29 October 2010

Charity Really Begins At Home

There is an e-mail doing semi-contagious rounds around Our cyberspace listing facts We don't know about Our Island. One of them is that--on a per capita basis--Puerto Ricans are the largest supporters of World Vision.

My Brethren are most likely nodding right now, with thoughts along the lines of "Yeah, that sounds like Us." It does. Time and again, when a tragedy strikes somewhere or a need is brought to light, We come forward with generous hearts and hands. True, maybe the money We can provide is in the low hundreds of thousands, a fraction of the millions the people of the U.S. of part of A. can provide, but We share more per person, more consistently, than Our northern fellow citizens.

Why? I have two theories. The first is based on the traditional view of Our history as a forgotten corner of the Spanish Empire, subsisting on scraps and scrounging, where sharing became more than a necessity, evolving into a fuller expression of connecting with one's misery and sense of empathy. Mi dolor es su dolor. 

My second theory is that We share so much because We have a distorted sense of who We are. In other words, We share because We're confused about who We are exactly.

Now there are two ways to look at this theory, two personifications. One is that of the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who finds himself amongst the country club set and tries to fit in by living their lifestyle plus 15%, overspending in a transparent effort to impress. But that really doesn't apply to charity, which is quite often a personal action undertaken in private. Only a boor would go around boasting about how much s/he spends to help others and We don't do that.

The second personification is that of the insecure person seeking approval, one who acts not from a sense of personal perspective but from "social pressures," doing what s/he perceives is right not from conviction, but from a sense of guilt.

So are We "Keeping up with the Jones'" or "guilt-tripped"? Which?

Neither. Or both. But I vote for "neither." Does this mean My two theories are wrong? Maybe. I'm inclined to prefer being wrong about this simply because I'd rather believe that We are charitable and generous because that's how We are rather than think that We are envious/insecure/lunk-headed.

The fact is that Puerto Ricans have a long history of generosity, both between Ourselves and with others We most likely don't even where they live. Through good times and bad, We have stepped up to share Our good fortune with others' misfortunes. And in the long run, does it really matter why We do it?

I believe it does, but not enough to want to look too closely into the matter. Let's just enjoy the fact that when the world needs, We deliver.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 October 2010

Kicking Kim's Konfusion

Jay  Kim was the first Korean-American Congressman, serving from 1993-1999. He recently came to Puerto Rico and after semi-obligatory visits in Old San Juan, the rain forest and even stiff-limbed salsa "dancing", he blogged about his impressions of My Island. I've taken excerpts of his post, and lest I be accused of taking them out of context, read the post here. [15 Aug 2011: See Update below.]

"Its population is 4 million, and the country is relatively poor economically with an 18 percent unemployment rate and a $7,000 a year per capita income." You got the population right, but the real unemployment figure is over 27%, while the (non)government reports somewhere around 16%. As for Our income per capita, your own CIA World Reports it is closer to $11,000 than $7,000. Now I know those numbers are awful, but they are real. Most of Us know them; you and your fellow Americans by and large don't. Your ignorance, not Mine.

"Like any tropical island, the people of Puerto Rico seem laid back and not tough and hardheaded; perhaps this is because rushing does not lead anywhere but to the surrounding sea." I understand, Mr. Kim, that you are a civil engineer. Kudos. But may I suggest you leave anthropological musings to much better-qualified people? And as for pithiness, may I suggest Confucius?

"In April 2000, the US decided to give citizenships to the people born in Puerto Rico." First of all, how many citizenships can the U.S. of part of A. offer anyone? Okay, maybe that was a typo. Happenss. But as for Puerto Ricans and U.S. citizenship, We have been so since the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917. Now I'm firmly in the corner of those people who expect politicians to be about as well-informed as dry moss, but engineers are known for their meticulous attention to detail. Careless engineers are only so once...or should be. Mr. Kim, you were careless here.

" This (citizenship) was an odd decision, since from the US’s perspective Puerto Rico has neither natural resources nor any special manufacturing resources." You echo a point I've made before concerning potential U.S. of part of A. interest in granting statehood to Puerto Rico: there is no economic upside anymore. You merely confirm that point of view. But you equate "natural resources" only with what you can extract from the ground or ocean and ignore the natural resource that is people. Furthermore, We have special manufacturing resources, as Our (albeit weakened) pharmaceutical industry can attest (still Top 5 in the world), and if We don't have these special manufacturing resources, and We are a U.S. of part of A. territory subject to its dominion, then whose fault is it?  Careless again, Mr. Kim. No good.

"Also, the nation’s education level is not high (18% college graduation rate), and the country depends primarily on tourism resources pumped in by the hundreds of millions of dollars from the US." May I quote Mark Twain to you, Mr. Kim? Thank you. "Lies, damn lies and statistics." The graduation rate in Puerto Rico is slightly over 41% if you take into account all incoming freshmen or slightly over 27% if you take into account all young adults between the ages of 18-26. It is not 18% unless you play with numbers or you listen to a liar. You didn't play with the numbers, so you listened to a liar. Keep that in mind. As for Us "depending primarily on tourism," you are again in the wrong. Our largest industries are pharmaceutical, banking and retail services. Tourism is important, but you imply it is a "primary" revenue source, as if insinuating We'd be scrabbling for crumbs if it weren't for visitors coming to look at Our poverty and lack of natural resources. It ain't so, Mr. Kim.

