Wednesday, October 18, 2017

1859 Mind Games

1859 Mind Games

This is not the same as head games.  Mind games.  That's when you do stuff with your brain so it doesn't atrophy and make you into a prematurely demented codger. 

There's been an awful lot written lately about how you can stave off stuff that's probably mostly genetic.  And the boomers and the pre-boomers are all convinced that the key to life is to keep forever young. 

Those of us in a certain (undesirable) demographic have become totally obsessed with making sure our brains, such as there are of them, don't short out and shut down.  It's a nice idea, if a bit obsessive. 

But a whole industry has arisen over this, and there's an irony to it.  We older folk are largely ignored by the world of commerce.  Not entirely a bad thing.  I like being invisible in an auto showroom, an appliance or furniture store or at a real estate open house.  I don't like having become a target of the video game industry, which is over us like pigeons on a park bench these days, to get us to buy brain enhancing toys. 

You guys couldn't give us the time of day a couple of years ago.  Now, you've learned to play on our fears and sell us expensive game consoles and even more expensive games that have us clicking away like a couple of 14 year old boys killing spacemen or aliens or "enemy" soldiers on video screens.

Crossword puzzles, writing thrice weekly blog entries, and just plain ole' thinking would do the trick.  But no, you have to try to sell us fancy "scientifically proven" junk to "improve" our coordination and mental agility.

Well, I'm going to bust your bubble.  Most of us already have an expensive video game that will do just fine in keeping the brain in shape.  We don't have to buy it because it's already on the computer.  Computer solitaire.

If you go after it like dog vs. bone, you can do as much mental calisthenics as you would by playing Senior Brainiac or any of the other expensive stuff.

You think it's simple?  Just flip cards and take a chance?  Not so.  Computer solitaire is not just chance, though chance plays a part.  It takes planning, strategy and thought.  And it takes speed.  The little numbers in the upper right hand corner show you elapsed time and actual score.  Speed counts.

You have to figure things out.  Like if you have a black king on the board and another black one comes up -- skip it in favor of a red king, if you have one.  That sort of thing.  You have to move face-up cards around a bit sometimes, and since the computer won't stop you from shifting the three of clubs from beneath the four of hearts to the four of diamonds, it's "legal."  You have to be thinking.

And you have to be working a strategy.  This is as good for you brain (and your increasingly arthritic fingers) as anything the Wii (is that pronounced "wee," or is it "why?") people or the Game Boy people can throw at you.

Another thing they tell you about keeping your brain fit is that you should play a musical instrument.  If you have one, dust it off.  If you have to buy one, here are a couple of suggestions.

If you want to annoy your family and neighbors, Wal-Mart sells a clarinet for under $200.  That may seem a little expensive, but in the world of woodwinds, that's dirt cheap.  Plus, a clarinet learning experience is sure to drive your neighbors nuts.
Especially the ones who play hip hop music until three every morning.  If you’re older, chances are you try to sleep early and you have to rise early.  There's nothing like the squeak of beginning-clarinet at eight or nine in the morning to get those kids riled up. 

(Don't worry about the gang attack.  These guys dress like cartoons and act tough so you won't notice they dress like cartoons, and the toughness is all surface.)

If you like your neighbors, get a solid body guitar and no amplifier.  You can play at any hour of the day or night and no one can hear it but you.

And you can join the "Y" or some other health club to keep the blood flowing.  That, too, is supposed to enhance brain function.  Plus there's a lot of good scenery to view while you're on the treadmill or the stationary bike pretending to read back issues of "Better Homes and Gardens" or "Palates Quarterly."

I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.® 
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Monday, October 16, 2017

1858 Downfall of The Creep

The Award for Lifetime Sexual Predation goes to

And you thought the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was getting more diverse. If they kick out all their sex addicts, there may be no one left except Cheryl Boone Isaacs and three old white guys.

The creep in the picture above has won 81 of the statues pictured above him.  Eighty one.  Didn’t people know what he was before his expulsion from the Academy?  

