30 June 2011

Justice (Un)Served

A man is arrested for having 218 marihuana plants and assault weapons in his house.

Another man drives drunk, causes an accident that results in injuries and flees the scene.

Under a fair and impartial justice system, the laws applying to each case would be applied and a law-constrained result would emerge. For example, the drug dealer--218 plants and assault weapons are not the attributes of a private consumer--would get jail time. And the drunk driver would face a fine, some jail time and the loss of his driver's license.

But you know--you really do--that the two incidents are going to end in something other than punishment. And you are right.

Fresh off the front pages is the report that local basketball hero José "Piculín" Ortíz, the first Puerto Rican-born NBA player and center of multiple national teams, was arrested with a forest of weed and weapons. Cutting to the chase: the prosecutor is aiming to have the ex-basketball star placed in rehab. Not jail: rehab.

And from inner pages, Judge Roberto García avoids getting hammered--hee hee--by another judge because of a technicality: a prosecutor didn't file charges within the mandated 60-day period, so the judge walks. Or drives. Whatever.

Now with in the case of the former basketball star--who should wear 218 on his jersey during pick-up games at rehab--the law is clearly being ignored. (That the "war on drugs" is useless is a separate issue: We're talking about the law as it is now.) Obviously because Piculín is famous enough for 218 whacky-tobacky plants and assault weapons to be ignored as evidence. It's as if the light of fame blinds Justice. Twice.

On the other hand, you really can't blame impaired Judge(ment) "Go-Go" García for a prosecutor's incompetence, can you? Except...the impaired judge refused a breath test on the night of the incident, had a beer can in the car, was red-eyed and smelled of alcohol when he spoke with the police who stopped him after the accident. Now all of that, even from policemen, could be construed as hearsay. If the judge was innocent of causing the accident, why did he flee the scene? If the judge was innocent of driving while under the influence, why did he refuse a breath test? If the judge was innocent and interested in Justice, why didn't he press for a speedy trial--as he knows he has the right to--especially when you take into the account that he was suspended immediately from his bench because of the incident?

No, impaired judge(ment) Go-Go García is not innocent: he caused an accident, injured a woman, fled the scene and refused to cooperate with authorities to seek Justice. He is now on the "clean" side of the ledger through a technicality, one that may have been caused by his intimate knowledge and network within the justice sewer.

On an island where the largest daily paper quotes The Onion News Network as a reliable source of information, anything can happen. Ex-basketball stars can be caught red-handed with ganja growing wild in their armory-like houses and judges crash into citizens with a Yaris they might outweigh by 200 pounds and avoid prosecution. La-dee-dah.

In My world, the judge would have to play basketball 8 hours a day for 6 months...against cons he jailed, and Piculín would have to stuff his 82-inch frame into a Yaris for a month of delivering hot meals to the homeless. Not that it would fix the Justice sewer, but it would amuse Me more than what's going right now.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Update: 4 July 2011: "The challenges poor people encounter while just trying to survive are so alien to our political elites that they can't even begin to understand how it effects people. At the very top, there are people who write rules just like the ones that affected Ms. (Sadie) Barker. Rules they will never ever have to live under. Her landlord is a multimillionaire slumlord with properties all over New York, but he himself lives in a comfy mansion in Great Neck, Long Island. The politicians who wrote the rules will probably never see the inside of her building, ever. It is almost impossible to fight back against the crushing weight of all the forces arrayed against the middle class and those seeking to be middle class. But sometimes, just sometimes, we the people can fight back. And win."

From Daily Kos, an example that committed lawyers and citizens can make a difference. As for the lawyers that simply want to nestle within the system, Shakespeare had a solution I fully support. Here's the essence: exposing the cockroaches is what they fear most. If We work to expose them and their activities--as citizens, media, lawyers, business owners and more--We will make a difference. Guaranteed. ]

