Wednesday, May 25, 2016

1647 Bernie in a Lab Coat

This is about the Chaos Theory in physics, but don’t click off the page just yet. You’re not going to get a lot of sciency gobbledygook. Chaos tells us that sometimes things kind of go a little nutty and change form or direction, then lose their way and quit.

The most common example:
The cigarette is burning in the ash tray.  The first inch or so of the smoke rises in a fairly straight line.  But a little higher and it begins to spread out. Still higher it blends with the air and eventually vanishes.

Actually, there’s nothing chaotic about it.  The particles of smoke are fewer in number by billions than the particles of air.  So while they still may be there, ready to cancerize the lungs of your helpless house pets, neither you nor the pets can see them.

Senator Sanders heads what amounts to a movement. He’s calling for radical rethinking of a lot of our values and how we obtain and the use our resources.  He has gazillions of loyal hard core followers and plenty of us “sort-of followers”.

If you put a two dollar bet down on this horse and he won, you’d be stratospherically rich.  That’s how long a long shot that would be.

Still, millions of followers, psyched, vigorous, and dedicated.  What happens to this movement when its election goal isn’t reached?  Optimists among us say, well, they’ll continue pressing for Bernie’s agenda.  They’ll work in the trenches.  They’ll organize neighborhoods.  They’ll work for office seekers below the level of president.

Yes, some will.  Maybe many.  But if Sanders takes the lab coat off, turns out the lights and closes the door, many will not.

They will become that stream of smoke in the picture.  They will reorganize so as to become invisible.  It happens more than it doesn’t.

The “Occupy” movement’s molecules are floating around in the air, occasionally clumping for snippets of time and in large enough numbers to be noticed.  But not often enough or steadily enough to have any impact.

In other presidential races, the same things happened to John Anderson, John Edwards, George McGovern and Ross Perot.

This kind of chaos works in reverse, too.  Willard Romney was a leader without a following. Rick Santorum tried to look like something more than a middle manager in a chain of franchised barber shops.  His following, such as it was, dissipated faster than that burning cigarette attacking your poor old mother’s lungs from afar.

And this is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Mao, Franco, Baby Doc, Chavez.  And you can bet when the Castro brothers leave this world, it’ll happen in Cuba, too.

So his followers’ best bet is that Bernie keeps the bunsen burners burning and the lab coat laundered.  Else his fledgling lab rats will scatter like so much smoke.

---
While we’re talking science, here’s Today’s Quote:
--“Einstein suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked if I really believe that the moon exists only when I look at it” --Einstein biographer and fellow physics genius Abraham Pais discussing objective reality and  quoted by wired.com.

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

© WJR 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

1646 The Envelope Please

It’s in the constitution, in the bill of rights.  You don’t think so? Look it up:  Everyone gets a trophy.

Our founding fathers, anticipating children and adults with feelings of inferiority and a lack of self esteem would need a boost, ranked the right to trophies right up there with freedom of speech, religion and heat-packing.

What foresight!

Getting prizes for showing up or trying reallyreally hard to connect bat with ball even if unsuccessful are nothing new.

And and prizes for the un-prizeworthy are not just for slackers and laggards.  Did you know that Abraham Lincoln got an award for perfect attendance in Sunday school?

Or that Donald Trump got an award for trying reallyreally hard to have nicely trimmed fairways and greens at his golf courses.

More about that later.

There are some truly meaningful awards.  The Medal of Honor. The Nobel in any field, even dumb ones. National medals in science.  The Intel Prize.

But most awards are nothing more than institutions patting themselves on the back.  It’s better, of course, to win an Oscar than not.  Or a Pulitzer.  But after that, we’re heading in the general direction of the Pillsbury Bakeoff or Wendy’s Employee of the Week.

In TV we have a saying about the Emmys. They’re like a head cold.  Eventually, everybody gets one.

All of which brings us back to the prestigious American Academy of Hospitality Sciences and its coveted Star Diamond Awards.

What! You mean you’ve never heard of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences?  For shame.  You can find it’s website here .  If you click on the site you’ll find a lot of pictures of fancy places and fancy people. Lotsa Trump on that site, too.