"Leading up to the (1993) referendum, Congress expected the people of Puerto Rico would overwhelmingly vote to become the 51st state of the US; this led some members of Congress to voice concerns about the budget to add a star to the national flag, to rewrite an amendment to the Constitution, and to revise textbooks." Something tells Me you weren't paying much attention to the debate if what you think was most important to Congress was a star or editing documents. The true issues were economic, as in "Puerto Rico's impact on the national budget" and, for Republicans, the fear that 4 million "potential Democratic votes" would tilt the fine two-party balance y'all enjoy up there. (I'm being sarcastic when I say "fine two-party balance." The rest is plain factual.) If you choose to ignore the deeper economic and even racial issues that the debate touched upon, that's your choice. But note that in doing so you are trivializing the larger issue of what We as a nation should do. As We shall see...

"Many members also said that they could not understand why Puerto Ricans would be opposed to becoming an independent country after nearly 500 years of living under the control of other powerful countries." Ignorance is bliss, Mr. Kim. Having not walked an inch in Our shoes, any blowhard can say whatever they want to from their piehole. Is independence better than "living under the control of other powerful countries"? I say yes. So why haven't the "many members" of this and previous Congresses (some of which you belonged to, Mr. Kim) not simply given it to Us? It's so easy to sit there and pontificate on what you don't know. I guess that's why you ran for Congress...

"However, the result of the referendum was that Puerto Ricans chose to maintain their current status and remain a US territory. The generally stated rationale was that there was no reason for the island to change it status since they received every benefit a US citizen has, with the added benefit of not having to pay taxes to the US government. That’s just the sort of thinking the people of a tropical island would have. Had it been Korea, the choice of independence would receive almost 100 percent of the votes." Fuck you, Jay. You don't know shit about the thinking We have. I don't mind you being a patriotic Korean and believing that your people would (almost) unanimously vote for independence. But let me point out that your country was annexed--taken over--by Japan and lived with that status until other more powerful nations gave you your country back, albeit in a mutant form. That your people, your so very independent people, accepted living as subjects of a foreign nation is, I guess, the sort of thinking people who live on a lumpy phallus of land would have.

"During my recent trip, I attended a dinner with the Governor of Puerto Rico, lunch with the Mayor of its capital (San Juan) in the City Hall, and a cocktail party with the Speaker of the House. All of these political leaders seemed to support statehood. My impression was that their stance was based on personal interests, i.e. breaking into American politics; for them, being a major politician on the island alone is not satisfying. If Puerto Rico was to become a US state, they would be allocated 2 seats in the Senate and 7 in the House of Representatives, and those men would have a pretty good chance to win those seats. We as Koreans, many of whom have died for our independence, can hardly understand the thinking of those that believe that comfort from being another country’s territory is better than protecting one’s own country." At the risk of repeating Myself, fuck you. Your people may have died for independence--some of Mine have as well--but you were given your independence. If you want to lord the idea that you have independence and We don't, go ahead, but don't go throwing rocks when you live in a glass house someone else built for you. And as for listening to statehooders, to quote Adam Savage, "Well, there's your problem right there!"

"...(T)he FBI’s recent arrest of 80 Puerto Rico police officers for the drug trafficking charge, broadcast live on TV, surprised the American public. I believe that, all the more due to this event, it will be difficult for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state of the US." As if the notion of Us becoming a state were actually within the realm of possibility for the American public...

Mr. Kim, you have every right to your opinion. You have every right to express that opinion in whatever forum you can reach. You even have the right to be uninformed and careless with your opinions...as long as you can get away with it. In this case, your ignorance, carelessness and blather are being called on the carpet. Stick to your neck of the woods and, unless you really step up your game, stay the hell out of Mine.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Update: 15 August 2011: It came to My attention that Kim-Chi Breath deleted the post I make reference to above. Indeed. Here's another site that has the complete post. And just to make sure Kim-Passe doesn't try to hide his ignorance again and again and again (the article is also deleted from the Korea Times archive), here's the text of his post, under a Korea Times banner:

Korea Times

Impressions from a trip to Puerto Rico
By Jay Kim

I visited Puerto Rico for a week in late September as a former U.S. Congressman. Puerto Rico is an island located near Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Its population is 4 million, and the country is relatively poor economically with an 18 percent unemployment rate and a $7,000 per capita income.

It is always hot and humid throughout the year there (the winters are just a little less hot), making the climate intolerable for those who grew up in a continental climate like Korea’s.

Like any tropical island, the people of Puerto Rico seem laid-back and not tough and hardheaded; perhaps this is because rushing does not lead anywhere but to the surrounding sea.

A Spanish colony for almost 400 years since Columbus discovered it in 1493; the 1898 victory of the U.S. in the Spanish-American War made it a U.S. territory. Hundreds of years of exploitation by European countries have made the native people of the island almost extinct.

In April 2000, the U.S. decided to give citizenship to people born in Puerto Rico. This was an odd decision, since from the U.S.’s perspective Puerto Rico has neither natural resources nor any special manufacturing resources.

Also, the nation’s education level is not high (18 percent college graduation rate), and the country depends primarily on tourism resources pumped in by the hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S.

There was some claiming that Puerto Rico would not be a boon to the U.S. economy, leading to debates in Congress over what to do with the island. In 1993, when I was a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives, there was a referendum to decide the status of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans were offered three choices: become an independent country, become the 51st U.S. state, or maintain its current status as a U.S. territory.

