Monday, September 29, 2014

1389 Don't Get Sick

It’s that time of year again… time to start thinking about health insurance for 2015.  Open enrollment starts November 15th and runs until February 15th.


We can hardly wait for this year’s Healthcare-dot-gov follies.  Last year’s not ready for prime time debut was the stuff of legends.


Let’s see if they can top it this year… without actually abandoning the site.  We know they’ve paid their internet renewal fees, so abandonment is unlikely.  At least for the website.  For you?  Who knows.


Over the past few weeks we’ve been nosing around the various private bureaucracy sites and found most of them as confusing and contradictory as ever.


To make matters even more fun, Medicare’s annual guide has arrived in the mail, chock full of advice for those of us with enough remaining marbles to delude ourselves into thinking we can figure things out.


Alphabet soup is the opening act for this extravaganza.  HMO, PPO, POS. For Medicare, Part A, B and D. And (shudder) The Formulary, that list of gibberish that tells you which drugs you need and can’t have.


If you’re good at letters, don’t fret.  There are some numbers to figure out, too.  Especially in part D or any related pharmacy plan.


Level one generics, 2, 3, etc.  Level two and three and four and then it’s on to the name brands.


Your Fizoxofan was covered this year, why not next? Well, because there is a generic version Mono-Sodium Fizafflagin.  And “real” Fizoxofan has been elevated to level nine which means you need preauthorization, you are limited to one pill every other month, but there’s a donut hole in June and July.


Good thing Fizo doesn’t do much to begin with.  Fizoxofan is not for everyone.  Ask your doctor… side effects include… blah blah blah and suicidal thoughts or actions.


Ever stop and think about what a “suicidal action” is?


Compare the plans.  Don’t compare the plans by talking to an insurance agent.  They’ll sell you what produces the greatest commission.  You would in their shoes too.  Compare them on the websites.


Another question:  once you choose a plan, you’re a partner in a divorce- proof marriage for at least one year.


But your doctor isn’t.  She can opt out any time during the year.  So you say your vows but doc is free to live in sin?


Does that seem fair?


When you combine the government bureaucracy with the private bureaucracy, is that addition or multiplication?


How many of us will just throw our hands up in frustration and pick the first plan from the first website that pops up on our computer screen?


The bottom line is now what it always has been: don’t get sick.


Shrapnel:


--Over the weekend, a cop is shot and wounded in Ferguson, Missouri, the President says when we don’t trust the cops we’re “corroding America,” and two parents and three of their kids were found dead in a house near Provo, Utah.  Are we more prone to sudden death nowadays?  Or are we just better at reporting what happens?


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address sales pitches to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014






Friday, September 26, 2014

Cadillac and Kmart

Here’s what happened to Kmart, which had been chugging along nicely since before the turn of the 20th century until the game shifted from the sales floor to the boardroom.

In the late 1980s it was still ahead of Wal-mart… and was the country’s second largest retailer, behind Sears.

Enter Joseph Antonelli, a long time Kmart executive, elevated to CEO. Among his bright ideas were things like getting big name endorsers… Martha Stewart for one. Jaclyn Smith for another.

Those lines flopped.  So did much else Joe did.  But the biggest flop of all was dividing the company into four different entities.

Instead of selling clothing, pots, pans and such, he sold stock.

Kmart never recovered and today is a shadow of its former shadow.

You’ve heard this from Wessays™ before.  Now, you’re going to hear it again.  When all the action is in the boardroom, the team on the field can’t win.

Fast forward to 2014.  General Motors has announced it is turning Cadillac into a separate company and moving its headquarters to New York City.

Not to GM’s imposing Fifth Avenue skyscraper, but to a relatively small office in SoHo.

Why?  Well, because Cadillac is the Kmart of luxury cars.  And some of the North American headquarters of some of the competing luxury brands are in Manhattan.

Caddy even has its own version of Joe Antonelli.  His name is Johan de Nysschen who once ran Audi/North America and more recently the beleaguered Infiniti division of Nissan.

Perfect. Infiniti is a mess.  And when was the last time you saw one on the road?  They sold about 9,000 cars in the US last month, down almost 23% from August, 2013.

At the same time, Lexus sold almost 30-thousand cars and Cadillac about half that.

The most optimistic prediction:  nothing will change.  A probable prediction: moving the front office off the auto industry’s beaten path while leaving engineering, design and production right where it is -- Detroit -- can’t possibly do the brand any good.

Cadillac still does a pretty good business in markets most of us don’t think about much.  Ambulances.  Funeral cars.

Actually, they and their outside contractors make the coolest ambulances and funeral cars on the planet.  But the call for that stuff is limited and mostly people only ride in each once, if that.

