26 February 2010

Sales Tax Spy Game

Would you spy on someone?

Would you do it for money?

How much money would it take? (If you have a price, that is...)

Second angle: Do you know there are 6 government-sponsored lotteries in Puerto Rico? The traditional "ticket-based" one, and 5 electronic versions (Pick 6, with "Second Chance", Pick 4, Pick 3 and Pick 2.) 

Do you think We need a 7th?

How about one where every purchase you make that has sales tax on it becomes a chance to win some "free" cash?

Are you in?! 

But what if the whole purpose of the "lottery" is to catch businesses that aren't paying the sales tax? It's an idea Our sorry excuse for a government has been considering. So...

Are you in? Are you willing to spy for the government?

You gotta buy stuff, right? And hey, there's a chance to win some cash!

But how broken is the sales tax collection system that it needs spies to work? What kind of government offers speculative bribes to its people to spy on others?

Still don't care? Ready to buy-buy and spy-spy for some (potential) pie-pie? Okay, Let's try again. 

How much, I ask you, is this "spy lottery" going to cost? And what will the payout do in terms of increasing costs of managing the obviosuly broken sales tax collection system?

And what mechanism will be used to offset those costs, to pay for this expensive "solution"?

Could it be that the way to pay for those increased spying costs (equipment and payouts) is to raise the sales tax?

So now I ask you: would you spy on someone...if it cost you money?

Now you're seeing the light...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

24 February 2010

7 Flaws We Have

Following the Rules. "Others" Define Success. Letting Fear Enslave Us. Being Greedy. Destroying Our Environment. Having Fuzzy Goals. Being Comfortable.

Let's take a look at these 7 flaws that are sucking the Life out of Us.

1) Following the Rules: Conformity. Follow the crowd.  Be in the crowd. Being different and trying to make one's own way  is seen as stupid or dangerous on My Island. The only stupid and dangerous thing is letting others convince you to be a boricua sheep and serve the puertorro and gringo wolves.

2) "Others" Define Success: Closely related to the above, We aim for the  brass rings that will impress others without spending an instant of Our time to seek out what We really want. It's one reason why We aren't happy  and lie about it.

3) Letting Fear Enslave Us: Don't rock the boat. Don't piss off anybody important. Don't make waves. Piss on that. Conformity breeds subservience breeds fear. Then, instead of acting from a deep sense of self, We react with the thrashings of frightened cattle. And others take advantage of that.

4) Being Greedy: Where do you think Our rising level of corruption comes from? What greed shrieks to the world is "I'm not enough!"  No one, no thing, can guarantee you are "enough": only you can. But that takes ignoring others and following your own path fearlessly.

5) Destroying  Our Environment: We are amongst the trashiest people around, thinking nothing of tossing Our garbage anywhere and then claiming with utter idiocy that doing so "creates jobs for those who pick it up." Filthy and stupid:  one of them can be fixed easily.

6) Having Fuzzy Goals: We don't know what We want. (Status, anyone?) We let others set Our agendas. We follow the crap-headed busybodies pretending to be leaders because We're not sure what they should do or to what purpose. Then We whine that "We didn't get what We wanted."
7) Being Comfortable: Welfare. Lotteries galore. ("Comfort" and greed. And stupidity.) Eight hours a day for thirty years. We're mushrooms, kept in the dark and smothered in crap, but "liking" it that way. Ambition is for others, striving is for fools and who wants the stress of achieving, right? The ones who manipulate you, that's who.

The list was modified from "7 Characterisitics of a Broken, Undefined and Unhappy Life" over at Dumb Little Man. Nations rise and fall on their individuals and how these individuals express themselves. The more each of Us strives to develop Our own individuality, the stronger We all become. None of these seven flaws is irreperable, but the loss of Our future, day by day, person by person, can be.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 February 2010

Rum War(t)

Keep moving. There's nothing to see here.

That's what I'd say if someone asked Me about the "rum war," the pseudo-economic, mondo-political grandstanding going on in Washington by Pedro "Head Beggar" Pierluisi, assorted local functionaries and soon to feature the inimitable stylings of The Larva himself, Our (non)governor Luis Fortuño.

Here's the skinny: Diageo, producer of Captain Morgan Rum, second in worldwide sales to Our Bacardí, was offered $70 million a year and a brand spanking-new distillery by the U.S. Virgin Islands. The money would come from what's known as the "rum cover tax," a tax on rum sold in the States that returns to Puerto Rico and the USVI. What the USVI did was pledge a portion of their future tax monies to establish Captain Morgan in St. Croix.

Winners: The USVI and Diageo/Captain Morgan.

Losers: Puerto Rico and Serrallés Distillery, the future former home of Captain Morgan.

End result: Puerto Rico cries "Foul!" and whines unceasingly about "unfair this and corporate welfare that" when the fact of the matter is: We were outmaneuvered, outsmarted and outworked.

The rum cover monies represent some $380 million a year to Puerto Rico and about $100 million to the USVI. Ostensibly, the idea is to use the money to build the rum industry on the islands, but the practical application is that it allows the U.S. of part of A. to simply transfer money without thinking about it at all. What do We do with the money? Not much. How much can we be doing if We let a $145 million tax producer simply up and leave?

Yes, this USVI coup will net them an extra $145 million which comes from Our side, from a producer who has spent over a decade on Our shores and because We dropped the ball, found a better deal elsewhere.

It's called business, and if you expect a corporate entity to stick around in mediocre or indifferent conditions when greener pastures are everywhere else, you are an idiot. So yes, I'm calling Our goverment idiotic. What else is new?

The Head Beggar and The Larva and others trundle up to Washington D.C. expecting Congress to settle the matter in favor of reducing the USVI's economy and damaging their investment. Yeah, right. I can imagine Congresscritters nodding somberly while Our party of crybabies pleads to have their boo-boo fixed, then retreating into their back rooms and guffawing at Our stupidity. An island group with less than 110,000 residents and a $2 billion economy figured out a way to beat the bejabbers out of an island with 4 million residents and a $64 billion economy. Hell, at least David had a sling.