28 June 2011

The Fiscal Experiment: Al Jazeera Swings And Misses

The typical reaction of My Brethren upon hearing that Al Jazeera had done a brief news report on Puerto Rico is: "Al Jazeera? What the hell is that? Terrorists?"
My Brethren know I'm right.
So in the vomit aftertaste of Obama's "Wham, bam, that's all you got folks?" sprint past San Juan, We get a look through Middle Eastern eyes (a key point, people) exposing what the U.S. of part of A. is really about.
And Puerto Rico? It's merely the backdrop for the ongoing exposé
Don't make the mistake of thinking that "The Fiscal Experiment" is focused primarily or even mainly on Puerto Rico. It is not. Even in the sense of "blaming gringos for Our problems," the piece makes its most powerful points, not against U.S. of part of A. imperialistic practices, but against Republican conservative ideologies and their underlying push to violence. 
Now why would an Arab news service, renowned for taking "objective" stands, be doing this? Because they see clearly what We ignore: that the ideology battle is the key to future power. In essence, whoever frames the debate best, wins.
If you haven't seen "The Fiscal Experiment," give yourself 25 minutes to do so. You'll see students protesting at the University of Puerto Rico and police forces manhandling them. You'll see government workers protesting or hurt by job loss and the government being portrayed as manhandling them. You'll hear only one government official being interviewed--the feckless Kenneth "What? I'm Wanted By The F.B.I.!" McClintock--and being asked point blank how the (non)administration he serves is manhandling the poor by cutting services and support to them.
You'll see drug addicts being tended to on the streets. (Disclosure: Mrs. Jenius has participated numerous times with Iniciativa Comunitaria in what the reporter from Al Jazeera called "Search and Rescue" missions in the streets of San Juan. Search. And Rescue.) And you'll hear, several times and from the very beginning of the piece, how much "the Republican ideology" is to blame for Puerto Rico's economic, political and social ills.
Asides: Reporter Zeina Awad did toss into her questions to "Future F.B.I. Informant" McClintock the notion that maybe by reducing corruption, We'd have more money for social services. Possibly näive, but certainly worth discussing at length, not as a pinprick moment. And calling Puerto Rico's independence movement "small but strong" is like calling the dodo "alive and smart."
Time and again, Awad and Al Jazeera make it clear that Puerto Rico under (non)governor Luis "The Larva" Fortuño is but a reflection of U.S. of part of A. policies, a mad doctors' laboratory specimen. The Larva is defined clearly, described as a conservative Republican, "a rising star" in the party because of his policies, a "member of the powerful National committee" and most ludicrously, called (on the Al Jazeera "Faultlines" webpage) a "hawkish fiscal conservative," making it very clear--without a doubt-- that the target is not The Larva and his incompetence, because he is portrayed as a puppet of larger Republican interests.
And "hawkish" comes from the Vietnam Era, describing an ideology that favored force over negotiation in the realm of diplomacy and realpolitik, a stance that saw war as a legitimate and preferred method for solving certain issues. The ludicrousness of using this term is that it, along with the reporting, undermines any pretense Al Jazeera and Awad may have that this piece is about Puerto Rico. It's an attempt to blunt the rising wave of Republican "might makes right" propaganda, of Republican governors and senators and Fox News and "pundits" framing issues and forcing the discussion to "either/or" actions, seeking always to centralize power away from democracy and towards a smaller band of despots.
Why does Al Jazeera give a fig about this? Because the "might makes right" ideology is the predominant political reality of the Middle East, and if the U.S. of part of A. embraces it fully, the region knows it will become the target of the "might" making their part of the world "right." The rise of fascism--and that is what We are seeing--predicates grabbing more power, and what other region in the world has so much to offer in a power grab?
* Europe? Allies and major clients of the U.S. of part of A.
* South America? Aside from land, what else is there to grab?
* Asia? An ally and two huge opponents with nuclear weapons make this suicidal.
* Africa? Perfect for a land grab and plenty of resources, but what is the "jewel" in this region. The Middle East (covering largely Northern Africa and Southwest Asia), because it has huge amounts of oil controlled by small countries with weak armies. (Remember "Desert Storm"? The Middle East does. Very well.) And furthermore, at the very heart of this viewpoint is the certainty that the ideological clash of the 21st century is not political (communism versus democracy), but religious, Islam versus Christianity.
Now you are sitting there thinking, "What the hell, Jenius? This is just a measly news report on Puerto Rico and you just turned it into a salvo of World War III!" Here's My response: Watch other reports by Al Jazeera. I'm willing to bet My left kidney you've only seen one, if any. Notice how often issues that don't seem to relate to ideological discussion are linked to ideological stances. Note how certain points are repeated and hammered to the point of inanity...and if it makes you think of Fox News, you're getting it. The difference? Fox News focuses on the U.S of part of A. only, while Al Jazeera properly looks at the world as a whole.
Al Jazeera failed to produce a worthy report because it didn't focus on Puerto Rico on Puerto Rico's terms, choosing to focus on the Republican party through a Puerto Rico lens. Their best choice would have been to focus primarily on Our economic history and how U.S. of part of A. policies have consistently favored their interests--economic, social and political--rather than Our own, in a pattern that used Our lack of unity to crush dissent and routinely yield whatever power We had. As the framing of an ideological debate, Al Jazeera could have shown its viewers around the world that "The Fiscal Experiment" didn't begin with The Larva crawling into La Fortaleza, but with American troops wading ashore in 1898. All The Larva did was willingly participate in the acceleration of centralized power-mongering and expanding corruption, a pattern so common to the Middle East that entire books have been written to explain it to Westerners. 
We don't get it; they do. They definitely do. But they failed to get that message across, using Us as the canvas. 
Swing and a miss. Strike one.

 The Jenius Has Spoken. 

[Update: 11 July 2011: Here's Al Jazeera's take on the Republican hero Ronald "Bonzo" Reagan. Think I'm wrong about their angle of attack? Try to find a similar takedown of Bill "No Inhale-No Intercourse" Clinton...]

[Update: 12 July 2011: "I don't think anyone can contest that Glenn Beck has the ability to reach tens of millions of people and to convince them, and as Israel finds itself in an intellectual battle for its own story, as Zionism continues to be under attack, we need to understand how to make sure that our truth is heard ... and anyone who can help us with that is more than welcome," (Israeli Parliament member Einat) Wilf said." And what party/ideology does crybaby Mammon--uh, Mormon--Beck(less) represent? Uh-huh. From CNN.com.]

27 June 2011

2 Hours 9 Minutes

[A Jenial Muchas Gracias to Janine-Mendes Franco for highlighting My "C-Section Gets An F" post in Global Voices Online.]

