Monday, April 14, 2014

1317 Murder Mystery Cranks

Just once, can they make one of those cheap TV murder mysteries about a nasty victim?

Think about it.  Every time you turn on one of the nosebleed level channels, there’s a true crime story on.

Wives with Knives, Dark Minds, Evil Twins.  All of those on Investigation Discovery.  Over on WEtv, there’s Law & Order and CSI Miami which are fictional according to various disclaimers.  Of course, if you look hard, you often can find matching real crimes.

On USA Network, there’s Burn Notice, Psych, an assortment of CSI originals and spinoffs (spins-off?)  and a few repeats of Law & Order Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit.

Also “not” based on real events (wink, wink.)

But whether real or fictional, there’s an obligatory scene or two or ten in which a victim is described as:

--always friendly and helpful.
--having a smile for everyone.
--lighting up the room.
--a good neighbor.
--a pillar of the community.
--a devout churchgoer.
--generous.
--a devoted parent.
--the devoted caregiver for an elderly parent.
--the (man) (woman) you always went to for advice.
--a great listener.
--an honest, hard working (business owner, worker,) who always (showed up on time,) (could always be relied on for good [merchandise] [service.])

Who are these people?  Ever meet any of them?  

In death, they all become magical figures.

Once.  Just once, let them make a murder mystery about someone who

--always looked shifty-eyed.
--had strange visitors.
--acted like a (druggy) (drunk) (hotrodder) (hoodlum.)

Or who

--chased dogs off his lawn.
--abandoned his or her (spouse) (children) (cat.)
--owed everyone money.
--never returned the snowshovel.
--never had a good word for anyone.
--played loud music in the middle of the night.
--held parties on school nights.
--was a (left wing) (right wing) extremist.

All the victims are saintly?  C’mon!

Real crime happens to anyone.  But those who have their stories televised even posthumously -- especially posthumously -- are all Goodie Two Shoes or Twinkle Toes or the person you hope to meet on a dating site.

Maybe this is too extreme a wish.  Okay, here’s a compromise:

How about a story about a murder that happens to a completely ordinary human being.  Someone who is

--boring.
--quiet.
--waves hello but doesn’t bother much with you.
--returns your lawnmower.
--never has parties.
--has a humdrum job.
--pays his child support.
--goes to church or synagogue or mosque on important holidays but doesn’t speak Latin or Hebrew or Arabic.
--owes a little money which he or she pays off regularly, but has no outrageous outstanding payables.
--drives an eight year old Chevrolet sedan and fixes the muffler when it breaks.

Death in the boring lane!  It’s a winner.

Shrapnel:

--Turns out the guy they say shot and killed those people at the Kansas Jewish center and old folks home was a member of the Klan and a white supremacist. When they do HIS life story on Lifetime or I.D. they’ll at least have a nasty waste of flesh to talk about.  But you can be sure that the victims will all be painted as described above.

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, April 11, 2014

1316 A Comfortable War

Cold War II!


Maybe you haven’t noticed.  But the cold war is back.  Just like in the good old days between the end of World War II and the day Ronald Reagan personally removed every brick in the Berlin wall and Boris Yeltzin rode his open air tank into Red Square.


That current cute little guy riding bare chested on a bicycle into the same square, Vladimir, has set off events that have brought the US back into that cozy orbit that once so dominated our lives.


He had help of course.  Barack Obama and John Kerry imposed sanctions when Russia retook part of Ukraine and positioned troops to retake more.


This country has fought three major wars since WWII.  Korea, Vietnam and the middle east.


Korea was a “traditional” war.  Bang, bang. You’re dead.


Vietnam was a sneaky war.  Can’t tell friend from foe until it’s too late.


The middle east?  We don’t know who we’re fighting and guns play only a minor role, making way for airplanes that fly into buildings and suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices.


Now, once again, we know who the enemy is.  The Reds.  Although we can’t call them that anymore because American Republicans have painted themselves red.