Leading up to the referendum, Congress expected the people of Puerto Rico would overwhelmingly vote to become the 51st state of the U.S.; this led some members of Congress to voice concerns about the budget to add a star to the national flag, to rewrite an amendment to the Constitution, and to revise textbooks.

Many members also said that they could not understand why Puerto Ricans would be opposed to becoming an independent country after nearly 500 years of living under the control of other powerful countries.

However, the result of the referendum was that Puerto Ricans chose to maintain their current status and remain a U.S. territory.

The generally stated rationale was that there was no reason for the island to change its status since they received every benefit a U.S. citizen has, with the added benefit of not having to pay taxes to the U.S. government.

That’s just the sort of thinking the people of a tropical island would have. Had it been Korea, the choice of independence would receive almost 100 percent of the votes.

During my recent trip, I attended a dinner with the governor of Puerto Rico, lunch with the mayor of its capital, San Juan, in the City Hall, and a cocktail party with the speaker of the House.

All of these political leaders seemed to support statehood. My impression was that their stance was based on personal interests, i.e. breaking into American politics; for them, being a major politician on the island alone is not satisfying.

If Puerto Rico was to become a U.S. state, they would be allocated two seats in the Senate and seven in the House of Representatives, and those men would have a pretty good chance to win those seats.

We as Koreans, many of whom have died for our independence, can hardly understand the thinking of those that believe that comfort from being another country’s territory is better than protecting one’s own country.

The U.S. currently has four territories other than Puerto Rico ― American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital. Each of them, from Puerto Rico with a population of 4 million to Samoa with a population of 660,000, has only one elected representative to the U.S. Congress.

These five representatives are treated as equal to any other U.S. Congressman and can become a chairman of a standing committee, but don’t have a vote in a plenary session.

In the U.S. Congress, these representatives are called “delegates,” or “resident commissioner” in Puerto Rico. For example, Eni Faleomavaega, the delegate from Samoa, is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

He is well known for being pro-Korea, and has frequently visited Korea as the chair of the subcommittee. Unfortunately, he does not have a final voting right on the House floor.

Another referendum on the status of Puerto Rico is expected around next year. Most Democrats in Congress agree that Puerto Rico should be the 51st state, but opposition from the Republicans is not easy to deal with, making the outcome hard to predict.

Unfortunately, the FBI’s recent arrest of 80 Puerto Rican police officers for drug trafficking, broadcast live on TV, surprised the American public. I believe that, all the more due to this event, it will be difficult for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state of the U.S. ]

25 October 2010

Where I Talk About Soap Scum

If Our governor talks and everyone's listening, has he really said anything?

Unlike the "tree falling in the forest when no one is there" philosophical launch point, the example above has a direct, incontrovertible answer: nuh-uh.

First, Let's just point out that The Larva, (non)governor Luis Fortuño, has the kinetic intelligence of soap scum. When was the last time you listened to soap scum?

Second, The Larva is waaaaay into his "two years to go before I get drummed out like a mangy dog by my own party" flop-sweat. By standing in front of a microphone and mouthing brain farts related to taxes or other economic issues he understands like soap scum understands particle physics, he expects to somehow, mysteriously, insanely galvanize a party base he's never really had to support a (non)administration he's never really had.

Third, if a tax """""reform""""" (yeah, I did this in the last post, too...) actually eliminates taxes on couples earning $20,000 or less per year, will this translate into votes for The Larva? There is no point in debating whether this will be a boon for Our economy or whatever because there is NO intent whatsoever to have this be an economic """""solution""""". (Okay, I'll stop now. """""Maybe""""".) This is a pre-emptive vote grab meant to become legislation in 2011 and--if The Larva can manage to stay dysfunctionally in office until then--become part of the campaign real estate of 2012.

Fourth, the tax "reform" is totally misguided, for the real (non)government's purpose is to raise money for its continued cancerous growth rate and thus can't afford to reduce government revenue for it will only make a horrid situation worse. The bottom line is that Our government is almost flat broke, will be flat broke soon (as debt exceeds GDP and debt service climbs above 30% of the Budget) and We're not going to be able or willing to pay for keeping it in luxury.

We shouldn't be now...but aside from lip service about the thieves and parasites, most of Us keep voting the same thieves and parasites back and slavishly angle Our lives to join them.

Idiocy. A step above soap scum in intelligence, but not by a hell of a lot.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 October 2010

Santa Should Be Dead

Apropos of Christmas music blaring way too freaking early in the freaking year, there's a near-decapitated Santa Claus standing just to My right.

I'm serious. Stupid mannequin's head has an 88-degree cant to the right, eyes looking 2.5 feet in front of its...feet. Cheery-red suit, off-white trim, glazed expression of merriment changed into a frozen mask of "What the hell?" faux-amusement at the fact that its neck is damn near broken. Exudes charm like a rotten fish shines: catches the eye, revolts nonetheless.

Like Our government. The Santa Claus of Our lives is damn near headless. (Yes, I'm referring to The Larva and its minions, which are smaller versions--albeit more poisonous--than The Jellyfish and its minions.) The jolly good cheer of Our government that was all fake all the time, its fantastical largesse to those who were on its "good list"--edited here to "good for nothing but parasitism" list--combined with its perversion of Santa's signature laugh to a listing of the three professions working in Our government (to wit: ho, ho and ho) and seasoned by the enormous sloth-based greed of Our folks to do anything in order to suck Santa's...teat...is long past time to die.

