Friday, February 16, 2018

1906 The Silence of the Knowing

Try on some of these afterthoughts for size:
“He was a quiet kid, a loner. Kept to himself. Never said much.”
“He was always angry. Threatening. Crazy.”
“He was preoccupied with guns and knives.”
“He bought the gun legally.”
“He lied on his gun application.”
“There’s nothing we can do to stop him until he actually pulls the trigger.”

These are among the top bromides that follow mass shootings like the one we’re dealing with now, the one just north of Ft. Lauderdale.

True, in a nation founded on laws -- many of them more flexible than a rubber band -- we can’t stop something that hasn’t yet happened.  But there always are signs.

The “suspect,” Nikolas Cruz showed plenty of them. Social media posts. Gun talk.  Troubled student. Teachers knew this. Probably school administrators too. Parents? Neighbors?  Fellow students?

Someone knew.  No one did anything. This is not to blame anyone but Cruz. He did it. It’s his fault.  Not his tough childhood or his misery or his mean auntie or the teachers would wouldn’t pass him when he hadn’t earned passing grades.  But others helped.  Like the manufacturers, the sellers and the moral climate that condemns these acts only in the aftermath.

When Kirby Crewcut, 16, comes to school in camos for six or seven months, when he doodles pictures of AK47s in his notebook while he should be paying attention to the lesson… when his Facebook motto is “Seven Verified Kills” with a picture of a cat or a bird or a turtle… You know there’s something wrong.

There’s nothing law enforcement can do about Camo Kirby or Nikola Cruz.  But others may be able to, at least some of the time. If they overcome their disbelief or denial and pay attention to what’s going on at home, in school or in the neighborhood.

Typical response: “Oh, I could see something was wrong with him, but what could I do?”  Stock answer:  “Get him help.”  Too many “helpers” are helpless.  Too many kids in therapy think therapy is something that cures them or at least slows them.  No.  Therapy is not something that happens to them.  It’s something they have to do.

But therapy isn’t always the answer.  Sometimes, the answer is taking the kid aside and telling him you “know where this is going.  I’m wise to you.”  Sometimes that’s enough. Not often enough, but sometimes.

Here are some things that never work:
--He’ll outgrow it.
--I’m too busy.
--He won’t talk to me.

There’s no universal instruction book for parents and kids.  Every parent improvises.  Some play that fiddle better than others. But it starts early.  And the signs are there early:
--Never outgrew the terrible twos.
--The terrible twos were really terrible, not just a burst of energy and exploration.

We overtalk these situations and under-do them. But as a nation we have a collective problem. We’re trying to balance rights -- real or imagined -- that are in our basic law, the Constitution. And that’s not going to work.

The Second Amendment is specific about who should have guns, who should use them and when, and what people who have them have them for. The Constitution does not prohibit gun regulation.

And we have a Supreme Court that can’t read and votes illiterately.

One of the big arguments gun rights people make against any kind of law restricting them is a false comparison. They’ll tell you cars kill more people than guns.  And that may be statistically true, if only because more people drive than shoot. But you can count on one hand the number of people who intend to do damage with a moving vehicle even in the age of sidewalk truck terrorists and “honor killings.”

Every state, even the dumbest of them has driving laws: Training, testing, licensing, insuring and policing.  Yes, a dangerous projectile is at least somewhat curbed by sensible laws and rigorous enforcement.

So why not do the same for guns?  Train, test, license, insure and police.  Home schooling may work for driving, but it doesn’t work for firearms. And there’s no test for a license.  There’s no grumpy guy with a clipboard sitting there marking you right or wrong for what you do.

Driving tests are not just for skill. They’re a step toward protecting others against your possible onslaught.

Okay, let the firing pinheads loose on this one.

Further reading: We addressed the value of prayer in cases like this two years ago. Summary: Useless, maybe less than useless.  Find the full report here .  (Addendum for those who read the link:  the patient who needed the motorized wheelchair never received it. The crowdfunding effort failed to raise the funds and the inured woman has since passed away.)

