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

Friday, September 12, 2014

1382 Strikes Without Unions

What does it mean when non-union workers stage a strike?  Plenty.

We’ve all heard about the walkouts at McDonalds here and there, mostly in the larger cities.  Often workers picket on their own time.  Sometimes, they’re fired anyway.  Sometimes, their weekly minimum wage hours are reduced.

What’s the beef?  Treatment.  Yes, they want higher wages. Yes, they want to know which hours they’re going to work and which days. Yes, they want to see the entire staff’s work schedule so they can compare their hours to others’.  But the real issue is treatment.

Of course, it’s not just McDonalds.  It’s other fast food joints, too.  And it’s starting at table service restaurants, too.

Example:  recently, a large number of workers at a Chipotle in a small town walked out. Enough workers so they couldn’t run the restaurant for a while.

The parent company issued a statement saying a few employees quit but the most of the rest are eager to return to work.

The workers say “...a few? They didn’t have enough help to run the place, else why would they close?”

At most of these places, you don’t know when you show up for an eight hour shift whether you’ll work eight or twelve or two hours.  It’s standard practice in the non-fine-dining restaurant to send home workers on slow days … but not to call them in when traffic is heavier than expected.

People management likes will be rewarded:  last to be cut, more hours than the others.

You say that there’s enormous turnover among waiters, hosts, cooks and dishwashers.  That isn’t as true as you think.  Look for those 10 and 15 and even 25 year pins long time employees often wear.

But even if it were true… how does that excuse spin-the-bottle scheduling, erratic hours and just plain nastiness?

The labor movement started with two foundation principles: a living wage and human dignity.  You don’t have to be a Marxist to see that.

Not all bosses are Simon Legree. The guy who ran “Market Basket” supermarkets in the Boston area was canned by a relative with more stock.  But the employees loved him and walked out.  Non union employees.  

Teamsters at the company’s warehouses refused to cross the picket line to deliver merchandise. Shelves were bare.  Customers stayed away in droves.  Wouldn’t have shopped there even if there was anything to buy.

Ultimately, the boss bought out his cousin and things will soon be back to normal.

Non union workers striking.   Over treatment.  And yes, over money.  But mostly over treatment.

Shrapnel:

--Most figures point to a recovering economy. Why don’t people feel that way?  Because most figures lie.

--How is the president going to screw up the just-announced war against ISIS?  Let me count the ways.  No… forget that... I don’t know that many numbers.

--Once again, everyone wants to own 9/11.  Previously unreleased video (who needs it?) And conducting a memorial at a re-creation that never should have been built.

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 10, 2014

1381 Chris Christie's New Job

You know by now that fake moderate and famous traffic expert Chris Christie has no chance of becoming President.


But don’t feel too sorry for him.  He has a new job all lined up.  


Exorcist.


Non-sectarian exorcist.


Yes, the governor of New Jersey is perfect for the part. He has no clerical training.  He’s big.  He’s tough.  He’s intimidating when he’s angry.  And he doesn’t much care for demons… especially those in his own administration, those evil spirits who caused the traffic problems in Fort Lee, of which he knew nothing, nothing!


Think about it.  Think about Mia Farrow, frail and delicate, as the female lead in “Rosemary’s Baby.”


Could the demon she was carrying withstand a tirade from Chris Christie.


Instead of all the rigmarole to exorcise, all Christie would have to do is glower a little in the direction of her belly.


If need be, he could threaten and bully.  But you have to see things from the demon’s point of view.  If you were it, would you want to tangle with this guy?


Nah.  You’d fly away, heading for Skokie or Denver.  You would be thinking “Who needs this (bologna?)”  


There are few full time exorcists left.  Usually the church sends a priest with some training. And only when the person asking has undergone rigorous examination by experienced and learned investigators.


Is there a market? Do some research.  Open up the classified.  Or click on the on-line Yellow Pages.  Go to “E” and see if you can find an exorcist.


Nobody there.


Christie would be a natural.  


Granted, there isn’t a lot of call for this kind of skill.  But in his spare time, he could found a for-profit school and conduct classes.  He could write his memoirs as a celebrity demon banisher.  And if need be, he could make a few extra bucks by advising traffic engineers on the side.


Plus exorcism is a whole lot easier on the nervous system than politics.  Christie wouldn’t have to have people worrying about his weight or his general health.  He wouldn’t have to lie on job applications if he’s convicted of anything.  And he wouldn’t have to worry about Governor stuff like defunding education, busting unions and attending ribbon cutting ceremonies.


Best of all, he would again be beloved and effective.  There is no downside to this.


And Rosemary’s baby could become a historical drama. A little something PBS to show during its fund drives.


Shrapnel:


--The latest trial of the century starts in New York today. Drug company executive Gigi Jordan, 54, is charged with murdering her 8-year old son two years ago and describes it as a mercy killing because her “...husband was abusive.”  So let’s get this straight: the way to end abuse is kill the victim?


--Henry Kissinger says Iran is a greater threat than ISIS.  He may be right.  But no one’s paid attention to him for 30 years, back when he was only 60-something.


Grapeshot:


--After an initial mad gobbling sale, the newly introduced Apple Watch is going to be the company’s biggest flop since the “Newton.”