Re-read at your leisure. I'll still be here.

I'll (finally) cut to the chase: We should decapitate Our government. Short of loping off its head like a samurai slo-mo replay, We should at least break its neck. The top """""leaders""""" in Our government are worth more as mulch than as executives. They are more landfill than anything else, drawing salaries and later pensions that dwarf any conceivable multiple of their best contributions, if they ever make any. We can break them. We have to.

As long as We allow an outdated, incorrect and morally vapid fantasy about what Our government should be to dominate Our thinking, We are dooming Ourselves to pittances rather than progress, to victimization rather security and to servitude instead of mastery. We'll keep waiting for one that day a year when some benevolent illusion of generosity tosses the labors of someone else into Our laps and spending the other 364 days wallowing in muck, dreaming of that one magical day.

People, they are all magical days. There is no Santa Claus, for what We think of as a jolly elf We need to charm for "gifts" that keep Us servile is nothing but a money-hungry rapist with an overworked press office.

Time for Santa Clause to die.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

18 October 2010

Levels Of Stupidity

Seeing as how mega-stupid has become a standard here on My Island, Let's take a quick gander at defining levels of stupidity, by the numbers, going up (or is down?) from Level 1:

1) Harassing a woman.
2) Harassing a woman while drunk.
3) Harassing a woman-journalist while drunk.
4) Harassing a woman-journalist while drink, in an event with cameras present.
5) Doing all of the above and then claiming that part of the "reason" you did it was because you didn't understand English well.
6) Doing ALL of the above AND being a pro-statehood legislator from Puerto Rico.

Welcome to the mega-pits of stupidity of one Jorge "Kissy-Face" Navarro, caught on tape this past July 27th and now being shown on ABC News. Watch as the drunken walking bag of shithead politics repeatedly tries to kiss a visibly-repulsed young lady. Note that this walking bag of shit-faced politics is clearly labeled (in the video) as representing Puerto Rico, doing so in a way that is light-years ahead (or is behind?) what his actual job is supposed to be. And then note how this shit-for-brains, in-the-bag waste of flesh, one who built his shitty political career on espousing a fundamental need to feel manly and complete by denying his heritage and subsuming it all into another country's, one that speaks English, claims the incident is really a misunderstanding because--yeah, I finally get to it--he doesn't understand English very well.

Pause. Think about that. A pro-statehood shithead politician, one who ostensibly craves in cravenly fashion to join the U.S. of part of A., uses as his defense for acting like a drunken shit-faced boor the notion that he doesn't grasp the language well.

Okay, I'll ask the question: What else don't you grasp, Kissy-Face Idiot?

Off the top of My head I'd say:

1) "No" means "no".
2) People deserve to be treated with respect.
3) Drunk is stupid. You were stupid to begin with, then got drunk.
4) Representing your country means you behave well as a guest or a host.
5) As a public figure, cameras are your friend and enemy; depends on your behavior, you idiot.
6) If you want to join a country, the least you should is learn the language well enough to avoid looking like a blithering moron by whining "No comprendo inglés." 
7) The mature response to your behavior is "I'm sorry, I made a mistake." Or in the only language you as a pro-statehood shithead can barely manage "Lo siento, cometí un error."

I keep coming back to the same idea: every year We should have a lottery, pick one of these absolutely useless bags of walking stench and have it executed on national TV. In a few years, We'd get them all straightened out. As the comedian said, you can't fix stupid...but you can make it scarcer.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

15 October 2010

Cocks & (Pit) Bulls

The ramjet-plunging-straight down descent into deeper stupidity continues unabated...

Two lamebrain wastes of flesh in Our legislature are proposing bills targeted at animals. (Not at themselves, though there might be room in a few sentences for a "dumb bitches" reference that will alienate some of My fairer-sex readers.) One bill proposes that pit bulls be registered--for a cost, of course. The other proposes eliminating cockfighting, a traditional sport in Puerto Rico that moves more money than even the lottery.

First, dogs. The idea of registering pit bulls is based on the idea that pit bulls are ravenous beasts whose sole purpose is to rip flesh from people and go mad at the taste of blood. Pit bulls have developed this reputation because people--almost exclusively young men--have taken this strong, fiercely protective species and turned it into a fighting beast. Not to help the dog, but to use the animal as a weapon or money-maker in dogfights. Just ask Michael Vick.

The problem with this mega-stupid idea is that forcing people to register one species of dog will require not only a bureaucratic mess for registration, but also a compliance nightmare. The problem is not the dog: it's the person who owns and abuses the dog. And in a country where hundreds of thousands of dogs roam freely on Our streets, creating a series of problems We are woefully incapable of dealing with properly, the expected response to having to register and pay for a pit bull will be to simply release the animals out onto the streets. Or have Our woefully overburdened police force become an extended canine corps (of enforcement.)

This idea lacks any semblance of intelligence and serves more as a press release campaign than as a solution. It is simply another attempt by elected thieves to reach into Our wallets and rip out another few 20s in order to preserve their pashah lifestyle. Like fungus in a crack, these Fools keep stretching deeper into the bedrock of society and will ultimately weaken it to collapse. Not too far in the future, either.