But if you click on the link to find out who runs this place -- their trustees, you’ll find the link doesn’t exist.

Well, no matter. At least we know who the chief cook and bottle washer is, Joseph Cinque.  Mr. Cinque is known in the trade as a mover, shaker and Very Important Person.  He also is known as “Joey No Socks.”  

And the Academy is headquartered at his Central Park South apartment in Manhattan.

The Associated Press reports he is a convicted felon. And Yahoo News, quoting sources at the Academy, mentions he is a one of “Trump’s dear friends.”

Trump was once and still may be a member of that can’t-be-found board of trustees. His title was “Ambassador Extraordinaire.” His properties have won many of those Coveted Star Diamond Awards.

And of course there’s absolutely, positively, certainly no connection with someone on the board getting fists full of awards from it.  Positively. Absolutely.

Trump has described Cinque thus: “There’s nobody like him.  He’s a special guy.”

But, shockingly, he now has changed his tune.  Now, he tells the AP, he doesn’t “know they guy well” and “wasn’t aware of his criminal record.”

We’ve become accustomed to Trump’s 180 degree turns when questioned about actual issues and policies.  It’s nice to know that the same carries over into his business life.

Joey No Socks is not in the same league as Sammy the Bull or “Crazy Joe” Gallo or “Fat Tony” Salerno. But still… it’s an odd nickname.  And it’s an odd bedfellow for Trump.  But you can be sure it’s an award winning bed.

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

© WJR 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

1643a Statistically Correct

It was 1954.  A newsman named Darrell Huff put out a book that should have rattled us.  It was called “How to Lie with Statistics.”  By all accounts, Huff lacked the mathematical muscle to reconcile his checkbook, but he hit upon an idea, an earth shaking idea, that should have changed the world, but didn’t.


He never identified the idea in layman’s terms.  So here it is:  Wrap anything in arithmetic and the unwitting and math phobic public will assume it’s true even if it isn’t.  Even if it’s completely outlandish.


Here are some examples:


--More doctors smoke camels than any other brand of cigarette.


--Trump is a few points ahead of Clinton in a presidential race that pits the two of them.


--The unemployment rate remained at 5% at latest count.


--Nate Silver can see the future.


We won’t try to debunk each of those likely falsities individually.  But the part about Silver is worth examination.


When we first ran into Nate, he was an uncannily  accurate predictor of the future based on Rocky Mountain size piles of data filtered through his website subsite, Five Thirty Eight.


At contract time, Silver and his employer couldn’t come to terms so he picked up his bat and glove and sold himself to ESPN, the sports cable network where he remains today.


And despite the height of the mountain, Silver and most others have mis read the mood of the data. Wait, data have mood?  No, of course not. But the public on which the data are based do.


Trump is a joke.  Trump is not a serious contender for the nomination.  Trump can’t win.  That was the early line on the bragging bully.  The later line:  Gee… he IS a serious contender.  And it sure does look like he’s winning the nomination.  For the record, the first of the early line statements remains true.


Well, the joke’s on us.  And if he’s elected president, no one’s going to be laughing.


The Republican regulars looked at that original data and promptly returned to the golf course.  The teabaggers looked at the original data and promptly returned to their Koch fueled “think” tanks to figure out more ways to make sure you turn into a plow horse with no time to spend in the think tank in your head.


Surprise!  


Figures lie.  Because people lie when counted on or counted up.


Now here it is late in the primary season and it looks like Hillary Clinton and Trump will be the contestants in the general election.  


That’s what the statistics say now.


Have you ever read the reporting data in a corporate annual report or an SEC filing?  “We had a great quarter.  We took in money hand over fist. We lead our industry in this and that.  

Then come the footnotes.  Tiny footnotes filled with numbers.  They add up to “that great year part only counts if you disregard these 19 things that screwed up.”


The top of the page calls for celebration. Those figures PROVE it.  


How about this one:  “A majority of patients got excellent results by taking Enteric Coated Super Mixolydian ® for heart valve disease.”  That can mean 49 percent didn’t. It also can mean 40% got excellent results, 20% had no opinion, 20% got bad results and 20% died after the first dose.)


