Friday, October 31, 2008

469 Audit THIS

469 Audit THIS

Taking a course for which no credit is given and no fee is charged can be a lot of fun, a good "learn" and a major downer.

This last one comes from observing the other "kids" in the class, most much younger.

This space has never had much use for the grammar police, the spelling police or even the concept police. But there are limits.

Don't they teach English in high school any more? Or is it just that in the 21st century world of computer instant messaging and "texting" as the kids call it, there's no room for anything even barely formal.

"Texting" isn't new to some of us. It's a compressed and abbreviated form of communication that today's generation has embraced, and because thetelcoms charge a lot for this service, compression and abbreviation rule.

Any among us who've worked for what we old timers call "the wire services," know better. In the early days, the "long lines" companies, like AT&T and Western Union, which allowed the news to be spread worldwide in an instance charged by the word. So the AP, United Press and International News Service developed a min-language for communicating among their bureaus.

We at the AP called it the message wire. Can you figure this sentence out? "Richmond: unfind VA poll results. -NY." Simple, really. It's New York headquarters telling the bureau in Richmond that it was expecting a story about an election poll in Virginia. Six words instead of ten. Saved space, time and -- originally -- money.

By the time we got to the wire, the per-word thing had already long been a thing of the past. But the tradition of using that lingo persisted.

One guy is said to have quit his post by sending a message that read "Upstick job assward."

So texting is nothing new.

But the men and women of the Associated Press message wire were literate. They did this stuff intentionally. Today's texters -- and today's class assignment writers often aren't.

The problem isn't the chin-up appropriateness of the language. The problem is when the language deteriorates, so do the concepts the words and sentences represent.

Upstick class assward.




Shrapnel

--In February, 2006, I wrote this item about Paul Harvey, a tribute to a giant in my trade, who managed not to retire despite the rumors at the time. Now, in his 90s he's rarely on the air and when he is, he's sounding not just old, but old and ailing. I hope people will remember him not as he is, but as he was.

--Did you catch the Obama infomercial the other night? Apparently it was aimed at pushing straddlers onto his side of the fence. For those of us already there, it didn't mean much.

--Note to GEICO. Thanks for lowering my car insurance premium for the upcoming year. But I still want to crush that advertising lizard of yours and plan to put in a damage claim if I do.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

468 The First Scratch

468 The First Scratch

Some old horse died in the Black Forest and got made into a windbreaker, which dad wore for something close to 50 years. At first sight, it was already battered to the point that the dead horse wouldn't recognize it. He refused to part with it. "It was nice and shiny and deep brown when I first bought it," he said. But all those decades later, he insisted on wearing it. "It was fine after the first scratch," he said. After that first one, all the others felt -- and looked -- at home.

Same thing with the new car. Pristine on the showroom floor. Not so pristine after you pull into a parking space and Griselda in the mammoth SUV parked to your right swings a door too wide and puts in the first scratch.

Goldy the sportscaster had a leather satchel of a briefcase, probably made out of the same horse as dad's coat. He didn't much care about the way it was scratched. He didn't even seem to mind when your correspondent spilled a whole container of Pepsi on the thing. It was scratched to the point the horse wouldn't know it was him. It was like a leather portrait of a rat's nest. "The more, the better," Goldy said. Keep those battle scars coming.

So here's the next job: getting a job with the Fender guitar company. They keep cranking out the same stuff as they made in 1952. But now, they've added "distressed"models. These are new guitars that look like they've been on the road for half a century or more. They look it -- but they were made yesterday in the factory in California.

They have guys who wear them out as soon as they come off the production line. Those people scar them with matches and cigarettes. They scrape off pieces of the finish -- using knives and sandpaper and make the new guitars look like they've been on the road all this time. And they charge extra for "finishing" them as if they were 50 years old.

It's a job no guitar freak could resist. And since demand is so strong, maybe they're hiring.

If they aren't, maybe Michael Kors or Dooney and Bourke need handbag agers.

Or maybe Chrysler. Get one of those new "300s," and turn it into a rolling wreck. Then sell it as new -- but distressed and aged.

No one will care. The factory will have made the first scratch.

A 1955 "300" with "aging toner and some dents.

What a concept!




Shrapnel:

--Is this one foot in the grave, or what? The Christian Science Monitor is going all digital -- Internet only, stopping the presses. Forever.

--What's a college degree worth today? No, not what does it cost. What is it WORTH?