But some prefer a faster-than-fungus approach to shake Our society. Another legislator, a woman like the first (thus the chance for a comment about dum--okay, forget it...), has suggested eliminating cockfighting in Puerto Rico. Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with the "sport," cockfighting pits two roosters who claw and peck at each other until one cannot continue. The loser usually ends up on the menu of either the cockfighting arena's cafeteria/restaurant or the owner's neighbors.

My paternal grandfather raised roosters for cockfighting for over 50 years. Many men in Puerto Rico have direct or close experience with the "sport." And as noted above, because gambling on cock fights is legal here, the amount of money that changes hands in open and private bets exceeds that of lottery sales. To try to ban it would be akin to pushing gun control in Montana: you'll get nowhere and only piss people off something fierce.

Unlike other mega-stupid ideas, I happen to agree in principle with this one. Cockfighting is a hideous "sport," one whose sole purpose is to maim or kill an animal. To think that the animal is "noble" or "courageous" for being bloodied is to mistake instinct for integrity. The argument that cockfighting allows the poor farmer to rub elbows with the rich doctor on equal terms is fatuous at best and venomously condescending at worst. But cockfighting in Puerto Rico has been "the people's sport," if by "people" you mean "men" and by "sport" you mean "bloodfest" since the 17th century. It greatly pre-dates the American Revolutionary War. Does this Fool really think that her bill slash used toilet paper will make a whit of progress in curtailing this spectacle?

Only if she's an idiot and by Foghorn's unseen gonads, she damn sure is.

That both of these bills come from proponents of statehood is not only expected, it's endemic. The pro-statehood party here has bought directly into the New American Dream of  "Be so pathetic, so horribly pathetic, that others just HAVE to do a makeover on your ass." Their idiotic attempts at gouging Our wallets and undermining Our society are aimed at making Us so pathetic, so horribly pathetic, that the U.S. of part of A. would have no choice but to FLING statehood at Our asses.

As a strategy, that's like a single woman slamming her face into a wall while scarfing 11,000 calories of junk food a day in order force the handsome rich guy to marry her. Pity is a poor basis for any relationship. And believe Me, the U.S. of part of A. has no pity for Puerto Rico, because pity requires at least a semblance of interest: you can't have pity for what you are sublimely indifferent to.

I could end this post with some pithy and witty putdowns using "cocks" and "bull" as the themes to riff on, but I'll decline what would be a pleasure to both of Us in favor of a simple "We continue the cock and bull story...unfortunately."

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 October 2010

The Four Opportunities Choice

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Times are tough. People all around Me say things like "The economy is brutal" and "Things are getting worse." They have a point. But they miss the point, too: within every crisis, there is opportunity. No, I'm not talking about that urban myth about the Chinese ideogram for "crisis" being the combination of two others ("problem" and "opportunity"), I'm talking about reality. It's simple: if times are tough, and they are, and they are tough for a lot of people, and they are, then solving a problem within the crisis leads to benefits for lots of people. And people pay for benefits. (Let's ignore welfare for a moment here in pursuit of the larger picture, okay?)

So where are the opportunities in this time of crisis? Glad you asked. Here's four I came up with over a cup of overly-sweet coffee: Help people 1) Save time. 2) Save money. 3) Gain health. 4) Gain knowledge.

Simple, right? Pretty damn obvious if you ask Me and I'm glad you did. But I'm pretty sure you're scratching your head wondering how to get it done, how to make these "opportunities" appear out of thin air. Well, all you need to do is A) Keep your eyes and mind open and B) Want to come up with ideas.

Most people have trouble doing (A) (too much work) and (B) (ditto), but no one ever said that Life was either fair or easy. But take that reality and understand that most people are just slogging through Life on auto-no-pilot, drones programmed by media and society, secure in their illusion that the world is unchangeable because they can't be bothered to think about it.

But an example makes this easier to understand. For the past few weeks, I've been using a bakery near My house as an external office, to help break routine and stay productive. The place serves meals to walk-in customers, take-out and has delivery to neighboring offices and homes (within walking distance.) They also serve food to the video game players that populate the literal back room from opening at 6 a.m. to closing at 11 p.m.

The bakery throws away a lot of food every day. A lot. I asked an employee how much on average and she estimated they dumped enough food every day to heartily feed 40-50 people, abut $100-$200 worth of food a day. Now apply the 4 "Help People" provisos listed above and what do you come up with? (Remember, you want the bakery to make money, as if you were the owner.)

Here's what I came up with: Offer weekly meal plans for 85% of a 5-day lunch purchase and a healthier meal plan (listed as such) for 75% of the 5-day average cost. Lunch sells for about $5, so 85% of $25 is roughly $21.00. But the healthier option comes out to about $19...and costs less to prepare, as it avoids higher-priced fare such as pork and beef in favor of chicken and fresh vegetables (the local Plaza de Mercado is just across the street.) The end results? A reduction in the amount of food prepared, a way to provide better service (deliveries can be regularly scheduled instead of "when called") and increased profits based on steadier (predictable) revenue.

