21 October 2014

Pick A Problem, Any Problem

Woke up a little earlier than usual and sat on the balcony. I'd made coffee and while I waited for it to cool, I took in the unfamiliar scene of My Street coming to life just past dawn.

I thought about health centers seeking federal funds and how to expand their reach to under-served communities, a task made more problematic by the lack of doctors and nurses. According to a 2013 study, We have 18% fewer doctors for every 10,000 people than We did in 2005.

I thought about the declining performance of Our public schools and how several efforts were being made to expand classroom offerings to include art, music, theater and dance. The main obstacle was, as ever, the Department of (Mis)Education, mummified in stupidity and centralized to the point of jamming its own moronic head up its own fetid cloaca.

I sipped some coffee.

A local agricultural cooperative was trying to come up with a revenue stream that could sustain small farm and ranch efforts. Their primary focus was federal funds, but the bureaucracy to qualify for proper registrations was apparently going to take another 4-8 months, extending the effort into its second year. The members, down to 17 from a high of 39, were close to letting the whole thing fade away. Like the other four cooperatives did, all of them overwhelmed by red tape measured in miles and months rather than pixels and minutes.

More coffee.

Should I blog about Our misbegotten excuse for an economy? Political claptrap? The continued collapse of what passes for journalism on My Island? The impending meltdown of Our infrastructure?

Finished the coffee. Sat for a few minutes, with other problems flitting in and out of the picture I was trying to make sense of. The minutes became longer as the list grew.

Can't solve them all, or even most of them. Not by Myself.
Ann Marie Sastry

So I picked one.

Got to work.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll sleep late.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

14 October 2014

Power(balling) Our Economy, Boricua Style

Look, it's no secret My island is deep in debt. Bankrupt, even. Forty-plus years of political pillaging stacked atop a colonial economy trying to play 3D chess with tic-tac-toe tools and a populace more focused on gossip and innuendo than gains and innovation makes for a sad portrait of heavily-despairing economic distress.

So what does the syphilitic hyena pack of an excuse for an alleged government We have (elected) do to try to clean up the fetid muck of Our economy? Powerball Us.

Yes, Powerball. A lottery. Or in Our case, another lottery that balls Us.

No, Let's be precise: another fucking lottery.

We have the traditional Puerto Rican lottery, sold mainly by elderly folks sitting on stools outside supermarkets, mall entrances, drug stores and alongside roads with major traffic. We have scratchers, with maybe two dozen variants, all of them with prizes that almost certainly don't match the printed odds. (Am I implying that the government is cheating Us? Hell yeah I am. Try to find the actual payout data on these scratch lottery games. Go ahead.)

We have the Pega 3 and Pega 4 to go with the Loto Electrónica, a Pick 6 game. These are now twice a day, so you can get your gaming fix a little more often. Yeah.

Then We have that abortion of fiscal policy known as the "IVU Loto," a lottery based on the sales tax. We already know this lamebrain excuse for a tax collection system is corrupt, so Let's move on, shall We?

Just to be thorough, I'll add the illegal numbers game known as bolita, played by many of My Brethren and the reason Pega 3 was introduced. If you count scratchers as individual games of $1-$5 each, We have 10 legal lotteries ($1, $2, $3, $4, $5, traditional, Pega 3, Pega 4, Electrónica and IVU Loto; you're welcome, staheooders...) and bolita. So in an """economic policy""" that can only be ascribed to the "cheaper by the dozen" school of useless blathering (a.k.a. economics), We now have Powerball.

Of course, to make it different from Loto Electrónica, it has to be BIGGER, BOLDER and MORE LOADED with MONEY. Our Powerball is linked to other Powerball lotteries Stateside, proving that (1) politicians in other places are also greedy bottom feeders and (2) taxes on stupidity have huge participants.

Lotteries have been accurately described as "taxes on stupidity" because they prey on people who eschew rationality and common sense in favor of being consumer drones. Or to state it briefly, folks who choose stupid over smart. The sales pitch for these games is basically "Why not you?" to which the smart response is "Because it's not bloody likely, pal." The irrational, knee-jerk absence of thought reaction is "Yeah, why not?" To which the numbers reply: "It's not bloody likely, pal."

Here's the short version, for Loto Electrónica (Pick 6, numbers from 1 to 42): 6/42 x 5/41 x 4/40 x 3/39 x 2/38 x 1/37. Let Wikihow give you the basic process while I give you the end result: 1 in 5,263,158.

