Sunday, August 19, 2018

Wessay in Brief 1985B News isn't Your Enemy

Tomorrow, 8 20 18 I join with other journalists who have reacted resentfully to trump's description of us as enemies of the people.  
My answer varies from some other because I leave instructions on what you as reader, viewer or listener might do to make sure you stay informed in a world that is filled with government and corporate and political horseshit. And I try to make the case for fair, rather than fair and artificially two-sided.


Friday, August 17, 2018

This is Wessay #1984, a number of great fame and a book of great perceptiveness.  George Orwell predicted in his novel that we would all be on camera all the time. And on microphone.

The book was ahead of its time and the year was behind its time. But we’re here.  The digital revolution has made many of Orwell’s frightening predictions come true.

Most of the time, we know we’re being watched.  It’s unpleasant.  But most of us have the sense to withhold untoward in acts while sitting in the parking lot of a 7-11 or going into one with a drawn gun.  It’s the ones we don’t know about that are scary.

A whole generation of young people has learned to wear hoodies or at least baseball caps with the bill pointed down and no visible writing.  Huge sunglasses are all the rage.  As are high and turned up collars.

That helps in the parking lot and at the register. (Wear gloves so the shaky-cam can’t tell anything about your skin color.)

The phone companies know who calls whom, when and for how long.  Your text messages live forever… somewhere. Your prints are on file even if you have no police record, and chances are, so is your DNA.

It’s okay.  This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, right?  Sure it is. And if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about. (This one red-lines the BS detector.)

To some, privacy is sacred.  To some, privacy is treasured. To some, privacy is guaranteed.  Nope. Nope.  And nope.

Your credit/debit cards? Your E-Z Pass.  The tracking device you carry around disguised as a smartphone?  They all watch.  And listen. And keep notes. Detailed notes.

Two of Orwell’s characters think they’ve beaten the system.  They get a room in a rundown old place to have their affair.  Guess what?  

In olden days, if you should venture into the Soviet Union, your travel agent told you not to speak near table lamps or statuettes.  Or the mounted heads of wild boars or brown bears. 

Primitive stuff by today’s standards, but the warnings were worth heeding, especially if you said something nasty about your hotel room or their dictator of the moment.

You’ve heard people here talking about “getting off the grid.”  The grid has no “off.” They found the Unabomber in a doublewide outhouse in the middle of the woods of Montana.  They can find you, too.

Body cams, dash cams, nanny cams, traffic cams.  Soon they’ll need cameras to watch other cameras. Those Big Brother devices aren’t cheap.  And the quality of the picture is improving all the time. Imagine Willie Sutton in HD.  (HD is practically old fashioned nowadays. Some security guy in Best Buy probably watched you try to boost that computer mouse on a 70-inch 4K UHD set in the back room fed by a drone camera the size of a caraway seed that hovers silently 8 feet above the floor and is pointed down.

The only hope is that there are so many pictures, videos, audio tapes and such that Big Brother won’t have the time to catalogue all of it… and certainly no time to watch it all.

And let’s not get started about keystroke monitors.

--Steve Bannon is about to release a pro trump propaganda film. It will show how most of the rest of us are ganging up on the poor beleaguered president and his galley slaves in Congress.  Someone should make some red baseball caps that say “Make Steve Relevant Again,” which is the real purpose of the film.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Wessay in Brief 1984B Orwell's Legacy

Orwell was right about almost everything but the year. Tomorrow (8/17/18) Wessay #1,984 looks at a drone masquerading as a floating eightball, watching you with a camera the size of a caraway seed as you try to boost a small item from Best Buy.

Privacy? Forget everything you knew or thought or hoped for.

Also: There’s so much video out there, they’re going to have to get cameras to watch the cameras and the monitors, both screen and human.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

1983 How Botched Jobs Happen

We have been considering this topic in this space for years: how do people get away with doing a terrible job... and finally have come to something of a conclusion, even a benevolent one.

It's not universal, of course. But it's epidemic -- or close to it.

Call customer service, shop in a store, eat at a fast food joint, or even a multi- star restaurant.

Go to school. Go to work. Ride mass transit, hunt for a house or for a car.

Often, what you find is someone who isn't paying attention to you, gets an order wrong, can't move a line through a checkout register, can't mow a lawn, shovel a walk, inject a medication, polish a nail, change the oil, print the photographs, catch or prosecute or defend a crook, file a piece of paper, operate a toll booth, fill a gas tank or scramble an egg.

We've searched and searched for answers. Considered bad training, bad bosses, bad working conditions, bad hair days, low wages, low self esteem, low IQ, low people skills, low communication skills.

How about an explanation that doesn't account for conscious inadequacies or deliberate lack of interest?

Okay, here it is. Some people (a LOT of people, really,) don't know what work IS or is supposed to be.

All the dandy training programs and MBA-driven business plans one can get on the job are worthless if you don't know what work is in the first place.