Now here's the sad part, for Us: the USVI could do it again. They are planning and building while We screech and whine. Maybe if Our so-called leaders shut their yaps and paid attention, they'd pick up an idea or two from Our neighbors to the east. Since they can't innovate, they should try to imitate them. And not lose sight of the fact that the USVI has plenty of land, plenty of money and the moxie to not only swing Bacardí over to their shores, but several other things as well.

See, to them it's not a war: It's just business.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Note: 24 Feb 2010: The rum war goes corporate, with Bacardí taking aim at Diageo. Remember what I said above about swinging Bacardí to USVI shores. It's simply an extension of "If you can't beat them, join them." And Bacardí can't beat the deal, nor can Puerto Rico.]

[Note: 25 Feb 2010: And then more, but notice how Bacardí is aiming directly at the deal Diageo got: if it holds up, what's to keep Bacardí from getting the same from Us or from the USVI?]

[Note: 26 Feb 2010: Head Beggar Pierluisi acknowledges that his bill is not about stopping the "irrelevant" departure of Diageo ("Irrelevant"? The Head Beggar's got a forked tongue...), but about making sure a deal like this doesn't happen again, as reported in El Vocero. (Scroll down on this link to: Irrelevante la salida de Diageo según Pierluisi.) So...Diageo wins, the USVI wins, We lose and the USVI has a finite amount of time to pull off another game-changing deal. Oh, and Bacardí is a Bermuda corporation: watch it screech then go wherever it wants to.]

19 February 2010

Bitch Slappin' The Legislature

Our (Out)House of Representatives invited the great-grandson of José De Diego, the illustrious political leader, journalist, poet, lawyer (okay, he wasn't perfect) and former President of the House of Delegates (the precursor to what has devolved into today's OutHouse) to the unveiling of new portraits in the Capitol Building. The gentleman, Reinaldo Segurola Pérez, agreed to be present if he was allowed to speak to the assembled for about 5 minutes. His request was never answered and he did not attend the event.

Mr. Segurola, Esq. did however, send current OutHouse president Jenniffer "Gluttonny" González the following letter, which I have translated with relish:

Madames and Sirs,

I address all of you, you who have the stigma of being part of the most disgraced Governmental branch in our country. I would like to think that my words represent the feelings of the immense majority of decent Puerto Ricans, regardless of ideology, be they supporters of statehood, commonwealth or independence, unaffiliated, indifferent or apolitical, if such exist.
You, with your arrogant attitudes, have been as incapable of hearing the voice of the people who are FED UP and tired of your wasteful spending and the privileges you enjoy as representatives at the expense of the people. It brings to mind the Hans Christian Andersen story of "The Emperor's New Clothes." [With Gluttonny as the Empress?! Yoiks.] The image we have of you, though you pretend otherwise, is not that of erudite persons committed to the public good. Your clothing is made of lies. What we see beyond the electoral office you misrepresent is a smug bunch unaffected by the supposed crisis, handing out our money to your cronies and thus losing any shred of moral power to approve the laws that have done so much harm to public employees and the people at large.

In our eyes you are much parasites as so many others who, condemned to laziness and dependence, wander around, chubby and red-cheeked, tied to a welfare system. We really don't care, as you preen yourselves about this, if you are spending more or less than your predecessors: it is STILL spending too much and for such poor legislation. Your insensitive actions, primitive and uncultured, have earned you the moniker of Visigoths. You hide behind the Capitol Building's marble, making decisions that only help your powerful friends, while you continue to alienate that vast majority of the population.

Put your ear to the ground, because soon, the indifference could become anger. You'd better understand that there are very few who respect you and that you will pass into history stamped with the people's disdain.

Personally, I tell you that, as a lawyer, I am ashamed that you have dared to approve legislation to destroy the Bar Association*, and as the great-grandson of José de Diego, I must say I am appalled that his painting is close to other politicians that we consider unpatriotic, uncultured and ignorant, and though they have political power, they lack the moral and intellectual authority to truly represent our country.

[* The local Bar Association, known as Colegio de Abogados, was dismantled by the current legislature and are now being barred--pun intended--from evaluating judicial appointments, as per procedure in the States.]

Mr. Segurola...Visigoths?! High five, My man! (Look it up, people. Visigoths, not high five.) I don't agree with everything you wrote, but I am very glad you wrote it.

As for the idiotic, dirty, parasitic, thieving vermin who are the targets of the letter: If the shoe fits, fuck 'em with it.

Nowhere near as classy as Mr. Segurola, but I definitely got My point across pithily.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

17 February 2010

Google It

"...(W)hen a student fails to flourish, it is rarely the result of one party. Rather, it tends to be a confluence of confounding factors, often involving parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, neighborhoods, and even the student himself. If we could collect data that allowed us to parse out these influences accurately, then we might be able to hold not just teachers but all parties responsible. At present, however, we are light-years away from even understanding how to collect such data."

I read that this morning, in Education Weak (no, I spelled that correctly). Then I read the following this evening in My "Comments" section after the post "No Merit Against Merit Pay":

"...However, we might think of one model that has applicability on such a large data set. That is the 'Google Page Rank' algorithm that was the foundation of the world's most successful search engine... successful for being able to have a high degree of accuracy in finding true correlations between "your search query" and "the info that matches your query". Stats geeks - you figure it out.

Now, if such a system that can correlate a student's achievements with earlier teacher contributions, it will be a much better way of finding out which teachers are successful at doing the job, i.e. preparing students to go on to the next level of academics successfully."

The brilliance of My Idea...okay, of The Insider's idea found on MY blog (I'm happy now) is that it has an answer for what teachers say is an "insoluble" problem. Now I'm with The Insider on the fact that I don't know how it can be done...but would I be The Jenius if I didn't give it a stab?

How well you know Me.