You have 1 chance in 5,263,158 of winning the $2 million prize. (The Powerball format has even worse odds.) And have you noticed that the chances exceed the prize by more than 2-to-1? In casinos, that's called "the house's edge," but in state-run lotteries, it's called "even better stealing from the stupid." .

People play lotteries for "the easy win," and the ads for these games play right into that fantasy. Yes, somebody is going to win the prize--eventually--but the odds clearly say that millions of players will lose and mostly one will win. Now realistically, what group do you think you will be in: the millions who play and lose or the handful that wins?

Most people think they will be in the "lucky handful." That's stupid. And they pay for the privilege of being so stupid.

And Our government--hack cough retch--feeds ravenously off Our stupid people. We vote them in, let them run Our Island into the proverbial wretched hell of financial insolvency and We keep throwing money best used for Our growth to temporarily line their colons. (Yeah, I'm implying that they are shitting Our money away.)

Instead of seeking solutions that call for Us to take clear-eyed stock of where We are and start making the hard choices needed to get on track, We are told to bend over 'cause the Powerballing is about to begin!

To quote a funny guy from long ago: I wish I had a tank.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

07 October 2014

A Jenius Solution To The Puerto Rico Status Problem

Puerto Rico should become a province of China.

The Jenius could stop right there and let My Brethren debate that simple statement, but given the pajas mentales that pass for political debate on My Island, I'll have to provide some context.

First, Let's dismiss the long-suffered fartfest spewed by the three major gangs/herds that address Our status issue. The statehooder party's drooling solution is to bellyflop north and kneel to beg Uncle Sam to shove his Big Co...ngress into Our ass...ociated free state in exchange for nothing but an already-paid for bill of goods. Commonwealthers don't offer a solution--they claim one is already in place, the morons--and offer instead a whiny pitiful plea of "Gimme more" while offering nothing in exchange, an effort reminiscent of nothing better than a tired bulimic whore with a bored pimp. And the independence party checked out two decades ago and can only be bothered to stir their collective shit-for-brains ridiculousness every 4 years when the election gravy train spits out those so-terribly-"""hated""" U.S. of part of A. dollars that they guzzle down exactly like a dog eats its own vomit.

Done and done and done. Since none of these gangs/herds is aimed anywhere near finding a solution, the idea of Puerto Rico becoming a province of China can take a step forward and become a true topic of debate.

The salient points are:

1) The U.S. of part of A. doesn't want Us. For a recap of whys, just click the "Status" label in the word-cloud on the right, enter "status" or "statehood" in The Jenius Search box or Google "Jenius statehood". The arguments you'll find are drop-dead undeniable and spot-on correct. (Spoiler alert: Statehood for Puerto Rico will never happen. Ever. Full disclosure: I am 100% right on this.)

2) Given Point 1, We are more attractive to China. It is simply common sense, but look beyond the obvious. Despite its insular mentality (a trait shared by almost every country in history and particularly prevalent on islands...ahem), China is not adverse to extending its influence and even its borders to secure advantages. The country has long been a serious investor in Africa and a canny investor in North America, Europe and especially Asia.

Although a Caribbean foothold would have been a better deal a few years ago, when China was just beginning its booming phase, it is still an economic, political and even social coup. China would gain a new province, easily-controlled (this is realpolitik here, not fartfesting) through economic means and yet still a province with tremendous growth potential...for China's interests. As nearly every major decision in China is based on economics, power and preserving stability, adding Puerto Rico as a province largely fits the dominant decision-making scheme.

3) Puerto Rico's democracy is not threatening to China. We have democracy like riots have tear gas: as an occasional reminder that order should be preserved. If the purpose of democracy is to allow the people a truly representative voice in government, We have failed. Our shit-faced excuse for a government is like a slow-motion riot, with pillaging, plundering and sacking galore. So We need to tear gas these hyenas, over and over again, to wrench order from criminal chaos. Or, better yet (according to Our local zeitgeist), have someone do it for Us.

But what to My Eyes appears to be a fubar failure is a framework for success to Chinese eyes: a power class acting with feeble restraint upon a population too distracted, indifferent and uncaring to truly scrutinize their actions. Toss in a subservient media, lapdogs of power when not being truly venial, and you have a colony China can absorb without much trouble.

Unlike Hong Kong, which most Jenius readers know but My Brethren mostly don't, is currently having massive protests demanding more democracy, Puerto Rico would be less-inclined to massive riots so long as gossip-slander TV shows, subsidized beer and a month of paid holidays a year were still in play.

