Friday, July 31, 2009

579 The Obama Game


Not to be confused with the Broadway musical "The Pajama Game."

The pajama game was about clothing. The Obama Game is about anticipating what the right wingnuts will say about the President of the United States now and in the future. Let's start with the latest news: Obama, the professor Gates and the cop Crowley met in the Rose Garden. They talked, it would seem, about racial profiling, prejudice and probably the race results or the baseball results.

Now, let's play The Obama Game, which is a way of looking at how the right wingnuts see the administration and anticipating what they will say and do about what.

First, the latest. The latest is the beer summit with professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley. Three guys meeting in the Rose Garden to talk about race in America. Beer? They're having beer!

Well, there's our first right wingnut prediction: The President of the United States is drinking on the job. No need to verify that one. The White House says it's so.

The President of these United States was drinking on the job. Beer. With the professor and the cop. Now, everything's Jake, except Obama was drinking on the job. (Bush wouldn't do that, would he?)

How can you trust a president who drinks on the job. Not only beer, mind you, but drunk with power!

Then there's health care. There will be an agreement among warring factions, eventually. And the Prez will call it a personal victory, no matter the result. Any Prez would. But what will the wingnuts say? "He tried to turn us into Sweden, and he failed!"

Righties will have a little more trouble spinning the war in Afghanistan, because it's their war, too. But they'll find something to say: "We shouldda bombed them back to the stone age." Sorry, but they never left the stone age.

And maybe, under this administration, they'll capture Osama. The right will celebrate, but will also say it's because Obama is a Muslim and it takes one to catch one.

Anyone have any ideas about how to score this game? What do you say 10 points for each correct answer, five for a more or less right answer, zero for a wrong answer. The game goes on until someone gets 100 points.



Shrapnel:

--New York's Ultimate Solution to the Homeless Problem is at last out in the open. Free one way tickets to somewhere else. Better, one would suppose than gas chambers, but could that be next?

--What's more troubling than kicking the homeless out of the city? The idea will catch on and other places will start doing the same. Soon, we'll have homeless trading among municipalities.

--Here in Mount Tantamount, PA., the homeless have learned to "pass." For those unfamiliar with the term, it means they comport and dress themselves so as to be taken for "regular" people. Either that, or they're all Anne Frank, living in attics or basements.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

578 Saucery II, Obama, Palin


When last we met, the idea on the table was that flying saucers came to earth because they got lost on their way somewhere else. Now, we find, this is not the whole story. One of those saucers, one that landed in 1961, was carrying the future President of the United States, Barrack Obama.

Yes, the "birthers" are right. The Prez wasn't born in the United States. He was born on the planet Zatog and then dropped in Honolulu as an infant. All this talk about born in Africa? Ridiculous. Obama is from outer space. Everyone who voted for Palin knows it. And so does she. You think she resigned because of those ethics scandals? Nah. You think she resigned to go on the book tour? Nah. You think she resigned for general cuckooness? Not a chance. She resigned so she'll never be questioned about her secret knowledge of Obama's planet of birth. She doesn't want to be the one to bring this presidency down, the patriotic wondergirl.

So, what have we learned from this datum? Well, first off, maybe the little green men aren't green.

And of course, we have to ask ourselves why did the saucerians leave only one infant? Or DID they leave only one infant? Maybe it was several. Maybe it was many. Maybe not all of them were infants. This is so confusing.

But who else but the little not-green men could leave a perfectly forged Hawaiian birth certificate, as these guys obviously did? And who else could have planted that fake birth announcement in the Honolulu newspaper? No forger on earth has that degree of skill and stealth. So it had to be someone unearthly, and again, the finger points right at the little not-green men.

This leaves us with more questions than answers. Who else is out there, just waiting to be discovered?

Hey, wait! Maybe they left Palin, too.

Anyone seen HER birth certificate? For that matter, could anything like Sarah come from a human womb? But it would explain why she never said anything about this during the campaign.

Shrapnel:

--Former NYC mayor Ed Koch is out of the hospital where he stayed for more than a month gaining a heart valve and losing a gallbladder. Ed's a friend, mentor and former colleague, a good man, and raring to get back to work. His full time job is being Ed Koch, and that's a lot of work!

--RIP friend and former colleague Bob Walker of ABC News when that place meant something. Right wing, opera-loving, basketball loving big man with a big heart and enormous skill of phrase turning. And bounced out of bounds with the youth fad fully overtook ABC Radio.