--What Google--the Owner of the Internets--did with search was postulate a method by which any question could be correlated to a growing set of "inter-related data points." In contrast, what We want with "data-driven, value-added assessment" is to answer a very specific paired set of questions: How is a student progressing? and Who's teaching helps students progress more? Every other question We may wish to ask about education simply flows from these two starting points.

--Given that framework, We can begin aggregating data already in hand, from socioeconomic factors to test results and health data. Yes, it presents an incomplete picture of factors affecting education, but it starts to establish the framework and helps identify gaps that need to be filled.

--In the aggregation of data and the application of the algorithm, there is a ranking system (Google's success in taking over the  world was predicated on this point.) By playing with the data and ranking systems, We can test different methods against historical results, as in determining how closely IQ tests are related to academic success or how much weight should standardized tests have. The strength of this exploration is that We can see the end results of factors in the recent past and weigh them accordingly. The weakness is that because more data needs to be added to fill out the evaluation framework, the algorithm will not be a reliable predictor of future success for maybe several years. 

--During this "historical" assessment, We will again see how important family, health (particularly nutrition), funding levels and socioeconomic levels are to a student's ultimate success. Fine: We can them "average them out," essentially place them in the background so that the information We want to see, i.e., teacher performance, can then "rise" above the data.

--Teachers, don't get hissy about the previous paragraph: it's called "filtering" and it applies as much to search results as it does to seismic events, cardiograms and musical recordings, and so it will apply to this kind of teacher evaluation system.

--Given the amount of data and the need to capture the intangibles to improve education, coupled with the notion that by doing so the U.S. of part of A. could once again vault to the head of the (world)class and lead the way into true 21st century schooling, I'd be very surprised if Google doesn't start doing this soon--or if they might already be planning to do so. They may even have a test project going on somewhere. It makes sense that the world's leader in data analysis simplification (think about it) would want to use that power to impact the very basis of a society's future: education.

And then again, all this may come together because I had a brilliant idea...

Of expanding on The Insider's comments.


The Jenius Has Spoken.

15 February 2010

No Merit Against Merit Pay

Here's why teachers, by and large and as a profession, suck like Hoovers.

From Education Week, where veracity and non-verisimilitude would be best served by judicious editing to Education Weak, comes this "attack" on merit pay for teachers. The salient points of the puny popgun wielded by Kim Marshall are presented below, with My responses between brackets.

Set up: Here's what the author says immediately after firing blanks: "These concerns, to my way of thinking, demolish the argument for individual merit pay."

Okay, now find out Marshall's "way of thinking" and his ignorance of the meaning of the word "demolish": (Don't worry: I'll educate him on that as well.)

Is Merit Pay the Answer? ...Here's why (it isn't):

It undermines teamwork. Teachers who are rewarded for their own students’ test-score gains are less likely to share ideas with their colleagues. [Oh, like what We have now is the epitome of "We're really a family" teamwork. Your contention is that teachers are more interested in their own results and would avoid collaboration to serve their students better. Here's an idea: Let's fire those who do that.]

The best teachers are already working incredibly long hours, and there’s no evidence that extra pay will make them work harder or smarter—or that it will motivate mediocre teachers to improve. Quite the contrary: Merit pay will steer all too many teachers toward low-level test preparation. [Hmm, hundreds of years of experience across several hundred professions indicate that the chance to earn more money motivates many people. So if the best teachers are already working long hours to be the best, what the hell is wrong with the others? Lack of motivation? Okay, then how about merit pay?]

Standardized tests are often “instructionally insensitive”—that is, they’re better at measuring students’ family advantages and disadvantages than the school’s or the teacher’s value-added effect. [True, but Teacher A gets great results and Teacher B in the same school is a sack of crap. Blame the students? The parents? The school board? The janitors? Mountains of evidence show that great teachers can appear in any school, regardless of its socioeconomic environment. And standardized tests are not--should not ever--be the end-all and be-all of education.] 

Standardized tests in many states don’t put enough emphasis on writing and critical thinking, so raising the stakes for teachers creates an incentive to shortchange these important life skills. [Literacy rates in the U.S. of part of A. have dropped in the past 35 years. In fact, the U.S. of part of A. could have as much as 35% functional illiteracy. An emphasis on standardized tests may be a factor, as well as TV, video games, iPods, cell phones, El Niño, Tupac's death, Ritalin and sightings of the Virgin Mary on taco shells. Literacy has dropped because teachers are no longer trying as hard to teach these basic skills, maybe because they lack them (all too common) or because teaching them is never anything but the result of hard, persistent effort.]

To address the last two problems, it’s been suggested that schools should use higher-quality, before-and-after tests in September and May to measure each teacher’s contributions to student learning. Nice idea, but experts say it takes at least three years of data to produce a fair value-added measure of individual teacher effectiveness. [First point: Three years are going to go by anyway. Second point: To get to three years of data, start with one, then keep going. Third point: Suspend all judgment on the data until you have the three years' worth. Fourth point: You have got to be kidding. Is this what passes for reasoned discourse in your brain?]  

Raising the stakes on tests increases the urge to cheat. Most teachers are scrupulously honest as they proctor their test-taking students, but higher stakes will result in more thumbs on the scale. [It's already happening and will continue to do so until the utter stupidity of "No, Child: Left Behind" is dropped in favor of actual education.  By reducing the inane emphasis on standardized tests, the "incentive to cheat" would dissipate. This is not a merit pay problem, it is a standardized test problem. Try, really try to keep your criticisms straight.]

A good many students are pulled out of regular classes for small-group help with other teachers. How could we figure out a fair way to dole out merit pay for these children’s achievement? [How do you measure the value of a bunt that moves the runner up, of a pass that sets up a dunk or a thunderous block that springs the fullback for a long gain? It's called statistics, based on data and measurements, worked on over time until a framework is developed that assesses values to different actions. In this specific case, both teachers would have to collaborate to achieve great results so that both could qualify for merit pay. No other scenario benefits both or either one. Think it through. Have someone help you.]

