Friday, July 22, 2016

1672 Jolly Roger Ailes: Fox’s Fox in the Henhouse

Roger Ailes used to be a name.  Now it’s a complete sentence.  The Jolly Roger no longer flies above the the Fox News flagship.  And the Fox fox is out of the hen house.

Say what you will about throwback press baron Rupert Murdoch, the guy bleeds ink and saves newspapers.  And he does it with what passes for grace and charm within the limits of his Aussie beginnings.

You may think he’s an unrehabilitated tool or leader of a nasty worldwide swing to the right. And sure, he embraces and promotes conservatism on every continent.  But Murdoch is about money and influence more than he is about politics and sensationalism.

He’s also fiercely loyal to the people he hires to work that Murdoch magic.  Until the magic stops working.

So when he hired failed NBC executive and onetime Republican operative Roger Ailes, he knew what he was getting.  And Ailes’ Fox News succeeded beyond even the wildest of dreams.

Wait.  “Failed” NBC-ling?  Yes.  As head of what was then called “America’s Talking” cable which no one watched.

So here’s Jolly Roger cast adrift.  And Murdoch wants a TV network and who better to start one than Ailes?  He had all the right assets.  He knew TV and did it well, he was well connected with his previous Republican politician employers.  And he had a good idea: build a right wing monolith.  Or build a better mousetrap and bait it with hot babes and snarling old white male scolds.

The problems may have begun when Ailes started responding to the babes in his bait bucket and they didn’t respond back. Well they did respond if you include filing lawsuits.  Most were settled without publicity and on no disclosure agreements.

Fox TV is kind of like early MTV. Softcore porn, fancy, glitzy sets and graphics, controversy and you can mute the sound and still enjoy it.

So through all kinds of controversy, Murdoch sticks by his man.  Until it starts to look like the mousetrap might soon stop luring in all that money.

And now, with charges of sexual harassment swirling and the disclosure that similar suits had been settled out of court, with Murdoch’s presumed heirs calling for Ailes to walk the plank, Rupert has no choice but to cut his losses.

The Jolly Pirate, the fox in the Fox henhouse, the guy who built a money machine and vacuumed up almost every conservative talking head and right wing thinker in America can go upstate, lick his wounds and count his severance check, said to be $40 million all told.

Today’s Quote: “Bury your mistakes.” -- Rupert Murdoch, newly named interim CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business News TV.


-Rupert is 85 years old and will mind the store only until the dust settles but you can bet the cubiclistas in the newsroom will be sitting up straight again when he’s in the building and watching.

-The NYC tabloids especially Fox’s co-owned New York Post downplayed the story and the Fox News website wimped out and posted nothing more than the company press release so far down on the page it looked like they tried to hide it.

-Today’s Wessay™ was made possible by a grant from the Mixed Metaphor Foundation, a can of worms in a grammatical minefield and a Pandora’s Box of empty barrels.

-About Trump’s convention speech:  Like Nixon, only less charming.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

1671 A Magnet and a Melting Pot

It’s true.  One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.  It’s also true that one bad barrel can spoil the whole crop.  What happens when the entire crop is destroyed?  You burn it.  And sometimes you have to fell the trees too.

All of which brings us to gun ownership.  You may think that’s a stretch, but it isn’t.  We certainly have the one spoiled item in the barrel.  We pretty much have enough spoiled barrels to end a lot of lives. Do we have to burn the crop?

No, not really.  But we do have to do is stop fooling around.  When a constitutional right -- like gun ownership -- imperils other rights, it’s time to rethink things.

All constitutional rights come with restrictions, even gun ownership.  The “right to bear arms” does not include missile launchers of any size. No one will sell you an F-18 jet fighter, an aircraft carrier or a torpedo for your recreational submarine.

Maybe we should restrict private ownership to small caliber handguns and rifles or shotguns that fire one missilette at a time.

As a public service, the Wessays™ Secret Mountaintop Laboratory has designed a gun collection vehicle.  More properly, it’s a  modified version of a standard garbage truck with a high powered electromagnet in front and a blast furnace in back.

It’s to use thus:

Stop in front of the house of guns and turn on the magnet.  The guns will come flying out of the house.  Sort the findings.  .22s and such? Consider them catch and release.  

Larger weaponry goes right into the cauldron. Melts on the spot.  When it cools, the charred wood of stocks and decorations can be filtered out and the metal recycled.

Now don’t get your teflon- coateds in a twist, boys.  This post is tongue in cheek.  Sort of.

