Monday, October 20, 2014

1398 Corporate Thank You Notes

You get those insincere thank you notes all the time, either on the phone or logging out of your account.  Thank you for choosing so and so.

It’s getting annoying, especially for those companies you don’t actually choose.

Like Bank of America.  Thank you for choosing Bank of America.  Nuts!

I’m imprisoned by my own bad spending habits and their bad customer vetting habits.  Three credit cards, all of them with significant but not monumental debt.

Thank you for choosing Capital One.  Same story.  But only one card.

Thank you for choosing JPMorgan Chase.  I didn’t choose you.  I chose the First National Bank of Moote Pointe, New York which was taken over at various times by three other banks, ending with Chase.

Thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless.  Are you crazy?  Yours is the only signal that reaches my house… and not too well, I might add.

The gas and electric companies … there really was a choice.  Does Columbia Gas ever thank me?  No!

Does West Penn Power ever thank me?  Not only don’t they… but they regularly send me little charts that show what an electricity hog I am.  “You use x-times as much as your neighbors and 2x times as much as your energy conscious neighbors.”

Oh, yeah?  So how come all the neighbors get the same b-s in the mail.

And more recently they’ve sent a note saying my contract is up in December and they’re not renewing.  I never signed a contract, but good riddance.

My dentist and periodontist thank me in person.  And they mean it.  And my few remaining teeth thank them back.  And THEY mean it.

The gas pumps at every filling station say thanks with electronic writing at the pump.  A nice gesture.  What would be nicer is getting rid of the tele-screens that try to make you buy other stuff.

And while everything that isn’t tied down is privatized, this bad habit probably will spill over into government, probably starting with the post office, a hybrid of government efficiency and private sector arrogance.

They’ve probably figured out how to make mail boxes talk, such few as remain of them.

“Last pickup at this mailbox is Mondays at 2 PM except holidays.  Thank you for using USPS.”

“Thank you for choosing the IRS.”  Of course.  We could have sent our tax dollars directly to… um … somewhere else.

“Greetings from your Uncle Sam.  And thank you for choosing the United States Army.”  “Thank you for choosing the Walter Reed Medical Center.”

“Thank You” used to mean something.  Apparently it’s now in a league with “have a nice day” or the theme song of the table waiters who near the end of a meal say “May I get that out of your way?”  Or “no problem” instead of “okay” or… heaven forbid, “thank you.”

Shrapnel:

--Only the good die young.  This cliche springs to mind on learning that William J. Ronan has died at the age of 101.  Ronan was architect and first chairman of downstate New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which thanks you for riding MTA, as if you had a choice.

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

1397 Oil's Well



Let’s see if we have this straight:  Oil has become plentiful.  And prices are on the low side.  But demand is shrinking and we expect a price increase?

Doesn’t that violate some famous principle of economics?  Aren’t overstocks supposed to sell cheap?

Well… like many of those things we all know for sure, guaranteed, wrapped up, done, finished, here’s another one that’s not always true.

But, but, but… Adam Smith says it has to be so.  Didn’t Paul Samuelson… and he won the Nobel Prize? And Ludwig von Mises, the darling of the libertarians?

Joe has too many t-shirts and they’re cluttering up his warehouse.  So he knocks down the price, and bingo, they’re gone.

But not oil?  Too much production and the price is going to rise?

Yes, but.  Here’s the thing:  when the supply is too high the usual suspects will reduce their production. Presto, they kill some of the supply. So far, so good, right?

Then comes the United States, now among the world’s biggest producers.  This country’s huge oil output comes from shale. Fracking.  Which costs a lot.  So even though there’s plenty, we don’t benefit from supply and demand.

Oh, and there’s something else:  When they find oil from shale, the first few years the oil flows like Niagara.  After that, they have to frack deeper and deeper for less and less output.  That costs more. So… up go the prices.

Did you know that years and years ago, congress declared the byproducts of oil fracking are not hazardous?  But they can be.  So… a political decision based on no science.  And here you thought disbelief in science was something new the right wing cooked up.  Nope.  It’s been with us all along.

Environmental laws don’t apply.  Getting rid of that “non-hazardous” effluvia therefore is “no problem.”  Just put that slag anywhere, boys.  Not too near a river.  Unless it’s inconvenient or expensive to ship it farther away.

And don’t worry too much about the price increases either.  We’re used to paying four bucks a gallon for gasoline.

This problem eventually will find its way to natural gas fields, too.  So right now, gas is dirt cheap.  But ten years from now, watch what happens.

Good thing they don’t have to frack for water, else Perrier would be a bargain.