Opened a slew of bookmarks, not noticing one of them was for local puppy trainer rag Primer Hora. Paused a second before closing it...and saw the following headlines:

--Grandfather and granddaughter killed in Río Piedras.
--Man coming home shot several times in Carolina.
--Elderly man commits suicide in Naguabo.
--Man beaten severely in Ponce.
--Young man shot and killed while driving in Las Piedras.
--Man wounded by bullet in Cidra.
--Man shot and killed in San Juan.
--Man killed in Santurce.

The last headline went up at 6:40 AM. The top one, about the grandfather and granddaughter, went up at 8:49 AM.

At least 6 violent deaths and three horrible woundings reported in 2 hours and 9 minutes.

Two hours. And nine minutes. An average of almost 3 deaths an hour and one seriously wounded in the same timespan.  A geographic span from southern city and central-eastern towns to northeastern city and capital midtown.

Yes, the media believes in "If it bleeds, it leads." The Universe knows We have a crime problem like a bowling ball-sized tumor in Our chest, fueled by a myriad of problems that The Larva We have for (non)governor and similarly-positioned feebs can't even begin to give a damn about.

It bears repeating: We had over 1,000 murders last year and We're plunging towards more than 1,100 this year. Instead of stopping the bleeding, Our witless excuse for a government would rather shove a 93-mile pipe up Our...mountains, and across the north coast. Because, really, they can't make much more money off of these killings, so the bottom line needs to be focused on someplace else.

Six deaths, one a child, and three people wounded. Two hours and nine minutes of another Monday that shouldn't be on My Island.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

23 June 2011

Really? "Puerto Rico Has A Human Rights Crisis"

That quote comes from Amnesty International, who weighed in on the subject vía its local representative, Osvaldo Burgos, as part of a recent forum. According to Burgos, police brutality and eviction/expropriation of poor communities were included as examples of these human rights abuses in Amnesty International's most recent report.

Now as with most things, there are degrees here. Police brutality and forced evictions pale beside the imperialistic throttling of living wages, as the U.S. of part of A. has shown wont to do in Haiti. That's obviously a human rights abuse of a higher--or lower--category. But since the abuse against Me will always hurt more than the abuse against someone else, Let's take a look at Puerto Rico in this context.

As defined in the U.S. Constitution, the so-called "basic" rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are bogus, for "rights" are social constructs, a tit-for-tat agreement based on fairness, and thus don't apply to "Life" (who do you appeal to for fair exchange?), "liberty" (you have to defend liberty: it isn't a given) and as for pursuing happiness, as long as you can think, who can stop you?

Moving on. The basic rights, borrowing from Ayn Rand (a cerebral kook far too influential for anyone's good, but on the "right" track here) are the right to property (you can keep what you earn or acquire legally) and the right to individuality (no "group" rights; only individuals have rights.) An example of the second could be "gay rights" or "handicapped rights": just because there is a group doesn't mean it can get--or be denied--rights that any individual has. Therefore, the "gay marriage" debate is "THEY can't marry," but "S/HE can, provided it's with the opposite sex, even though that prospective bride/groom of the same sex CAN marry" which is ludicrous. Make the example "Blacks can't marry, but a black man or a black woman can get married, provided the other person, who can also get married even if s/he is black, is black" and you see the basic idiocy of thinking groups can be denied rights that individuals already have. Based on rights, laws forbidding two human beings from getting married are wrong. (And no, animals don't have rights because they can't extend any right by fair exchange. See above. Period. End of discussion. However, they deserve to be protected from Our abuses.)

It also means "corporations" cannot have rights that belong to an individual: by definition, a corporation is a collective, a group, so treating it like an individual human being--a person--is idiocy of the highest order, or should I say, Supreme (Court) idiocy? (And if you support "corporate rights" because you say a group can be an individual, then you have to support gay marriage rights because a community, the gay community--a group--can be an individual... See? Rand was right about some things.)

Another point: rights are all-inclusive. If Person A has a right in a society, then every person is a Person A. Men can't have rights that women don't. Blacks can't have rights that Hispanics don't. Period. A right cannot exclude anyone except if that person chooses/acts to be excluded. (Convicted criminals lose rights, but gain health care, gyms, paid-for education and in Puerto Rico get to swing elections because they are allowed to vote. What bullshit.)


1) Right to property is the basic right of all. If you don't own what you produce or acquire legally, you have no other useful rights.
2) Rights belong to individuals, not groups.
3) Rights belong to everyone or they are not rights.

Okay, within this context, is Puerto Rico involved in "a human rights crisis"?

Under Point 1 above: No. We have the right to property (that We keep trying to get even more of it by going into deeper debt is the problem), We have free speech (in spite of Marcos "MouthFart" Rodríguez and his pestilent opinions), We have fairly good wage protection (especially for the too-many thousands working in Our government) and the legal system--creaky at best--works fairly well.

But what about police brutality, or mass evictions, Jenius? No one would say that the spate of police killings and beatings is a systematic problem aimed at everyone, or even at a particular group (UPR's money-grubbing attention hogs notwithstanding.) What We have seen is the lowest of "the finest" breaking out against the law and instead of enforcing it for Our protection, becoming the reason We need police in the first place. As for the evictions, squatters don't have rights. (See Point 2, above.) If I come over to your piece of land, your backyard, and decide to build a shack on it to house Mrs. Jenius and My 16 little kiddies, do I have a RIGHT to keep that land/shack? Of course not. So how is it a "right" because 50 families do it, or 75 or 175?