Good scores in one 4th grade class (for example) would boost that teacher’s pay—but what about the 3rd grade, 2nd grade, 1st grade, kindergarten, and preschool teachers who helped those students along the way? Don’t they deserve some of the loot? If so, how would we calculate their share? [Jesus F. Christ in a bottle! Are you really this stupid? "Loot"?! If the students improved significantly in the 4th grade, it's very likely it was because their 4th grade teacher helped them do so. If the other teachers did equally good work in earlier grades, they deserve higher pay as well. But if the students had "average" results for their K-3 years and then "overachieved" in the 4th grade, pay that teacher for that merit and let the other teachers work better to earn their merit. This is the same "regression to the bottom" that plagues this profession so unwilling to be measured for results. Let Me reverse the argument for you to show how moronic it is: If you did high-quality work in the 4th grade and the same students bombed in the 5th, should you give back part of your "loot"? I thought so.]

Fully half of teachers work with grades and subjects that don’t have standardized tests—kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades, art, music, and physical education, for example. Is it fair that they aren’t eligible? [Wait. A fucking. Minute. Didn't you just expend 4 of your blithering points arguing against standardized tests and now you are saying that it is unfair--unfair you say?--that "fully half of teachers" won't get the sublime benefit of being measured by them? And your "point" that only by standardized tests would a teacher be eligible places--once again--the same notion you argue against as the criterion for merit pay? Look, you may have had a wisp of a shadow of a sliver of a notion of an idea possibly maybe floating somewhere near a neuron in your head, but it faded quickly into pure vapidity. The only reason I'd give you a D- instead of F on this piece of numbskullness is that your handwriting in crayon was quite neat and legible.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Note: 10 March 2010: From Newsweek, Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers. Short version: accountability and children's futures.]

12 February 2010

Our Status: Part IV

So now We're at Part IV of the "Our Status" series and you know where to find the first three.

Since the status issue is a made-up problem to manipulate Us and it lacks a solution the responsible party wants to give, but it has some key elements for growth, what do We do to turn it into an advantage instead of the Fools' LSD it is now?

1) Insist on status-free rhetoric: That means We don't bother with the issue when some idiot in a suit stands up in front of a podium and claims that We must move "Our status question" forward for no other reason than an empty "because." Yes, I mean you Pedro "Head Beggar" Pierluisi. And yes, I mean you Willie "Silly" Miranda. 

2) If status is invoked, pursue the reasoning: Our Head Beggar thrusts a bill in the U.S. of part of A. House for a referendum that means diddlyshit, because no matter what We vote for (or against), Congress will fart on the result and even that would be more than expected. Now and forever more, We should always pursue the reasoning behind these grandstanding ploys and grandiloquent statements that amount  to the same thing: a nanometer-sized snowball in the hottest pits of Hell.

3) Start changing the limits of Our "compact" immediately: Either of the two major parties could do this and pursue their own perverted self-interests. All it takes is a willingness to get slammed by the media and federal communiqués, something We should be used to given Our horrible track record with Federal funds.

Example: Statehooders want more parity, i.e., to be seen as worthy of statehood? Good. Petition Congress to include Us in federal taxation so We can increase Our representation. Oh, not politically expedient, you craven cowards? Try this one: Aim to have the current Constitution viewed as protected under the 10th Amendment. It only applies to states, you would say if you knew what the 10th Amendment said? There's your argument: legal recognition of protection under the U.S. Constitution. Open that can of worms and see what happens. 

Example: Commonwealthers want more from them without giving up anything from Us? (That borders on parasitism...) Try this: Petition Congress for rights to deal with foreign nations on economic terms in exchange for a pro-rated reduction in welfare transfers to Us. Not politically expedient, you craven cowards? Okay, then try this: Challenge the current compact on legal grounds that after 58 years it is no longer representative of the true U.S./P.R. relationship. Play it one of three ways: (1) It ain't fair; (2) The U.S. of part of A. has violated it over and over again and/or (3) It limits Our potential for growth. Any of those arguments is valid and if it seems like I'm suggesting We rock this boat 'til the mast snaps or the keel hauls, that's exactly what I'm suggesting. Insanity is to repeat the same actions expecting a different result. We. Are. Insane.

4) Recast Our political architecture: Some of the steps that can be taken: Reduce the size of the legislature by 33%; reduce the number of petitioners to form a party to 50,000; establish full reporting of all bills and executive memos on the Web; Establish term limits for legislators and remove term limits for governors; Tie top-level government and legislative salaries to no more than 300% of Our Income Per Capita as determined by the World Bank; Tie salary and benefit increases to ALL government employees to the Consumer Price Index as determined by the federal government; Cap all consulting contracts to no more than $50,000 a year and only one contract per individual per year; Convert legislators to part-timers (they already are, just make it official, dammit); Transform the 78 Municipalities into 18-24 Counties or Parishes or Lugnuts or whatever you want to call them; Reduce public campaign financing to no more than 1% of the average of four years of Budgets, to be split evenly by all parties (the free-for-all on that one would amuse even Me); Reduce the number of Supreme Court Justices to 5 and make 2 of the current ones Assistant Justices to fill in when one of the others gets diarrhea or the bends or something; Eliminate all perks (cell phones, mail, cars, etc.) and have private companies rotate on a fixed schedule to provide them for a nominal fee--and if they don't get paid, they can cut the services; Have all elected officials participate in the government's health plan during their terms in office: if they don't like it, they can choose not to run (hallefreakinllujah!) or really work to fix the godawful mess and lastly, dissolve all government employee unions once and for all: they work against Us, the taxpayers, who are their ultimate bosses. No one puts up with employees who sabotage the company, so why should We mollycoddle the dingos that "lead" these unions and their sycophants?

Done. Add your own suggestions, come to your own conclusions, but face up to the reality, Brethren of Mine: this status crap is a tool of Fools. Either We use it for Our own benefit or We stop letting them use if for theirs. Any other path will keep Us sinking in the deepening rut of Our own indifference.

The Jenius Has Spoken. 

11 February 2010

Our Status: The Good

We've covered the bad and the ugly of Our status, now Let's hit the good.

