Friday, May 22, 2015

1489 Small Surprises and Little Treats

It doesn’t take much to amuse and delight us these days.  That may be because so much is wrong with so much that shouldn’t be, we elevate minor relief to the status of cure.

Here’s one example of a “little treat.”  There’s no ad on a webpage that says “click to skip this ad.” It’s like getting away with something.

Or you find a $20 bill on the street.  You look but can’t see someone nearby who might have dropped it.  Pennies from heaven.

Here’s an example of a small surprise:  the optometrist says you don’t need new glasses. That’s almost as good as finding the pregnancy test turned out the way you wanted it to.

We focus on the small picture because we don’t know what to do with the big picture.

When you find the 20, you know what to do: search for its owner and be pleased when you can’t find him or her.
If you were to hear that Rush Limbaugh’s cochlear implants attracted a fatal lightning strike on the golf course… then, what? A momentary jolt of electricity may bring a momentary jolt of happiness, but then no matter how you dislike the guy, you feel sorry for him.

When Hillary withdraws from the presidential primary you’re glad for a moment but then you miss her.  Something’s not right.  (Don’t say it.  Your “I won’t miss her” thought waves already have reached here.)

Little surprises for the customer is what drove you to a Japanese or Korean car brand.  It wasn’t just the birth of cupholders that Detroit had ignored; not even the heated seat.  It was things like the way the rainwater is directed off the roof so it doesn’t leak into the poorly sealed trunk.

The next auto company that wants to make a splash will find a way to easily disassemble the headlight fixture, easily remove and replace the bulb at something less than today’s prices… which are high enough to have paid for you first car back in 19xx.

Some surprises are absences.  You vote for the candidate who does not knock on your door and talk your ear off and he wins.

The deposit clears early and none of your checks bounce.

Long life guitar strings don’t die young.

Small surprises and little treats.  Like finding you hadn’t actually finished the ice cream in the freezer and you can do that now.

Shrapnel:

--Bank robbers can also mean banks that rob. Like the five families of banking now in the hot seat for manipulating the currency market.  But you have to give them credit for actually figuring out how the currency market works well enough to game it.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

1488 There's Something About Waco

They think big in Texas.  Even in little Waco, population about 130- thousand. The crime rate there is big and tall.  And the murder rate just grew a little to keep up with the robberies, burglaries, car thefts and rapes.

The motorcycle gangs and other religious zealots have a way of finding Waco which statistically is the ninth least safe city in America.

Make no mistake, Bikerism is a religion and one with many denominations. And as in other faiths, there are factions that don’t get along.

But the denominations are practical. They share a motto, “convert or die. Or maybe just die.”

Thus when a peace conference deteriorated into nine murders, a lot of us said “oh, that’s just Bikerists being Bikerists.”

Now the cops, some of whom are themselves Bikerists, have rounded up 170 people to charge with murder.
One hundred seventy “suspects.” They think big in Texas.

The arrest scene was peculiar. Where else would you find such a group of murderers sitting around smoking and talking on their cellphones and to one another?  No one was thrown on the ground and cuffed. No one was Tasered or shot.

They can’t even get resisting arrest charges against these men. No one resisted.

Some have decided this is a good example of how police treat white people compared with how they treat African Americans.

“Oh, but wait,” you might say. “These are simply sportsmen who got together to knock heads and it has nothing to do with the way police treat people of differing races.”

Yes and no.

There’s no doubt there’s a difference -- generally -- in the way the races are treated.  But at the same time, there isn’t.

In 1993, after a months- long standoff federal agents stormed the Branch Davidian compound near Waco. In the gunbattle that followed, four agents and six members of the cult or sect were killed and dozens wounded or injured. The compound was destroyed --razed-- by fire.  White on white violence. Cop on civilian violence.  

A few people who escaped the burning compound were arrested. They were cuffed. They were taken away in prowl cars and paddy wagons.

And yes, Bikers and The Branch are entirely different flavors of cuckoo. Each had its own brand of nastiness and neither should have been left to its own devices. Yet overreaction in ‘93 and underreaction now were not based entirely on race.

The events were separated by 22 years.  But no matter, because both show there’s something about Waco.




Grapeshot:
-Here’s hoping the pope polishes up his spoken Italian so the next time he greets the head of a terrorist faux state we know whether he said “you are an angel of peace” or just “you could become an angel of peace.”

-Why don’t they make it easy on every driver by recalling every Takata airbag made since the invention of airbags?