But are you saying things are peachy-keen, AOK, copacetic, Jenius? No.  There are abuses, but they aren't caused by somebody taking a dump on human rights:

* Welfare recipients may top 75% of Our population by November 2012.  Reasons: a bad global economy, Our elected morons threw away any viable economic planning since 1968 and We let them, local unemployment is effectively above 30%, emigration withers the middle class to nothing, Our government is in a feeding frenzy, like piranhas feeding on Our flesh and as long as We have Our bi-weekly or monthly check and a plasma TV to watch syphilitic retards mouth off, most of Us act is if We're okay. Our infrastructure is crumbling, Our society is falling apart, but why work when We can get paid to sit, spit, shit and ignore the rest?

* Government incompetence and corruption are widespread and ingrained. Now this could be considered a human rights abuse case, considering how it hinders the right to property...but it isn't, neither considered nor an abuse. Why? Because it simply exists across all levels and niches, targeting no one and everyone. It doesn't discriminate, thus making it the most democratic of Our largely-failed democratic processes. And so it remains largely unpunished, as the beneficiaries to the system fight tooth and nail to stay within it. This isn't a case of abuse of human rights: it is a case of abdication of the responsibility to protect them.

However, there is one clear human rights abuse going on in Puerto Rico, heinous and worthy of Amnesty International's flighty attention:

* Our murder rate is once again slated to exceed 1,00 deaths this year. Lives taken by force, not by a government, but by a society a government has failed miserably. Lives lost not because of self-defense, but because of greed and hatred...or have you forgotten the 18 gay or transexual persons murdered here in the last year and a half? What this means is that--according to Burgos and his Amnesty International lightweights--We have a society that tolerates, with casual indifference, the murders of hundreds, but gets all pissy when a policeman beats up a student.


The thing about rights is that when someone loses them, eventually We all do, because you don't have rights I don't have and I don't have rights you don't have. Any other stance is wrong. Our fundamental right to property is the precursor and reason for government, thus government is beholden to it and to Us...but not when We're indifferent. Our indifference fuels evils We choose to ignore, social and economic ills that are not easily labeled with neon-glare tags like "human rights abuses." Instead of focusing on vapid sparks, We should be staring deep into Our society and acting--pun intended--righteously against what We see.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 June 2011

C-Sections Get An F

Mrs. Jenius is going to be a pediatrician...ostensibly to deal better with The Jenius.


So when it comes to health issues, especially those related to children, My mild attention to them is now enhanced. (As to why it was mild, it just was: I have many interests and millions of things I don't care about.) From this report comes another confirmation of a long-standing problem in Puerto Rico: 48% of Our births are by cesarean section, the highest rate in the world.

According to the The Unnecesarean blog (great name), the ideal number (percentage) of C-Sections is 15%, a reflection of the ratio of difficult deliveries, where the operation is needed, to normal ones, where vaginal delivery is possible.  That Puerto Rico has over 3 times that percentage has been a problem for at least four decades, but especially so since the 1990s, when the "health deform" (yes, I wrote "deform"; you get the joke) basically turned treating patients into something akin to a sausage factory.

As noted in the original article--from local fish-wrapper Primera Hora--the two trends that moved C-sections into unconscionable frequency were the baseless notion that vaginal deliveries were unsafe after a C-section and the need to tend to "dozens" of births a month, forcing doctors to "cut the babies out" rather than wait for Nature to deliver. That second trend is also behind the common tendency of inducing labor, to speed it up, so that a majority of babies are born on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, between 8 AM and 5 PM. Office hours for Nature's greatest gift.

Notice that neither "trend"--no vaginal deliveries and mass production--is reasonable: the first is based on bad science and thus bad health practices and the second is based on bad politics becoming bad economies of scale, thus leading to bad health practices. In other words, this is not an inherent problem My Island has--like lacking even one reasonably intelligent politician--but a created one, by lazy doctors, stupid politicians (redundant) and ill-informed patients.

Now a system that forces doctors to choose between having a life outside of the hospital or providing quality health care is idiotic; it's what We got and doctors have to choose in their best interests. No problem there. But the blame for the "no vaginal deliveries after C-sections" claptrap falls squarely on the medical community. 

Their argument that "C-sections are safer"--usually linked with "insurance costs"--is self-interest of the worst kind: self-serving and deceitful. Mothers know that giving birth is not at all easy, but a C-section is the deliberate slicing open of a woman's body, through muscle and fascia, to remove a baby who--according to the statistics-- 2/3 of the time would have been born safely anyway. Yes, there's physical damage in a natural delivery, but ask women who have had both birth methods which one left them weaker and less capable of tending to themselves and their baby.

The human body is incredible, and what women go through to bring Life to the world is an astounding process, one men cannot duplicate. Even though Nature has pushed human childbirth to an extreme (again, ask a mother), the process is--pardon the pun--natural. Millions of women give birth every day; it doesn't diminish an iota from the wonder of it all. To think that cutting a body to get to another is a frequent "improvement" over Nature is hubris and idiocy of the highest order.  That a so-called "health reform" makes a C-section a coin flip decision is moronic, like calling "heads" on whether a heart attack patient should be treated or left untreated. 

Think about that...