Cold War II will have touches of modernity.  Russian spies will be wearing Armani suits, not the Robert Hall rejects of the old days.  They will have iPads.  But we know what a Russian spy looks like -- it’s not Boris Badenov -- and won’t confuse him with the innocent Emir in some sand mine or the wise old Imam down the street.


We don’t need those clunky old U-2 spy planes anymore.  We have satellites and the internet.  And so do they.


Putin and Obama have each other on speed dial.  And not just at the office.  They exchanged home and cell numbers long ago.


All of a sudden, it feels like home.  Mutually assured destruction.  Bribing mini-countries to be on one side or another.  Propaganda machinery on each side geared up and pumping.  Military exercises within sight of one another.


NASA depends on Russian rockets to get our people on and off the International Space Station.  You can bet we’ll get back into the rocket science business in a Moscow minute.


Meantime, we can invite Vlad to Disneyland or send vice president Biden to debate with him.


Ah, the good old days.  Happy days are here again!


Anyone have blueprints for a fallout shelter?


Shrapnel:


--Not that it’s necessary, but you’ll find that Stephen Colbert has more depth than the character he plays on his current late night television show.  Colbert’s taking over the CBS Late Show when Letterman retires may be the fastest replacement announcement in TV history. It took NBC forever to replace Carson.


--Fortunately, the senate doesn’t have to approve Colbert before he can take over.  But it does have to vote on the replacement of Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary.  The President can expect a fight no matter who he nominates even if he nominates a computer whiz.


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, April 09, 2014

1315 Needling the Baby

The “me” generation of rugged individualists has hit a new low.  Many of its members won’t let their kids be vaccinated. Invariably those children get sick.  Tough luck for the religious zealots and paranoid fearers of autism.  Often their kids die of diseases that were thought obliterated decades ago.

We’ll spare you the pictures of hideously deformed babies in otherwise normal middle class American homes, the limbless infants who have died or will die of meningitis or polio or scarlet fever or the bubonic plague.  Or even the common current edition of the flu, mumps or chicken pox.

Measles was declared dead more than a dozen years ago.  But the disease has resurfaced in Texas, California and New York.  Granted there were only about 200,000 cases reported in this country.  All of them were in unvaccinated children.  USA Today reports that as the number of unvaccinated are infected, the number could rise exponentially.  And of new cases, about one kid in 1,000 infected will die.

But an unvaccinated kid with the Dread Gonk or some other horrible affliction is still a person, a social person with a social-person mommy and or daddy who will take them to the park where they can infect other kids… kids who are not old enough to be vaccinated and are vulnerable to contagions of all sorts.

It’s a pretty well established fact that vaccines don’t cause autism.  Of course, that postulate comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the largest, most advanced and most respected investigators of this stuff on the planet.

Some parents don’t trust it or any other government agency.  But they do trust uneducated but “spiritual” politicians and preachers who should be locked into padded cells so that when they hear voices the rest of us are protected.

Some vaccines do have side effects.  Skin rashes, a little swelling, a low key easy to kill version of whatever the vaccine is supposed to protect against.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is not one of them.  We don’t know the direct cause or causes.  Current thinking is leaning toward genetic factors compounded by environmental toxins like mercury.

Vaccination is a public health issue.  Like smoking or drug addiction or the misuse of firearms.

Parents who were vaccinated as children and shockingly don’t have autism ask themselves “how is this possible?”

Just because you hear voices, doesn't mean they speak truth.

Shrapnel:

--Crime remains down in New York City but the New York Times reports that car theft is on the rise and that thieves are targeting older and nearly worthless vehicles. A quirk in the state law makes them easy to sell for scrap. So the heavier, the better … and at 5,000 pounds, your ‘57 DeSoto Firedome 8 is a prime target even though it hasn’t run in 15 years.

--They’re making a big deal out of the low graduation rate among male basketball players at UConn, newly minted NCAA basketball champions and at eight per cent they should be.  That’s the poorest in the sport.  But the other teams in the “final four” aren’t great either with Wisconsin at 44%, Florida at 60 and Kentucky at 82.