-Reminder: tonight is David Letterman’s final broadcast.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

1487 How to Know Your Candidate

Presidential election fever is sweeping the land. Never mind that voting is more than a year away.  The political process has become like the Christmas sales at Megamart only worse.


Those start only two months early.  


The Presidential field already is crowded. And more will be upon us well before the end of summer. It’s harder than ever to tell the difference among them.


So here’s a suggestion, something used by one of the smartest and prolific marketers in the country, NASCAR.  When the drivers suit up and put on the headgear, you  couldn’t tell one from the other if they weren’t wearing the logos or names of the corporate sponsors.


Turn on a race.  You’ll see Pennzoil, Cheerios, Office Depot, M&Ms, Skittles, DuPont, Dodge, Burger King, Red Bull, Old Spice, Miller Beer, Budweiser, Go Daddy and on and on.


Let’s get jumpsuits for the candidates.  Then you’ll know who’s paying the freight. Hypothetically:


Koch Industries for Rubio, for example or maybe for Cruz.
Johnson & Johnson for Ben Carson.
Jim Beam for Rand Paul.
Diabetes Solution for Mike Huckabee.
Skull and Bones for Jeb Bush.
Exxon for Rick Perry.
CableVision for George Pataki.
BMW for Lindsey Graham.
Rosebud Coal Mines for Rick Santorum.
British Petroleum for Bobby Jindal.
Madoff Investments for Scott Walker.
Premier Radio Networks for Carly Fiorina.
Ryanair for Peter King.
Comcast for Donald Trump.
That’s not all of them… but that’s enough for now.


Then there are the Democrats:
Baldwin Piano for Hillary Clinton.
The Nation magazine for Bernie Sanders.
ReMax of Newport for Lincoln Chafee.
Smithfield Ham for Jim Webb.
Potomac Edison for Martin O’Malley.
Al Jazeera America for Al Gore.
Victoria’s Secret for Joe Biden.


Okay, boys and girls, suit up.


Some of these candidates are recognizable even without the uniforms.  Trump, Fiorina, Carson, Jindal, Clinton, Gore, Biden, Sanders.  But most of the rest of them look pretty much alike.


If you saw Walker, Santorum, Chafee, O’Malley and Graham in a group photo, could you identify them? Maybe.  But probably not.


So thanks, NASCAR.  You’ve given us something almost as good as fingerprints and DNA to identify this crowd of whistlers and jugglers.  We love to know who or what is behind the people who pretend to have our best interests at heart.


A political race is not nearly as exciting as an auto race or for that matter a horse race.  But showing the candidates’ true colors makes things easy for those of us who are not fans of the sport.


Grapeshot:
-Some of the uniforms come with fringes.


-Chances are one of the people mentioned here is going to be the next president and that’s truly frightening.


-George Stephanopoulos still has his job, proving the Walt Disney Company not only created Fantasyland but lives in it.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

1486 vArizOL

At least they’re not calling it a merger.  Verizon is buying America On Line, AOL, for $4.4 (B) Billion.  Well at least that’s the advertised price.  But it doesn’t include sales tax, federal fees, FCC usage, local fees, company surcharges, federal and state surcharges.

Like your bargain phone plan… the one they advertised for $80 a month, but actually costs you $125.  Revenge is sweet.

Verizon has a case of Comcast envy.  If a common carrier can buy a major broadcast network, then why not a major senior citizen of a web company.

Vertically integrated media and communications companies are nothing new. RCA was among the originals.  Its goal was to make or own everything between the live performer and the live listener.  

Hence it made transmitters, microphones, cameras, radios, record players, TV sets. And it owned NBC whose programs all that stuff carried.

(It also made missile guidance systems, presumably so that if you tuned to CBS, they could bomb your house.)

Verizon wants the whole of AOL.  Arianna Huffington may think otherwise.  After selling her web-based news aggregation site to AOL for $300 million, she tried to buy it back and failed.  The Huffington Post is now worth about $1 billion by some estimates, or almost a quarter of the bill AOL will send to Verizon.

It’s lost on them that when HuffPost sold, an awful lot of the worker bees and much of the brain trust moved on to Buzzfeed.

AOL at its peak was the joke of the internet.  But it helped turn the busy signal into a secondary national anthem.  It was the biggest air pocket in the tech bubble.

Then it bought Time Warner and started demolition,  stopped sending free trial discs by the millions and got serious about being what we now call a “content provider” and a messaging service.