--The Senate Judiciary Committee has done the right thing and approved Sotomayor. Now it's on to the senate. (And, yes, we've seen her birth certificate, and there's no otherworldly aspect to it.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009


Monday, July 27, 2009

577 Saucer=y

577 Saucer-y

You have to wonder if all those space invaders came here in their flying saucers because they took a wrong turn somewhere en route. Mapquest, Yahoo and Google maps are not perfect. The AAA doesn't cover the area and besides, the space lane signs are all in English (and Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Gaelic, but not Galactic.) The little green men in the flying saucers may just have had bad directions. Or ran into some indecipherable detour. Lost in space? Not unquestionable.

Or maybe their Metrocards expired and they were just trying to work their way around the toll booths.

We're always filming stories about people screaming and running from the invaders. Granted, most of them are pictured as ugly and dangerous looking. But maybe all they want is directions.

"Earthling, can you tell us how to get to Little Rock?"

"Don't know about no little rock, but there's a mighty big one down in the creek."

"Earthling, you sure are stupid."

"Yep, but we ain't lost."
(apologies to Pete Seeger, who probably didn't write that dialog, either.)

Maybe they're not lost. Maybe they just ran out of... out of... whatever fuel it is the saucers use. Again, the AAA doesn't cover the terrain. Or the fuel.

Or could be they're just seeking a rest stop. If so, we hope that whatever they expel during such "rests" does not dissolve porcelain.

In the age of political correctness and sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others, we have some nerve assuming these saucerians are hostile. Smacks of intolerance at best and racism at worst.

We need to establish a relationship with our space neighbors, a basis for discussion. Surely what we have in common is greater than what we might have in conflict.

Meantime, rather than letting them sit out there in the baking desert, we should get them a room at Motel 6 or maybe even a Holiday Inn Express. After all, we want to be seen as neighborly, don't we?

Shrapnel:

--Sen Schumer (D-NY) wants to curb high speed institutional stock trade because the "little guy" doesn't have the same access. Wake up, Chuck. The little guy has no access worth bragging about no matter the speed of the trade or its technical workings. And if this is news to you, it's time to audit come market classes at CCNY.

--A friend, Thelma, continues to drive, despite getting on in years. Her daughter, Carla thinks mom shouldn't be. Attention, Carla: You are correct, but Thelma didn't get to be an octogenarian by listening to you, and she's not going to start now.

--A religious cult called "the Family" numbers some high profile public officials and calls itself the "Christian Mafia." Hearing laughter, boys? That's from the graves of Gotti and Luciano, Gambino and even the fictional Vito Corleone, who know what you guys don't: There is no Mafia, and if there were, they wouldn't be Protestants, wouldn't be public officials and wouldn't talk about it where anyone else could hear.



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

576 Modem Down

576 Modem Down

Or mow them down. It looks like the tech team at Verizon has finally figured out how they were screwing up the DSL line and (knock wood) fixed the problem. Shows you how dependent we can get on our internet connections. We use them for work, for play, for calendars and heaven knows what-all else. And we, most of us, have come to expect always-on, always-ready connections.

Years ago, with some wireless router troubles, the phone company sent us a spare modem, which was never installed. Since then it had been sitting in the closet while the old one continued to chug along. Finally, it seems, Old Man Modem died.

The instructions say "most connectivity problems can be solved shutting the modem down and powering it up again." This works for awhile. Fifteen minutes on, fifteen minutes of rebooting. Okay, this is Alexander Graham Bell's little way of telling us it's time to get out and set up the spare.

Wow! Talk about high speed. Marvelous. Plus the New Guy is a prettier color than Old Man Modem, and these days, everything computer-related has to have a fancy color (optional, at extra cost in most cases.) Okay, New Guy is on the job and everything is perfect. For about an hour. Then, the same thing. No signal.

The last thing you want to do when you have a problem is call customer service. But now, it's unavoidable. Not speaking either Tagalog or Hindi, a smart computer cookie waits until late morning and connects with (miracle, miracle,) the Verizon tech center in Canada, where the lovely Gina does remote control line tests and says there's something wrong. Duh! She can't fix it from there, but she'll "put in a trouble ticket." For anyone who has worked at Bloomberg, "trouble ticket" is like telling you that you have an inoperable disease. We get into a discussion of life in London, Ontario and the contrast between Tim Horton's London coffee and its inferior New York coffee.