Other than those customers and a bunch of traditionalist grandparents, they don’t sell a whole lot of tin.

A typical reaction to seeing one of their stock models: “Wow, that’s a beauty.”  But more often than not, the thought is followed by “I’d buy one of those if they weren’t so bad underneath the skin.”

People who buy luxury cars are easily divisible into categories: show offs, arthritics and that part of the population with money to burn.

Cadillac needs to pay attention to all three categories.

Shrapnel:

--Attorney General Holder is quitting but he’ll wait until the Senate confirms the president’s nominee.  Figure Holder will be around until after the 2016 presidential election. The Senate wouldn’t approve John Jay, if Obama wanted him.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

1387 Autumn Leaves

Should we do a little dance welcoming the new season?  Yes, Fall has fallen yet again.  The good news:  We’re still here. The bad news: We no longer know what Autumn means.

Oh, some of the signs are there: Department stores starting to build  Christmas displays next to the Halloween displays they put up back in July.

School is open.  The garment trade is ready to show you what’s hot and what’s not for Spring.  Election day is drawing closer. Soon we’ll be oohing and ahhing about the beautiful fall foliage or knarching about the lack of beautiful fall foliage.

Television’s fall season which used to start in September will soon begin, at least on those networks that still do seasons.

Football.  The end of the baseball season. (Does it really ever end?)

Some radio station somewhere will feel compelled four or five times a day to play “Autumn Leaves,” the schmaltziest, corniest hit seasonal song ever written except for “Rudolph.”

Temperatures will drop into the 30s as climate change deniers point to “proof” we have nothing to worry about.

Climate change panickers using the same statistic will point to the difference between climate and weather.

In other words, all the man made trappings of Autumn have appeared or soon will as we continue to try and fool each other and ourselves into thinking we’re actually in control of something.

Notice, though, that in many parts of the country we didn’t have a summer.  Yes… there was and is fire and no rain in parts of the country.  But here in Civilization, not so much.

Before the Summer of No Summer, there was the Spring of no Spring.

So you didn’t remember to do your spring cleaning.

Now, we may be due for the Fall of no Fall.  So maybe you’ll forget to do your yard work.

And probably, you should.  When you clear a field of debris in your yard, you’ll find … something has gone wrong. Something requiring work.  Something that will bust your budget. Something that wouldn’t have gone wrong and busted your budget if you had just left well enough alone.

Like your “underground” telephone or cable or electric wires are no longer underground, if they ever were deeper than “under debris.”

Or there’s a family of moles working their way toward your basement.  And moles, as you know, have big families.

The season thing is confusing.  It’s like we expect some kind of click and everything changes in an instant.  It’s never worked that way, as you know when you think about it.  It’s a slow fade.

Like most everything else.  Meantime, don’t take it out on the Magic Piano of Roger Williams.  He was just trying to make a buck when he recorded the song.

Shrapnel:

--It’s becoming tough to have a civil conversation about the middle east.  Everyone has an answer.  No one knows the question.

Grapeshot:

-Sundown this evening marks the start of the Jewish New Year, 5775, so happy new year and watch out for those DWI patrols.

-Maybe we should mark the occasion with disco in shul, remembering 1975.

-Oy vey. Oy vey. Stayin’ alive.

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

© WJR 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

1386 Show Me Your Papers

Well, fellow New Yorkers, the era of stop and frisk is over for now.  The touchy-feely mayor and the equally touchy-feely police commissioner have decided that too many frisks yielded too few felons during the previous administration.


Not to mention who got stopped and frisked.


But fellow fans of Big Brother, fear not.  The de Blasio City Hall has an alternative sure to warm your conspiracy- addled heart.


They’re going to issue ID cards. City ID cards.  Presumably with a picture.  Maybe with a picture and a thumbprint.


Why not? Worked pretty well in some of the world’s great democracies like Germany and South Africa.


News dispatches from The Wizard of Downtown say this will help the undocumented. There’s high probability that it also will help the INS, the Immigration Police.


What’s next, bar code tattoos?  Much snazzier looking than old fashioned numbers, but still very 1937.


How about armbands.  Yellow goes with everything. Make a fashion statement!


This latest cuteness from mayor Cloud-head comes with a wonderful incentive.  Discounts and freebies.


Sign up for the card and you get a free one year membership to the Bronx Zoo.  (A $79 value! says the press release with that zeal that only Jihadists, telemarketers and infomercials for the latest “as seen on TV gizmo” can muster.


Helps new New Yorkers get involved in the city’s marvelous, brilliant, wonderful, extraordinary, highly touted, robust, transparent, unrivaled, unique, premium cultural scene.


So who goes to the Bronx Zoo more than once a decade, if that?