--Chick-fil-A says it’s going to open stores in New York City.  They’ll be about as welcome as Wal-mart.  But they’ll do enough business to stay in business because the average New Yorker doesn’t care where he eats or about the politics or sexual repression of those who own the places he patronizes.

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, April 07, 2014

1314 Madison Avenue on Life Support

The ad biz is sick.  And soon, it may die.  If it does, death will be self inflicted.  And it will take an awful lot with it.

A little background:  the newspaper industry is fighting for its life.  People aren’t buying the paper or many of the traditional magazines. You can get all that on the internet.

So print is putting up what they call “paywalls.”  You subscribe on line or you get nothing but a taste… kind of like when you read the headlines on the newsstand but have to buy the paper to get the whole story.

Print ad placements are in freefall.  Internet advertising is on the rise.  But it costs less and is more easily ignored.  So revenue is down across the board.

And it’s not just newspapers.  It’s radio and television.  TV programs are shrinking so the can put more ads in.  Ad marathons are annoying. So what are people doing?  They’re recording their favorite shows and when they play them back, they skip the ads.

No eyes, no business.

One day the makers of prescription and over the counter pharmaceuticals, personal injury lawyers, automobiles, cruises, fuels, and anything else are going to realize no one’s watching.  The same goes for retailers, window and siding installers, real estate brokers and the launchers of class action suits.

You don’t have a Digital Video Recorder and your VCR hasn’t worked in years? No problem.  Commercial breaks today are long enough for you to hit the refrigerator or the bathroom confident that you won’t miss a moment of “American Idol” or “Hannibal” or the droning of the oh-so-sincere Charlie Rose in the morning.

If by now you aren’t fed up with the length of these commercial breaks, you should probably see a mental health professional.

So we ignore TV ads, we ignore internet ads. We glance at billboards only as we speed past them at 65 miles an hour.  And this has injured the ad industry, maybe fatally.

This country’s economy is completely dependent on the movement of money.  Buying and selling keeps the whole thing afloat.  Advertising provides the impetus for both.

And the ad industry had better learn two things.  Thing one: if the ad is great and everyone remembers everything about it except what’s being sold, the ad is useless.

Two: If the ad is stupid or too loud or impossible to understand or executed amateurishly, no one will remember what’s being sold.

Maybe you think you’re Shakespeare.  Maybe you think you’re an award winning filmographer.

Chances are, you aren’t. Get over yourself.

Maybe you’re Honest Harry of Honest Harry’s Computer Emporium formerly Honest Harry Oldsmobile.

Chances are, you ARE. Get over yourself.

These death dealing conditions can be corrected. And they’d better be. And soon.

Is there an ad doctor in the house?

And if so, do you take Obamacare patients?

Grapeshot:

-When and where does Coffeemate?
-Is there also “low” fructose?
-If Dawn cleans, does Dusk dirty?
-Who is Ken More?

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, April 04, 2014

1313 Dancing in the Dark

Well, maybe not in the dark, but in the dark in a parallel universe. Talking here about the Supreme Court and its ruling removing spending caps for political campaigns.


The ruling doesn’t mean that you can give a million to this one and a million to that.  There still are limits on that, at least for now. It means you can expand the number of candidates to whom you give each of your millions.


Wait, you say, you don’t have millions, let alone millions to give?  Well, that’s a problem. But there are plenty of people who do. And the Good Justices say if they can’t use their money to buy whom they please, the law is restricting their right to free speech.


Free speech can be pretty expensive these days.


Of course in a normally comprised Supreme Court there would be counterbalancing principles.  Like equal protection under the law.  Like one person, one vote.


It would be wrong to infer from this that there is a Supreme Court “pad” as there were in many police precincts -- and may still be in some.  That’s where Leading Public Figures and Simple Businessmen would make contributions to the welfare of the officers by providing envelopes stuffed with cash.


The sad part about this court decision is that the five majority yokels didn’t need bribes.  They think that way.


So while money doesn’t directly take away your right to vote, it limits your choices to Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum who are chosen by party activists under the swoon of fake principles and restricted to candidates who have enough money to shove their message down your throat with such frequency and such vigor that you think you’re getting an actual say in who rules you.