--Alcohol-free beer, beef bacon, fat-free everything -- is nothing real anymore? Up next: Water-free water. Just ad water, and you get ... water.



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)WJR 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

467 The Hose

467 The Hose

It's getting toward winter and that means it's time to put the garden hose in the garage. Good thing, too, because it's really an eyesore out back. Yes, time to turn off the outside water and bring the stuff inside.

Hoses have lives of their own. And they're rebellious critters. Never can get 'em straight and never can get 'em rolled up neatly. They always develop kinks and no matter how elaborate your storage thingy, it never looks right with a hose on it. Funny, the catalogs never show that. When you see the pictures of the hose holders and rollers and such, the hose always is lined up and perfectly symmetrical. The rows are all perfectly even. There are no kinks and there is no dirt. Probably the picture hoses never have been used. Any fool can roll a virgin hose up perfectly. No one can roll up a used hose.

In reality, the hose never reels in properly no matter what you do. Further, the hose is always sandy -- even if your yard is 100% loam or clay and 0% sand.

Not only don't they roll up properly, they spit. They never hook to the water faucet perfectly. It doesn't matter whether you use the helpfully provided rubber washers. The seal never gets completely sealed.

You'd think the manufacturers would have figured this one out years ago. But they haven't. In fact, they probably have committees of engineers and executives and production workers who meet regularly to find new ways to make your garden hose look sloppy and kink up and spit at you.

We need to eavesdrop on some of those meetings. We need to learn their strategy. You can bet the participants go home at night chuckling gleefully about the messes they're about to make of America's back yards.

It's sinister. And it's too conveniently consistent to be accidental.

We used to be able to send a man to the moon, win wars, calculate Pi to the 256,233rd digit. But we can't make a hose that doesn't kink, doesn't spit and rolls up evenly.

Yes, it has to be intentional.




Shrapnel

--A guy at work notes that Wal-Mart is selling Palin costumes for Halloween. The price is $14.99 for Democrats. For Republicans, it's $125,000.00.

--Also at work: We have a guy who does a real estate show every Saturday morning. For Halloween, he's talking about how to talk to your broker if you think the house you want to buy is haunted. Basically, it's okay, unless the ghost is named Fannie or Freddie.

--A correspondent notes there are a lot of "buy one, get one free" items in the supermarket these days. She suggests you use the paid one first, especially when you dislike whatever it is. That way, goes the thinking, if you throw out the second, you won't be wasting money.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

466 Self Help Book

466 Self Help Book

A favorite "self help" book is called "Think and Grow Rich."  A guy named Napoleon Hill wrote it for publication in 1937 and it's still in print and still selling well.   Hill was a lackey of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and was the first to go public with Carnegie's "secret" which essentially this:  If you think you can do something, and you make an organized and viable plan, you CAN do it.

There is, of course, no data to support this thesis.  But it's been around so long, it's kind of "in the atmosphere."

Most richness happens either by accident, or -- as Balzac put it -- with a crime.

We just LOVE those self help books.  

Let's forget about the crime and concentrate on the accident.  After all, we don't want to encourage some budding Al Capone or Richard Nixon here, do we?  Nah.

You get rich accidentally, and often you get poor the same way.  So, do you think there's a market for a self help book called "Think and Grow Poor?"  Sure.  Why not.  Think it'll sell?  Of course it will.

We'd start out with some case histories.  Self help books love case histories.

We'd tell the story of, say, Uptown Jerry, who started life with plenty of dough, but ended up living in the projects.  We'll trace his history from born realty magnate, ended up as a bus washer and weaseled his way into the food stamp program and subsidized medical care and housing.

Then, we'd analyze his lifetime journey, show how he turned a pile of loot into a pile of Health & Human Services I.D. cards and the good life.  Guy hasn't worked a day in 25 years.  We'll show you how you can do the same.

You say no one wants to be poor and no one wants a book on how to become so?  Nonsense.  There's a crying need for this.

No job, no education, no problem.  You, too can become a member of the underclass.

No ambition, no energy, no problem.  You can join the ranks of millions of your fellow Americans and hundreds of millions of brethren around the world.

Work, education, ambition and energy are your enemies.  To use a frequent self help cliche, the longest journey begins with the first step.

Then, it's on to more case histories and more analysis.  




Shrapnel

--The above idea now has been rejected by eight legitimate publishers.   They're obviously afraid of the daring new concepts.  But they're not the only game in town.