Think about the underlying subtext of each of Our status positions:

Statehood: Closer relationship to the U.S. of part of A.*

Commonwealth: Equal terms for both parties.

Independence: We stand on Our own two feet (so to speak).

[* Dispense with the crude idiocy of "Statehood will give Us dignity." Nobody can give you dignity: you either have it as an extension of self-esteem and self-respect or you don't. So shut up about "dignity" already. We can develop Our dignity even more; read below.]

Note that these three positions are all positive and if you look closely, you will come to the conclusion that all three can be achieved simultaneously.

I know many of My Brethren here simply cannot wrap their minds around the idea that the 3 "divisional stances" of Our petty politics can actually be merged into one giant forward step. 

They can.

Here's how: We forget status "shadings" and We ask for concrete advances that benefit the U.S. of part and A. and Us.

Example: The Jones Act "requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed wholly by U.S. citizens." (Thankee, Wikipedia.) Puerto Rico is in a position to request an exemption to the Jones Act and take advantage of this exemption to receive foreign ships crossing the Panama Canal. That would provide the fledgling Port of the Americas in Ponce a huge advantage as the nearest "U.S." port to the Canal.

But We can't just go in and say "Let Me have an advantage" without dealing with the "What's in it for Me?" response of Congress. Here's an idea: We pledge to use the monies We generate from the exemption to target welfare reduction programs, thus reducing the Federal burden.

Another example: We ask for a lump-sum transfer of Federal funds equal to 85% of Our 3-year average in exchange for the authority to directly enter into commercial or industrial deals with European, Asian and Western Hemisphere nations friendly to the U.S. of part of A. They save 15% of their transfer payments, We get the capacity to expand Our trade and economy without having to wait for the (dis)approval of the State Department.

Oh, you see a flaw in these ideas? That they would put more money--thus more power--in the hands of Our elected leaders? That they'd carry a heavier burden to make something good happen?Well boo-freaking-hoo. Growing up is not easy. And it's way past We grew up already.

By taking into account what the U.S. would benefit from and tying it into what We would benefit from, We are seeking a closer relationship, more equal terms and truly start looking to stand on Our own. And because We request it, We'd have to act responsibly about it or lose the gains We've tried to make, which is called "being responsible." That means We--We, Brethren--would have to then elect leaders who would make these gains a positive process, instead of continuing to elect the insufferably greedy asses We currently coddle.

Am I saying that We need to make a fundamental change in the way We deal with politics, Our relationship with Uncle Sam and how We vote? Damn right I am. But it all boils down to changing Our attitude about the cynical manipulation of Our status by governmental thieves and political rapists and focusing on Our future sans status...to continue My analogy: We choose to focus on oxygen and not nitrogen.

And wrapping this up in Part IV, a plan for whacking the governmental thieves.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 February 2010

Our Status: The Ugly

As per Part I, what if an alien creature came down to Earth and spent a good chunk of its time talking to you about nitrogen and how nitrogen makes up such an important part of the atmosphere and making nitrogen the center of its efforts to convince you about improving Life as We know it?

You'd tell it to snark off, to take a flying leap at the Moon, to take a long spacewalk off a short tether. In other words, you wouldn't pay attention.

But here in Puerto Rico, when the Fools start spouting off about "nitrogen"--Our status--the vast majority of idiots who support them go gaga, and by doing so, We get wrapped up in the nuances and shades of imbecility, thus ignoring the plain-as-can-be fact that Our Life doesn't need "nitrogen."

Now let Me clear up something: Our status means nothing not because it isn't important--it most definitely is--but because We don't care enough about it to act upon it as a nation, preferring to leave its mis-discussion in the claws of vermin who use it to feed upon Us. They use it to manipulate Us and when We feel poked enough by its constant badgering, then We react to its presence, not to do anything about it, but merely to breathe it in and choke on it. We have developed Life without "status"...and We prefer it that way.

And yet, because the Fools use it to divide Us and the media uses it to ennervate Us, it continues to have an effect. It shouldn't.

Take the current flap about some Congressional "plebiscite bill", sponsored by the Head Beggar Pedro "Staying Out Of It All" Pierluisi. Forget the details, here's the bottom line: Is it binding? Does it commit Congress to act upon Our decision, whatever it may be?

No. Nah. No it doesn't. Not at all. No way, no how. As if.

So what's the fucking point? This is an exercise akin to kicking an anthill to see how many ants rush out. I ain't no ant. Therefore, fuck off, Fools.

How do We break this stupid, manipulative technique long perfected by the Fools? We ask them to define whatever they present without using status as a reason. Every time they invoke status, We ask them to explain the how and why of their (moronic) proposals as if status didn't exist. In other words, make them present their proposals on their own merits.

Dirty pool, cry the Fools. Shut up. And remember that payback's a bitch.

Take the proposal mentioned above. Question at the press conference of the Fool at the podium: "It isn't binding, therefore status is obviously not the issue. What's the point of this plebsicite, then, if any?" (Some of you may omit the final two words. To each his/her own.)

Or to some statehood Fool concerning the rampant misappropriation of Federal funds: "If you want the U.S. of part of A. to accept Us as a state, shouldn't you and your colleagues stop ripping off the Federal government to the tune of millions of dollars, if you can?" (Some of you...final three words...each his/her own.)

Or to a commonwealth Fool about their party's ridiculous lack of sense: "If you want the U.S. of part of A. to treat Us as equals, shouldn't you be proposing ways for Us to step up and shoulder more fiscal responsibility and more work, instead of whimpering and pleading?" (...final five words...to each...)

Or to an independence supporter about a push for independence: "If you want the U.S. of part of A. to listen to your arguments, why not drum up direct support in Congress--where it matters--by engaging in the legal bribery known as 'lobbying,' or are you so enamored of free Yankee dollars that the thought of doing this gives you a cramp in the upper bowels?" (...final 23...)