Corporations are people.  People can give as much as they please.  Actual people can do the same.


So … here’s a brazen and blatant advance for the idea that this country is ruled not by ideas, but by cash.


And maybe it’s not the Supreme Court dancing in the dark after all.  


Maybe it’s us.


Meantime, spend on.  After all, you earned it.  


Well… didn’t you?


Shrapnel:


--Major backer Liberty Media has dumped all but a sliver of its investment in Barnes and Noble as the bookseller continues its long slow slide into the actual cellar. Got a Nook reader?  Think about a replacement.


--David Letterman is getting out while the getting’s good.  He’s announced he’ll retire when his contract ends in 2015.  Maybe he and Leno, who were once friends and may be again, can do a two man traveling show.  Maybe Fallon and Kimmel are just too much to deal with.


When Letterman jumped to CBS in 1993, he took long-time NBC staff announcer Bill Wendell with him.  Wendell retired in 1995 and was replaced by Alan Kalter.  Wendell was a coworker and so is Kalter and it’s sad to see the latter’s cushy gig vanish after a mere 20 years.


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, April 02, 2014

1312 GM Circles the Wagons

Perhaps you remember that fellow, Richard M. Nixon, disgraced and resigned 37th President of the United States.  If you do, you may also remember the question opponents asked about him:  “Would you buy a used car from this man?”

The answer then was “no way!” The answer today might be “absolutely yes!”  Why?  Because chances are the car would run when you turned it on, accelerate when you stepped on the accelerator, stop when you stepped on the brake. Even if Nixon was on the lot.

First we had leaping Audis.  Then we had leaping Toyotas.  And now we have the Chevy Cobalt and a raft of other General Motors lemons, millions of them suddenly and belatedly recalled.  And we have a safety agency asleep at the ignition switch.

Buy a used car today, and chances are it will do all of what it should and little of what it shouldn't.

Meantime, GM is circling the wagons.  And the hatchbacks.  And the sedans.  

“Oh, those cars weren’t made by us.  They were made by the General Motors Corporation, and we are the General Motors Company.”  And that’s true.  The paper entity that was GM Corp. has been turned into the paper entity that is GM Co.

If you think the bankruptcy ended GM’s famous arrogance, think again. It’s true, of course, that the current CEO, Mary Barra is new to the job.  But she’s a GM veteran though apparently one who didn’t previously have enough clout to do something about the company’s death dealing rattle traps if she even knew of them.

But that’s not stopping the company’s Permanent Government from using the Old Time Playbook.  “We didn’t know.”  “There are no lemons.”  “It’s the drivers’ fault.”

We’re waiting to hear about how unionized workers caused the flaws that led to a multimillion car recall. They didn't. But someone will find a way to make it look like they did.

If you remember Nixon, you remember the Ford Edsel, the biggest joke ever played on the auto buying public.  But you know what?  The Edsels may have been foolishly ugly. But they ran.

The safety issues here go beyond the earlier infamous exploding Pintos and Fabulous Flipping Corvairs.  They go beyond the leaping Audis and Toyotas.

As for the federal agency that’s supposed to keep an eye on things like this:  Too much Lunesta or Sominex.  Not enough clout, not enough inspectors and a balky bureaucratic infrastructure … a speed bump where a wall is needed.

Eventually, this mess will get fixed.  Just like Nixon’s Watergate scandal.  But you can bet your extended warranty that like Watergate, lessons will be learned and then forgotten.

A year or five from now, all this will be water under the bridge and the 2018 model year will present its share of death traps.

Meantime CEO Barra and the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration David Friedman -- toothless Dave to his friends -- testified on all this before congress.

Friedman promised to do better next time.  Barra said she was remorseful and announced she’s hired Kenneth Feinberg the lawyer. Feinberg helped sort out claims after 9/11, the BP oil spill and the Boston Marathon bombing.

So apparently some of the dead and injured can expect something of a pay day.  Far more than the 57 cents those bad ignition switches would have cost to replace.

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