Verizon’s main telephone competitor, AT&T wants to buy the satellite TV provider DirectTV.  The satellite service Dish Network offers internet service from the sky.  So Verizon must think it’ll be left holding an empty bag if it doesn’t do, well, something.

The real winners in these consolidations are the lawyers and bankers.  Even mighty telephone companies find it hard to dip into savings and come up with four billion otherwise untargeted dollars.  And deals like these don’t get done on a handshake.

The customers sometimes win, too.  But not often. Has anyone noticed that at $4.4 billion, AOL is overvalued?  That there’s little chance Verizon will recoup its investment during the lifetime of anyone now old enough to read this story?

Makes you long for the good old days of the ever-present busy signal.

Shrapnel:
--In hoity toity salons of Very Serious Journalism, NBC is taking a lot of flak for having Lester Holt anchor Nightly News from a helicopter above the Philadelphia train wreck of a train wreck.  But part of the job of journalism sometimes includes pull your eyes toward the story. And sometimes it takes a bold move that leaves viewers saying “hey, did-ja see THAT?”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

1485 An Enemy Within

One thing you can say about George Zimmerman.  Two things actually.  One: he’s a trouble magnet. But two: He must really charm the ladies.


You remember George, right? He’s the Floridian who was convicted of not murdering black teen Trayvon Martin in 2013.  Martin was the unarmed kid who Zimmerman decided was a menace because he was (a.) in a mostly white neighborhood after dark. (b.) he was wearing a dark hoodie and (c.) he was carrying a suspicious package.  And you know kids today, they’re good at making weapons out of anything… even an innocent looking package of Skittles.


Earlier this week, someone took a shot at Loveable George. Whoever it was seemed not to realize that it’s not so easy to pick a guy off when he’s behind the wheel of his car.  Unlike TV shows, the bullet doesn’t always make a clean roundish hole surrounded by spiderwebs in the safety glass.  Sometimes it just kind of blows through the windshield like a brick.


And that’s what happened in this case. Loveable George was showered in shards of windshield. Cuts. But no bullet hole in the head.  The emergency room people treated him and sent him on his way.


Cops “like” a guy with whom Zimmerman had “a road rage incident” some time back, one George Apperson. Apperson said at the time Loveable George threatened to kill him and exclaimed “do you know who I am?”


While we wait for further legal complications and other clouding devices, let’s take a look at that “charming the ladies” thing.


Lady #1: George’s ex wife, Shellie Zimmerman.  She first reported that just after she filed for divorce --  right after the Martin shooting -- he smashed an iPad in their home.  Shellie told the 911 operator George had a gun.  Later she said he didn’t.  Charmed into truth telling? A regular Rudolph Valentino, he is.


Lady #2: Former girlfriend Brittany Brunelle reported that Ole’ Loveable threw a wine bottle at her. The Associated Press says she later recanted and refuses to cooperate.  Charmed into submission?  A regular James Dean is he.


Lady #3: Another girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, charged that Mister Charm smashed her coffee table, pointed a gun at her and threw her out of the house they shared, followed by her furniture.  Court papers say she later recanted and refuses to cooperate.  Charmed back into Loveable’s Loving arms?  A regular Bill Clinton.


Incident one is a happenstance. Incident two makes it a possible coincidence.  Incident three makes it a pattern.


George has a rap sheet that goes back to 2005, but probably there’ll be no charges against him in this latest case.  After all, he was the target not the shooter, right? Maybe he was in fear of his life and preparing to run the gunner over. We don’t know.


What we do know is there’s a guy in or near Lake Mary, Florida who needs more practice at the shooting range. Or a better gun.
--
NOTE: Coming Friday: Verizon + AOL = vArizOL.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

1484 The WHO Flu

A bird, a monkey and a pig walk into a bar in Hong Kong.  Instead of sitting on stools as usual, they pull up chairs at a table and join a woman wearing a white lab coat and an antiviral face mask.

She is Dr. Margaret Sars, chief of the regional office of the UN’s World Health Organization. They order their drinks and when they arrive, toast each other. The monkey, apparently the leader or group spokescreature, opens the conversation with a friendly tone.

He tells Dr. Sars that he and many other monkeys, birds and pigs feel they are wrongly discriminated against by other animals, birds, fish and people because their monophyletic groups are associated with diseases.