Bottom line: Our status only truly matters to high-minded thinkers (statehooders have 2, both long dead; commonwealthers have 6, half of them dead and independentistas have 31, all acting as if they were dead, but getting cash for it...then there's Me) and the verminous Fools that use it to manipulate Us. Until We find a way to decide upon it, Our best and brightest hope is to break the Fool's fraudulent fixation on it and force them to focus on Us. Forget nitrogen: We need oxygen.

How to get it in Part III.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

09 February 2010

Our Status: The Bad

If an alien species with fully-adaptive abilities to transform its body at the functional level to best fit the planet it lands on comes to Earth, what would it breathe?

No. It would breathe nitrogen. Look it up.

Why the sci-fi non-sequitur? Because Life can exist perfectly well even when it ignores the most common element surrounding it. Just like We do with Our status.

Our status is the topic of thousands of conversations and hundreds of arguments, the putative basis for three ideological parties of which two show up to work against Us and the other only to collect taxpayer monies every four years and the greatest divider since the vinculum. It is also the trash can of Our conscience, the vomitorium for Our hopes and dreams, the toilet for Our economy and the oft-reamed bunghole of Our history.

Our status. Long may it weigh.

And here's the simplest truth about it: it really means nothing--absolutely NOTHING--because the powers that be do not want to resolve it.

Let Me repeat that: the powers that be DO NOT want to resolve it.

Here, Let Me show you:

Statehood: Power to grant it: U.S. of part of A. They don't want to. Period. 

"Enhanced" commonwealth: Power to grant it: U.S. of part of A. They don't want to. Period. 

Independence: Power to grant it: Us. We don't want to. Period.

Now I've said it before that the U.S. of part of A. categorically, undeniably, totally and without any fershluggin' doubt will not EVER grant statehood to Puerto Rico. I've pointed out that it hasn't even come CLOSE to happening in 112 years, that it didn't even come CLOSE to happening when We were worthy of exploitation (same post) and that statehood is a non-issue no matter how idiotic a loony-bin your opinion is.

"Enhanced" commonwealth is in the same sunken boat, a "status solution" akin to a teen stoner's heavy-tongued request of "Uh, give Us more money and uh, you know, uh more, uh freedoms, like, you know, rights and stuff, but don't, uh you, don't ask any more of Us, cuz, you know, We don't want that. No." Why would any sovereign nation, already getting the better part of the deal, want to give up any part of that...especially when it absolutely, undeniably, totally and without any perplunkin' doubt DOES NOT have to?

And what about independence, that Olympian ideal that sets hearts to pounding amidst misty eyes and lumps-in-throats? Well, We're scared of it. Scared. Like chihuahuas in a Siberian tiger's cage. Like comely virgins in a Vikings' prison ship. Like one of Our politicians when confronted by a smart question.

Now note that although 2 of the 3 status options place the "negation blame" on the U.S. of part of A., the ultimate blame--and blame it is--lies on Us for not having the stones to make up Our minds.

Any way you look at this, the basis of the status question deemd "ubiquitous" and "all-important" by so many of Us, only be seeing it as it truly is do you realize that it is entirely irrelevant to anything real, totally irrelevant to anything important happening in Puerto Rico, to Our Life on a daily basis--except for purposes of political manipulation.

Here, people, I'll spell it out  for you: Status is the string set, We are the motherhumpin' puppets.

And as long as those strings are not cut, We will continue to let Ourselves dance to the greedy tune of verminous manipulators .

Part II on Our Status...coming up.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 February 2010

Jenius Reset

In radio parlance, a "reset" is what you do every 10 minutes or so when doing a talk show, a reminder of who you're talking to, what the topic is and in a sense, "resetting" the stage for those who've come in late.

Now I've done resets on The Jenius before, whether it was as a change in direction (when I went from technology and business  to economics and politics), a change in tone (I got--to My eyes--somewhat pessimistic and decided that could be tolerated in smaller doses) or even as an explanation of why I do this, year after year.

But this is the first one that's clearly a "reset" in the radio sense: a who, what and why of The Jenius. No further preamble needed.

Who: Puerto Rican, of Puerto Rican parents, raised in the U.S. of part of A. and going to college there (in the Deep South; check out GCSPrank Is Here for some other details.) Spent several years in public schools here, one fewer than most as I was skipped from 8th to 10th grade. One year in private school, also known as "The Year Hell Farted On Me." Father of Kaleb, now nine years old and wiser than I. Two nephews, also wiser than Me. No pets, wiseass. Divorced, will marry again soon. Business consultant, mainly for start-ups. Grant writer, mainly for federal funds. Writer, mainly of biz-tech articles, but also of short stories (samples here and here). As from My Profile, hate politicians. Quoting Me: If reincarnation exists and I come back as a chancre on a roach's ass, I'd still be worth more than a politician.

What: The topic is Puerto Rico and how I want to see it do better, every day, in every way possible, until We (a) get off Our fat asses and (b) make Our future bright again so that We can (c) achieve the level of performance on the world stage that We amply deserve. The problem is that not enough of Us want to do (a) and (b) and thus even fewer of Us see (c) [get it?] as being possible. Pisses Me off.

Why: If "Gil" wrote about these topics, I'd be more polite, much less inclined to wade in on stupidity and indifferent to almost everything happening on Our Island. As "The Jenius," I am sharp-edged, sarcastic, at times crude, care too much to let stupidity have its regular Field Day and don't give a rat's ass about a lot of things happening in Puerto Rico...but I keep looking. And when I target something, I avoid partisanship, see things more clearly, think them through much better and thus I'm right almost all the time. Pisses some people off. One more thing: why use capitals when referring to Me? Because I deserve them.

And why the reset? Because I'm cranking it up again for a four-part series on the single most idiotic, undermining, self-serving, pretentious, brainless and vacuous issue We face day after ever-loving day: Our "status." 