And then, there are museums.  Free admission!  Well, people, admission already is free even though every one from the Met to Staten Island’s legendary Museum of Thimbles and Pincushions tries to con you into paying ridiculous “suggested” donations.


And for some reason Cloud-head seems not to realize that those museums and many if not most of those cultural magnets are here to attract Iowans.


Many of us who were born and lived and worked a lifetime in New York brag about how few Broadway shows we’ve attended.  (Mine is one. “Oklahoma.” In 1948.  The Threepenny Opera doesn’t count, because the Theatre DeLyse had only eleven chairs and was too far downtown.)


Most new immigrants are so busy working three jobs they don’t have time or energy for the Thea-ter. And they couldn’t afford tickets -- even from TKTS -- if they did. Even with the ID cards.
When Pashir the cabbie gets home to the Bronx after his sixth 12 hour shift this week, all he wants is a meal and his mattress.  Same with Wing Fung at the sewing sweatshop. Or Bubbles from Buttock, Minnesota, on the stroll on the Eastern foot of the Ed Koch 59th St. Bridge. (Am I the only one who calls it that?)


And the museum folks are all atwitter, fearing non- paying New Yorkers will bankrupt them.


Don’t worry, girls, we’ll never run out of tourists from Ohio and Indiana.  And they won’t have those ID cards, barcode tats or yellow armbands.


Shrapnel:


-- We report with sadness and irony the death of Guinter Kahn MD, 80, inventor of Rogaine, the hair grow medicine. Dr. Kahn was mostly bald.  He was allergic to his invention.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please send comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

1385 Guantanamo and Grand Rapids

1385  Guantanamo and Grand Rapids

US Navy Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

All this talk about the future of the Guantanamo Naval Base.  It’s home to our most hated and feared prisoners, terrorists from around the world.  And there’s almost constant debate about what should be done with them and maybe with the base itself.
The United States has leased the place since 1903, although the Cuban government doesn’t cash the rent checks. Most of us would kill for a landlord like that.
Unlike Britain’s lease of Hong Kong, there’s no expiration date.  Their lease was just a lease.  Ours is a treaty.
We’re making less than ideal use of the thing.  We could be collecting rent of our own.
How?
By following the example set by Israel in its territories:  Build settlements.
The Naval base is 45 square miles.  It’s about the size of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Not huge.  But not that crowded.  The non-confined population is something like 6,000.  
Continuing the comparison, Grand Rapids’ population is around 200,000.
You can see the ads now: Retire to Guantanamo.  Beautiful weather.  Beautiful ocean front. Beautiful subsidies.
Not kidding about that weather. Aside from a few thunderstorms that’ll temporarily knock out your Dish or Direct TV, it’s balmy and tropical the year round. No snow.  
The average temperature runs from 68 degrees to about 90 depending on the month.  Gets a little cloudy from September to early December.  But so what?
It gets a bit humid from late spring to early fall, but your new settlement home will be centrally air conditioned.
And it’ll be built stronger than the third Little Pig’s house, so the hurricanes can huff and puff all they want but they won’t blow your house down.
So, no shoveling.  (Eat your heart out, Grand Rapids.) No lawn mowing.
Won’t be long and some airline will start direct flight service.
Won’t be long -- with enough retirees -- someone will open a casino.
Won’t be long before Wal-Mart opens a branch.
Won’t be long before Verizon and AT&T put up cell towers if they haven’t already.
And with all those Navy folks, you can bet the crime rate is way below any city in Florida or Arizona or Michigan you can name.
And no alligators.
No state income or sales tax because it’s not in a state.
Don’t worry about Cuba.  It has enough of its own troubles to mess with you. Plus, yours will be a gated community.
Don’t worry about the terrorists.  No one’s ever escaped from that prison.  Plus if they ever close it, it’ll mean all the more room for that hotel someone is likely planning.
At some point, also following the Israeli example, we’ll at least technically be able to take over the base.  We’ll offer Havana fair market value, they’ll agree.  And as it is with the lease, they won’t take our filthy yanqui money.

Shrapnel:
--We’ll eventually have something to say about the vote in Scotland.  But for the moment, this news: the “historic” St. Andrews club has voted to admit women golfers for the first time in its 260 year existence.
--Good for them. Why should men suffer the agony of golf on their own?  Let the girls feel our pain and frustration.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014







Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1384 Touchdown in the Elevator

Right now… this very minute… some guy is beating on his wife or girlfriend.  Doesn’t matter when “now” is.  It happens every hour of every day.  And it doesn’t matter where, because it happens everywhere.


Many of these crimes won’t be reported.  Many that are reported will never land anywhere near a courtroom because charges won’t be pressed.


People don’t want this kind of thing out in public.  So they keep it to themselves.