Digression:  It’s almost impossible to get drummed out of the academy once you’re elected to membership.  Shysters and shylocks, drunks, drug addicts, drug distributors and other ne'er do wells have long retained membership.

But they throw The Creep out just for … well… just for imposing himself on unwilling females (as far as we know, females.)   The question is why do something like that if you can get your hands and other body parts on perfectly willing substitutes at any time of any day or night… possibly except Oscar Night and maybe even then.

All of what’s written here so far will not withstand the view that this isn’t about sex, it’s about power.

The question then is what causes submission?  The desire to get someplace in what may be the cruelest and least forgiving industry?  More to the point, what kind of power can a disgusting overweight un-sexy blob of a man get by forced conquest?

But the question remains: If everyone “knew all this” why did it take until now for it to come out?  Part of the reason: without careful and verifiable vetting of the accused, the story could be seen as “fake news.” And believe it or not, those of us in the news trade hate to be wrong or even worse, wronging someone else.

So NBC had the story first and got cold feet. It was up to the NY Times and New Yorker Magazine to tell the tale in all its smarmy smarminess.

You can bet The Creep wasn’t the first and isn’t the only Hollywood mogul to expose himself or demand massages or (and here’s the only iffy part of this story) rape someone.  You can document this kind of thing going back to the earliest days of the industry.  And other industries.   Like hedge funds, medical practices, private carting, policing and firefighting, airlines and other mass transit systems, publishing, academics and public officialdom.

If “everyone” knew about all this, why did it take an “emergency meeting” of the Academy’s board to throw the bum out?  It could just as easily have happened at a regular session under the category of “new business.”  Or maybe even old business.
And keep politics out of this. This guy was a Big Democrat.  But with little or no effort you probably think of a Big Republican with similar habits. (Hint: prematurely orange.)

What The Creep should have done is borrowed an Eliot Spitzerish little black address book, not an Anthony Weinerish contacts list.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, October 13, 2017

1857 Breaking Organized Crime's Glass Ceiling

Francy’s not her real name.  But she hides behind it because she’s the only known woman loan shark in town.  She calls herself a financial adviser.  But the best advice she can give a client is “try out those new Kevlar knee pads.”

Thus, she tries to protect her customers from the collection agents she hires when a borrower gets a little underwater with his payments. That way, when her collection representatives take a Louisville Slugger to a guy’s knees, he can get the daylights scared out of him, but without permanent damage.

“I broke the glass ceiling when (redacted)  put me on the street.  But as a woman, filled with maternal instinct I want to protect my guys.  To a point.”

What is the point?

“Well, it’s hard to pinpoint.  But sometimes a lazy borrower can go so far that we have to take stronger action. I don’t like it.  But…” she trails off.

Francy is a leading expert in the field of people with bad credit.  “We don’t do I.D. theft,” she says, “our customers don’t usually have much of a credit rating.”

Time was she could hack some welcher’s account and drain it.  But these days, it just doesn’t pay.  

Francy doesn’t look like a computer nerd and in fact she’s not.  “My oldest kid is 13,” she says.  He’s training my six year old daughter. They do the hacking.:

Kids go to juvie, not to the Big House.  Easier on the family.  

In the old days, a woman like Francy would train her kids to shoplift.  But this is the 21st century, after all. And there are spy cams everywhere.  It’s not easy to get out of Bloomingdale’s with a decent haul nowadays.

“We’re trying to make a deal with the Russians” she says.  “They have these neat poisons and you can sidle up to a deadbeat, and he dies like Stalin of a brain hemorrhage” and your average coroner can’t find any trace of the poison.  We don’t want to hurt them, we just want them dead,” she adds.

There aren’t enough free agent Russians with poisoned umbrella tips available these days.  Most of them are finding easier work for public officials in Washington and on Fifth Avenue.

“So sometimes we have to resort to old fashioned methods.  You know, like choke holds or kneecapping. We know everyone with the Kevlar knee pads because they bought ‘em from us.  So now you need three guys for the job: two to hold the client and one to unwrap his knees.”

Francy loves the idea that someone hacked the credit bureau. It drives customers to her corner of the local Starbucks where she holds forth most mornings from about seven o’clock until the lunch rush.  After that, there are too many potential witnesses.