4) Economic potential and control are win-win-wins. The U.S. of part of A. has pretty much maxed out its investment here. China has enormous cash reserves and a need to spread its footprint around the world. When We petition Our colonial masters for the chance to become a Chinese province, the short version of their response will be: "No way--Well, if it's what you want--Your decision is final--Sorry to see you go."

Pro forma posturing and empty statements about "America", "political rights" "Founding Fathers." "compacts," "shared history," and "U.S. of part of A. interests in the Caribbean" will cover up not-so-secret meetings with China, essentially along the lines of "Take them away and keep the economy open." Done deal.

Uncle Sam will dick Us again pretending one thing and doing another, but in the end, China will get a platform in the New World, the U.S. of part of A. will still be able to rake in the dollars, albeit at a lower rate (but with fewer expenses and a more open--read "unrestricted"--economic environment) and We will be on the receiving end of billions upon billions of yuan/dollars.

Remember: Chinese culture opts for the long-term view. This isn't a lottery with a one-time payout: this is major investing for at least 25-30 years. And as for the control, yes the Chinese government will take control of Our economy, but so fucking what? We've never--never--had control of it and if We really cared about that, We would have done something about it already. Let's for once skip the hypocrisy and match words to actions, okay?

5) Yes, they are Communists and We are not. Big deal. China learned with Hong Kong that a hands-off approach can work, but expecting a culture change to adopt perceived retrograde control is too much to manage. With Puerto Rico, they have a colony with far fewer resources than Hong Kong (money-wise) and a built-in, "better level" safety net: moving Stateside. That means that most of the local population will be easily managed so long as economic conditions--controlled by the Communist government in a way not applicable to Hong Kong--provide at least a reasonable facsimile of opportunity.

Add to that this key point: the growing middle class in China's growing economy  is estimated to be about 310 million people, or roughly the population of the U.S. of part of A. Here's the one-word big-ass benefit you can focus on: tourism. Yeah, you got it.

China would do almost nothing detrimental to Our government, except make the Communist Party the ruling power. All Our parties would disappear, with maybe a few years of independentista resurgence. But like a bubble, it will pop on its own and leave only an oily slick behind. New parties would emerge, centered on a diversity of interests, a process that China would encourage as it uses Our natural lack of affinity with each other to stay divided. And within a decade, when the local economy is booming, the population drops to about 2.5 million (yes, many people will leave, but they're leaving anyway) and the China Province of the Caribbean experiment proves successful,  the """political""" debate on this point will practically define "moot."

Robert Heinlein once wrote in a novel that Hong Kong and Puerto Rico would form part of a 52-state U.S. of part of A. I nodded at Hong Kong and giggled at Puerto Rico. The best way to make something happen for yourself, when you can't make it happen by yourself, is to pit people's ambitions on you against each other. In short, a bidding war. In Our case, the current owner of My Island will bid only enough to make it seem like it wants the property, but is really only driving up the price. As for the winning bidder, all We have to do is keep reminding China that the U.S. of part of A. took over 50 years and two World Wars to turn Us into the paper tiger of Latin America. If We bet then they can't do better in 30 years, do you think they'll play to lose?

I don't.

I know the current puppet masters here and there play to win only for themselves. But as a province of China, "their" win is really and truly "Our" win. And We haven't been able to say that about Our current colonial shafting in well over 30 years...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Update: 23 Oct 2014: Reinforcing the economic argument, China has become the world's #1 economy in production, Look at the list and marvel at how Indonesia has moved up to #9, replacing Great Britain.]

03 October 2014

Observations On 3 Men I See Almost Every Day

There are three men I see almost every day. One of them, the one I encounter most often, spends 9-14 hours a day at the light near McDonald's, asking for money. He is invariably polite, fairly well-dressed in skateboarder faux-chic and offers quick advice, such as "Drive calmly" and "See the good around you." He is an admitted drug addict, looks the part, and I suspect he's using again.

The second sits on steps outside a couple of local stores night after night and aggressively asks for a quarter or half a dollar. He acts churlish if you give him a soft answer. There are no needle tracks on his arms, he seems well-fed and healthy, his eyes and skin are clear. If prompted to speak, he will quickly shift from a hard tone to a wheedling nasal whine, the proto-bully quickly morphing into victim mode. He once tried to block My path to re-ask for a dollar. I was carrying several small bags after leaving the drug store and maybe based on that, he made a move at Me. I dropped the bags and took a step forward. His eyes locked with Mine and he took off, nearly getting creamed by a passing car. He doesn't talk to Me anymore.