Or this one: 63.8% of the people who read this will be unaffected by it and continue to believe EPA gas mileage stats, gross receipts for this weekend’s top box office hit and that the US economy is robust,  healthy and still growing.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

1643 Gaming the Market

The stock market? Easy. Buy low, sell high.  Also it’s impossible to time it. Im-poss-i-ble.  If Buffett can’t do it, then the schmeckle you deal with at Bargantrades.ba can’t do it either. Even if you visit him in Bosnia.

It’s the supermarket we’re talking about.  The object of the game is getting in and out as fast as possible.

Rule One:  Have a list.
Rule Two: Bring it with you.
Rule Three: Question potential purchases you’re about to make if they’re not on the list.
Rule Four: Check out.

Four and up are the hard parts.  Even in the best of circumstances, you’re likely to run into some kind of a jamup on the line.

--Someone will need change of $100 for a 69 cent purchase and the cashier won’t have it.
--The register tape will run out.
--Your new chip encoded card won’t work and the card reader will refuse to allow you to swipe.
These things are unavoidable. But judicious line selection can help make the trip down the aisle less slow.

Rule 5: The shortest line is not necessarily the fastest.

Rule 6: Seek a pro.  Look for a cashier who appears to have been born to the breed.  Look for someone with some gray in his or her hair, not the cute young boy or girl you like to fantasize about.

Rule 7: Time wasting lines to avoid:

--Those with morbidly obese people ahead of you unless they’re highly and happily verbal and animated. (Yes, it’s profiling, but so what!)

--Those with a whole Sunday paper’s worth of coupons.  Half of them will not scan properly or the customer won’t have the right merchandise or the right quantity or the right size.

--Those with a pile of those germ-factory reusable bags.  They take much longer to pack than paper or plastic.

--Mothers with newborns and/or men or women who speak baby talk to any kid, especially those over two feet tall. (More profiling.)

--Mothers or fathers with gaggles of hyperactive kids, especially screaming and cranky hyperactive kids.

--Gaggles of young people jabbering in any language, but especially a language that is not common in your neighborhood.

--Elderly men who look like the kind that started grocery shopping when “high tech checkout” meant writing the prices down on the bag and adding them by hand.

Rule 8:  If you go to a line that says “maximum 20 items” and you have 25 or thirty ignore the sign. Most cashiers don’t care.  If you hit the rare one who does, break the purchases in two.

You also want to be the person others want to be behind.  Therefore:

Rule 9: Have your money or your pay card at the ready if it’s safe to do so.

Rule 10: Have your “shopper’s card” out.  This is especially important if you’re at a store whose card you don’t often use. You’re going to have trouble finding it buried there in your wallet or purse -- or even worse, the glove box of your car.

Rule 11: When there’s room on the conveyor belt, locate and position the little bar that signals the end of your order so the 450 pound guy behind you can start putting his groceries, his pile of reusable bags and his phonebook size stack of coupons down.

Rule 12:  If that double wide sloth behind you gets too close while you’re entering your pin number, say one of two things:

  1. Back off, fatso.
  2. Am I in your way?

He’ll get the message.

Method B is recommended.

Finally, a semi- rule.  If your market claims it’s open 24 hours, it really isn’t.  You can buy a lot of stuff at 3 in the morning.  But don’t expect deli, butcher, fish, or bakery counters to be staffed.  Don’t expect more than one open register.  Don’t expect empty fruit and vegetable displays to be refilled.  Customer service, check cashing and signing up for a shopper’s card will all be unavailable. Carts left in the parking lot will stay there overnight, so grab one on the way in.

But the security cameras will still be alert as ever, even if the screen watcher has nodded off.

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

© WJR 2016

Monday, May 16, 2016

1642a No Wake for the Irish Bar


WOODSIDE, QUEENS -- No one lacks for an Irish saloon here.  Not that there are all that many Irish left, at least not like there used to be.  But the bars don’t move much.  


Donovan’s. Saints and Sinners. Sean Og’s.  Luke Kelly’s. Cuckoo’s Nest.