Release the hounds.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

05 February 2010

Schools (Don't) Matter To NCLB

I was handed a list of student names from a junior high school southeast of San Juan. It took Me a minute to notice that of 381 students in the school, there were 152 in 7th grade, 124 in 8th and 105 in 9th. The discrepancy between 7th and 9th grade totals was 47, meaning that 31% of the total number of students currently in 7th grade were not reflected in the 9th.

Thirty. One. Percent.

I asked the director if this was because of some recent change in organization or population trend. He looked at the sheets, this 14-year veteran of the school struggle and said: "It's been like this since I got here. What's worse is that I used to have over 450 students here in 7th grade. We haven't had 400 here since 2003."

Yes, the population growth level has dropped in Puerto Rico since the 1980s, but in this director's school district, the overall number of students has gone up in grades 1-3 since 2001. Emigration--brain drain--is not the culprit for this district has 83% of its population below the poverty line. Some of them might move out in search of a better life, but when you're that poor, your options are limited and taking the kids is not often feasible. Proof of this is that 94% of the students in this school live with only one parent or a guardian (grandparent, uncle/aunt, older sibling, etc.) The fact is fewer students are going from 6th grade to seventh, in other words, the dropout rate is reaching lower grades in greater numbers.

So what's the cause of this dropout rate? Sex, as in this school some 12-14 girls--in junior high school--get pregnant every year, meaning they drop out and some if not most of the fathers move away. Also drugs, with most of the male students and plenty of females clearly identifying with one drug gang or another, for protection or to put up a front. That many of them see it as easy money is but a natural step. But for lower grades, sex and drugs are not that big a factor, yet the dropout drain rises.

And yet, as bad as this is, beyond the relentless indifference the local department of (mis)education has for the dropout problem is what this director called "The undermining of Our kids' futures: most of them have grown up under the federal system (No Child Left Behind) and they have been educated too badly to make real progress."

In the recent PPAA tests, the standardized bundle of useless crap that NCLB worships like a cockroach slurps up toejam, only 11 of this school's 381 students achieved "Proficient" level in any subject. That means that roughly 99% of the students are deemed failures. Yes, the parents and guardians aren't proactive enough, yes the students come from broken homes, yes there are drug problems around the school, but these are not unique problems to this school: what is also not-unique is that NCLB consistently generates failure rates the way I aced exams--in the high 90s.

The problem is not the students: it's the system. No Child Left Behind is the Chernobyl-meets-Three Mile Island of educational systems, promising some type of bright output, but melting down into nothing more than a toxic cloud. It should be dumped like the fetid bucket of vomit it is and replaced, not spiffed up, tweaked, reworked or redesigned. Our children deserve better and it is up to Us to help give it to them.

Here, from School Matters, is a blog post detailing "20 Reasons to Eliminate NCLB":

"An education policy built on impossible performance demands that assure the failure of the majority of American public schools should be eliminated, not reformed. 

An education policy that has the same impossible demands for most English-language learners and special education students should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that traumatizes children, destroys the desire to learn, and corrupts the purposes for learning should be eliminated, not reformed. 

An education policy that uses fear, intimidation, and retribution as motivation should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses a single assessment once a year to make life-altering decisions should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that ignores poverty as a chief determinant in academic performance should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that creates two different school curriculums, one for the children of the poor and one for well-funded successes, should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses skewed and manipulated research from the National Reading Panel to devise a national reading strategy should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses the strain of test score competition to undercut public cohesion and civic commitment to democratic goals should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that shrinks the American school curriculum to two or three subjects that are tested should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that discourages diversity and encourages homogeneity in schools should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that supports the use of tax dollars to fund private schools rather than public school improvement should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that advocates the use of public money to pay private contractors to run public schools should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that is built on unfunded and under-funded mandates should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that reduces or eliminates local and state decision making by citizens should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that mandates that military recruiters have access to student information should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that inflames a teacher shortage in order to replace professional teachers with individuals who have passed a teaching test should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that is used to reward tax dollars to insiders and cronies for their political support should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that uses paid propaganda to advance its agenda should be eliminated, not reformed.

An education policy that puts test scores in the place of the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of America’s children should eliminated, not reformed." (Emphasis Mine.)

Check out the blog post as it has links to support contentions present in every one of its 20 reasons. But 20 could have been summarized into one with equal impact: It doesn't work because it was never intended to. In that, No Child Left Behind got an A-freaking-plus.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 February 2010

Funny Money

If you want to have a eye-opening experience, a decidedly outlook-altering moment in time, play "Monopoly" with real money.

Actual, cold, hard cash. Legal currency, not funny money.

Think about bringing $1,500 in 1s, 5s, 10s, 20s and 50s to a table, rolling the dice and moving your marker around the board, knowing that the game will end when two players go broke; whatever money you have at that point is what you get to keep. Think about how that transforms "Monopoly" from "fun" to "profit," from "pastime" to "feeding frenzy," from "game" to "greed."

Did that once, in My college days, at a frat house that normally had poker games during summer nights. Pulled together the money, got in the game...and discovered what greed looks like up close. One hears or reads about it, like a distant war, but it is never the same as seeing it up close, of feeling its impact around you and noticing your visceral reaction to it.

Normally "Monopoly" is played amidst chattiness, a party with colored paper keeping score (except for those psycho-competitive people who think it's life or death.) When real money is on the table--or more accurately, in hand--there is no chattiness, there is no friendly exchange of information, there is no camaraderie, only the acrid smell of sweat and desperation.

Every move is watched fiercely: every roll, every space, every card pick, every transaction. Trading is like sharing blood: no one wants to do it without total guarantees. And passing "Go" is not the mere turn of a corner, it is oxygen to stay alive, the reason to go on.

The game with real money was a frantic race, a race to see who could get those $200 bucks faster, who could get the right cards and avoid the bad ones. Properties were bought like passing kidney stones, a painful process to be avoided at all costs for it meant losing money with little guarantee of getting it back. No, better the sure thing, the grab-the-cash greed that looked upon investment as so not the goal of the game.