The third appears at the light where Our local two large supermarkets intersect with a hardware store. He is very quiet, rarely speaking. Tall, he looks like a junior college shooting guard. He wears a cap and fairly fashionable sneakers. He makes eye contact with about half the people in cars, but never reacts when he gets ignored or turned down. He'll spend 2-3 hours a day at that, sometimes skipping a day, but usually not more than 2 in a row.

I'm sure the first one, call him Juan, is essentially homeless. However, he bathes twice a day, using a friend's house for that. The second guy, call him Edward, is not homeless, but he pretends to be. He has keys in his pocket and I once saw him use one of them to enter a local apartment building. The third guy, call him Luis, is not homeless. He lives across from the local gun range, the one that punctuates My days with distant pop-pop-pop or rattatatatat sounds from morning to night.

Are they lazy? Not really. They seem to work hard for their money, to almost-quote a disco goddess. Juan sometimes sells produce at "his" light, or hands out flyers, scrupulously limiting the handouts to one per person. Edward acts like work is punishment. Luis seems indifferent to work or anything other than his own thoughts.

Are they addicts? Juan was and probably has fallen back into that lifestyle. (Yes, it is a lifestyle, based on choice. Not a good one, but a choice nonetheless.) Edward and Luis don't fit the profile, at least physically. I'd say the odds are against either one being addicted to illegal drugs.

Are they useless? Most of the arguments against helping the homeless or those begging at large are based on (a) they deserve their situation, (b) they could get out of it if they wanted to and (c) they are simply parasites seeking more to freeload on. All three arguments are wrong, as most blanket statements tend to be.

No one "deserves" anything: it is either earned or imposed. Does a person "deserve" cancer, even if they smoke 2 packs a day? Actions and decisions have consequences, and many of them are accidental. Yes, you are more likely to end up homeless if you are an addict, but did the person "deserve" to be an addict?

The problem with "deserve" is that it implies a direct causal relationship where none might exist. Most people who end up homeless do so from events far beyond their control, so no, they didn't generally "deserve' it.

Unless they've been out there, living on the streets, a person will have no idea how hard it is to get out of that situation. When survival becomes the primary daily activity, how and where to get food, water, shelter and comfort (if possible), notions of "upward progress" are not options. Even if you wanted to climb out of that abyss and live a "normal" life, you would find it hard to take care of yourself, search for a job, rent an apartment or do any of the myriad things a person takes for granted when survival is not an immediate concern.

As for parasites, there is a large degree of that in folks who panhandle and beg. But job and work options are often denied to people who most need it because they look slovenly (having no place for shelter and to bathe does have its consequences),.have no permanent address or valid I.D. and have difficulty adhering to a schedule since, you know, surviving on the streets is not exactly subject to workshift patterns.

Does this excuse someone like Edward? Hell no. He's a punk with the chutzpah to con money out of people rather than making a living. I don't know about Luis, but I know Juan will work if you ask him to. I've seen it several times and he delivers to the best of his ability every time. But he won't accept being treated like a bum. He was selling newspapers for two weeks and the agent tried to keep the gas money Juan earned  (about $22 all told) because, of course, Juan doesn't own a car. So Juan quit.

If you react like Juan should have kept his trap shut and thus keep his menial job, you are a blithering idiot. Would you have taken that "deal"? Of course not. You won't let someone brazenly steal your money like that. And if you say "Yes, I would have," you are both a blithering idiot and a liar.

Our problem with the homeless, the panhandlers and the beggars is not them: it's Us. We act like their situation is a personal failing when in fact, it is Our collective failure as a society. We have failed to provide enough opportunities, enough support, for everyone to find their path to stability.

Can We "save" everyone? Hell no. Some people are self-destructive and there's nothing We can do to stop someone who simply insists on wrecking their life with alcohol (by far the most common addiction), drugs, violence, video games or any other of the thousands of potential obsessions humans can focus on.

But We can help more of Us by developing the kind of society that fosters self-growth, self-motivation and rewards honest effort fairly. Yes, I know I'm asking for My Island to change almost exponentially, but asking for less is part of the problem: We ask for less because We really don't think We deserve more.

That sucks.

As for what I'll do with the three guys I've mentioned: I'll still give Juan rides to and from his friend's house when the opportunity arises and maybe buy him a burger on the days he's selling produce; I'll wat to see of Edward is anything but a punk, and I'll watch Luis a couple of times to see what his deal is.

Can I help more than I am doing now? Certainly. Do I want to? Depends on what's needed and how much effort I have to make to pitch in and lend a hand. No one can truly help another if that help exceeds the capacity for helping. In other words, if it doesn't cost Me much, I'll make the effort.

It won't be enough, I know, but at least it's honest.

The Jenius Has Spoken.