Puerto Rico must also face its own blinders, the idea that "they" are the experts and "We" do what "they" say. Doctors and other professionals hate when their clients come in with incomplete information and act as if they have all of it. Neither party benefits from that. But the best professionals love it when their clients come in with some knowledge and the curiosity to learn more, by asking relevant questions and listening critically to the answers.

If your doctor hates to explain and won't listen to your concerns, change doctors. And as patients, We have to learn to take charge of Our responsibilities, to ask good questions, to confirm opinions with outside and secondary sources and to understand that if We don't do it, the system doesn't care and most professionals barely take the time to care. If We find a good one, then by all means, stick with him or her.

Motherhood is a beautiful part of Life. That too many of Our babies are coming into the world through needless slashing is criminal. Our health care system is failing Us in this very crucial aspect, and however difficult it may be to fight the system, Our future children--and their mothers--absolutely deserve that We strive for their greatest welfare, rather than settling to merely serve the system.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Update: 26 June 2011: From the Daily Mail, the idea that women choose C-sections for "image", a "too posh to push" option.]

[Update: 8 July 2011: According to local Health Department statistics, Our birth-related numbers suck when compared to U.S. of part of A. averages, which suck when compared to other industrialized nations. Some of Our lowlights:

--18% of Our births are from teenage moms; the average is closer to 8%.
--57% of the births are from single mothers; the average is closer to 24%.
--In 2007, 49% were C-section births; the average should be 15%, as noted above.
--19.4% are premature babies; other industrialized nations average less than 5%.
--12.5% are underweight babies; other industrialized nations average less than 3%.
--Our infant mortality rate is 9.1 per 1,000 births; the U.S. of part of A. averages 6.9; the top 10 industrialized nations average 1.8.

Affordable health care? Ha. We're more concerned with gossip..."up there" and "down here." We can't be bothered to vote right where it counts, and in any case, malformed and dead babies don't vote for "American Idol," "Nace una estrella" or any of the literal motherfuckers who keep trashing Our health system.]

17 June 2011

The Texan Is Right...Once

Caught My eye, this did:

During committee testimony this week in Austin, a Texas senator interrupted a Spanish speaker telling him he should "be speaking in English" during a committee hearing. Antolín Aguirre of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition was testifying against Senate Bill 9 that would help crack down on illegal immigrants in Texas. Aguirre spoke through an interpreter even though he had been in the U.S. since 1988. 

Two minutes into Antolín Aguirre’s testimony, Sen. Chris Harris, a Republican from Arlington, interrupted asking Aguirre’s interrupter, "Did I understand him correctly that he has been here since 1988?" Harris asked. "Why aren’t you speaking in English then?"

Through his interpreter, Aguirre said Spanish is his "first language and since it is his first time giving testimony he would rather do it in Spanish." 

"It is insulting to us," Sen. Harris fired back. "It is very insulting. And if he knows English, he needs to be speaking in English."

Blind squirrels and nuts... Chris Harris is right: for Aguirre to be delivering his testimony in Spanish, after living in the U.S. of part of A. for 23 years, is insulting. If Harris tried that same trick in Spain or Argentina or Mexico, he'd be shot down in a similar way and deservedly so.

Part of the immigration problem--in every country--is that the immigrants have to choose between retaining their socio-cultural heritage and blending into the new one they inhabit. It isn't easy. The two most obvious signs are clothing (think "burka") and language. To speak your host's language--and yes, I'm saying you as an immigrant are a guest--is at worst good manners and at best a broad path to growth and understanding.

For Aguirre to sit before a government body in public function and address it in any other language other than its own can only be excused if he had very little or no knowledge of that language. But 23 years' exposure to English and he can't muster up the confidence and courage to use it to express his position? That is beyond stupid. Given the topic under discussion, his use of Spanish actually undermined his argument, whereas by using English, even haltingly, would have given him and his words greater force.

Yes, a lot of people make fun of others who speak their language less-than-perfectly. I went through that with Spanish. But given the average American's moronic attitude about any other language besides English, an immigrant can take pride in knowing more than the average American, which is often as easy as being taller than a hobbit.

And taking "refuge" in "I don't learn English because I'm not American" is the uttering of total moron. If you live in another country, you don't cease to be whoever you are, so everything you learn actually makes you more "you." Why? Because you grow, rather than stagnate. It's that simple. So on a personal note, the next statehood supporter who tells Me they lived in the U.S. of part of A. for at least 10 years and speaks English like a brain-dulled toddler is going to hear Me say: "Qué inútil eres." How useless you are.

But Harris, predictably, fails to be right on the topic discussed by Aguirre:

The fiery exchange happened on Monday during a Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee hearing. Law makers were hearing testimony on the purposed Senate Bill 9 – The so-called sanctuary cities bill. The bill would allow local law enforcement officials to check a suspect’s immigration status.

Supporters of Senate Bill 9 have said it would help crack down on illegal immigrants. Opponents argue that it will do little to help border security and that it’s instead based on racism. 

Despite the blow-up The Texas Senate passed the bill Wednesday.

Harris voted for it, despite the fact that "suspect" is defined as "anyone authorities deem to be a suspect." No probable cause, no actual crime witnessed, no nothing; just an exercise in "legal authority" backed by id.  And so the march to fascism detoured ever-so-briefly for a moment of shining truth, only to be buried under a double crapload of fear and loathing.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

16 June 2011

Obama Should Have Worn a Condom

I'm just a gigolo and everywhere I go, 
People know the part I'm playin'. 
Pay for every dance, sellin' each romance, 
Ooohh what they're sayin'? 
There will come a day, when youth will pass away, 
What will they say about me? 
When the end comes I know, there was just a gigolo...
Life goes on without me.

gig·o·lo n. 1. A man who has a continuing sexual relationship with and receives financial support from a woman. 2. A man who is hired as an escort or a dancing partner for a woman.