--You think the "Amos 'n' Andy" show is dead, not so.    It's lighter weight than the original and even includes some white guys, but the 21st century version is on TV every morning.  They call it "The Maury Show."

--Shameless plug.  Using the new Google "Chrome" browser makes a lot of stuff faster, especially on a not-too-gracefully aging computer.  But there are worries that as the company spreads, it's going to become the next Microsoft.

--

I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.
(C)WJR 2008


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

465 Projections

465 Projections

Here's the key to understanding and combating the slime campaign that's being waged against America's centrists. Whatever it is the extreme right says? Think of it as projection. Projection in the Freudian sense. That's when you take something bad about yourself and think of it as someone else's quality. Like this: you, Josephine Sixpack, are having lunch at the diner with Henrietta Hockeymom. She is wearing green lipstick. She says the shade of red lipstick you're wearing looks crummy on you.
Henrietta is projecting her lousy sense of color onto you.

Here's another. A radio comedian and conservative commentator says Colin Powell is racist for endorsing Barack Obama for President. Who's the racist? It's projection.

That same comedian and his followers want you to believe the opposition (they don't think of it as the loyal opposition, more about which later) wants to tax you to death. What's the projection? This one's a little tricky. But only a little. By taxing you to death they mean directly suck money out of you. Why? To make the government bigger and more powerful, right? Maybe. What they mean is the so-called liberals in America want you to be subservient to them, and so tax you to the point of dependency. The Comedians want the same thing. But they do it in other ways. What THEY do is make it nearly impossible to succeed by distracting you, by making you focus on mere subsistence. How? By taking away those government programs that allow you the freedom (they're always yelping about freedom,) to concentrate on the important.

If you're scraping by with their privatized health insurance (or have none,) if you can't afford your groceries, your gasoline and your heating fuel, you will spend all your time fixing that instead of oh, say, starting a bank or making widgets in competition with existing widget makers. They don't want you focused on success, they want you focused on subsistence, which translates into having power over your life. So "taxing you to death" is the same as not taxing you at all.

But of course they don't really want you to be tax-free. And they see to it you aren't by starting 10-billion-dollar-a-month wars and trillion dollar bailouts for their screw-up friends. And you can only do THAT with tax dollars.

Now, what about the "loyal opposition." They're projecting when they talk about the "real America." They're telling you if they disagree with you, you're not a real American. Huh? The "real Americans" don't live in places like New York or Philadelphia or Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco (especially San Francisco!,) Miami, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore. REAL Americans live in places like Opelika, Alabama, Sutton, New Hampshire, Provo, Utah and Abeline, Texas.

Projection. Turn what they say on them, and you'll find something akin to the truth.



Shrapnel:

--Someone has registered a goldfish to vote in Chicago. Things like this used to be cute. But now, they're just grist for the shrill mill the Republicans have going as a way to cast doubt on any and all voters.

--We've come upon an actual, working payphone. It's in a strip mall in a little town in the middle of nowhere. Probably soon be shipped to the tel-com museum, since no one's used the thing in the last ten years.

--Hospitals usually take their time in sending you the bill. But then they make up for it by sending the "second notice" and collection agency threat the same week. Sometimes, they even send the second notice first.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)WJR 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

464 Mars, Maybe

464 Mars, Maybe

Where are all those socialistaphobics going to go when, as seems likely, that Commie Arab Terrorist Obama gets elected President of the rest of us? It seems almost certain that those who think Social Security is socialism will want to flee from the Great Blue Menace (formerly known as the Red Menace, when "red" meant something else.)

You can almost hear the wires and cell towers humming with calls to United and Allied and the Santini Brothers and all those other moving companies. But where is everyone headed?

Surely, they figure their American Citizenship is being yanked out from under them. Their so-called values are being trashed, their very existence threatened. By one skinny sort-of black guy, at that.

There are all kinds of places they'd be welcome -- to an extent. Utah, Montana, Wyoming? Lots of room there. Get all those self made men and women, JoeSixpacks and Hockey Moms out in the wide open spaces where they can work their freedom loving magic on these depressed areas. Or not. Some people from Utah, Montana and Wyoming have no use for these guys either.

Idaho? Too liberal. Northern New England? Too cold and not all that much room. Mexico? Not likely.

Lots of room in Canada, but the Canadians aren't especially fond of illegals any more than all those self made men and women, Joe Sixpacks and Hockey Moms. (What ever happened to soccer moms?)