Several days pass, and it appears Verizon takes its "tickets" more seriously than does Bloomberg, and on the morning this is being written, a day before its scheduled posting, everything appears to be working "top notch" as Gina the Canadian said it would.

But it's early yet. There's a whole day of potential down-powering that awaits. And just as the last words were being written, in came an automated "courtesy call" from Verizon, saying "We're still working on your problem." Hey, guys -- not "my" problem, yours.



Shrapnel:

--There appears to be a plot against Al Roker. Not only does he do three of the four hour daily hours on the "Today Show" marathon, but he's got a slot on the Weather Channel, which NBC recently bought. They are trying to work the guy to death.

--Ford turned a quarterly profit, surprising pretty much everyone. Note to the President: You bought us the wrong auto companies. Ask for our money back.

--Talking about Michael Vick with Shawn at the gas station, and he says we Americans have an obsession with dogs. No kidding. Have you seen the obituaries for Gidget the Chihuahua that fronted the Taco Bell ads?



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

575 Liz Taylor

575 Liz Taylor

No, not, THAT Liz Taylor. Liz Taylor the retail analyst for one of the remaining financial houses that still does that stuff. She calls herself Betsy, because she's tired of being asked whether she's related to the "real" Elizabeth Taylor, which she is not. She's also tired of being asked why so many analysts get their analyses wrong so often and still keep their jobs. So that's what this is about.

"I can walk into Lord and Taylor (also no relation) and tell you how the store is doing, in a very general range" she says. To demonstrate she walks into the world's smallest Macy's. There's practically no one in the joint. She noses around, picks up some stuff, examines it, puts it down, walks out and says "They're doing okay." She's asked "how do you know that? You can bowl in the store without hitting a customer." She says it's because of the newness of the price tags, the dust on the shelves and the loudness of the music on the public address system.

The tags tell her the merchandise is newly displayed. The dust on the shelves means there isn't time to remove it or business is so good no manager is paying attention. The loudness is enough so that when the store is full, the music and the paging can still be heard, which assumes the store is at least sometimes crowded.

Very sharp. So why do they get so much wrong? She says some do and some don't, but that outfits like Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg go for a consensus of analysts' expectations on a specific figure, and even if half those questioned hit it right -- which doesn't happen much -- the consensus still gets it wrong.

Oh. So it's Bloomberg's fault? "No," she says, "it's just the way it's done. But boosting or trashing a stock is part of the game and everyone gets trashed and everyone gets boosted in a fairly even-handed way.

Betsy has her eye on a handbag. But she's not buying. Instead, she's going to her hotel room, booting up her laptop and playing the analysts' guessing game about Macy's, which will bring either joy or sorrow to the folks in the home offices -- hers and Macy's. She's writing a post which eventually will find its way into the news.

Shrapnel:

--Let's hear it for Twitter. It forces us windbags to compress our bleats... uh tweets... into 140 characters or fewer. Very democratic, since Obama doesn't get any more space than the guy sleeping in the Westinghouse box.

--So the doc says "I want to see you back in six months." Then the appointment scheduler says "The computer won't let me do that. Call me in two months." Two months later, the doc is completely booked up at the time you're supposed to be seen.

--Direct deposit is a boon to most of us, but direct withdrawal is anything but. When your checking account is down to fumes, what happens when the phone, gas and electric companies are busily chasing the same bucks in the same account and there isn't enough to go around? Everyone gets paid and the bank gets overdraft fees.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

574 Walter & Sligo

574 Walter And Sligo

CBS treated us to a Cronkite tribute last evening, and it probably was the best piece of journalism out of that shop since Walter left the Evening News anchor desk in 1981, though a bit heavy on the Robin Williams and Brian Williams and Katie Couric interviews. Yeah, Walter was the greatest since Murrow. Yeah, he was the most trusted man in America. Yeah, we'll miss him, even though most of us have not seen much of him these last few decades. Yeah, he brought the Kennedy assassination and the King assassination and the Vietnam war and the moon landing into our living rooms. And for this we'll be forever grateful. It's the kind of reporting no one does any more.

But Walter the Anchorman wasn't alone. We get that impression from looking at pictures and movies of all the stiffs around him while he prepared and then delivered his nightly broadcast.

But this isn't about Walter, this is about Satellite Sligo (which rhymes with Eye-Go.")

Sligo didn't work for CBS, he worked for NBC. And he didn't work all that much during the Cronkite era at CBS, only later. Sligo was in charge of the morning satellite feeds coming into and going out. And one day during the company's seemingly endless rounds of staff reductions, Sligo got fired.