A Facebook friend recently posted that around 85 “...million gun owners killed no one yesterday.” So we can assume about 26% of Americans own guns.  That’s a lot of people.  Maybe they should busy themselves ferreting out the rotten apples.

If not, there’s always a magnet and a melting pot.
Today’s Quote: “(Donald Trump) didn’t write a postcard for us.” -- Former Random House executive Howard Kaminsky who oversaw publication of “The Art of the Deal” and was quoted in the New Yorker Magazine article about Tony Schwartz, who ghost wrote the book and now regrets it.

--The Little Local Bank was pretty good until the Medium Regional Bank took it over a few years ago. Now it’s been taken over by the Extra Large Regional Bank which seems ready to act too big to fail. The search is on for the right credit union.

--Former President Carter has quit the Southern Baptist Church after 60 years because he says it demeans women.  While in office Carter may have been one of America’s five worst presidents. But since his term ended, he’s redeemed himself with every word and deed except one, backing the wrong side in the palestinian war of aggression.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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And send death threats to Midtown North. They’ll know where to find me.
© WJR 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016

1670 I Did Nothing Wrong and I'll Never Do it Again

If it looks like a pyramid scheme, is structured like a pyramid scheme and rewards people like a pyramid scheme, it’s a pyramid scheme, right?

Not always.

After long hours of investigation, the Federal Trade Commission has ruled that the “nutrition supplement” company, Herbalife, is not a pyramid scheme.  But it has fined the company $200 million because it doesn’t like … what?  The shipping charges?  The hairdos of the honchos?  Oh, yeah: misleading people into thinking they could sign up and make a decent buck.

Okay, what, exactly is a pyramid scheme?  It’s when you sign up to sell stuff but you really don’t make any money except by recruiting new salespeople.  You sell; those above you in the pyramid get a cut.  Your recruits sell and you get a cut (along with everyone else higher up.)

Rarely does anyone make a go of things.  And there are good reasons. More often than not, the products are something you buy anyway.  Are you really going to trade your one-a-days for some expensive pill from a company you don’t know anything about? No, why would you?  Nutritional potions are the mainstay of pyramid schemes.  But you can get to sell prepaid legal services that way too. Just ask Jodi Arias.  And there probably are other goods and services that use this template.

The granddaddy is Amway.  And their products tend to be good, although pricey.  But like the Corleone Family, Amway has gone legit.  Which means they actually have some guy in Woonsocket, Rhode Island or East Acne, Idaho whom they can prove makes a real living selling its magical laundry powder without needing food stamps, welfare or Medicaid.

But about Herbalife.

The whole dustup was started by a stockholder with a big stake in the company, Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Holdings.  Ackman has shorted the stock and complained publicly and to the FTC about what he calls a phony get-rich-quick scheme.  And while the commission’s action doesn’t make Ackman right, it doesn’t make him wrong, either.

The Commission orders bar Herbalife from making inflated claims about income potential, forces creation of accurate reports on actual sales and the profits of its chains of independent sellers.

The company now has the legal right to say it’s not a pyramid scheme.  And implicitly, the FTC has “approved” its business practices. $200 million is a steep price.

You might think the pyramid will collapse and/or become Herbalife’s tomb.  But you’d be wrong. The new restrictions apply only to the company’s US business. So easy money fantasies won’t die in Europe and Asia.

Today’s quote: “The settlements are an acknowledgement that our business model is sound and underscore our confidence in our ability to move forward successfully…” -- Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson (quoted by Bloomberg News.)

Today’s other quote: “Herbalife’s false and misleading claims continue.” -- Bill Ackman's website.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016

1669 Ruth Bader Hindenburg

Note to readers:  This post was written before Justice Ginsburg made her ill considered apology for her ill considered act.  Sorry your honor but you were right the first time and you’re wrong now.


Oh, the Humanity!  A little old lady from Brooklyn has caused a fire worthy of the Hindenburg.  Not only did Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg set the blimpish windbag Donald Trump afire, she did it without so much as a match and a cubic yard of hydrogen.

Ginsberg had the gall to do what pretty much any little old lady from Brooklyn might do and that is call Donald Blimp a “faker.”  Probably she had a better word than faker in mind.  But the dignity of the court, don’t you know.

The first to pipe up were the hangers on who cite the federal code of judicial conduct which bars judges from taking political stands.

Turns out, the code does not apply to Supreme Court justices who not only can rule until death -- and in some cases after death --  but can say anything they want.  Justice Ginsburg was not on the bench when she spoke.  But it wouldn’t matter if she were.

So Trump says she should resign because her mind is shot. She’s “mentally unfit,” he says. Right. When and if she develops that hole in her head, she will still be smarter than most of the rest of us.