Yes, the excess food can also be given to a food bank, but there is none in My town. Maybe it could be donated to some worthy group, but the problem the bakery needs to solve is not hunger, it's operational profit. The bakery employs some 26 people who are better off if the business thrives than if it gives away food. The idea for the hungry is to create a food bank that properly collects excess food from local restaurants, bakeries, cafeterias and such and systematically tracks its delivery to the needy while registering the donation for proper tax deduction.
When times are tough, the tendency is to either throw one's hands up in despair or to run around trying to solve everything and in effect, solving nothing. At the personal level, all you, I and anyone else can do is improve our own lot by helping others improve theirs. In that way, We all thrive and create a stronger engine of progress. But too many of Us bail out and many others opt for "screw you" tactics that create greater fragmentation. No, I am not advocating socialism: I am advocating the creation of value, which is the only true coin an economy can have. Create enough value--not on paper, but in concrete results--and you have augmented an economy, whether its your own or your nation's.

But you have to want to do it. You have to choose to do it. And then you have to do it.

Like that's any different from the rest of Life...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

11 October 2010

Gunning The Underground Economy

[And more Jenial Thanks to Janine-Mendes Franco and Global Voices Online for picking up My previous post on how We cannot survive with widespread corruption. As always, I am honored by appearing on that site.]

Several months before the sales tax passed, I predicted it would help perfect the underground economy. The visible proof of that development is the increased number, size, scope and range of flea markets that popped up all over the Island.

Now here's another prediction: gun shops are going to start seeing a decline in sales. So far, since 2008, many gun shop owners have reported increases in sales, despite serious rises in the prices of bullets and guns. As the economic crisis hits harder and crime stats are seen to be rising, one would expect gun sales to increase...and they have. But guns are pricey items, subject not only to inflation, but to bureaucracy. Local Fools--paid as legislators but essentially dumb beasts running rampant--are seeking to add even more restrictions to guns and gun ownership. Idiots, they are.

You can do the math: increased interest/need/want for guns coupled with increased cost/hassle/red tape equals...underground economy solution.

At a flea market I've visited several times since late 2008, I have seen three stalls or vans selling air guns or pistol replicas, the kind that shoot BBs, pellets or rubber shot. The most interesting thing about these stalls is that they have invariably had a crowd in the back, away from the merchandise, buying boxes of items...in cash. If they were buying air guns or replicas, they would buy where I stand. But they aren't, so they don't.

Want to guess what type of stolen property from house break-ins has risen close to 60% in the past year? Guns. Gun shop owners are telling me that they used to get 1-2 calls a week about stolen weapons: what to do, what they could replace them with, how to secure them better for the future. Now many of these businessmen are telling me they are getting 1 or 2 calls a day about thefts.

What does this mean for Us? What impact will increased gun ownership have, seeing as how much of it is illegal? Two thoughts come to mind:

1) Our society will get more dangerous. Guns reduce violence only when the ownership is one-sided and the guns are used openly. Think "police state," "prison camp" or "police shooting innocent person." When guns are deemed "secret weapons" and the chance of using them is bolstered by the "surprise factor," guns help turn critical situations into shootings. We'll see proof of this prediction in the coming months in news reports.

2) The underground economy will hollow itself out. As long as the underground economy is seen and used as a way to make extra money, ease daily life and avoid taxes, it gets stronger. When guns and gun sales enter in the equation, the underground economy ceases to be a leveler and becomes a battlefield. Literally. For each gun sold, the leveling effect tilts from cooperative to combative. Fewer people will want to get involved and what was once a burgeoning supportive market becomes, once again, a fringe activity. The center, as the phrase goes, cannot hold.

Taken to its extreme, what will replace the underground economy? Here's a hint: Think "Monopoly."

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 October 2010

Corruption Leaders/Followers

Happy Birthday, Sis! 

[More Jenial Thanks to Janine-Mendes Franco and Global Voices Online for posting My take on the FBI-led police corruption case.]

What does Us more damage: widespread corruption or stupid leaders? One could argue that stupid leaders "lead" to widespread corruption, or even that widespread corruption "leads" to stupid leaders. Hold those thoughts. For now, Let's just pick one or the other, as if the choice We made were totally separate. Widespread corruption or stupid leaders?

My vote is that widespread corruption does more damage than stupid leaders. Cynically, We've always had stupid leaders, but We've only had widespread political corruption since the Stupid (corrupt)Administration of the 1990s (which adds credence to the "they're both connected" theory noted above. Hold that thought.) We probably had widespread political corruption before then (depends on your definition of "widespread"), but We had notable cases of rampant corruption in the police force since the 1970s, so maybe We should take that into account.

It seems non-coincidental that Puerto Rico's socioeconomic decline is almost precisely matched to the 1968-1972 period, where a lamebrain (faux)governor packed the government with thousands more employees for three reasons: (1) to buy votes; (2) to make up for not having a damn clue about actually helping the Island prosper and (3) to buy votes. The expansion of government may have started a trend towards less accountability, which means greater chances for corruption, as evidenced by the police corruption cases of the early 1970s where the elite watchmen were nailed. When no one watches the watchmen, they plunge into corruption. In this case, stupid leaders launch the chance for widespread corruption.

But who was watching the leaders watching the watchmen? We were...not. The 1970s marked a fundamental change in local politics and the way Our democracy staggered forward. What was once a minority subject to a clear majority became the perceived--and thus actual--majority. In basic terms, the small government became the big government, and where once it was the government of the few for the many, it became the government run by many, led by few...ultimately for the few.

After 1968, the government quickly became the single largest employer on the Island. Day after day, the increase in jobs and pseudo-services fed the increasing tendency we have as boricuas to "wait for the government to do something," because the government was not only larger, it was closer, in the sense that more of Us were either in it or directly related to it by blood or friendship or patronage.