--The people who have kidnapped the second amendment did so in plain sight, aided by elected gangsters who lie and get rich for their trouble.  But they’ve also kidnapped the standard cure for such twisting, the vote. It may no longer be possible for your vote to matter.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

1905 Machine Mergers

1905 Machine Mergers
The new computer and the new-ish huge screen TV are not on speaking terms. That’s good.  Google wants to “teach” about “casting.” Microsoft wants a subscription to some version of Office that stores stuff on off site servers called “the cloud” and maybe keeps a closer eye on you than you’d like.

And they keep pushing this stuff like carnival barkers.  Except you can walk away from a carnival barker and he won’t follow you to the ends of the tents with his harangue.

These guys have mastered a new form of the hard sell.  Get in the customer’s face so often, so loud and so overbearing that they’ll drive you to live in fear of logging in.  Written stuff stores just fine on the hard drive and there’s always a backup somewhere in case a hit and run lightning bolt destroys it or the cops get a warrant and take it downtown for interrogation. (Why are police precincts always “Down Town?)

As for “casting”... that’s something you do with a fishing rod or a couch. (oops.)

Can you imagine a circumstance where something on your computer is so visually appealing you want to see it on a TV set with a screen bigger than those at the multiplex theater?  Well, those unasked for pictures that Windows 10 puts in your face on startup are cute.  Rocks that look like animals. Animals that look like rocks.  Animals that look like animals.  Along with these really nice pictures, they give you a “choice.”  You can click “I like it” and it will find 19- thousand more images to send you.  Or you can click “No thanks” and they will continue to send pictures until you “like” one or more of them.

There is a third choice. Do nothing.  That way they’ll keep sending you the same pictures over and over and you’ll get used to them and not even notice they’re there.  Kind of like car alarms and leaf blowers only quieter.

And put them on the big screen?  Nah.  That’s for not watching the Olympics.

Note to people with compromised vision:  None of this applies to people who need large scale reading screens, large print books, magazines, newspapers and websites.  This post is aimed only at people who take eyesight as a given.

--The home shopping channel QVC is buying its biggest rival, the home shopping channel HSN for about $2 billion. That kind of acquisition didn’t work all that well for Macy’s. And it’s not going to fend off the onslaught from on-line retailers, in particular.

--We New Yorkers have been saying “on line” rather than “in line” since there were lines to be on, which in the case of New York started when Columbus discovered Staten Island. But newer editions of spell check redline “on line” and want to change it to in line.  You’ll have to wait on line for us to do that online.

--Not that anyone believed him, but what happened to trump’s promise to balance the budget.  His proposal further bloats the Pentagon, and slices social services like a Sunday morning Rye bread. Fortunately, congress -- even this bowl of fools -- never goes along with the plans of a president.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, February 12, 2018

1904 Olympics

Hurling and curling and twirling, oh my.  Watching the Olympics is like being forced to watch the Oscars red carpet show on E! And then the Oscar ceremony on regular TV and then the After Parties on half a dozen other channels.  Times two weeks.

At Biff’s Sports Bar Olympics are on 58 different big screen TVs.  It’s a good thing they have 100 others so we can get our fill of not only the Olympics, but every college basketball game, wrestling match, every NHL and NBA game, Bowling for Dollars, the World Series Nostalgia Channel and of course ESPN 1 through 27, Fox Sports from four time zones, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, CBS Sports, the Golf Channel, the Fishing Channel, the Poker Channel, the Ice Follies Channel (shared time with Disney on Ice but excluding the security camera of Walt in the Cryogenic Morgue.) The Hunters Hunting Hunters Channel. The Boxing Channel.  The Solitaire Channel.

But even without that stuff, there’s the Olympics.  Every sport you ever heard of (except wrestling) on display. Constantly. Endlessly.

Why don’t we turn it off?  Because we might see a budding 21st Century version of Tonya Harding v. Nancy Kerrigan.  Or two star-crossed lovers getting married on a stalled ski lift.  Or the Russian Women Weightlifter bathing beauty show.  Or the next Richard Jewell not blowing up a conning tower.  You never know.

And then, there are the Big Questions.  Like “Can the US Goosestepping Team finally beat Germany?  Can the Republic of China finally top the People’s Republic of China at Mahjong? And keep your eyes on the Long Island women’s Mahjong team.  They haven’t won anything better than Bronze since the bronze age. And will the US Barfight team finally win over the Singapore Parliament?