Many of them are just going to have to stay put and suck it up -- kind of like the rest of us had to do during the last eight years.

But the real independent self-made socialistaphobis will opt for interplanetary travel. (There's some thought they originally came from other planets in the first place, but there's no hard evidence.

The moon is almost as inhospitable as San Francisco, New York and Seattle, although for different reasons. Plus, it's been rumored that the people who live there now are all Marxists.

Jupiter has the wrong kind of gravity. You'd triple your weight there, and most of these people don't need 50% of their weight on earth.

So, what's close enough, somewhere similar to, say, Idaho or Georgia? Where can you go and automatically weigh less than you do here?

Mars, maybe.


Shrapnel:

--There are too many of the wrong Alaskans in the news. Palin and Stevens. Palin thinks her nomination was a gift from God and Stevens knows his house was.

--This past weekend was the Republicans' day in the television sun. The real Palin was on Saturday Night Live, joined by look-alike Tina Fey. And Joe the not-plumber was on Fox's Huckabee show, grousing that he has become so famous, he can't work.

--Reagan wanted creation of a weapons system he called "peacekeeper missiles." This may have been the very beginning of Neo Orwellism. The first test firing was in 1983, just in time for 1984.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

463 The Sunnyside Crab

463 The Sunnyside Crab

"I'm not President Bush, if you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." Catchy line from John McCain at the third and final presidential debate.

It's good, but it's no "...you're no Jack Kennedy," which Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle in 1988, immediately establishing the gold standard for debate one-liners, which has yet to be equaled.

Other than that, McCain sounded like he was running for County Supervisor, while Barrack Obama sounded like he was running for President. And Obama wasn't even at the top of his form in this latest trouncing.

The best McCain can hope for now is a huge sympathy vote, because no one's going to vote for his positions on issues -- if they can figure out what they really are that week -- unless they're voting for a County Supervisor.

Obama refused to get into the gutter with McCain about degrees of nastiness, guilt by association and the like. All he did was mention that it wasn't cool for McCain's lunatic fringe supporters to be labeling him a terrorist or threatening to murder him. Grace under pressure, to invoke Kennedy for the second time in few words.

When the Democrats call McCain "unstable" do they mean he keeps lurching from pillar to post, can't seem to focus on anything meaningful and is getting crankier and his movements more erratic and jerkier by the day? Or do they mean the guy belongs in a rubber room somewhere where he can't harm himself or others? Depends on whether you can read their minds, but for public consumption, be sure the latter is (mostly) out.

Back in Sunnyside, Queens, we used to call guys like McCain "crabs," because they were always chasing you off their property or angry at your dog because some other dog used their sidewalk as a bathroom even if you cleaned up after it, or because they just didn't like people.

Those same crabs seemed to assume that others were out to get them. They cast sideways glances at such threatening figures as the letter carrier, the sanitation worker and the Good Humor Man. And when no one else locked their doors -- the crabs did. (And yes, there was a time when New Yorkers, at least in the outer boroughs, did not always lock their doors!)

John McCain is a Sunnyside crab.


Shrapnel:

--Turns out "Joe the Plumber" of presidential debate fame doesn't have a license. Right on, Joey, you don't want the gummint to dictate who can and cannot do which work. Are you listening, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, barbers, makeup artists, civil engineers and airline pilots?


--Social Security payments are going up next year. Almost six percent, pretty healthy by today's standards. How many of the guys who fear we're getting too socialist will turn back their increases, do you think?

--They're working on an environmentally advanced wind-up refrigerator. Uses no electricity. Small problem: it doesn't keep food cold, either.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)WJR 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

462Another Restaurant Annoyance or Two

462 Another Restaurant Annoyance

Yes, here comes another restaurant story. Let me set this up for you. First, the term "server" is an obnoxious synonym for "waiter." Let's understand that a gender neutral term for the person who brings your food should be coined. But "server," is, well, so servile. Let's use waiter and pretend it can be gender-irrelevant.

This story really starts at the end of the meal. You're finished with dinner, your plate is empty. The waiter comes over to clear the table. But instead of asking "okay if I clear the table?" or "okay if I take the dishes away?" They say "let me get that out of your way."

Out of my way? It's not really IN my way. It's a good place to put crumpled up napkins, or tooth picks or olive pits or 15 of the 16 onions that came with the entree.