I bought as I usually did, avoided trouble and got the first monopoly, the purples just past Jail. The sweat stench grew more acrid. A second monopoly, the reds, came together. Then--only then--did We both build them up. I got Mine to 4 houses each, he got his to 3. Sure enough, the other two players went broke and when We cashed out, I was up $850; the winner with the reds walked out with an extra $975; the two other players lost money, too.

You experienced "Monopoly" players will quickly realize that those "winning" numbers are paltry, pathetic even. Play a whole game and end up with only $975 in profit as the winner? Shee-hit that's lame. But look at it closer: two players lost $1,500 each and two more about $2,000 all told while the two winners walked out up $1,825, so someone made about $3,175. Obviously, that was the bank. Not a bad deal for about two hours' work.

The reason the winning numbers were so low was because the game was no longer a "build to win" scenario, but a "grab what you can" scenario. To truly build, you need cooperation or an enormous amount of luck. That's what makes "Monopoly" so intriguing, the trading, bartering, readapting of tactics to fit the winning strategy of "build fast and better" that leads to winning the game. To rely on luck is to lose game after game after game; to play to win means to engage with the other players.

In the real money game, engaging with the other players is deemed suicidal: the pie's "too small" and I have to have it all. Build? Yeah, right. Building takes money "off" the table and leaves Me weaker. No can do. Building only comes into play when there is no other choice. I fell into that trap, building only when the second monopoly showed up. The other four players stayed intent on their "grab the cash" tactic instead of trading to gain a foothold. They hung separately and so all of them lost together.

But the bank made out like a bandit.

So let Me leave you with this mental exercise based on the above game of "real Monopoly":

--The game board is Puerto Rico.

--The players are not all of Us, but a handful of oligarchic parasites, although fewer than before.

--The money for the game is what We pay in taxes, the U.S. of part of A. drops in Our lap and the monies We siphon in from investors that We incur as debt.

--The only goal of the game is to grab as much cash as you can before the timer goes off...in 2012.

--And here's the kicker: The bank and the players are playing against--against--the board.

Funny money indeed...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 February 2010

Larval Countdown

So The Larva delivers a "State of the Statehood-Seeking Commonwealth" (I'm quoting someone) speech that had all the underlying smarminess of a wimpy brat's Christmas letter to Santa: Ignore what I did, forget what I didn't do that I should've done, but I'll be better next year! 

Uh-huh. Do tell. Pass the peanuts, willya?

The speech was part Valium (boring), part LSD (tripping), part Rohypnol (amnesia) and part moonshine. As a drug cocktail it led to the hallucination that the National Guard needs to be activated to control the rampaging criminal element of Our society and flung like camouflaged bullets at the miscreants.

Oh, wait. The Larva actually said that.

With an economy sinking for the fourth year in a row (-3.8%) and Luis "The Larva" Fortuño's cockleheaded fiscal minions pumping $12 billion and counting in COFINA bonds like a crazed crystal meth hooker yanking a donkey's...tail...for another hit, pushing Our debt level to exceed Our dwindling GNP (for you Fools out there: it means We owe more than We produce), Our crime problem is important, but the solution isn't the National Guard: it's national guarantees.

Let's start with this: We don't trust The Larva. We don't think he can do the job. (As to what that "job" is...read on.) Don't believe Me? Early supporter Aníbal Vega, Mayor of Toa Baja, was quoted after the speech as saying that We need to give this governor another year before We decide if he will be the candidate in 2012. This isn't Me speaking: it's one of The Larva's early champions and a back-office power in the governor's party. Another year? Pifflegab. Many of Us checked out on him in 2009 and many more, if not most, will do so in 2010. (I checked out on him in 1983. I'm prescient that way.)

Unless. Unless The Larva can show Us that what We ask for can be guaranteed again.

See, We don't believe anything the governor says or promises because he simply can't deliver it. Lower taxes? Bah. Jobs? Puh-lease. Improved education? Laugher. Better health care? My head hurts. Reduced crime? Pull My other one. Calling out the National Guard will not reduce crime because (a) It's too expensive to sustain long enough to make a difference, (b) these weekend wannabes are not trained as a police force and (c) they aren't there to reduce crime, they are there to protect certain people from crime.

Guess who? Yup: the hyena in-crowd, the whiteys running the show into the ground, the "guaynabitos" and "colegiecitos" clogging the system with their apathy to Our society (but ass-sniffing devotion to theirs), rampant greed and short-term mentality.

For it is a short-term mentality: why else would Mayor "Tick-Tock" Vega utter a veiled threat 3 years before the elections? The power struggle between The Larva and Thomas "Tantrum" Rivera is open warfare (see under "Departments of Education, Health and Justice"), but the party--the ass-sniffing hyena in-crowd, to quote something I wrote recently--is already taking stock (lock and barrel) and seeing that in 2012, this gang-bang party will come to a crashing halt. For although the commonwealth party is to opposition power and leadership what dead possums are to Peterbilt trucks, it is becoming increasingly clear that The Larva's vacuum of leadership will suck these (state)hood(er)s down and out of power.

Pardon Me while I readmire that last paragraph. Yes, readmire is a word. Leave Me alone.

In this day and age, it's very hard for a government leader to guarantee anything except his or her own lack of integrity. But We don't need iron-clad guarantees for the good stuff, We need probable guarantees, the oxymoronic but comforting "definite maybe" that says that with a little luck and maybe the once-in-a-decade appearance of leadership, We can improve Our situation. We don't all have to believe it, only most of Us. And that is the true role of leadership: to make the goal believable, to make it achievable and thus move Us to action. Without it, We spiral ever downward, probed every painful step of the way like Gulf Coast fishermen in an E.T. medical invasion.

So, what have We seen with the "State of the Statehood Push in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" pseudo-speech? Better yet, what have We heard? Not a drachma of leadership, or even a hint that leadership is maybe possibly on the way.  All We heard was the ticking of an ever-louder clock and the whooshing sound of Our future being sucked down an ever-increasing drain.

Oh, and the clop-clop of semi-shined army boots marching to ensure that "they" don't bother "Us."

The Jenius Has Spoken.