You know the kind of place.  You can sit with a beer for hours and read the paper, play the ponies shoot the… um… breeze.  Argue. And they kick you out if you order a Jameson’s with ice.


NEW ROSES, PA -- You move to a place like this and since it’s a college town, there would be at least a token representative called Derry Pub or McGonigall’s. Nope. Bars line the main drag. Someone with a couple of pumps could connect them all and wholesale the booze.


No Irish bars, at least nothing real. But they did have a Hooters.  And it failed. Smack across the street from a huge and boozy college, and it went under.  Go figure. Unless it’s violating the liquor laws or the noise laws, it’s almost impossible for a bar here to fail.

Along comes Kildare’s to fill the space.  And they know how to pour a Guinness. And they don’t care if you want a Bushmill’s on the rocks.  And they have Shepherd’s pie.  And it’s big enough to satisfy.


Waitresses in kilts.  Many with better legs than the Hooter’s girls.


It’s not Hurley’s.  It’s not even The Blarney Stone.  But it’s good enough to satisfy old man McCarthy formerly of Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside who moved to Twisty Creek Run here in New Roses.  And also Rich up the street even though he’s an Orangeman.


Only one problem with Kildare’s.  Well, two, the second being parking at the dinner hour.


Problem one:  the place sits on prime real estate.  So prime, in fact, that developers would have lunch there so they could drool not over the cabbage Colcannon, but over the property.


The restaurant’s lease runs until 2017.  But they closed down the other day without even a whisper in advance.


Sudden death.


Apartments soon rise from Kildare’s grave

A whole new building.


The love child of a flipper and flippee.


Company A bought the land and planned the building.  But then along came company B which made company A an offer it couldn’t refuse.  


“We didn’t buy the building to flip it,” says Company A. “We just wanted to create a beautiful living space a little higher than the zoning allowed at the time.”  Oh, sure.


But flip it they did.  Why go through all the bother of building an apartment house and displacing a youngish but still beloved saloon?  Easy money.


Company B’s plans are a little more grandiose and on a faster track.  So fast, they kicked out the tenant.  No notice.  Just “closed.”


Not even time for a decent Irish wake.


Shameful.


And you can’t get Dublin Coddle in a place that doesn’t have the right leftovers.


Today’s Quote:
--“We’re getting there.” --  Reality TV Star D. Trump on getting House Speaker Paul Ryan to endorse his doomed presidential strategy.


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

Friday, May 13, 2016

1642 To P or Not to P

Classified ad in North Carolina’s Beaufort Banner:

Help Wanted:
A leading local restaurant is looking for an energetic, alert Bathroom Monitor.  The candidate will check patrons’ birth certificates before allowing entry to the washroom and direct guests to the appropriate facility. Experience preferred. Middle school teachers especially welcome. FT. Competitive wages, benefits incl. parking space, use of the company Beretta Nano 9mm.  Send resume to Box 5450. No phone calls, please.

Classified Ad in North Carolina’s Beaufort Banner:

Misc. Services:
Replica Birth certificates while you wait.  Top quality work, reasonable prices. Walk-ins welcome. EZ Print 245 No. Greene St. Second floor. M-F 8am-5pm, Saturday 9am-1pm. Closed Sundays.

And so it starts.  The arduous task of Today’s Most Important Issue.

America.  We beat what then was the world's most important and powerful empire, the British. We won two world wars, obliterated deadly diseases, put humans on the moon. We wrote world-changing novels, made breathtaking movies. We opened literacy to hundreds of millions of kids. We made riches where there was poverty, freedom where we started with slavery.  We split the atom.  We created farming able to feed so many of the world's hungry we had to pay farmers to let land lie fallow.  We created a middle class with economic and social power, an economy unlike any of the great royals of Europe and Asia and far stronger.

And now, we're in death-grip arguments over who can use which bathroom.

The reason: North Carolina’s politicians and others in that part of the country dislike and fear transgender people and need an excuse to put them in their place.

The cover story:  We’re protecting children and others from sexual predators.

Hold on, a minute.  Is every LGBT person and every transsexual a predator?  And if so, is a public restroom where they’re going to pred?