Out of my way? "Why yes, please do. I'm expecting a small plane to land on the table and a plate wouldn't want the plane to crash into it."

"Why, yes, thank you, please do. My partner is outside ready to bring in the potter's wheel. We're going to spin some clay before we go."

"Why yes -- that's great. We're about to start a bridge game at the table."

"Why, yes, I have a drumming test at Julliard tomorrow and I need to practice."

What ever happened to "may I clear the table?"

The same thing that happened to "good choice, thank you," when you order.

The pre- meal equivalent of "let me get that out of your way" is "no problem."

"Waiter, may I have the Mexican Salad, please?"

"Sure. No problem."

What WOULD be a problem? Perhaps asking for salsa sauce without peppers, asking for roast dog."

"I'm sorry, sir, but the salsa sauce already has peppers in it, and the pieces are very small, so it's kind of hard to fish them out."

"Okay, then may I have ketchup instead of salsa?"

"No problem."

That's the end and the beginning. In the middle, the waiter will come over and ask "everything alright?"

Like what? "No, waiter, my left ankle itches and because the table is so close, I can't bend over to scratch it. Plus I owe my brother $5,000, I think a tooth is coming loose, and my arthritis is acting up."

"I'm sorry to hear all that, but I meant with the food. Everything taste okay?"

"Yeah, it's okay. But the salsa is kind of mild."

Shrapnel:

--Fat news: The guy in the Guinness Book as the world's heaviest man in 2006 has trimmed down to a lithe 730 and gotten married. Meantime the guy in Ohio who weighs a mere 267 pounds and said he was too fat to be executed -- was executed.

--A "that's rubbish" award goes Ringo Starr, the ex-Beatle who says he's sick and tired of answering fan mail and won't do so after October 20, 2008. Letters will be thrown in the trash unopened and unread. Sorry to bother you, Mr. Starr.

--Musical merchandise news. The industry says sales of amplifiers for accordions are soaring. Now instead of having to listen to "Lady of Spain" played badly and loud, we'll have to hear it badly and VERY loud.




I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(r)
(C)WJR 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

461 Out of Touch

#461 Out of Touch

People who say Sen. McCain is out of touch with the economic woes of the average American are wrong. You can't be a public figure for all these years, have all these well paid, well educated, savvy campaign aids and not be in touch with this.

But you can pay it lip service and try to make people forget.

Drugging us is the obvious answer. But that's probably illegal. And it's harder than ever to do, what with the crack Homeland Security Team on the job. Imagine if they caught, oh, say, Karl Rove dumping an unidentified liquid into the Croton Reservoir and people from Westchester on down start tripping out. And if they're slinking around CVS sneaking McCain pills into tamper-evident bottles of Tylenol, someone's bound to notice.

Direct drugging isn't going to work.

Indirect drugging might.

Indirect drugging? Yeah. Get our attention on some Hallmarkey kind of picture of America. Like Reagan did. If it's done well enough, we'll zombie our way to the voting booth and do what they want.

Failing that, throw mud. That almost always works. The stinkier the better.

If they play their cards right, they can be made to think the opposing candidate's name isn't Obama, but Ayers. They wouldn't stoop to ethnic slurs, would they? Nah. It's only the fringe that calls Obama and Arab and a terrorist. McCain himself had to quiet an angry mob of his supporters the other day, and got booed for the trouble.

The Democrats won't make the kind of hay the could about the ethically and linguistically retarded governor of Alaska. The committee that came "this" close to calling her unfit for office had ten of her fellow Republicans as members and half that many Democrats. She's calling the investigation a partisan smear, but notes that it clears her of illegal conduct.

When she says it also clears her of ethics violations, she's lying. Want proof? Google "Palin ethics report" and see for yourself.

This is a pretty good distraction. So why aren't the Democrats making better use of it? Possibly because they figure issues should decide a presidential election, not some local cat fight about someone's sister's ex husband.

It isn't hard to understand why the Republicans are trying to distract you.

We could forgive their presidential ticket, were it really out of touch on the economy. What we can't forgive is their attempt to stick our heads in the sand long enough for them to win.


Shrapnel:

--Current Republican talking points include labeling anything they disagree with as "socialist." First, so what. Second, there are no socialists in power here and anyone who thinks there are either doesn't understand socialism or doesn't understand America, or both.

--Three cheers for Ruby Tuesday's They're running TV ads promoting re-decorations at their restaurants. One of them has one of the funniest one-liners: "The 70s called; they want their lamp back."