Blimp wants her to recuse herself from any Supreme Court case involving him.  What noive! What case involving him would be worthy of consideration by the court?

What Justice Ginsburg did is not all that unusual. Scalia did it all the time.  So did Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall.  

Poor Ruth.  She’s not even Mexican.  Although she is Jewish and in Trump World, that might be almost as bad, even if his daughter is married to a Jewish guy and has converted. (These things can be undone.  Being born a Jewish woman in New York cannot.)

But Trump isn’t the only critic.  Even Ginsburg’s supporters are piling on. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times editorial pages have joined in.

Senators Murphy (D-CT) and Durbin (D-IL) don’t like what she said.  And White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says “She didn’t earn the title Notorious RBG for nothing.”  

The failed Republican candidates for the presidential nomination don’t like it.  And McConnell and Ryan are livid.  Big surprises.

We are so used to public figures of stature and power giving us doubletalk that when one doesn’t, it’s a cause celebre.

We love it when the little guy speaks truth to power.  How about cutting the judge some slack. It’s power speaking to power.

Today’s Quote: "He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. ... How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that..." -- Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “clarifying” her position on Trump a day or so before re-clarifying with an apology.

--It’s hard to understand the RBG hysteria because every word out of every Supreme Court justice’s mouth is political, even if less direct.  Instead of yelping about “crossing the line” or weaseling that “I would say the same thing no matter who she was talking about,” one can learn something here.  If someone of that stature takes that step, maybe there’s something to it, even if they later say they didn’t know the gun was loaded.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

1668 Venezuela Under Water

It was only in the high 80s in Caracas the other day. That’s low for this time of year when the temperature often rises above 100.

So a relatively mild day for Venezuela’s new national pass time, standing in line.

With the country’s dependence on slumping oil prices, luxuries like bread and toilet paper are scarce if available at all. It’s like the Soviet union in the post war
years.  Bread lines. We hear stories about people eating cats and pigeons.  When they eat at all.

This is the story of Junior Perez, 25, one young man in a population of more than 30 million.  Word spread earlier in the week that there would be toothpaste available for the first time in awhile. Limit two tubes per customer.  So Junior got onto the line.  And waited.  And waited. And waited along with abuelas on portable lawn chairs and petroleous who had nowhere else to go because they don’t work much these days.

Along come a couple masked guys with guns and they notice Junior is using a cell phone.  Imagine, a cell phone and it appears to be working.  So they do what any masked guy with a gun would do, they command Junior to turn over the phone.

But Junior treasures his phone -- who there wouldn’t? He declines the command and starts running toward the pharmacy door.  The gunmen, being gunmen, fire.  And they hit Junior in the back and he goes down.

He’s not dead.  Not yet.  

The gunmen have the phone.  And at this point you’d expect the line -- at least that part of it -- would kind of break up to help Junior or get out of the way.

But it doesn’t.  No one moves.

Junior, on the ground along with most of his blood, dies.

The gunmen are going through Junior’s pockets to see what other treasures they can extract.
Still, no one moves.

These days a case like this is not unusual.  More than two dozen people including a toddler have been killed while on line in the last year, the AP says.

And it quotes a pharmacist who was waiting for his own ration of toothpaste thus:

“These days you put the line before everything… you get what you need and you don’t feel sorry for anyone.”

When baby needs shoes or Imodium, safety comes second even in a country with one of the world’s highest homicide rates.

Over in the Palacio de Miraflores, president Nicolas Maduro doesn’t know what to do. His mentor and predecessor Hugo Chavez left the country in economic ruin, appropriating factories and depending on oil for every nickel in the treasury.

Oh, one more thing:  Venezuela is paying its bondholders on time and in full when all it would have to do is default and use the money for toothpaste.

All investment carries risk.  And if you bought into Uncle Hugo’s delusional and unworkable scam, you don’t deserve to be rewarded for your bad choice.

-Obama makes pretty speech in Dallas, signifying nothing.
-Police chief gets standing ovation from crowd at Dallas Memorial, signifying something.
-Bernie endorses Hillary sending many of his supporters into anaphylactic shock.

-Shouldn’t something called “headlines” be placed at the head of a post and not near the end?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

1667 Drunk on Data

It’s a new addiction.  Reduce everything to numbers.  And then what?  Shoot at their feet and make ‘em dance… just like in the old time cowboy movies.

What do they do with all those surveys they shovel at you on the internet?  Especially when people lie on them?  Especially when they try to quantify an emotion out of context.  Especially when the terms are undefined.