Maybe some year, they’ll widen the scope to include non-sports types who love ridiculous and meaningless ceremony.

Cold Case Homicide investigators from the US, Costa Rica, Japan and Alsace Lorraine.  Philly Cheesesteak teams from America, Portugal and Senegal. And NASCAR.

The possibilities are endless.

But the best possible thing to train for is the turn-off-the-set team. Anyone can play. And although it’s only a participation trophy everyone who joins is a winner.

--One of our endless slogans at the Associated Press was “Best of the latest first.”  Someone should remind them by taking that out of storage and dusting it off.  Their new website takes forever to load and is larded with old junk no one needs to know about anymore.

--This space never advocates criminal acts.  But if some low level congressional drone should happen to drop a copy of the Democratic version of the memo about the FBI, trump and Russia and some sneaky journalist should happen to see it and pick it up and read it… who would notice? Where is Ben Bradlee when you need him?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, February 09, 2018

1903 New Times at the LA Times

Going to need a glossary to understand this one.  So here goes:

1.    The Los Angeles Times, once a great newspaper, was founded 136 years ago.  It was locally owned most recently by the Chandler family which didn’t know what to do with it until Otis Chandler started running it. That’s when it stopped being an antique version of Blightbart. And before it started becoming Daily Variety.
2.     It later bought Newsday and other papers.  The company formerly known as the Chicago Tribune -- now “tronc” -- bought it and continued to drive it into the ground, something that began with Chandler’s death.
3.    Patrick Soon-Shiong supposedly is the “world’s richest doctor.” But he didn’t get to be that by administering flu shots at a clinic. He founded several companies, invested in others and declared war on cancer, which he says he intends to conquer in the next few years. He was born in South Africa where his parents fled during Japan’s ruination of their native China.

Other pertinent facts:
1.    Dr. Pat as he likes to be called is paying $500-million for the paper.
2.    That is twice what Amazon’s Bezos paid for the Washington Post and seven times what John Henry paid to buy the Boston Globe.

Okay, now what? Another ailing newspaper is sold to another billionaire.  But the LA Times is different because

1.    Los Angeles is a company town and the company is a conglomerate called the Movie Biz.
2.    It is impossible to report on the Movie Biz without one’s journalistic nose in the company’s butt at least occasionally because No Sources, No News.
3.    Chandler turned the Times into a major paper with bureaus all over the place and brought it to national prominence.
4.    The Times has been in constant personnel turmoil for the past 15 years or so.

So now there’s a doctor in the house. And if any ailing body needed a doctor, it’s the LA Times.

1.    Tronc has saved Dr. Pat from the necessity of canning publisher Ross Levinsohn, recently suspended without pay caught in a #metoo event.
2.    Tronc also has absorbed Levinsohn back into its ailing body as yours would reabsorb a cyst and put him in charge of a division no one pays any attention to which may be more than he deserves. Or less.
3.    The Times has gone through more editors than the cartoon Charmin bears go through toilet paper... with equally smelly results. Put someone in charge, Pat.

Long Term:
1.    Dr. Pat will lose megabucks in trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
2.    He can afford it.
3.    The readers and advertisers of the LA Times deserve it.
4.    Brilliant editors restored the Post and the Globe to their former glories almost overnight. In fact… it was the same guy at both papers. Find someone like that.  And not Dean Baquet ex LA Times and now in over his head at the NY Times as were the three immediate predecessors all lined up at the NYT turnstyle to Oblivion.

Billionaires don’t get to be billionaires by giving flu shots at the free clinic.  Let’s have a look at Dr. Pat and let’s do it in One Big Hurry. If he turns out to be another Sheldon Addlebrain, forget all of the above.

Further reading:  My laudatory piece Otis Chandler  here -- it’s from 12 years ago.

--Beside being expensive and time and energy consuming, trump’s proposed military parade in Washington is a sign of weakness, not strength… but may foretell the future. Only third world dictatorships stage those kinds of parades.  They don’t show gratitude to service men and women, they show threats to a potentially disobedient civilian population.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

1902 Martin Luther King, Jr. the Truck Salesman

“I have a truck.”