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 08, 2014

1380 Mike Bloomberg 2.0

Elvis is back in the building.

When you work for Mike Bloomberg, you come to realize that some of his decisions have a shelf life… a “use by” date.  So it really wasn’t a huge surprise when he announced he was retaking the helm of his company even though he’d often said he wouldn’t.

It’s not going to happen until the end of the year, but his mere presence in the building changes the dynamic.

The man hates titles and has none.  Neither did many of us back in the 1.0 days.  Now, nearly everyone does, or at least will for the next few months.  We’ll see after that.

Doesn’t need a title.  Wears his company i.d. tag… but under his tie.  Everyone knows who -- and what -- he is.  And everyone knows who makes the decisions.

So when he started hanging out in the company’s gargantuan headquarters on Lexington Avenue, people kind of got the idea he was back.

Then one day, his desk appeared in the fifth floor newsroom. In the thick of things.  Just like the old days.

Oh… he was “only going to spend a few hours a day…” there.  Right.

What, then, does the future hold?  

A few days past, Bloomberg told the Wall St. Journal that things “mostly” won’t change.

Check the shelf life stamp on that one.  He’s an entrepreneur and a builder and he has more ideas in a week than most of us have in … well, much longer. He has the money and the clout and the spine to implement them.  And he gets bored when things don’t move.

Won’t change?  They already have changed.  The President is back in the White House.  The Supreme Court is in perpetual session and “congress” has become irrelevant in the mind of every human being who takes a paycheck there and all 300,000 + terminal- dependent users.

You can’t be a big player in today’s financial world without a Bloomberg Terminal.  And renting a terminal shows you have “arrived.”

The business has grown exponentially since Mike became and then un-became Mayor Mike.  But there is an eventual saturation point.

After you’ve wired all manner of users in the US, and gone overseas to expand further -- a frequent strategy for American business -- the customer list eventually will stabilize.  After all, how many people can spend 20 grand a year on this machine?

So Bloomberg LP has been reaching out in other directions.  Improving the also-ran television programming, buying or starting new services, acquiring a major magazine.  But there will have to be more.

And there will be.

Shrapnel:

--Who hasn’t president Obama alienated?  Remember that huge outpouring of enthusiastic voters in ‘08 and the not so huge but sufficient outpouring of voters in ‘12?  Well, outpourings and enthusiasm die faster than morning glories.

--Obama is too liberal for the conservatives. He is too conservative for the liberals.  And while he faces unprecedented opposition in congress and in the lockstep conservative media, he still has never shown any backbone.

--The latest offendees and who can blame them?  Some Hispanics -- once a large part of support. The issue: the president’s decision to put off immigration reform until after the midterm elections.

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, September 05, 2014

1379 An Endorsement from the Grave

Celebrity lawyer Robert Shapiro once was pretty well known by sports figures and sports fans.  But it wasn’t until he joined OJ Simpson’s “Dream Team” that the rest of us heard of him.


He didn’t have the courtroom bravado of a Johnny Cochran.  He didn’t have the academic creds of an Alan Dershowitz.  But he was a steady hand in an unsteady case.


While Shapiro still practices law, he’s probably best known today as the face of “Legal Zoom” a company that has turned the rote of legal printing into an empire of homemade lawyers.


Zoom sells you the proper paperwork to make a will or start a corporation or a limited liability partnership or a trust account.


This last is where Shapiro’s company took a wrong turn.


In the email the other day comes a pitch for Legal Zoom.  The headline: “Robin Williams’ Estate Plan No Laughing matter.”  Click on a link and you get a blog entry by one Brette Sember, esq.  Ms. Sember points out that Williams, though suffering financial setbacks at the time of a suicide, provided for his children by creating a trust.


This is a pitch for you to do the same.  She never says let Legal Zoom provide you with guidance and paperwork.  But how can you not infer that that’s what she’d have you do?


Dear Ms. Esq:  thanks for the details.  Do you think Zoom can help us be like Robin Williams?


The stuff she says in the post isn’t wrong. It isn’t a direct pitch for business.  But it is offputting and another nail in Shakespeare’s coffin for lawyers.


You can write about the benefits trusts from now until forever without riding bareback on Williams or anyone else.


What Zoom has sent is a simply cheap, lowbrow, attempt to use the name of a beloved entertainer to drum up business.


Maybe Shapiro was asleep at the switch when this self serving nonsense was fired off. But what are the chances of that?  Maybe he has no control over advertising for the company he fronts.  But what are the chances of that?


This corner of the room has long believed and written that when Shakespeare advocated killing all the lawyers that it was only because the MBA had yet to be invented.


But maybe Will was right after all.


Shrapnel:


--Joan Rivers’ death at age 81 was no surprise, but it was a shock.  Hard to pick a typical one liner from Rivers’ river of superb zingers, but not impossible. “I’ve had so many plastic surgeries that when I die they’re going to donate my body to Tupperware.”


--Yorkville Endoscopy on Manhattan’s 93rd St. will have some talking to do about Rivers’ minor routine vocal cord procedure … the one where she lost consciousness and apparently the ability to breathe. The New York State Health Department wants to know what happened.  And so do her fans and her daughter.


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

© WJR 2014