And where blood and friendship couldn't swing a service or fill a need, there was always patronage.

I said this before and it bears repeating: corruption is a matter of choice and if the perceived consequences are reduced, the chance for corruption increases. If you work at the Permits Office and you see one of your co-workers accept a bribe and get away with it, you might turn away in disgust. But if you see multiple instances of corruption with no penalties, you will reach a point where you think "Maybe I can do this, too" and then you make your ultimate choice. Human nature being what it is, risk-averse, when the risks are perceived to be acceptable, either because "no one is watching" or "everyone is doing it," then taking the plunge becomes much easier.

Now imagine what happens in a society where by vice of a huge government linking practically everyone on the Island, providing thousands of potential exchanges a day in a historically-stagnant economy, blindly electing the same double-handful of idiots to leverage their influence and hopefully benefit directly from it, saddled by an inferiority complex that greatly prefers a handout (or profitable shortcut, legal or not) to honest earning and increasingly bombarded by dozens of examples of widespread corruption a month?

You get Us.

We're a society that doesn't grow because We expect others to make Us grow. We're a society that doesn't make Our own changes because We expect others to make Us change against Our non-existent will. And thus We're a society where widespread corruption forces Us to live with stupid leaders. For no matter how stupid--or smart--a leader can be, widespread corruption cannot happen unless We as a society allow it. We can and have and will survive stupid leaders; We can and have but will not survive as a society with widespread corruption.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 October 2010

Corruption Is The Norm

[Jenial Thanks to Janine Mendes-Franco, of Global Voices Online, for picking up My post on "fast food stamps."]

Just days after the current mayor of Vega Baja, on the northwest coast of My Island, was slapped with charges of corruption comes the news that the largest FBI corrupt policemen investigation is going down in Puerto Rico. At present, nearly 90 police officers have been arrested along with some 45 others for, amongst other crimes, drug dealing, providing protection to drug deals and falsifying cases.

Now I'm pretty sure that this "biggest cop corruption case in FBI history" is more a technicality than a reality, given the many cop corruption cases in places like New York, Detroit, Los Angeles and particularly New Orleans. The technicality comes from the fact that the FBI was not the lead agency in those investigations, which begs the question: Why was the FBI the lead agency in this one? Why did some 700 FBI agents take part in this case? 

There's only one answer: We couldn't tackle the case Ourselves.

Yeah, go ahead you jingoistic knuckleheads, bitch about it. And you gringos can nod your fatuous heads. You're both wrong. The reason We couldn't handle the case is not because the FBI is a federal agency intent on crushing Us nor was it because We are dumb and the FBI/Americans are smart: It's because corruption has become the norm in Puerto Rico and no local agency could ever hope to make headway against it.

You'll get proof of this when the FBI starts releasing its case information and makes it clear that they had to be dragged into it. Why? Two very powerful reasons: (1) The FBI prefers to focus on "big picture" investigations involving domestic crimes, not local "dipsticks dipping their sticks" imbroglios; and (2) this type of investigation makes it harder for the FBI--often seen as an intruder/invader/abuser of local police forces--to work with local law enforcement. Let's face it: to the FBI, Puerto Rico isn't worth aggravating their potential stances vis á vis the 50 States...unless there was no one else available to do the job.

And Let's be clear on this: this is in no way the FBI's fault. It is clearly, unequivocally and totally Ours. For years We have been tolerating a level of corruption that guts Our society like stomach cancer rots the gut. We ay bendito the whole damn mess away from Our minds in order to continue glued to Our big-screen TVs, distracted by Our equally-corrupt politicians and acting the whole time like the problem is someone else's to fix.

Well this time, someone else had to fix it. We've lost the ability to police Ourselves, pun fucking intended. We're no longer a healthy society, capable of fighting off infection: We're sick, diseased and without outside help, We'd simply get worse. How's that for "Yo soy boricua" pride?

The problem with corruption in Our police force was plainly evident years ago as the "elite squad" cases and the Cerro Maravilla incident of the 1970s proved. The problem with corrupt government officials--of both parties, you blithering idiots who see only "one party" corruption--has been equally evident since decades ago, and has also been "graced" by the presence of the FBI in the past few years.

To be clear, this is not a case of "federal" vs. "local," or "American" vs. "boricua" or much less "oppressor" vs. "oppressed": it is a case of an "outside enforcer" doing what the "on-site enfeebled" can no longer do. It is a case of the proactive actor doing what the pathetic patient can't do... or won't.

While We rearrange things to keep kids from learning and super-size the happiness levels of Our triple-handful of freeloaders, Let's notice--if only in passing--that We are losing Our society's ability to act in an adult, mature and self-responsible way, to the point where We don't give a cop's corrupt ass that it takes outsiders to do it.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Update: 8 Oct 2010: Quoted here from NPR News, but reported in other sources: "The civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department is pursuing its own investigation into an alleged pattern of abuses including use of excessive force, unconstitutional searches and discriminatory policing. That investigation could lead to the federal government taking a role in reforming Puerto Rico's police."]

[Update: 2 Nov 2010: From The Criminal Rap Sheet.net, a listing of Eight Terrible Police Scandals. Check out one Col. Alejo Maldonado, a bottom-feeding, verminous scumbag "cop" who ran rampant through Us in the 1970s. And note how 60 of "Our finest" got bagged for drug charges in 2001-2002.]