But when there’s video, the story changes.  And when the video is of a popular or well known figure, it changes all the more.


Hence we have the overcomplicated story of one Ray Rice, 27, a football star for New Rochelle, NY High School.  A bigger football star for Rutgers University.  And then, in time for the 2008 season, he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.


Those first few years were terrific.  But by the time the TMZ website released the video footage of him clobbering Janay Palmer -- now Janay Rice -- in the up- moving elevator, his work on the field was on the local car down.


Rice was suspended indefinitely and the Ravens fired him.


Mrs. Rice thinks that’s overkill.  After all, she married the guy not long after he attacked her.


Rice is not a big man as football players go.  He’s 5’8” and weighs a little over 200 pounds.  In football land, he’s short and light.


But when a guy’s job is breaking heads, which is what Rice did for a living up until now, sometimes, he brings the office home.


Why do you think people watch football? And what do you expect from many a player?


To be generous, bad behavior from someone who is likely to stand up at a sentencing hearing and tell the judge “I’m not a bad person.”  Or who enlists his mother to say the same to ESPN.


Three issues that aren’t talked about:  First, when you recruit who you recruit to play the game, you have to expect some fallout.  And second while some fans shrink in horror over all this, others are secretly cheering them on.  That’s two.  The third in a moment.


If there’s no violence on the field, no one turns out on game day. No one buys that eighth or ninth drink in the sports bar and makes more noise per capita there than they would at a stadium.  So we accept that while rejecting similar behavior off the field.


Now for the third thing:  Is an employer responsible for the behavior of his employees outside the workplace?


It depends on who you ask and when you ask them.


Corporate America would like you to think it is. Ask any doctor who smokes or anyone at Hobby Lobby who wants the morning after pill.


The Rice case is just another example.  But don’t feel sorry for the guy, feel sorry for Janay.


She’s the one coming to his defense. In denial? Too hooked into what used to be a small fortune?


The Ray Rices of the world -- football player, factory worker, corporate executive, lawyer, doctor, whatever -- need to be tried and convicted.


The NFL is a good place to start. Factory workers, corporate executives, lawyers and doctors don’t have head-breaking in their job descriptions.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them. (R)
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
(C) WJR 2014



Monday, September 15, 2014

1383 Don't Let Your Facebook Page Outlive You

Put this on your bucket list:  “I will make sure my Facebook page dies before I do, or soon thereafter.”

The sites of three long gone real- world friends remain active. On each, people post birthday greetings, “thinking of you” greetings and pitches.

Pitches for coins, pitches to end the sale of ivory.  Pitches for online poker games.

These are not paid ads. They’re not put there by Facebook itself.  These are placed by so-called “friends” who never updated their own lists or who don’t mind turning those long gone friends into from-  the- grave salesmen.

It’s wonderful to remember poor old Jack.  Fine to keep the flame alive.  Many of his other friends and relatives will visit and see and remember and maybe send a silent message to the deceased.

But Grinnin’ Gabe’s Used Cars back to school sale (this week only!)?

This is like posting ads on the sides of coffins.  Maybe it’s worse. Only those at the funeral or the burial would see the coffin ads.

On Facebook, they’re there for the whole world to see.

So here’s how you solve it. If you expect to star in a funeral and you’re still able, block everyone from posting on your site.

Your friends will find other ways to salute you.

Even if you’re in good health, you still can plan ahead.  The NSA has a form you can fill out while of sound mind.  It instructs them to disable your “newsfeed” at the appropriate time.

They’ll be happy to act on your behalf.  One less site to monitor. Your tax dollars at work.  And, yes, they’ll know when you go. They get copies of your death certificate.

Or make it a condition of your will and disclose your password to a trusted friend, preferably someone to whom you leave something.

“And to my dear cousin Bradley, I bequeath my villa in Switzerland, possession to be awarded upon his disabling my Facebook page.”

You have to make it worthwhile, because Bradley never really liked you anyway.  So, get even. Don’t tell him about the roaches and the plumbing problems, the neighboring aristocrat who throws wild and loud parties and never invites you.

Shrapnel:

--Hempstead high school on New york’s Long Island has invited Nicki Manaj to perform since her alma mater, LaGuardia/Performing Arts near Lincoln Center  cancelled her scheduled appearance. The principal expressed fears of “disruption” because she’d be accompanied by a camera crew. This sounds bogus and leads us to ask what was the principal really afraid of?

--One thing you can say about non- murderer George Zimmerman is he’s consistent. Evidence?  He was arrested in Florida and charged with threatening to kill a motorist during -- surprise, surprise -- a road rage incident.
Grapeshot:

-Scotland this week votes on possible independence from Britain and it’s big news over here because Scotland is a country Americans have actually heard of … and in some cases care about.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014