“Good service” or bad can mean something different to everyone.  Some minor annoyance (the wheel on my cart squeaked) can annoy someone to the point that he dislikes the entire experience.

“If the election were held today, candidate X would beat candidate Y by Z-points.”

It gets worse when the stats look backward:

“Candidate X beat candidate Y by 5 points.”  So why is candidate Y taking the oath of office?  Oh. Well. When we said X won, we meant among coal miners under the age of 55 in Boca Raton, FL.

All this is part of a larger problem that we’ve addressed before, here and here:  Take something, wrap it in statistics and everyone will believe it.  We are as a culture math phobic and unwilling to fix it.

At our peril.

Surely there must be at least one type of therapy for that. If not, it’s the only widespread affliction without one.

We need those numbers.  But that’s not all we need.

Big data don’t confuse people.  People confuse people.  The only weapon against bad data are law abiding citizens armed with good data.

In a world dominated by figurer hounds like Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight and Nate Cohn who writes for the Upshot section of the New York Times, we need explanations.  (We also need more guys named Nate to work for similar departments at the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Someone please call the World Federation of Nathans and motivate.)

There’s no doubt we need good data.  After all, without it how would health and life insurance companies know how much to overcharge us?  How would we know how many refugees have fled the Middle East war zone?  How would we know who was elected President.  Oh, wait. That number of votes doesn’t really count.

We need figures.  But we need to remember that coating a lie in arithmetic doesn’t mean it’s no longer a lie.

-- “Business Insider” is a popular and insightful website run by fallen Wall Street star Henry Blodget and partly owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Lately it’s been promoting Amazon regularly. Bezos’ other media company, the Washington Post, hasn’t gotten the memo… yet.

--A bunch of guys dressed in Confederate Army uniforms raised their battle flag on the pole outside the South Carolina capitol building Sunday to the cheers of brain dead and robotic followers in the crowd.  It was “Bring it Back” day for people who didn’t like the recent ban of the flag. They called the sanest recent action to take place on those grounds “the greatest act of treason” ever committed on that piece of land.

-What happens when your memory foam mattress gets too old to remember you?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Friday, July 08, 2016

1666 Hi, I'm Hillary and I'll be Your Server Tonight

Oops. Wrong kind of server.  Let’s start this one over:

Olympic medalist Hillary Clinton did it again: Speed skated to the gold.  Now what? Now plenty.

The FBI cleared her of various charges having to do with classified material and her use of a private email server rather than the State Department’s.

When he read his no prosecution announcement the FBI director showed all of the poise and sincerity of a prisoner of war on camera praising his North Korean captors or a kidnap victim in a filmed ransom demand. But he managed to slime her even without a legal leg to stand on and was cornered into agreeing to investigate whether Clinton perjured herself in testimony to congress.

Of course, what she did was wrong wrong wrong.  But as they say on Wall Street, the market has already factored Benghazi and emailgate into the current price of her stock and she’s still tracking well ahead of the competition.

Congress is a starving dog and Hillary is a meaty bone. They won’t drop the matter.  The republican majority lives to quash any gain any democrat makes in any area. And now that they’ve more or less polished off Obama, it’s on to the next. And the next is Clinton.

Did you catch any of the congressional hearings?  Like any congressional hearing it was an opportunity for members to make self serving speeches, sometimes ask a question, not listen to the answer and continue gnawing.

Did Clinton perjure herself before a kongressional kangaroo kourt that no one respects and no one should? Maybe.  It’s a family tradition. And a congressional one. Haul a Clinton into a hearing room, ask things that are none of its business, decide there was perjury and try to pry them out of the picture.

The State Department had put its investigation on hold pending the outcome of the congressional investigation, and will now resume it.

Will they find something the FBI missed?  Unlikely.  Isn’t there a double jeopardy involved here?  Well, yes and no.  Technically, she wasn’t found not guilty, the Justice Department just decided against charging her.
So the department is free to go for sloppy seconds.

Today’s Quote: “Republicans have been accused of abandoning the poor.  It’s the other way around. They never vote for us.” -- Political philosopher and poet Dan Quayle.


--The sanctimonious and self righteous members of congress had best remember what goes around comes around.  Do you recall Denny Hastert’s holier-than-thou performance at the Bill Clinton impeachment?  Denny got his and Trey Gowdy (Gowdy Doody to his friends) will get his, too.

--Why do cops shoot civilians without obvious reason?  Dead men tell no tales.  Best to eliminate a witness whose testimony in a real court might convict a rogue officer.

--The fatal shootings and woundings of police officers in Dallas Thursday night remains a developing story. But retaliation of this kind does not solve any problems. It just creates new ones.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016