Energy independence has its price.

Shrapnel (Eboling for Dollars Edition):

--Ebola in Texas?  Maybe we won’t have to build walls on the southern border to keep Mexicans out.  Mexico will build walls to keep Texans out.

--Speaking of border closings, why haven’t we stopped letting people from Ebola- rich countries into ours?  Not permanently, but until this thing dies down?  That worked okay with Sars and Bird Flu.

Grapeshot:

-Eboling for Dollars… and the money -- charitable donations -- is not coming in, which is unsurprising… but where is Larry Kenny when you need him.

(Note to younger readers Kenny was NY-area host of “Bowling for Dollars.”)

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, October 15, 2014

1396 Medical Office and a Jiffy Lube

It started with a tragic comic joke decades ago.  A good friend with serious heart trouble checked into a hospital so puny and terrible we called it Astoria Medical Center and Exxon Station.  A combination hospital and auto repair shop where they rolled the patients out of the bays to fix cars by day and rolled them back inside at night.

Eventually, this was refined to Central Medical Center and Jiffy Lube.  But the deal was the same.

Now life imitates art.

We rolled into the parking lot of an auto repair shop the other day thinking we had made a mistake.  It has open bays exposed to the weather. Old Beater-mobiles in each. This was the address the doctor provided.  So something must be wrong.  Maybe a misprint on a website?  Maybe the patient wrote down a wrong address.

Nope.  This was it.  Kindly Old Doc’s office was in the indoor part of a place that does oil changes and tuneups.

Right near the doc’s check-in window, there’s a sign that says something about patients should forgive delays because they’ll get the same kind of extended attention when their turn arrives. Not a good sign.

The office is filled with fellow oldsters.  I appear to be the youngest of them.

They’re sitting around talking about... the things people talk about.  Like life on their farms and moose hunting.

The appointment was for 10:30 a.m. The clock said 10:20.  Asked about delays, the receptionist said “oh, 45 minutes, tops.”  I fill out all the “first visit” paper work.

Forty five minutes pass.  No one has been called in for examination.  No one has left an exam room.  

There are stacks of files placed in what appear to be random piles.  A radio is playing.  Bonnie Tyler, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Passable.

An hour goes by.  There is some movement.  I’m expecting a fleet of ambulances to remove comatose patients cluttering the exam rooms. Wrong. Everyone who left was at least borderline mobile.   No fleet of ambulances.  But the exodus had begun at last.  That is to say occasionally someone hobbles out and someone else is called to hobble in.

An hour and 15 minutes.  A stack of files falls over and the doc and all the assistants gather to return them to stacked condition.  Random pieces of paper remain on the floor.  No award for excellence in record-keeping here.

Ninety minutes.  Bee Gees on the radio.  “I Started a Joke.” But 90 minutes wait is no joke.

I get up to leave.  Tell the receptionist “toss out my paperwork, okay?  I don’t have this much time to waste.”

She says “Hold on. You’re next.”  Ninety minutes is obscene.  I leave.  The car is blocked by a truck delivering auto parts to the main tenant.

Wow and happiness, still more waiting!  And a chance to inspect the rot and termite damage on the pillars holding up the indoor/outdoor service bays.

Gotta find a place where the waiting room chatter isn’t about hunting moose and occasionally someone sees a patient.

Or at least a medical office attached to an auto repair shop with an actual indoors.

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, October 13, 2014

1395 A Few Good Menches

Harvey doesn’t look a day over 90.  Of course, he won’t disclose his age.

Harvey shuffles regularly from his little Cape Cod in Moote Point, NY to… to…

To where, Harvey?

“Oh, here and there.”

Yes, to here and there.  We don’t know exactly where “here” or “there” are. But on the table next to the door, where he plops down the mail, there’s an envelope with an El Al Frequent Flyer Rewards logo in the upper left.

Hey, Harvey, where does El Al fly except Israel?

“Oh, here and there.  Enough about my travels, sit down.  Here, I have some coffee for you.  Black, two sugars, right?”

No sugar, Harv. Gave that up the sugar years ago.  

“Well, I’m getting a little forgetful.”

Yeah, you’ve been around for awhile.  How old are you, anyway?

“Old enough.”

So what was so hush hush that you couldn’t talk about it on the phone?

“Oh you know I don’t like the telephone.  Especially these days with all those spies and such.”

Okay, I’ll ask again, and please turn up your hearing aid.

“I don’t wear a hearing aid!”

So what’s that stuck in your ear, something from the Secret Service?  An iPod?