But that’s one of the few bright spots in her trade these days.

She points out:
-Even though payday loans are illegal in many states, there are still plenty of active lenders and their labor costs are pretty low because they don’t have enforcers.

-There’s unfair competition from the banks which charge interest only slightly lower than hers and which operate legally.

-There’s unfair competition from the credit card companies most of which have lower rates, smaller payments and legal status.

-In hurricane ravaged areas of the south and the Caribbean, the government is likely to supply low cost financing to people it might ordinarily abandon to die. Well, maybe not in the Caribbean.

-Bail rates are going up.

Francy says today’s marketplace reminds her of Oscar Brand’s song “Pity the Downtrodden Landlord.” She writes:

Pity the downtrodden loanshark
Whose burdens are many and big.
Don’t ask for more time
That would be a crime.
And don’t be behind with the vig.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

1856 The Fairness Doctrine

1856 The Fairness Doctrine
Famed vaudeville team/Spaghetti Images

The federally mandated Fairness Doctrine was never about equal time. It was about equal opportunity for people with opposing opinions to answer those with whom they disagreed.

And it did not ever -- ever -- apply to what the Federal Communications Commission called “regularly scheduled news broadcasts.”  So the Nightly News, Meet the Press, This Week and similar programs were exempt even though they usually acted as if they weren’t.

The Reagan era FCC did away with that.  It thus allows the overwhelmingly right wing radio talk shows and the envelope pushing Fox and MSNBC cable channels.

Now, it looks like trump wants it back.  Why? Because every late night TV comic makes fun of his every move.  Relentless fun. Funny fun.

Okay, fair enough, doctrinally speaking.

In order to have a late night comedy show, there has to be comedy.  NBC soon will find this out after the chronically unfunny Jimmy Fallon is discovered skateboarding against traffic on Sixth Avenue muttering to himself about how Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and the other Jay Leno weren’t all that funny either.

Yes, Leno’s overwhelming nighttime lead is nowhere in sight unless you have ground penetrating radar.  Meanwhile Colbert, Conan, Comedy Central, Kimmel and the later than late network shows are all making a pile of money on trump’s antics. As are John Oliver and Bill Maher on HBO.

People are watching.  Advertisers are creating such commercial demand that even Geico, Sonic, Progressive insurance and a drugstore full of miracle cures with encyclopedic side effects are being muscled out by ads for non-hoodwink-ables.

Then answer, of course, is find a right wing comedian to retaliate.  Here’s a list of the candidates:

  1. Dennis Miller.
That’s it.  Maybe Jeff Foxworthy would be a hit in the boonies.  But the money is in the city.

That lets out that famous vaudeville team Gingrich, Limbaugh and Cheney, though Limbaugh occasionally comes up with a funny line.  So does Michael Savage.  But Savage violates TV’s Prime Directive: “Don’t show unattractive people” or in newer iterations “don’t show ugly.”

So let’s find a funny right winger to do a late night comedy show.  And then let’s see if anyone watches. And anyone but Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, Cracker Barrel and the Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor buy commercial time.

--Fallon is just plain not funny.  And Lorne Michaels could change that. He’s the current big wheel behind the Tonight Show and the long time big wheel behind Saturday Night Live.  So he knows what sells and what doesn’t.

--Hollywood knew for decades that something wasn’t kosher at Weinstein films.  It took them a while to find out, but they did. Harvey Weinstein is a pig. (Self plagiarized from my Facebook post.)

--Hurricane Nate surprised us all.  It moved so fast there wasn’t all that much damage. How about focusing on the fires in California if you want to see reporters out in bad atmospheric conditions and people suffering under circumstances worse than your own.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, October 09, 2017

1855 Murphy's Law

Murphy’s law says if something can go wrong, it will.

And then, there’s congressman Tim Murphy from the suburbs of Pittsburgh.  Yeah, that Tim Murphy.  The one who campaigned mightily and for years against abortion then urged his girlfriend to have one.

Wonder what his wife thought about that.