04 October 2010

Fast Food (Indig)Nation

Poor people tend to be fatter than the middle class or upper class. It's a well-studied phenomena; probably should be called "The Mississippi Effect." The reasons are fairly easy to enumerate: less access to lower-priced healthy options, an over-reliance on foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value...and frequent fast food consumption.

For poor people, their options for buying groceries are limited to smaller stores or convenience marts where food prices are often substantially higher. And even when they can buy groceries at large supermarkets, the limited income reduces their options. As I read in a recent article, a woman said "Yes, I know milk is better for my kids, but a gallon costs $3 and I can get 3 gallons of soft drink for the same price. You do the math."

Poverty, in its absolute or relative form, forces a person to seek comfort in aspects of survival, whether the expression is escape, sex or food. Fast food, high in fat, salt and calories, is made to appeal to the baser side of a person's appetite. It's success is based on being so tasty you want it again, no matter that its nutritional components can destabilize your body towards obesity.

Now take poverty and food program support to help those in poverty and watch as The Fools here on My Island make a blatantly crass appeal for votes by opening up the "food stamp" program to buying fast food. Uh-huh, your government dollars are now going to McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell and further points south of healthy eating. This at a time when the incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both strongly linked to diet and nutrition, are on the rise in Puerto Rico.

Okay, maybe the Fools are trying to kill poor people. Wouldn't be the first time. Or maybe in their nano-sized peabrains they believe that by allowing federal funds to be spent in fast food nation they will (a) make poor people happier, (b) get them to eat better or (c) stimulate the economy. All three are bogus, but the Fools are synonymous with bogus.

The bottom line is clear: a program aimed at supplementing poor nutrition to preserve health is now a bandwagon politicians and freeloaders can use to super-size their chow. Puerto Rico has got to be the most bass-ackwards nation on Earth, canceling chess in schools because it's too passive while flinging federal funds around to promote fast food excesses.

Hopefully that waist-expanding largesse will be struck down, just as the chess idiocy was overturned. But if it isn't, if Our poor are going to line up more often to order combos with nonchalant agrándalo glee, then I hope We make it the last of the mega-stupid ideas.

Yeah, like that's going to happen.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Update: 7 Oct 2010: New York seeks to ban the use of food stamps to purchase of sugar-sweetened drinks. Make up your own joke at Our expense.]

01 October 2010

10% Shooters

I sat down with a group of 12-14 year olds, most of them boys. We were talking about sports, mainly basketball. At one point, one of them mentioned that Kobe Bryant was an amazing shooter, a guy who never missed any shot he took. I pointed out that Kobe was great, but that his shooting percentage was just slightly above average.

Blank looks. Only two boys nodded, My nephews, with whom I've discussed this point before. The other kids were puzzled. I explained that Kobe shoots a little under 50% (actually, about 45%), which given his position and the defenses he faces, is pretty good.

More blank looks. I explained that Kobe made about half of his shots. One boy, a little miffed, said: "But he scores like 30 points a game!" I nodded. "How many shots does he take?" The boy said "About 50." That's when the argument began.

You see, the kids had no true idea of what 50% meant in the context of "real" numbers. They couldn't equate "50%" to a basketball game, to a player taking a number of shots and making half of them and thus estimating his/her scoring average. They had Kobe taking anywhere from 10 to 50 shots a game, but none could state with a reasonable degree of certainty that Kobe takes about 20-21 shots a game to average his close to 30 points a game (free throws percentage not factored in).

Here's the problem: All of these were kids who had high or very high grades in school, all of them in grades 6 to 8. Despite this, they could not apply what they had learned to a context that they were very familiar with. They couldn't wrap their minds around the notion that "50%" is not some abstract mathematical test concept, but an actual component for real-life observation and analysis. In short, they couldn't use their knowledge because they didn't think it was useful.

I'm not going to advocate more "real-life math verbal problems" or any crap like that; that's beside the point. The point is that Our children are being force-fed a smelly metric ton of "facts" without the benefit of contextual application (not just "what," but "how") and without being taught any method whatsoever to create connections between those facts. As one boy said when he didn't understand what I was saying, "The (shooting) percentage doesn't matter," and it was only when the other kids practically ganged up on him that he finally understood that, yes, a 50% scorer is worth more than a 10% shooter. 

In Our rush to have Our kids "score high" on tests, We have developed kids who score low on pretty much everything else beyond those tests. Kids who have the fascinating abilities needed to understand and master complex games and a wider range of scenarios than any other generation in Our history are treated daily in Our wretched educational system like coin-operated fact machines and kicked when the "product" is either examined too closely ("No questions!"), changed in some way (that's what "learning" is, a bad thing in this system) or worse, is the wrong product (makes the whole system look bad, you know.)

The debate moved from Kobe's shooting percentage to who's the better player, him or Lebron James (I voted for Kevin Durant) and then to less weighty matters. The kids scattered and I know I'll see most if not all of them again and again in the coming years. But aside from My nephews, and My son, I doubt any of them will learn to make connections between facts, to seek links where none are laid out clearly, to consistently think and relate what they know and learn to what's going on around them, in essence, to learn to learn every day. Too many of those kids will turn into semi-comatose drones, unthinking consumers, puppets in the hands of loudmouths and servants to energetic idiots. Like their teachers. Like their parents. Ten percent shooters in a world where 50% is considered good.

The Jenius Has Spoken.