First visit by an incumbent U.S. of part of A. President since Jack Kennedy parked his ass in La Fortaleza. President Barack Obama, five decades later, spends 4 hours on My Island, has some sort of WeinerPalin--um, cockass...er, cocktail--fundraiser and departs with over $800,000 for his future campaign. From people who can't give him anything but cash.

If the "romantic date" begins at 9:00 PM, Obama was in and out by 1:30 in the morning, cash in hand, the tryst completed. We acted like craven clingers, too dowdy to have Our own loves, so desperate to get a soupçon of thrill in Our lives that We toss cash at a guy who simply takes Our money, whispers a few semi-sweet nothings into Our ears and departs quickly in the night, before the emptiness of the moment and its subsequent shame gets to be too loathsome.

Only We don't care. We had him for four hours!! Check that: Obama had Us for four hours. For $800,000 plus.

We got taken. We were used.

He should have worn a condom.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 June 2011

Conservatives Fear and Loathe

A study funded by the US government has concluded that conservatism can be explained psychologically as a set of neuroses rooted in "fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity".  As if that was not enough to get Republican blood boiling, the report's four authors linked Hitler, Mussolini, Ronald Reagan and the rightwing talkshow host, Rush Limbaugh, arguing they all suffered from the same affliction. All of them "preached a return to an idealised past and condoned inequality".

Heh-heh. Yeah, I underlined above. Seemed reasonable.

Of course the study--backed by federal funds--pisses off Republicans, for many of them have crabby feet that this shoe fits on. But several seconds thought (or in the case of statehooders and the redundant passive independentistas, several weeks of intensive training) will give you a general (and correct) impression that conservatives think and act based on fear, opting first for rejection rather than trying to understand, learn or explore. For conservatives, the answer is always in the past, which to Me is like looking for your next meal in the toilet.

Of course I'm not a conservative...except when I want to be. Conservatives generally favor positions I think are (a) racist, (b) sexist, (c) stupid and (d) laughable, but every once in a while, Our paths do converge. For example, conservatives are very vocal about having strong families and protecting that basic institution. Goodie!  But their idea of a family has only a man and a woman as central figures, the woman as domestic servant, preferably mute, with her body under government control and the kids esconced in a propaganda machine.

I departed after "only" in My description above. For conservatives, fear is the basis of their worldview and fear dominates their (limited...very limited) thought processes. Fear's basic reaction is closed eyes, frozen mind and clenched body, defensive mechanisms that shriek "I can't cope with this!" When the shriek is organized, when the fear is magnified by soundbites and pictures so that "their" fear becomes "general" fear, then you have fascism, the rule of fearful people by fearsome-facade-hiding-fearful hysterics, who don't think. Hitler had his "feelings," the murderous moron (no Hitler, but same type) had his "gut," Reagan had "fuzzy logic" which is like calling a molehill the Taj Mahal and Limbaugh apparently follows the ruminations of his lower colon.

So, Jenius, what is the basis for the liberals' worldview? Hope. Obviously. The opposite of fear is love, but liberals don't act from love, except self-love. It would be like saying that conservatives act from hate: they don't. They might self-hate, but they don't hate because hate requires specific knowledge of someone or something. Conservatives don't care to learn or explore: they fear, and they loathe what they fear, simply the general idea of what they fear, without any idea of exactly what it is that they fear. For conservatives, the notion itself is worthy of fear, loathing and despising, regardless of truth, facts or rationality. It's how We ended up invading a country with NO ties to the New York City attacks, NO weapons of mass destruction, NO capability to hurt the U.S. of part of A., while ignoring the OBVIOUS country--Saudi Arabia--and the OBVIOUS target--Bin Laden--in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It takes fear to be that blind, that stupid and that cowardly.

Is hope any better? Well, at the risk of firing broadsides at everybody, have you heard this chestnut?: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." And good intentions--honest ones--arise from the hope that the intent will do good.

But given the choice, as I am every day, I'd rather hope than fear, think than ignore, see than be blind and if I lead someone to Hell, then We'll get out together. Last I checked, conservatives want others to go to Hell while they manage the joint. Well (to quote Reagan)...to Hell with that.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Update: 18 August 2011: A follow-up study by David Campbell and Robert Putnam on Republicans/Tea Party members comes to some conclusions. Amongst them: They’re (predominantly) white and have a low regard for immigrants and blacks. Racism, anyone? Why mention this? Because Tea Party members are visibly, and demonstrably, the most conservative bloc in U.S. of part of A. politics. And their profile is clearly one of "fear and aggression, dogmatism (especially of the religious kind) and the intolerance of ambiguity."]

[Update: 26 January 2012Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice. Of course it is. From LiveScience.]

09 June 2011

Willpower Against Poverty: Second Take

[Jenial Thanks once again to Global Voices Online for selecting My "Willpower Against Poverty" post. As you can see, I'm addressing that same topic in this post.]