--Three jeers for Ruby Tuesday's. Reading their re-decorated menus lets you know that you can "platter" your burger for only $1.69. Nice verbing, guys.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

460 Reaping Dinner

460 Reaping Dinner

Ever eat in one of those restaurants where there are no prices on the menus? You know the kind -- expense account paradises where teeny little presumably edible items appear on huge plates, are served by guys in tuxedos who look down their noses at you and which accept only American Express or cash, and the cash had better not be in small bills?

Do you think they charge every customer the same price for the same dish? Or maybe some people get discounts -- known or unknown -- to anyone but the headwaiter or the executive chef? And maybe some people -- undeserving souls, obviously, by their demeanor or bearing, are charged more than the others?

Not a lot of other businesses can do that kind of thing. But you can sure bet there are plenty who'd like to.

How about the pharmaceutical companies which price their new genome based long term care drugs by whatever the market will bear. Stuff for multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis or some types of cancer are through the roof, almost impossible to make generically and way beyond paying for the research costs.

And they don't even need to buy a supply of those big white plates and snooty, tuxedo wearing waiters. A simple white coat -- the kind your druggist probably wears -- will do, as will a simple pill bottle.

So who can pay for this stuff? A hundred thou a year for some of it? Maybe some of the people who were forced out of AIG or Fannie or Freddie. Those golden parachutes go a long way to help you out in the teeny-food-big-white-plate restaurants and the megabucks drugs to keep your dread disease in check.

If you're really really poor, you can get help from the drug companies. Really really poor doesn't include people who have a nest egg of a few thousand dollars or, heaven forbid, own their own home. Really really rich people don't have a problem. Everyone else? Move into a refrigerator carton and pay your own way. Even if your health insurance has a drug plan -- worry. The insurance folks have figured out many novel ways to not pay for this stuff.

Not all the news is bad. If you're chronically or critically ill, take that little nest egg, go to one of those white plate joints (be sure you observe the dress code,) and enjoy a teeny tiny but oh-so-elegant dinner, ordered from a menu without prices listed.

Then go to the home you own, forget about the pharmaceuticals, and leave the door unlocked for the Grim Reaper. He'll be by soon enough.



Shrapnel:

--Registered Democrats now outnumber registered Republicans in Nassau County. It took awhile, 100 years, thereabouts. Probably temporary, but also a message to what once was the best and most efficient political machine north of the Mason Dixon line.

--Here's the problem with Wall Street. The market has confused scoring systems. It's supposed to be like basketball, not like golf.

--Shameless plug: Read "The Journey of Italians In America," by Dr. Vincenza Scarpaci, published by Pelican. You'll learn something about yourself, even if you're not Italian.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

459 Yawwwn

#459 Yawwwn

The best experts in the field say Martians and not permitted to vote in US elections. But if you landed your flying saucer in the Jersey swamps and got your first glimpse of John McCain andBarak Obama , you might have trouble making up your mind about which guy you'd elect if you COULD vote. If, however, you are an earthling and a registered American voter, have read a newspaper, listened to the radio or watched the tube, you almost HAD to pick one of them.


But the second of the three presidential debates, also known as the longest 90 minutes in television, concludes without a mention of Bill Ayers or CharlesKeating.

That said, John McCain looked stiff, mechanical, uncomfortable, insincere and tired. Obama looked loose, energetic, comfortable, sincere and energetic. Is it an age thing? A height thing? Or is it just that the guy with the long legs and the young lungs has a physicality more vigorous than the guy with the short legs, the old lungs, a highprobability, biologically, and one that speaks to longevity in office -- here defined as four years of good health and alert mind.


Here are some observations made during this grueling, boring, cliche-riddled, mind-numbing, eye-glazing presentation:

--McCain actually looked straight on at Obama, a gesture of simple courtesy he omitted during Debate I.

--McCain has started dropping final consonants from some of his words -- an apparent contagion spread by his vice presidential running mate (who pals around with people who wants her home state to secede from the United States.

--Consummately professional moderator Tom Brokaw seemed unable to keep the candidates within the time constraints to which they and their handlers had all previously agreed.

--Obama, generally uncomfortable in the "town hall" format, presented way above expectations.

--Both of these guys have split personalities. They have spent the last few days decorating each other with pond scum, and spent the debate behaving, for the most part, like gentlemen who have at least a Senate-floor-esque respect for each other.