Former congressman Murphy is not the first guy to cheat on his wife. And not the first congressman. And not the first anti-abortion activist to recommend self-exemption.  And (phew!) the GF wasn’t preggers.  So no unborn babies were murdered to bring you this soap opera.

Murphy is comic relief considering everything else that is going on in Washington these days.  Except hypocrisy is never really worth more than a knowing snicker.  After all, Tim Murphy is no Eddie Murphy.

And a politician will say anything to get reelected.  Not this time, Tim.  So if you go to his website (no link here, find it yourself!) you’ll see his drippy statement about how he plans to “seek help.”  This from a PhD in psychology. Who’s gonna help ya, Timmy?  Your mirror?  Just remember that old saw about lawyers: Self represented means you have a fool for a client.

Timmy first said he would not seek re election to a ninth term.  And he announced plans for the rest of his current eighth.  So while anything that can go wrong will… sometimes they can go right.  Murphy resigned from the house.

The better part of valor.

But why are we getting all twisted about a hypocritical politician?  After all, that’s high on the list of qualifications in the job description, isn’t it?

There’s the peace-loving Rep. who not-so-secretly supplied weapons to the Irish Republican Army. And the one who loved the “DREAM” kids but voted against legislation allowing them to stay.  Drunk senators promoting prohibition.

And no one can count the number of laws congress approves and at the same time exempts itself from its reach.

So the guy wanted to save a little public embarrassment by practicing the opposite of what he preached. And -- here’s Murphy’s law live and direct from Washington -- something went wrong.

But something also went right because we won’t have Murphy to kick around anymore.

“A blob of protoplasm has no rights.” -- Ayn Rand. It’s always fun to mention this to her followers.

--Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says any of his players who “disrespect the flag” by kneeling “will not play.”  There is some concern that they’re already not playing -- even the ones who stand for the Anthem. Third of four teams in the NFC East.

--This year’s Nobel Prize in economics goes to prof. Richard Thaler of the notoriously hidebound University of Chicago.  Economists try to quantify everything and Thaler’s work looks into the psychology of investing and moving markets. Good if unoriginal idea, but how does one quantify greed and fear?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, October 06, 2017

1854 Tillerson No Longer at the Tiller?

1854 Tillerson No Longer at the Tiller?

You have to feel at least a little sorry for Secretary of State ReXXon.  Until this year, he was the king of American Corporate Royalty.  Now he’s the unwilling puppet of a madman.

Do you give the job of a powerful nation’s foreign affairs to one of the least likely diplomats, someone who is used to making multi-billion dollar decisions on his own without fear of opposition?  

No, not normally.

But these are not normal times.

Let’s expand that question: Do you make an un-diplomat into the main diplomat and then undercut him in public and expect him to salute and do as he’s told?

No, not normally.

So the big question now is “did ReXXon call the president “that (expletive deleted) moron?”  Well, pretty much everyone in the room at the time says yes.  But his spokeswoman says no and now ReXXy says something in diplo-speak, a language he’s just now learning, that seems to hint that he’s perfectly okay with his erratic and irascible puppeteer.

He and the president, he says, are on the same page.  But yeah… are you reading the same book?

And how is it the State Department has been able to hire a spokeswoman but not filled half the vacancies that took place when the Obama administration packed up and left.

She’s Heather Nauart, a former second tier newscaster for Fox and other networks, and straight out of the Roger Ailes factory that mass produces brilliant journalists like Laurie Dhue and Megyn Kelly and refurbishes anchors like Linda Vester and Maria Bartiromo.

At least she lends a little class to Foggy Bottom which Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Daniel Webster, Condoleezza Rice and other Secretaries of State once roamed.  Let’s hope she stays around when the next Secretary is named.

But wait! ReXXon isn’t gone.  No, he isn’t. Not yet. But ask anyone in the building whether he has any clout.  When he tries -- valiantly -- to turn down the heat with North Korea, his master tweets that the secretary was “wasting his time.”

You get the impression ReXXon thought to himself something along the lines of “I guess I can do without my limo, my throne, my private jet and my stock options, but I’d better learn something about Secretary-ing because if I don’t, this country’s going to be in deep doo doo.”