First, it's showing up. that's worth a LOT of points up front. Even better is showing up on time or (perish the thought) even early.

Then it's paying attention to the needs of the job.

It's almost inconceivable, but some people just don't know that work isn't a social occasion for which one is paid.

The office or factory or phone bank or kitchen is not a place to go to have conversations about the latest fashions, baseball scores, weather, boyfriends, girlfriends whatever.

Sure, there are down moments you can do that... but it shouldn't be (as often seems to be the case,) the primary function.

When you're on the line at the burger joint, and the counter operator can't get the order straight, it's annoying, maybe infuriating. But you'll live to go through it again.

What happens, though, when the worker in question is, say, a pilot or the clerk in an emergency room? or a broker's assistant -- or the broker him or herself? Or a doctor or dentist.

There is training for this, but it has to happen long before anyone is old enough to enter the workforce.

This is something that should be taught at home.

In order to work, you have to know what work IS.

-When you ask your digital assistant to do something and it does it, do you have the urge to say “Thank you, Siri…” or Cortana or Alexa or Anonymous Google Voice?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Monday, August 13, 2018

1982 The Sins of Sinclair

Out here in the bucolic boonies we have a law called theft by deception.  Usually it applies to such vultures that steal your identity or your pension money or your house.  But this is a story about a company that is trying to make off with the airwaves, property of the people -- and thus with the world of ideas.
Before you pronounce TV Dead On Arrival, check with David Smith, Executive chairman of Sinclair Broadcasting, the largest owner of TV stations in the country.  The biggest owner you never heard of. Until recently.  He was ready to throw something like four billion dollars at the newspaper formerly known as Tronc for its 42 television properties. Chicago Tribune TV.

This is an idea so bad that even the anti regulation chairman of the federal agency that regulates broadcasting turned his back on the deal which promptly collapsed.

Each Sinclair station is affiliated with at least one of the traditional or newer networks, ABC, CBS,  NBC and Fox and the little guys that live off the carcasses of real network reruns and b-grade originals.

There were two good reasons the deal fell apart.

First is because the company puts words in the mouths of its news broadcasters and second because of a corporate move so dumb and brazen that even FCC chair Ajit Pai couldn’t take it.


Those words have to do with the Sinclair local anchors promoting false equivalencies in news stories and right wing diatribes pretending they’re unique to the station you’re watching but running word for word everywhere.

Now, about that corporate blunder.  Sinclair -- remember, they’re already the biggest owner -- wanted to buy Tribune Broadcasting.

 Expand the empire from about 200 stations to more than 242 all part of the great right wing chorus.  

Believe it or not, there still are some regulations governing use of the peoples’ airwaves.  One of them sets ownership limits.  So Sinclair had to sell some stations.

In some cases the proposed sales were to friendly buyers who would allow Sinclair to program them without owning them.  And that’s where Chairman Pai had enough and set the wheels in motion throw this train off the tracks.

Pai was once a trump favorite. Pai took steps to let the merger to go through.  Until those baloney filled sales to friendlies.

Sinclair is used to those backroom arrangements.  Here in central PA they own the NBC affiliate, but also program the Fox and ABC affiliates.  All three share a news department.  Nice deal, eh?

Among the “must run” segments from headquarters: the near-daily reports from the “Terrorism Desk.” Who are the terrorists?  Guys who look like Timothy McVey or the Klan? No. They’re almost always identifiable as Muslims.
Now, what about this guy Smith.  He has an interesting history.

As Rolling Stone Magazine reported, Smith briefly ran a porn film bootlegging operation out of the basement of a building owned by his father.  The “” website says he’s fond of hookers. No big deal, really.  But in some still-civilized countries, character is considered when granting licenses to broadcast.  I guess we’ve outgrown that.

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To all my friends on America’s highways, please be assured that I am no relation to the broadcasting company of the same name, though we both are dinosaurs.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, August 10, 2018

1981 Uber Grounded

1981 Uber Grounded

Wessays photo by Fast Eddie Satlien

NEW YORK -- Well, not grounded, exactly but at last facing some spine from mayor de Blastoff and his merry band of wimps on the City Council.

They have legislation to freeze the number of Uber ride-share drivers who have turned this town into a second Los Angeles, transit wise.  With some help from the MTA, of course.  But that’s another story for another day.

The city wants to figure out how ride shares and real cabs can coexist.

The onslaught of these interlopers has put the taxi and black car industries into the toilet.  Not that they didn’t need a little flushing.  But not to the point where a hack medallion which cost six figures becomes just scrap tin.

But the whole ride business needs a shakeup.  Too many private cars.  To many Ubers.

First, control of the medallions:  too few people own too many of them and turn freelance licensed cabbies into meter and tip slaves.  And the TLC, the Taxi and Limousine Commission needs Roto Rooter, to continue the bathroom analogy.

Then there’s the proliferation of amateurs.  Yeah, people may be hard pressed to find a living wage but putting their private cars on the road isn’t an answer. And neither are the usurious rates that medallion cabs charge these days.