Fiat-Ram used parts of a speech by MLK to pitch its trucks during the Stupor Bowl. Shame on you.

You have $5 million to spend on a 30 second spot, but couldn’t spend a few nickels to fix 1.8 million trucks that like to jump spontaneously out of “Park” and start rolling until they had to recall them? Shame on you.

While it may have been nice to hear Dr. King say something beside the four words that everyone on earth now has heard, what were you thinking?  Shame on you.

Equal rights to buy a truck?  We have that already.  Serving the community? We have that already except for some places. But the number is growing as the government shirks its duties to the people.

Earth to Highdive Advertising, the Chicago-based mini agency that created the ad:  Shame on you.

Ram says the King family approved the ad.  The King center says otherwise.

What’s the big deal?  The big deal is you don’t commercialize an important preacher’s words, spoken decades ago in order to push tin off the lot.

Fiat owns Chrysler, maker of Ram trucks, Dodge and Chrysler vehicles.  And it has repeatedly proven it (a) doesn’t know how to do business in America and (2) knows a whole lot less about building cars than it should for a company that has building cars since 1900 and modifying them so they will suitable for use in the third world countries of Europe, Africa and Latin America. And here.

Fiat’s ineptness is legendary. Which is kind of a continuously running shockwave. Look at the rest of Italy: Da Vinci. Vivaldi. Toscanini. Pizza. How can a place of such magnificent marathon achievements allow itself to build cars the punchline for which is  Fiat stands for “Fix It Again, Tony?”

This run of inferiority now evidently includes choosing an ad agency.

Reaction to the ad lit up the Twitter-verse immediately after it ran. Can you imagine all the football crazies watching the game taking time away from their viewing parties to tweet their dissatisfaction?

The tweets were so numerous and so quick that even trump couldn’t get his two cents on the web. Nor could the Associated Press which spends almost as much effort making traffic and clickbait for Twitter than it does on running its wires.

But there are two things this ad did that many others don’t. It got our attention, and we remembered the product.  Ordinarily, this would be good business.  In this case: Shame on you.

--The US Supreme Court has rejected Pennsylvania Republicans’ plea to stop rebalancing the state’s lopsided congressional districts.  PA’s districts look like a picture wall chart of skin cancer variations, all of which allow republican members of congress to choose their voters and win elections in a state that usually goes blue. Now, if the lawgivers of Harrisburg won’t make the changes, the courts will.

-“Rejected.” (without comment)  -- US Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito ruling on republicans’ plea to leave gerrymandered PA congressional districts in place.  Alito is the justice who hears “emergency appeals” from Pennsylvania.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, February 05, 2018

1901 You Can’t Get There From Here

Welcome to this week’s edition of American Conspiracy! Ryan Seacrest is off this week.  But no worries.  The votes are in and this week, you’ve chosen transportation as your winner.

Trains and boats and planes join buses, self driving cars, cruise ships, motorcycles and even Captain Kirk’s transporter room in a secret and major effort to defeat your ability to travel to or from wherever you want whenever you want.

Never in the history of the United States has it been so difficult to travel from point A to point B no matter where either point is, including down the block.

Yes, sure, the covered wagon crew had it rough.  But they never faced the Transportation Safety Administration, never rode a Greyhound trained to flip on command or an Amtrak that leaps from the rails, or tries a non-stop nose dive into an immovable Penn Station bumper.

They never had to travel on the Long Island Expressway, the 101 in California, or route 80 in Lodi.

With all the airport and plane problems that beset us… with deadly train accidents… with all those extra Uber and Lyft cars on the road, and with overworked and under-rested texting bus truck and cab drivers, it’s a miracle that you can get anywhere.

Take a cruise? Bring your own water and porta-potty.  Try to get a shopping cart through the supermarket aisles?  This can’t all be coincidence and accidents.  There must be a secret agency coordinating this stuff.

But who?  The Koch brothers?  The CIA? The Zionist Marxist cabal that runs the previous two suspects?  Hollywood? trump?  Harvey Weinstein’s bathrobe maker?  Wells Fargo?