--McCain mentioned that Ronald Reagan was his hero. Then he mentioned that Theodore Roosevelt was his hero. Anyone else? Both heroes have sent McCain their thanks, the former in a hand written note and the latter via Western Union Telegram.

The Republican slime machine that's been working overtime since at least the 1988 "Willie Horton" election will resume its mischief by the time you see these words. The Democratic party's feather light counter-punch'll be right behind it.



Shrapnel:

--Missing from the debate: Immigration reform. Is that a dead issue? Yes, because there aren't jobs for the Mexicans OR the U.S. citizens they supposedly replaced in the workforce. Theshape ups at Home Depot and 7-11 have become bilingual with English now the dominant language.

--It's hard to imagine those parking lot shape ups moving from big box home repair stores to banks. But maybe the out of work bankers and brokers should take a tip from their Mexican counterparts and mill around the parking lots of financial institutions hoping to pick up a day's work as an analyst or a teller. How do you dress for that occasion?


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

458 Rear View Mirror

#458 Rear View Mirror

This is not exactly a new idea, but it's one worth re-considering, what with the geometric increase in our self-involvement.

If rear view mirrors are necessities for cars and trucks, why aren't they necessities for pedestrians?

People clog streets, subway platforms, supermarket aisles and hallways without any thought of who might be doing what near them, and certainly with no awareness that there's anyone behind them.

How often do you have to excuse yourself to get past someone in an aisle?

Rear view mirrors wouldn't completely solve this. But they'd help.

See those three guys walking along the sidewalk? In the middle, there? Yeah. Those three. They take up the whole width. You can't pass them from either direction, and they're paying absolutely no attention to anyone except themselves. The conversation goes on. The foot traffic piles up behind them. People walking in the opposite direction can't get by, either, so they stop, causing a similar pileup behind THEM.

Make a fashion statement. Sport a rear view mirror on your hat. Or your shopping cart. Make it both practical and attractive. Little furry mirror holders for winter use. Then in summer, you can get one with straw to match your straw hat. A deluxe straw hat with a built in rear view mirror could also sport tail lights and the SUPER deluxe model could have turn signals.

Everyone would know what you were about to do on your walk and be able to take evasive action. Defensive driving? Why not defensive walking!

Plus having that mirror would increase the chance that you'd break out of your zombie reverie now and then and realize there are others on the street as well.

The supermarkets all have these motorized carts now, and they could easily put directional signals and rear view mirrors on them.

Even the regular push carts could be outfitted. And it's a new place to put advertising. On your side the mirrors look backward. For oncoming traffic, the backs of the mirror, the side you don't see, they can put a sign that says "Blue Light Special in Aisle 21...." or some such.

Sounds pretty complicated, right? Yes, it does.

Well, maybe there are simpler ways of solving this problem.

How about one of those sticky notes on your mirror.

Then, in the morning, while admiring your beautiful features you could also read a little message like "Hey, Bozo, other people exist." Or perhaps: "Today I will be aware that I'm not the only walker on the sidewalk, the only shopper in the supermarket or the only guy in a hurry."

Think it would work?

Probably not.

Solipsism may be too deeply ingrained.

Shrapnel:

--The local newspaper announced Sunday that it would not print editorials endorsing candidates for election. Good move. Saves you from having to read all the objections from readers to whomever you would have endorsed. And doesn't force you to confront the possibility that no one cares what you think.

--The McCain campaign's getting desperate. Palin is saying Obama "pals around with terrorists," and "doesn't see America like you (white guys) do." Vice presidential candidates are supposed to carry they poisoned water for their bosses. But there's poison and then there's, well, Palin.

--Do you do this? Every time you set the alarm, you wake up just before it sounds. How does that happen?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

457 Palin-drome

#457 Palin-drome

Zetzkovsky the barber watched the vice presidential debate and at the same time made a video recording of it. When the thing was over (was it ever really over?) he played the video backward. Zetzkovsky the barber was hoping that the Palin part was in some kind of code, with secret messages between the lines or when playing the video backward -- a palindrome, like "radar" or "1221" it would make sense. But after watching forward and backward, Zetz said it all didn't work in either direction.

Biden is the vice president from central casting. Palin is the robo-queen who doesn't listen and spews nonsensical answers to questions that weren't asked but no answers to questions that are asked. She gushes, bats her eyes, she recites the cue card Reaganesque and blabs cheap nonsense in a down home accent in which nuclear is pronounced nuke-u-lar and is aimed directly at -- as she put it -- "Joe Sixpack and the Hockey moms."