No and no.

The problem with the politicians is they don’t know enough

  1. LGBT people or
  2. Sexual predators.
If they knew either, they’d be a whole lot less concerned.

Heaven help the local city council member who visits a Wendy’s known as a gay hookup spot, even if it’s just to have a “Dave’s Hot ‘n’ Juicy” with some fries and a medium Sprite.

Child molesters don’t hang out in the bathroom at Red Lobster.  Winning over an unwitting kid is complicated and long term.  The kids have to be courted.  Romanced. Won over. This takes time and caution.  It takes subtlety. It takes persistence.

There’s no doubt that it’s evil.  But this isn’t speed dating or a matchmaking app.

The campaign to dehumanize transexuals has nothing to do with sexuality. It is based on opponents’ self doubt, hatred of anything that doesn’t fit their template for what “ought” to be and arrogant self righteousness.

There’s no sure antidote to bigotry, but there are antidotes to bathroom groin checks.

  1. Don’t live in North Carolina and move away if you do.
  2. Depends.
  3. Do your business before leaving home.

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

© 2016 WJR

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

1641 Just the Facts. If You Can Find Them

Dragnet.  Just the facts, ma’am as Sgt. Friday would say interviewing a crime victim running off into endless digressions.

“I was just outside, hanging up the laundry when this masked man comes running over from Mrs. Barnacle’s house and… you know, Mrs. B, she’s an old gossip.  Why just the other day do you know what she said about that crazy old Mr. Riley?”

Just the facts, ma’am.

At the paper, in the radio newsrooms, then the television newsrooms, then the network news centers and especially at the Associated Press…

Just the facts, kid.

That was Rule One.

Rule two: every story has two sides and each side has to have a chance to tell its version.

(Actually, there was only one rule:  “Get it first.  But get it right first.” But this is commentary so it doesn’t count.)

Today, we live in a world of Teflon coated rubber facts.

So what’s a reporter to do?

Example:  Four years ago, a pretty co-ed was on a high floor balcony and fell to the ground. She was seriously hurt, went through years of rehab and now has graduated.

But wait. Do we put in these “facts?”:  She was too young to drink legally, she was out of her mind drunk. People kept giving her booze.

The answer: yes. Even if we extrapolated a bit when it came to her degree of drunkenness, the length and breadth of her rehab and whether she was graduated or “socially promoted.”

Okay.  Little local story.  Could have been handled better. Not much lost.

But what about these:  

--Low interest rates are going to cause catastrophic inflation and the answer is to cut so- called entitlement programs.

That a fact?  Well, it hasn’t happened in eight years of historically low interest rates.

--Social Security is going to go belly up in X-years if we don’t cut benefits and/or extend the retirement age.

That a fact?

--Taxing the rich creates more jobs.

Oh?

--Raising the minimum wage means massive job cuts.

No it doesn’t.  Or it hasn’t since 1938 when 25 cents an hour (about four bucks in today’s money) became the law of the land.

--Saddam Hussein helped Al Qaeda destroy the Trade Center and had weapons of mass destruction ready to fling around here, there and everywhere.

Nope.

--Global warming is a hoax.

If so, why are people buying potential waterfront property in Rochester, New York, which is 500 miles from the nearest ocean?

--God created the world in seven days and that needs to be part of science curricula.

Gimme a break.

Sometimes we’re blocked from Rule One.  Sometimes we’re too lazy to follow it.  What, then of Rule Two?

We have come to be a society of fact ignorance.  A place where salt free salt is a viable commodity.  Where creationism is considered a science.

Do we give equal standing to the inflation fear mongers and those who de- mong them?  Privatize the Post Office, the only constitutionally designated federal agency?

Does your kid, now 18 years old, have to work until he’s 93 to collect a federal pension that we’ve already paid for?

In these and many other examples, you can’t give equal credibility to both sides.  But we do.

And a shocker:  The best people at asymetrical coverage are at Fox.  The only problem with that is they give greater credibility to the wrong “facts.”

Oh, Sgt. Friday, where are you now that we really need you.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016.  And that’s a fact.