“So, listen have you ever… Oh, how’s the coffee?”

Terrible.

“Good. So listen, have you ever considered working overseas?”

No way, Har-VAY

“Well not so fast, hotshot, maybe I can change your mind.”

So we go to his computer, an antique, really.  Runs Windows XP.

Windows XP? Aren’t you afraid of getting hacked?

“Hacked, schmact.  Who cares.”

Harvey types a few commands and up comes a website … The Mossad? It’s recruiting?  Out in the open?  Just like that?

One quick look, and …

This is from “The Onion,” right? Or Mad Magazine.

The Mossad is looking for a few good men?  Really?

“No, boychick.  This is the real deal.”

So the Israeli spy agency is having trouble finding recruits? No, but not always the kind they need at the moment. Speakers of languages they never thought about last century.  People with tech skills that didn’t exist last century.

So, Harvey… what!  You’re a recruiter?

“Nah, I still work for the Department of Agriculture. I’m an SCI, supervising chicken inspector, Kosher division.”

And you use an antiquated software program on a superannuated computer?

“I might have access to something a little fancier if I need it.  So what do you think, are you in or what?”

Nah.  But maybe you need an extra inspector in the Kosher chicken division?

“Are you kidding?  We can’t get approval for new pencils let alone new people.  And if this guy Perdue is elected in Georgia…”

I don’t know, but I don’t think he’s a member of the chicken Perdue family.

“What does it matter. Here, I’ll print you the Mossad page.  Take it home.  Think it over.  But now, it’s time for my nap.  Glad you liked the coffee.”

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



Friday, October 10, 2014

1394 Old Media to the Rescue

We heard it all the time:  “You radio guys don’t know what news is.”  “You radio guys don’t give any depth and perspective.”  “You TV guys are all flash and hairdos.”

The first time we hired a newspaper guy to work in radio, a nice fella named Paul, he taped an interview that went on for what seemed like hours.  He asked good questions.  But far too many.  In the end, he had a huge reel of tape (yes, tape!) and didn’t know where to start editing.

Today, the demands of the internet are knocking old time print guys to the canvas.  Many of them just don’t have the speed.

Wire service people do. Radio guys do. Television guys do.

Newspapers are fast dying.  The mechanics of print just can’t keep up with those electrons.

Radio also is dying.  That leaves a lot of fast fingers and mouths ringing registers instead of bulletin bells.
But it also leaves a huge but aging pool of people who know how to push out a story.  And they can teach it.  Not in J-School, but on the job.  And this is where newspapers which eventually have to rely completely on the internet as their presses turn to rust have to turn for the expertise they lack.

Oh, sure… the big players have come a long way in the speed departments.  But for every Boston Globe there are a hundred smaller papers that need help.

Think of it! The depth of a newspaper report with the speed of radio!

But attention editors and publishers:  you’d better act fast.  As noted, the talent pool is aging as old timers become older timers and get comfortable selling cars, houses or burial plots, or learn to say “Hello, My name is Walter and I’ll be serving you tonight.”

The speed we’re talking about took years to take root.  It took years to grow.  And if you let it fade with the current generation… it’ll be gone.

Gotta visit cities with real all news radio: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Los Angeles, Seattle, Detroit.

Instead of watching CNN to learn what’s happening “now,” watch to see how they do it.  Tour their newsrooms.  You may then see how to put out a 500 word story and add to it later -- if you need to add to it at all.

Meantime, we broadcast dinosaurs will sit on the sidelines, remember the good old days when we were second class citizens and you were all smugness and superiority.

Shrapnel:

--Let’s look at the “radio is dead” picture from another angle.  It appears not to be true of our northern most state, Canada.  This time of year late at night you can tune to 740 a.m. anywhere in the northeast and get to hear what I mean.

--Speaking of allegedly antiquated business models, have you heard the reports that Amazon.com plans to open a retail store on 34th St. in Manhattan?  We’ve been awaiting that news since devising the Wessays™ Amazon Theory. It proposes that they’re going to try to do to Wal-mart what Wal-mart has done to everyone else.

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, October 08, 2014

1393 The Wizard of IS

This is about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS and occasionally ISIL.  Here at Wessays™, it’s called IS (Pronounced isss or, if you prefer, “izzz.”)

Okay with that out of the way, we’re off to see the Wizard of IS, that far off land where up is down, Munchkins wear strap-on C4 explosive and the witches wear hijabs both on and off the broom. Where the Scarecrow has been baked into bread, the Tin Man has all the oil he needs and the Cowardly Lion has been executed with a pen knife for … cowardice.  It’s where Dorothy becomes a prime candidate for an honor killing.