Poor Biden. He just stood there and you could tell he wanted to scratch his head at her head-scratching malarkey, and then tried to tell us what was wrong and how to make it right. She quacked platitudes and generalities about energy and jobs, her "executive experience" and what a great place Alaska is, even though it's so close to those two foreign countries, Russia and Canada, giving her all that foreign policy wisdom.

Zetz said "...if I hear 'heartland of America,' 'bipartisan effort' 'creates jobs' or 'energy producing state' one more time, I'm going back to Minsk." And he says "I was waiting for her face to crack from all that phony smiling. That whiny, nasal chirping drives me nuts. She should go away now and stay away forever. Maybe SHE should go to Minsk."

She smirks just like Bush. And not once did she manage to chirp or whine or folksy us with one specific -- not one -- about how she and McCain differ from The Great Nuke-u-lar Smirker.

She closed with a long Reagan quote after spending a lot of time about not pointing at the past.

Zetzkovsky the barber says he's glad she doesn't get her hair cut as his shop. He's afraid she'd break the mirrors. And mirrors aren't cheap.

This debate wasn't much of a game changer. There wasn't much new and there wasn't much news. Palin didn't collapse. Biden didn't run off at the mouth. So neither lived up to their advance notices.

Biden was the clear winner and he did it without dissing Palin, Joe Sixpack, Hockey Moms, Senator McCain or the general in charge of US operations in Afghanistan (whose name he got right and whose name she got wrong.)

Shrapnel:

--Better late than never, part II. Thanks to the Jewish Forward newspaper's editorial page for echoing my thoughts on making some of the legal financial shenanigans illegal. (Wessay #454 of 9/26/08, and I'm pretty sure they don't read this page; good thinking is good thinking.)

--Note to Mike Bloomberg: You were a really good boss, you are a really good mayor. But three terms?

(Only two shards of shrapnel today as we're already over the word count.)

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

456 The Financial Crisis and Grandma's Victrola

456 The Financial Crisis & Grandma's Victrola

Grandma Julia's Victrola is about 80 or 90 years old and a little battered. Stands about four feet tall, which means Grandma had to strain a little bit to put those Caruso and Ukulele Ike records on the turntable.

It works. You wind it up, you put on the record, you put down the needle and music comes out. Great in a power outage. Not a bad piece of furniture, either. In fact, the cabinets have outlived the works for many of these machines. Nice mahogany with a reddish tinge. A little bit of checking on the finish, but a fine and stately object. The brass hardware is perfect and so is the decal picture of the Victor Talking Machine, later the RCA Victor dog on the underside of the top. This contraption dominated the foyer for more than four decades, then came to visit here and stayed.

It is a valuable artifact or a valuable antique. Or not.

One attempt to sell it brought bids so low as to make parting with it unworthy. A second attempt brought bids so high as to make parting with it economically unfeasible. Is the thing worth a couple of hundred bucks or a couple of thousand? Or both? Or neither.

Who knows.

The contraption is a symbol, though, beside being the only known way to play those old 78 rpm records.

No one knows what it's worth.

Kind of like WaMu or Wachovia, your General Motors stock, your house, your IRA and a dozen eggs.

And here's where the Victrola and the financial markets merge.

No one knows what anything's worth.

That's something the "bailout" doesn't deal with.

Until we know that, we don't know what to do with the bailout. Or the Victrola.

Grandma Julia would say "sell the thing for the best price you can get."

That may have worked in the 1920s. It's not working now.


Shrapnel:

--Welcome aboard, Kevin, and better late than never. That's Kevin Hassett, McCain adviser, biggie at the American Enterprise Institute and a Bloomberg News columnist, has put up a column called "Magic Ring to Save Us May Be Accounting Overhaul." There's great doubt such a luminary first got that idea by readingWessay #450, "Booty Call," posted 9/17/08, but there are similar ideas in both postings.

--RIP the heavily subsidized, conservative New York Sun newspaper. Six years of trying to convince us of your point of view, exceptional reporting; exceptional writing, exceptional editing. Credit that last part to SethLipsky, late of the Wall Street Journal and founding editor of the English language version of the Forward newspaper.

--This leaves New Yorkers without a sane conservative source of news. The Post doesn't qualify. Maybe if they put a New Yorker in the top job there....

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008