The same day I wrote "Willpower Against Poverty," a quick research for further information led Me to this article in The New Republic, titled "Why Can't Poor People Escape Poverty?" The publication has decidedly liberal leanings, but the article focuses on extensive research relating willpower to poverty. Here are excerpts summarizing key findings and outlining an argument that sounds familiar. (All emphasis is Mine):

In the 1990s, social psychologists developed a theory of “depletable” self-control. The idea was that an individual’s capacity for exerting willpower was finite—that exerting willpower in one area makes us less able to exert it in other areas. Resisting temptation, the researchers found, seemed to have “produced a ‘psychic cost.’” 

...Researchers have found that exerting self-control on an initial task impaired self-control on subsequent tasks: Consumers became more susceptible to tempting products; chronic dieters overate; people were more likely to lie for monetary gain; and so on. As Baumeister told Teaching of Psychology in 2008, “After you exert self-control in any sphere at all, like resisting dessert, you have less self-control at the next task.” 

In addition, researchers have expanded the theory to cover tradeoff decisions, not just self-control decisions. That is, any decision that requires tradeoffs seems to deplete our ability to muster willpower for future decisions. Tradeoff decisions, like choosing between more money and more leisure time, require the same conflict resolution as self-control decisions (although our impulses appear to play a smaller role). In both cases, willpower can be understood as the capacity to resolve conflicts among choices as rationally as possible, and to make the best decision in light of one’s personal goals. And, in both cases, willpower seems to be a depletable resource...

Nowhere is this revelation more important than in our efforts to understand poverty. Taking this model of willpower into the real world, psychologists and economists have been exploring one particular source of stress on the mind: finances. The level at which the poor have to exert financial self-control, they have suggested, is far lower than the level at which the well-off have to do so. Purchasing decisions that the wealthy can base entirely on preference, like buying dinner, require rigorous tradeoff calculations for the poor. As Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir formulated the point in a recent talk, for the poor, “almost everything they do requires tradeoff thinking. It’s distracting, it’s depleting … and it leads to error.” The poor have to make financial tradeoff decisions, as Shafir put it, “on anything above a muffin.” 

...Many of the tradeoff decisions that the poor have to make every day are onerous and depressing: whether to pay rent or buy food; to buy medicine or winter clothes; to pay for school materials or loan money to a relative. These choices are weighty, and just thinking about them seems to exact a mental cost... If a doughnut costs twenty-five cents, (Sendhil Mullainathan and Abhijit Banerjee) wrote, then that “$0.25 will be far more costly to someone living on $2 a day than to someone living on $30 a day. In other words, the same self-control problem is more consequential for the poor.” And so, in addition to all the structural barriers that prevent even determined poor people from escaping poverty, there may be another, deeper, and considerably more disturbing barrier: Poverty may reduce free will, making it even harder for the poor to escape their circumstances

All of this suggests that we need to rethink our approaches to poverty reduction. Many of our current anti-poverty efforts focus on access to health, educational, agricultural, and financial services. Now, it seems, we need to start treating willpower as a scarce and important resource as well. 

...Third, money itself can go a long way toward altering the dynamic that leads to willpower depletion among the poor. Government transfers of money have proven successful in Mexico and Brazil, for instance. In particular, attaching conditions to these transfers—such as requiring school attendance, regular clinic visits, and savings behavior—may allow for an end-run around the kind of willpower-based poverty traps that too frequently seem to end with the poor making unwise decisions. [GTJ: Workfare, anyone?]

...Of course, to argue that stressful decisions can exhaust precious mental resources is not to suggest that the decisions of the poor can’t be attributed to human agency. Still, while free will is real, it is also subject to complications. The economist Amartya Sen, in his well-known volume Development as Freedom, notes how an individual’s “freedom of agency” is “constrained by the social, political and economic opportunities” available to them. He’s right: Fewer options do reduce freedom. But now, we may need to grapple with a new possibility: that poverty doesn’t simply reduce freedom by constraining an individual’s choices, but that it may actually alter the nature of freedom by reducing an individual’s willpower. 

The Jenius Has Quoted.

06 June 2011

Jenius Writings

You may have noticed--gauged at a 3.2% chance--that there is some major Jenius stuffs over there on the sidebar. Here, let Me run them down for you: (Yes, I wrote "stuffs.")

1) I gathered My Jenius posts selected to Global Voices Online, added some context and commentary and put that all into a PDF titled GTJ On GVO. Catchy, I know. A total of 74 posts from the pre-hiatus Jenius, a number that makes Me one of, if not the most-selected Caribbean blogger during 2005-2010. Not bad, even for a Jenius. The PDF is free and you can save yourself a trip to the sidebar by downloading it from here.

2) My book, Thirty Stories, is also tucked into the the sidebar. Unlike The Jenius, who stays in the non-fiction section of your virtual bookstore, Gil C. Schmidt wanders over to the fiction section and cranked out 30 short-shorts (totally unrelated to underwear), stories that come in under 800 words each. Yes, 30 of them. Hence the title. It's available on SmashWords, for 99 cents, but here's an offer: if you buy it, I'll toss in another of My anthologies at no cost. Or wait and get all 4 (yes, there's more coming!) for about $3.98 or so, later this year.