This was proof that the people at NBC who did the hiring and firing didn't know what Sligo did or how he did it. Turns out, neither did anyone else. Sligo had a lot of stuff in his head. So when they fired him, he went home to Queens and sat around waiting for the phone call from World Headquarters. This was on a Wednesday. By Friday, the call came. "We made a mistake firing you, Sligo, please come back to work."

Translation: Satellite Sligo knew a lot of stuff no one else either knew or could figure out. So Sligo told his caller "Sure... I'll come back. How about two weeks from Monday. As a consultant. At a rate nearly twice what they were paying him when the fired him.

No hesitation on the part of the caller. "Can you come back, like next Monday? Please? Pretty please?"

"Two weeks from Monday."

This is an NBC story, but it well could have happened anywhere else and in any other line of work.

All of which goes to show you how complicated TV can be.

NBC's morning satellite feeds looked like an explosion in a spinach factory for two weeks. Then Sligo came back to work and most everything went right. Well, maybe not entirely right. But righter than when he wasn't there.

Cronkite had his own Sligos. Writers, producers, editors, film guys, tape guys, satellite guys, researchers, script carriers, lighting people, stage hands, directors, technical directors, unit managers, desk assistants, receptionists, coaches, pitchmen, lunch wagon pilots, camera and audio operators, makeup artists, stage managers, hangers on and the like. And sure he was the best (or maybe the second best after St. Murrow,) in the business.

But he wasn't alone. And we should remember that.

Shrapnel:

--It was my great privilege to work, briefly, with John Chancellor, NBC's attempt to dethrone CBS's Cronkite, something that never happened. John was every bit as good as Walter, but the then-recently MIA Huntley and Brinkley were a miserably hard act to follow. Walter won in the ratings and in our hearts, leaving John in the most un-enviable position ever in TV news.



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

573 The New Illegals

573 The New Illegals

So SCUBA Dude is in the Pacific around San Diego and comes upon a sea monster. Well, maybe that's the wrong way to put it. Instead, let's say the sea monster comes upon him. This is the first sign that something's not kosher. The monster then wraps a tentacle around his diving mask and tries to rip it off. The second sign. Deep sea muggings are fairly common in Somalia, but not so much in California. Besides, the Somalis are people not.... sea monsters.

The monster in question is a squid, five feet long and 100 pounds, called by some calamari that eats you, razor beaked and toothy of tentacle. SCUBA Dude is scared out of his California deep sea wits, more so when he and his diving buddies see not just the lead squid, but a whole armada of them.





Marine biologists are reluctant to go out and look, so some of the beasts, apparently accommodating and with an academic bent, wash ashore and die, saving the scientists' trouble. They determine that these are Humbolt squid which mostly stay in the deep waters off Mexico.

Ahah! Mexican illegals, unwilling or unable to scale fences or border walls or tunnel beneath them have turned into underwater invaders. It won't be long before the right wing wackos tell us they've seen the Humbolts lining up for work outside a San Diego Home Depot. It won't be long before the DEA swoops down on the southern California beaches and slits the dead ones open looking for drugs. It won't be long before the Department of Homeland Security declares "condition red" and buys 620 billion dollars worth of patrol boats.

Thing is, these might be United States citizen squids. There's word the Humbolts have taken up residence about 600 feet down in the ocean... over OUR borders! Or under them. Now, we are going to have to check passports. The Obama administration has suggested we simply open our borders to these guys. After all, someone has to swim in those waters and Americans won't.

Watch the Sacramento legislature pass a law requiring the hiring of bi lingual teachers who speak squid.

Shrapnel:

--How to make someone stop smoking? Charge him 23 quadrillion dollars for a pack. That's what happened to a guy named Josh in New Hampshire and eventually the credit card outfit rescinded the charge -- but it took some doing... big, long, scary doing.

--The New Hampshire guy's card was issued by Bank of America. BOA apparently figured out a way to pay back its TARP funds in a big hurry. It didn't work.

--The Republicans have finished torturing Sonia Sotomayor and look terribly foolish for having done so. Now, they're trying to get witnesses to say she's unqualified, which she isn't. What is this, revenge for Clarence Thomas or Robert Bork, who full well deserve what they got from the Senate... or is it just plain bad behavior?