And you have to give him credit for that.

“It’s a gradual process.” -- Soon to be former Secretary of State Rex ReXXon on calming things with Rocket Man.

--Say what? Knock us over with a feather! The NRA says the government should consider regulations of “bump stocks,” the kind of add-on that lets a semi automatic weapon fire almost at full auto.

--Count on this:  since the NRA gets what it wants, as it wants and when it wants, new bump stock legislation will pass both houses in two heartbeats.  And likely without much debate.  But will the president sign it, and if he doesn’t… are there enough votes to override a veto?

--The automaker Renault says it wants half its cars to be electric or hybrid by 2022, five years from now.  Anyone who has ever owned a Renault has a different thought. They want their cars to be running five years from when they bought it.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, October 04, 2017

1853 Autumn in Vegas

Las Vegas is a fake city. Oh, sure, there’s a piece of actual land with the name.  It has buildings and people and all those other place-y things.  But it shares a soul with Oz, Glocca Morra, Brigadoon, Moote Pointe and Washington DC, famous locations with no real geography.

It is a place where you go to admire hotel rooms with  flocked wallpaper, casinos without clocks and without heart, and really big shows with shopworn stars like Celine Dion, J-Lo, Wayne Newton and those creepy illusionists within an illusion Penn and Teller.  It’s a place where you can imagine Fredo putting down roots that will eventually grow into the “soon-to-be-all- legitimate” Corleone family business.

It’s also a place where they hide catastrophic water shortages, tolerate temperatures hot enough to bake a cake on the sidewalk and where it hails bullets not lumps of ice.

That hail storm was big enough for the Hurricane Center to give it a name. It was a non-nuclear neutron bomb, destroying living human beings and leaving buildings intact.

As people lie dead, dying, injured and wounded in Vegas, the cartoons in DC, the work of a demented Disney or a live action Bugs Bunny film go about their business as if nothing happened.  

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Not this time, Daffy Duck.  

Your congressman or woman remains on the job making your taxes rise and your standard of living fall. Oh. And doing nothing about people like Stephen Paddock, the shooter.  Not the “suspect,” mind you. The Shooter.

Paddock is the kind of guy who if he lived on the edge of a small town or in a mobile home park would be called a loner. Since he lived in a ritzy retirement community and evidently had a lot of money, he was called “reclusive.”  You know: Timothy McVey was a loner.  Howard Hughes was “reclusive.”

People who knew him said he hadn’t held a job in the past 30 of his 64 years.  That means one of two things: either he worked for Fredo or he made his money shifting other money and other assets around while adding nothing of actual value, kind of like your financial adviser or the “developer” who got your 120 year old Victorian house leveled to put up a parking lot.

Which leads us to Marilou Danley who
--was Paddock’s girlfriend
--was visiting relatives in the Philippines and apparently smart enough to get out of Dodge before the bullets hit the fans.
--was met by the FBI when she returned to Los Angeles.
--Is a citizen of Australia
--Probably was privy to a pillowtalk preview of Paddock’s plans but “not considered a suspect.”  Yet.

Paddock was not a known gun collector. His brother says he had a gun or two locked up in a safe in his house.

Paddock brought about a dozen of those “two” with him including semi automatic long range rifles converted to what amounts full automatic, which slips it through a loophole in President Reagan’s law against machine guns. Law enforcement found others in Paddock’s house along with ammunition and explosives.

Okay. Since he was relatively well off, we have to call him “a reclusive collector of weapons” and not “a hermit gun nut.”

Either way, he was no fancy marksman or sharpshooter.  It doesn’t take one of those to kill 59 people and wound or injure more than 500 others from 32nd story perch and using a high powered long range fully automatic gun, which is what he did.

Meantime up in that other fake city, Washington, Congressman Daffy Duck and his looney tune brothers have the power to close the loophole that bans machine guns but at the same time puts them in reach. But that’s less fun than running around in circles and building a wall that might protect us from the next guy who has a better machine gun and plan to go hunting.

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