Maybe it’s the work of the evil geniuses who mis-run the New York Subway System.  The transit authority has all that money and seems never to fix a busted car.  They must be using it to make themselves look good compared to MegaBus, American Airlines, Amtrak and the Jersey Turnpike.

There can be no other possible explanation.

Wessays (™) questioned a former FBI agent who said his agency was experimenting with mass hysteria hypnosis as far back as the Korean War era.  He (or she!) said the basic idea was to keep Americans home, give them cabin fever and provoke intrafamily violence as a way to reduce the population.  The FBI has declined comment saying it can only deal with one major conspiracy at a time, and this one is not a high priority.

Not a high priority? Why they’re erasing one of our great freedoms, the freedom to travel when and where we please. It’s all happening below the surface.  Well… not exactly “all.”

The other day cops in Keokuk, Iowa caught a bus driver crouched near his front tire and searching in the dark for what was discovered to be an ice pick!

His obviously concocted excuse was that he dropped the ice pick which he had intended to use to clear the frozen windshield.  A likely story. You know those tires were moments away from disabling punctures.

And then there was the case of the missing Legionnaires Disease virus, stolen from a still secret lab belonging to a drug company that’s actually a clandestine subsidiary of the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Lauderdale.  Who was caught red handed with the loot?  Why none other than the HVAC chief and a plumber’s assistant employed by the owners of a cruise ship about to sail for the Bahamas.

What do you think they were going to do with THAT stuff?

This has been American Conspiracy, Simon Cowell Executive Producer. We’ll be back at this same time next week with another edition, a little something to watch because every other channel will be broadcasting the Olympics except CBS which has hired a defective metronome to read the Evening News.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, February 02, 2018

1900 A Face in the Crowd

Biograph Studios photo 1957 

It was a movie starring Andy Griffith about an adulation-hungry, sex-mad drifter who lucked into a broadcast job and held the nation in the palm of his hand until someone left a mic open during the closing credits and we learned what the character, Lonesome Rhodes, really thought of his listeners and viewers.

Toward the end of the movie, we see Rhodes making a speech to an audience of two.  One is one of his lackies, who is operating (2) a machine that plays recorded cheers and applause and laughter.

When the film was made in 1957, such a machine did not exist.  But it does now.  So someone please find one and give it to the president.  As Rhodes spun out of control, the applause got louder and louder.

There are plenty of clips from the movie online. But not this one. If we could get one of those machines to Washington, we’d probably be better off because trump would get all the adulation he needs and leave the rest of us alone.

The machine is only one aspect of the way this 1950s Paddy Chayefsky film based on a 1940s short story by Budd Schulberg is prophetic.

That populist rhetoric doesn’t travel well once the populist is shown to be a scam artist.  And a scam artist is who we have in the White House.

It doesn’t really matter whether he has ties to Russian and other mobsters.  What matters is what he is and what he does or doesn’t do.

At this writing, there’s only one congressman who has seen the documents underlying that iffy Nunes memo questioning the FBI Russia investigation.  That congressman is Trey Gowdy (R-SC.) Gowdy Doody, as Joe Galloway calls him announced he won’t seek re-election so he can become active in “law enforcement.” For a while everyone thought he’d be nominated for a federal judgeship.  

But Doody says he doesn’t want that… he wants to be a prosecutor.  
This may be a case of obstruction of bribery.

So the real crime with the trumpettes is nothing that’s on the books.

And please don’t come back with “well, Hillary did this…” or “Obama did that.” These are false equivalents. It’s not “all those bums,” Republicans and Democrats alike. The democrats certainly have their flaws, but well organized and well financed are not two of them.

And it isn’t even real Republicans, such as there are left of them. It’s the Crazy Caucus. Maybe we’ll all get sane. Or better yet, maybe we’ll stop allowing ourselves to be led by the crazies.

“I had the gun in my backpack… it fell and the gun went off.” -- unidentified 12 year old girl in a Los Angeles classroom whose gun shot a 15 year old in the head, another in the wrist. Police have ruled it an accident but cuffed the girl who will be charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm on school grounds.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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1906 The Silence of the Knowing

Try on some of these afterthoughts for size: “He was a quiet kid, a loner. Kept to himself. Never said much.” “He was always angry...