“Monkey pox, Swine Flu, Bird Flu and other afflictions named for us are giving us a bad name and we’d like you to do something about that.

“Not every monkey, pig or bird is a carrier.  And yet, everyone shuns us,” he said.

Dr. Sars replies “mmm mmm mmm fuffa burble cmtmmm” drawing curious looks. Then she removes her antiviral mask and says “sorry, no one can understand me with that mask on. I hope you guys are disease free.”

She goes on to say that just the other day a delegation from “here in Hong Kong” made the same point about Hong Kong Flu and she got a letter from some people in Riyadh who felt they were being singled out for persecution because of MERS.

“Mmm mmm mmm fuffa burble cmtmmm… Oh. Sorry. The mask slipped down again. So I’ve asked the big wheels in Geneva if they can come up with better names, names that don’t insult birds, monkeys, pigs, or residents of Hong Kong or Saudi Arabia,” she said.

But what to call them?  The Nest Flu? The Sty Flu, the Treetop Flu? Sand-Borne Coronavirus?  

How about initials? Most of them already mean something else.  Or numbers? Flu #234.12?

It’s a quandary. And it’s one not likely to resolve itself anytime soon. In the meantime, the Department of Political Correctness is on the case.  Surprising chicken pox, German Measles and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever never came up.

So far, it has considered and rejected Kitten Flu, Puppy Flu, Gingham Flu, Soul Flu, Fiat Flu, Proper Englishman Flu, Dirty Commie Flu, Lady Gaga Flu, Limbaugh Flu, Flue Flu, Bunny Flu, Blue Bunny Flu and WHO Flu.

Next they’ll likely take a page from the weather bureau and use different names each year. Alfred, Beauregard, Cathleen, Doris,  Edward, Frank, Greta, Hillary, Isadore, Jacob, Karen, Lindsay, Mark, Ned, Ophelia, Pearl, Quentin, Robert, Sally, Thalia, Uwe, Victor, Wendy, Xandra, Zebediah.

This may give rise to a whole new industry: disease naming agencies and companies. Start with the National Office of Flu Identifiers or NOFI.  Then gear up for the Flu Channel, AccuFlu and a host of others.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2015

Friday, May 08, 2015

1483 Classified Number

An appeals court says all that federal spying on your phone traffic is illegal.  Some nerve.  Don’t those judges realize how bad the economy is?  Don’t they realize how many people will be out of work when the espionage agencies are forced to fire thousands of eavesdroppers, report aggregators, librarians and group supervisors?

And it’s not just the working men and women of the alphabet agencies. It’s also the delis and coffee shops and auto repair technicians who depend for their livelihoods on business from the spies.

This requires some explaining.  You think all this goes on at NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland.  But no.  According to recently declassified documents obtained by Wessays, the operation is decentralized. Localized if you will.

Remember the Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.  Well, many people thought it was a mob meeting place. And it may well have been, though we all know there is no mob.  

But when some of its members … uh … left the area, it closed.  And someone put in a shoe store.  Well, down in the basement where they used to bury … No, wait. Down in the basement, they now have a group of cubicles with men and women wearing headsets. It looks like a modern bookie joint, but it isn’t.

The ever economy minded people at the NSA figured that since the place was already wired, why not put a listening post in the basement and let the shoe guy just do business upstairs .

Since (classified number) of people work there, the restaurants in the area and the taxis and Uber drivers all profit smartly.  Much more so than they did when the social club was there and brought in its own food.

Now, these poor business people will go hungry.

There are mini Ravenites all over the country.  That abandoned building on Main St. that countless people have offered to rent?  Don’t look too closely.  There’s plenty of activity there, but the workers all park in the nearby Denny’s to throw you off the trail (And because no one eats in that Denny’s more than once, so the parking lot is generally empty.)

This economic calamity will not happen all at once.  The federal appeals court ruled that the program can wind down slowly.  And it’s asked congress to define the boundaries of acceptable nosiness. Expect a quick decision. Possibly by November of 2016.

Meantime, the (classified number) people will have to find work elsewhere.  But it’s a worry. Most have no real skills.  They’ll end up in fast food joints which currently brag of their unending generosity by increasing pay to $9.00 an hour, part time, no benefits. This compares with the hourly rate of (classified number) that the current busybodies are paid.



Shrapnel:

--RIP, Guy Carawan, folksinger and civil rights musician who died at 87.  He brought “We Shall Overcome” into the mainstream. And he was a leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee when it still was non-violent.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2015