3) Not strictly a product of My writing, but I created 4 "daily Twitter papers." One is about the new writing environment (e-publishing, et al), another about "seeing with mind and eyes," a third tracks the use of LOL (when I think of why, you'll be notified) and the fourth takes a quick peek at what's going on/being said about My Island. They're free, too. Unless you want to buy Me a cup of (local) coffee and figure out what the LOL Zeitgeist is supposed to do...

4) Some of you might know I wrote a PDF about seeking grant monies, in Spanish. It's into its third edition (which means I've revised it) and if you want a copy--free of charge--you can download it from here. I aim to please.

5) I hinted above, so here's rundown of future Gil C. Schmidt and Jenius Writings: a second anthology of 30 short-shorts; a mystery/suspense anthology set in an Old San Juan hostelry; a science fiction anthology featuring two "gentleman adventurers" and an interesting woman and a book series set in modern-day Puerto Rico--a.k.a My Island--featuring Taíno Indians. And what is The Jenius up to? Travel writing. By the end of 2011, The Jenius is expected to complete 4 projects centered on Puerto Rico--non-fiction, of course.

6) A new Gil The Jenius Podcast is going up soon, with several more planned. I know, that's not writing, that's audio, but I'll be writing about what's on the audio so I figure I should include it on this list. Stop bugging Me.

Right now, some of you can proudly claim that The Jenius is the most accomplished, successful and popular writer you know personally. But you won't.

You don't need to tell Me: I know.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

02 June 2011

Willpower Against Poverty

One of the arguments conservatives have is that "Poverty is a choice." I'll tackle that in a minute, but first I'll preface My side of this by pointing out that conservatives often think race and sexual orientation are also choices, thus leading to their frequent expressions of racism and sexism. So yes, I'm letting you know I think they're wrong, even though there is an element of choice to poverty that isn't present in skin color or sexual orientation.

Let Me use a simple question first: Would you rather be rich or poor? Too easy, right? Strike one against conservatives.

Now let Me up the ante. Which is easier to achieve: poverty or riches? Again, obvious, right? Not really. Is it easy for the average person to be rich (in money and assets, which is what We are discussing here)? Not really. But is it easy for someone who has an abundance of wealth to be poor? Not really. I know you're going to say that people aren't likely to throw away riches and opt to be poor, but some have done it; that is true. But think about this: if you are born into wealth, did you choose it? No. If you achieved wealth through efforts, is it easier for you to be poor than for someone who has always been poor? Most likely not. So again, poverty may be a choice, but it isn't the obvious choice, i.e., it falls short of being a tool of blame.

Because that's what We're talking about: blame. Conservatives lay blame on the individual, citing "opportunity" and "education" and "perseverance" and "hard work" as available to everyone. They may be, but "opportunity" comes within the context of a situation: your talent for finding water is the same, but the results are different when you go from a forest to a desert.

Conservatives only see "forests." They think the world they live in is (a) the only one worth living in and thus (b) the only one that really matters. Can anyone get a decent education in this modern, fascist-leaning U.S. of part of A.? Yes...but with support. The statistics make this abundantly clear, as single- or no-parent homes harbor the highest percentage of dropouts. Should We blame them--the failing students--for their inability or choice to not finish? Maybe so, but shouldn't the blame lay with their parents, who are often the products of the same broken home system?

Conservatives deem arguments of this kind as "finding excuses," pointing squarely to willpower as the dominant trait to success: if you want it hard enough, you will get it. But they fail to grasp that their arguments are monotonous "finding blame" finger-pointing, based on simply trying to assign guilt rather than analysis. Their take is "Something is wrong (with you), and here's where the blame lies (with you)."

Opportunities, like talent and abilities, are not present in equal terms in all situations. The opportunity basket in My life is undoubtedly larger than that of a person living in a war-torn country or a failing state...maybe. According to conservatives, accumulating wealth is a sign of success, so what do they make of the fact that over the past 15 years, the greatest number of new millionaires arose in the former Soviet Republics, most likely the product of organized crime? Is this their best example of their "willpower for riches" argument? And if it is, why should We listen to it?

Like most lies, there is a grain of truth in the "poverty is a choice" mantra. You can choose to become wealthy, or prosperous, or comfortable, provided you have the choice in the first place. And the choice, for it to be real, has to be attainable: saying I can launch a high-tech start-up that goes to an IPO for $5 billion in 2 years is a big stretch, but achievable if I live in an industrialized economy; it's a foolish waste of time if I live in an agricultural or war-torn economy. With fewer economic growth choices--or none that you can readily grasp--poverty isn't a choice: it's a given.

It isn't a case of "Willpower for poverty," as conservatives love to blame; it's a case of "Willpower against poverty" that needs to be applied for all, not just "the marginalized." So the essence of economic growth, at the personal, community, state or national level, consists of increasing the potential choices...and making those choices visible. (To be blunt: the corruption We see around Us is not economic growth.) At the personal level, it means you learn everything you can and keep your eyes and mind open for new connections. Beyond that, it takes leaders who see that more choices for more people is an exponential growth curve, not arithmetic, and that losing control of that process is exactly what economic growth needs: "planned growth economies" end up being none of those things and leaves you at the mercy of the rapacious. Ask the people of the former Soviet Republics, the ones who chose values over opportunism and thus "chose" poverty over riches.

Hell, if it were up to conservatives, We'd still be in caves, eating raw meat because, you know, "Fire is dangerous and I didn't have it back when I was a tiny Neanderthal..."

The Jenius Has Spoken.