," "opportunity awaits for those who go after it," "everybody equal" or "hard work trumping class distinctions." There's a "can-do" spirit to The American Dream, a sense of hope and a bright future. Pundits use it as shorthand for what makes America great (referring only to the U.S. part of it all) and demagogues use it to lambast the opposition (as in "ruining The American Dream.")

So there is one. Japan has one, too, centered on self-reliance and resiliency, on coming together to overcome any adversity, the deep-seated knowledge that their will can outlast and ultimately triumph over any obstacle.

But what--pray tell--is the Puerto Rican Dream? What myth, mythos, conceptual image, word portrait, shared concept do We have that underlies if not supports Our cultural expressions?

I was born here. Spent half My childhood and most of My adulthood here. My Son was born here. Almost all My relatives were born and raised here. I have worked with thousands of people, read thousands of Our pages, experienced thousands of encounters, lived thousands of hours on this green patch of the Caribbean and for the Life of Me I can't describe The Puerto Rican Dream.

Cynically, many of Us would say The Puerto Rican Dream is to become the 51st State. That's not a dream: that's a surrender. Other cynics would say that the dream is to get more U.S. dinero in exchange for nothing. That's thievery or beggary, both of which We are guilty of. No, those aren't dreams, those are cop outs, the barking of dogs instead of the bracing thoughts of higher primates.

When things get tough, the Dream is what unites, what keeps an individual and a group moving forward. Despite the fact that I--amongs others--see The American Dream now as someone being so pathetic a TV producer makes them over for ratings gold, there is a long history of elements of that Dream coming forth in times of crisis to encourage, support and guide. Think World War II and the lunar landing program, examples of the U.S. of part of A. saying, in effect, "Yes We can."

Catchy phrase, that.

Are there similar examples for Puerto Rico? An example? When a crisis comes, when times get tough and the future looks dim and gray, what do We do? What is Our dream?


We dream of being rescued. By someone, somewhere, out there. No "Yes We can," but "Who can?" No "Let's go", but "Let's wait." No "It's up to Us," but "It's up to the U.S." Or somebody.

Our dream is not that of the cowboy or the samurai or the honorable knight, the proactive heroic figure battling alarming obstacles to set the world aright. No. We are, in Our dreams, the princess waiting to be rescued...by the hero.

Some of My brethren from Our Island will argue against My claim. They might say I'm a traitor, a vende patria or a total idiot for saying such a thing. Okay, they're perfectly entitled to being wrong about that, too. Because here's My challenge: Show Me We aren't the princess. Show Me We aren't the passive want-it-alls who can't--or won't--lift a finger to save Ourselves. Go ahead, try to show Me Our dream isn't "Save Me," that it is, instead, "Saving Ourselves."

Go ahead. Try. It isn't a dream, what We have, but a nightmarish willingness to sleep until the danger is taken care of...by the hero from somewhere out there.

The Jenius Has Spoken. 

01 July 2009

Vote for El Yunque!

This won't take long...

I know there's a campaign on to have El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the whole U.S. of part of A., declared a modern wonder. You know, like the 7 Wonders of the World, part III. Or IV.

I know there's a UNESCO New Natural 7 Wonders of the World campaign on because I see ads on dozens of pages across the whole wide GoogleTubes urging the User--in this case, Me--to Vote for El Yunque!

I must have seen that ad over a hundred times. Maybe missed it another few hundred times. Heard about the campaign somewhere and about how El Yunque was ranking high in this round. I think.

And then it dawned on Me that I should vote. Not out of some sense of Yo soy Boricua pride, but from the realization that is a veritable wonder that We haven't already screwed up El Yunque beyond all recognition.

If you saw this, then you'll know exactly what I mean.

So I voted. For El Yunque, ranked #3 in Group E. And I also voted for the Amazon rain forest, (ranked #1 in the same group as El Yunque), Mount Everest (#9 in Group C), The Great Barrier Reef (#3 in Group G),  the Grand Canyon (#5 in Group D),  Niagara Falls, (#2 in Group F) and the Galapagos Islands (#1 in Group B.) Rankings here. Vote here.

And maybe UNESCO's campaign can help Us keep saving El Yunque. From Ourselves.

The Jenius Has Spoken.