Uber isn’t all bad. It has rules for what kind of cars are used and in what condition.  But if a minimum wage sewing machine operator has the bucks for an almost new Toyota, Subaru or Honda SUV something’s wrong somewhere.   

Then there’s Mike Bloomberg’s throwback idea, still living years after the ends of his terms: imposing tolls on cars entering midtown at certain hours.  That’s a traffic magnet, not traffic relief.  Once the cars get north of 14th Street or South of 96th Street, the clogs will re-cauterize.  And what would such a tax cost to collect?  

As a child of the city all those decades ago, there was no problem hailing a cab on Queens Boulevard.  Try that today and see how long it takes.  You’d better be a day early for wherever you need to be.  Ditto Grand Concourse or Flatbush Avenue and even north of 96th Street in Manhattan.

“I am a professional driver and I will make all the driving decisions.” -- Unidentified NYC Cab Driver fishtailing north on 8th Avenue in an early morning snowstorm and asked by his passenger to go slower.
“Yes, it’s my real name.” -- Muhammad Ali, my frequent yellow cab driver from Penn Station to Rock Center.

“That frickin’ Giuliani is messing everything up. That frickin’ Giuliani” -- Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani playing a cab driver on Saturday Night Live.

“Yeah, you’re right, so what do you want to pay me?” -- unidentified cab driver to whom it was pointed out that his meter was fast.

“If I could afford the New York Herald Tribune, I could afford the 7 cent White Owls.” -- Cabbie Eddie Satlien on why he started smoking the New York Daily Mirror when White Owl raised it price from 5 cents.

“This car is fine, but the TLC demands I get six grand worth of repairs.  This thing has more than one million miles on it. And it’s on its third engine.  It’s time to stop.” -- Earl Johnson, owner of the very last Checker Cab to operate in regular service in the five boroughs in 1999.

“Off Duty.” -- the sign on every cab on 6th avenue at any weekday between the hours of 4 and 5 PM.

“Where are all the cabs?” -- Any potential customer in any rainstorm on any street in Manhattan at any time of any day.

Monday: The sins of Sinclair Broadcasting.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

1980 The Jobs Report

It’s the best ever.  Everyone’s working.  Everyone’s rolling in dough. Just ask our fearless leader. And while you’re at it get out your Psych 101 textbook, the one you still have even though you graduated in 1852, and look up what they say about people who don’t experience fear.

It isn’t pretty.

So, if the figures are rosy, how come there are so many people who can’t smell the roses?  Well… for one thing, you have physics professors and chiropodists working at Wendy’s.  They don’t do well there.  And they don’t last.  Sometimes they don’t do all that well at their chosen profession, either.  But people are less likely to complain about a bad course or teacher than they are about cold fries or an undercooked Dave’s Deluxe Double.

Jobs ain’t what they used to be.  And they’re not as steady as they used to be.  And the employees often are working beneath their level of competence just to keep the current flowing and the mortgage payments more or less current.

But Karma has raised its pretty head.  Those job creations, says the Associated Press, are mostly in areas where trump had fewer votes than Clinton.

Now, onto those Yoooj tax breaks. Biggest in history says President Fearless -- which they aren’t. You remember them, right? They were the ones that were supposed to fund new facilities, new employment and employee raises?  Another piece of fakery.

That money is going into stock buybacks.  Stock buybacks were illegal until the reign of St. Reagan. Why? Because the money enriched the corporate bottom line without adding actual value and enriched the larger stockholders while ignoring the workforce.  Good thing we had Ronnie.  Otherwise, you can’t imagine how much a 30-dollar-an-hour autoworker with a union card would be making today.

Buybacks make the remaining un-bought-back stocks more valuable per-share without changing the value of the underlying company.  And it’s not just the Engulf and Devour conglomerates that are doing this.  It’s also the touchy-feely companies like Apple and the Hippocratic Oath companies like Google.

And sometimes those buybacks backfire.  Here’s an example from a big publisher of local newspapers, the McClatchy Company.  They have a handful of good properties like the Miami Herald and the Kansas City Star.  But most of them are small and medium market losers. Their stock was on a downslide for years.  So they bought back a bunch of it.  A big bunch, which made their penny stock rise to about 10 dollars a share.

But it’s on the downslide again, and that makes the company worth little more on paper than before the buyback.

There’s Karma again. Except if you’re an executive who’s paid in stocks or options.  You… have a windfall, as long as you cash out before the bottom falls out.

--That walking cow chip Alex Jones has been kicked off most of the internet sites he used to spread his lies, hatred and conspiracy theories.  His followers responded with love mail and product purchases.
Jones is the guy who said the Newtown CT shootings were a hoax.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Wessay in Brief 1985B News isn't Your Enemy

Tomorrow, 8 20 18 I join with other journalists who have reacted resentfully to trump's description of us as enemies of the people.   M...