We don’t know who the Wizard of IS is because he’s hiding behind the curtain.  But we have a plan.  All we need to do is get him out of that little control room where he runs his world from an iPad.

As IS trains American recruits, we are going to train IS recruits.  Expose them to the “corrupt” western society, where you don’t have to die to find willing virgins.  (It’s harder than it used to be, but with State Department and Pentagon funding, the CIA can work it out.)

We can do a lot of good.  Teach them how to land airplanes.  They’re not good at that.

Teach them to eat bacon like real Americans.  Let them know that our acres of sand are generally bordered by water.  (We’ll have to start them out in Arizona, just to get them used to the cooler temperatures.)  

Ask them why only Sultans have Bentleys and Benzes… they can, too with a little down payment and a low interest lease.  Just don’t blow it up because there’s a damage clause in the contract.

They woo our youth.  We can woo theirs.  Before you know it, some Americans travel to the Merry Olde Land of IS, rip the curtain behind which the little man stands, smash his iPad and … take care of him.

Well, never mind the usual IS solution which would be a beheading.  Just read him his rights and throw him into a newly Americanized justice system where he can languish until the recruits max out their credit cards and start getting calls from collection agencies… also like real Americans.

We have plenty to offer these crazies.  It’s just infiltrating their ranks that poses a problem.
But we’re Americans.  We don’t let little things like that stand in our way.

Somebody start a Facebook page and a Twitter account.  And maybe Google+ if you must.

And where are the big money right wingers when we need them?  Buying loyalty is as American as dunning.

Shrapnel:

--Why do American and British kids join IS? For the same reasons they join any street gang.  A sense of wanting to belong and a penchant for senseless violence. What they become is expendable casualties- in- waiting.

--Why does the Wizard want American and British kids?  Propaganda value and a penchant for senseless violence. Oh, and a need for expendable casualties- in- waiting.

--There has to be an entrance exam. But it probably isn’t as tough as those given in South Central Los Angeles or on the Brooklyn waterfront.  And hazing must be a thing of beauty.

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

Monday, October 06, 2014

1392 Trailer Treasures Trashed

It won’t be the same around here on Halloween this year.  The most elaborately decorated homes were in two of the three recently closed mobile home parks.

You’ll be able to say the same for Christmas.  No beautiful lights this year.

Most if not all of the residents have found new quarters.  They call them permanent, but permanent lasts just so long.

There are all kinds of help programs in place.  There are all kind of relocation laws.  But even with that, there are families who had nowhere to go.

The mobile home parks are mini communities, each with its own personality.  People there are often lifetimers… sometimes multigenerational lifetimers.

But times and values change.  And so, these grounds get sold. The residents were pretty much invisible people to start. Now they’re *really* invisible.

There's a lot of talk about affordable housing, but very little action.  We hear terms thrown about like so much confetti:  affordable. Mixed use. Multi use.  Fifty different kinds of zoning.

So no replacement housing. But there are hundreds of newly built or soon-to-be-finished “regular” apartments, places few can afford.

You can understand the economics of the situation. But what’s hard -- maybe impossible -- to understand is how none of the talk about building low cost or subsidized housing -- even if it's warehousing -- translates into action.

Not in my backyard!

The men, women and children who lived in the trailer parks are critical to the general economy of their areas.  Low wage workers in restaurants and stores, for the most part.  Many without cars, and therefore basically unable to get to work unless they walk. It’s tough to walk from a miles-away shack to a bottom-fish wage job at the big box store.

These are people, people.  Same as you and me. Many from outside the parks look down on them. Most of the down-lookers never met a resident except maybe checking out of a store where so many work as cashiers and sweepers and stock men and women.

Although it's shrinking, many cities and towns still have a fairly good supply of well located vacant property for development.  Some of it is priced so high it’s more profitable to let it sit vacant than to build on it.


Shrapnel:

--Once every 33 years the Highest Holy Day in the Jewish calendar and a similar holiday in the Muslim calendar fall on the same day and this is one of those years. 10-4-2014.  Both Holidays command fasting.

--This year, we-all are joined by some Christians. October fourth was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  Hearty appetite.  Now, we can all get back to killing one another.

--As the nation eagerly awaits the start of the new Supreme Court term, constitutional scholars are wondering which of our rights the justices plan to trample next.  Among the nation building issues to be considered: broken taillight laws in North Carolina… and document shredding laws in the case of a fisherman supposedly hiding undersized fish by throwing them overboard.  Can’t wait for these decisions.

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