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

572 Two New York Culture Shocks

572 Two New York Culture Shocks

They're not the kind that rattle the earth. In fact, they each were kind of quiet. But New York underwent two big culture shocks, nonetheless.

First the good one: In the dark of night, the Canadians invaded. They converted 12 Dunkin' Donuts outlets into Tim Horton'ses. What's another bunch of coffee shops in Manhattan? Ordinarily, not much. But, as New Yorkers will find, Tim's makes the best coffee on the planet -- and it'll be better here than it is up north if only because the water here's better. Welcome to NYC, Tim's. Its about time.

Then, the bad one. In a trade reminiscent of a deal for NBA players, the ailing and mismanaged New York Times newspaper has sold its radio station, WQXR, the first commercial classical music station in the country, the biggest and the best. "Oh, don't worry," says the Times, "classical music will remain the format." Yeah. For now. Forty five million dollars will change hands in this confusing and complex deal. WQXR will move up the dial to 105.9, a hard to receive frequency that was meant to serve New Jersey (and remains licensed to Newark.) The Univision Spanish language station that's there now will move down the dial to WQXR's present spot, 96.3 which can be heard far and wide. After that, the New York public radio station, WNYC will take over owning and operating the newly repositioned WQXR.

Complicated to a fault. The classical station that's been operating since 1936 and has been under Times ownership since 1944 and has been a lighthouse of culture in a sea of garbage ever since.

Those of us who have been listening to the station starting in our mothers' wombs will notice a difference. Older listeners will remember the brilliant early days, the tolerable middle period and the okay present period as a New York icon akin to the Brooklyn Bridge, the library lions, the Penn Station eagles and the original Carnegie Hall.

And that 45 million? It's not going to make any difference to the Times' bottom line or debt or advertising woes. Unless they use the money to buy some Tim Horten's franchises.



Shrapnel:

--Meantime a group of minority broadcasters is asking the treasury for a bailout, claiming new devices used to determine listenership are showing smaller numbers and that revenue is plummeting. Earth to these guys: ALL advertising is plummeting. Everyone in the business, even the big operators, ESPECIALLY the big operations could use a bailout.

--The President has called for spending 12 billion dollars to shore up and expand two year community colleges. It's about time. Some of the best educating in the world goes on within those walls -- and with little of the pomp, claptrap and impracticality that has come to mark most other forms of higher ed these days.

--It has become almost impossible to buy a bad guitar at any price, a sharp change from only a couple of decades ago. The good American and Japanese, Chinese and Korean makers are getting better by the day. And the cheapies are fast catching up, at least in terms of sound and playability, if not in longevity.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

571 Graybeard the Pirate

571 Graybeard the Pirate

(MOUNT TANTAMOUNT, PA) -- Graybeard the Pirate has been fired from his job as an announcer on a public radio station here. The station is owned by Mount Tantamount State University, which is only a "state" university when it feels like it. The rest of the time, it's private. Yes, here in Middlanowhere County, PA., they have a school with a really strange state of being. It gets a boatload of money from the state, but it isn't OWNED by the state. So when it wants to play like a private school it does, and when it wants to play like a public school, it also does.

Graybeard was host of the morning show, which means he did the local inserts between segments of "Morning Edition," the second most boring program on national radio. Graybeard was classier than the national hosts. Well, he SOUNDED classier.

He lent a degree of elegance to a program that gets a lot of national exposure and is a living, breathing and automatic "snooze button" on hundreds of thousands of radios. So why was this guy fired? The official reason was "budget," which may be a little legit, since the state is cutting back everywhere in the face of the recession. But that wasn't the real reason.

The real reason was politics. As regular readers of these postings and the author's own radio program know, our position is there's nothing more brutal than the politics of a non-profit, be it a church, a hospital or an institution of higher learning. General Electric or Lockheed's political operatives would look at the non profits and recoil in horror. Or turn envy-green.

No, Graybeard was fired because he's an outspoken conservative.

This is not typically a vehicle for defending conservative politics. But it is a place where first amendment junkies can find companionship. Graybeard got the ax because he's more Ayn Rand than he is Nancy Pelosi. And that ain't right. Those of us on the left of things make a mistake when we can guys like this. It makes us look petty and opens us to charges of censorship, the very things for which we berate our right wing brothers, no matter how sane or nuts they may be.

These days, talent is not enough -- at least not in the world of non-profits. You have to toe the party line or keep your mouth shut. Neither is a good thing.



Shrapnel:

--The Forward newspaper has moved from its long time office on East 33rd St. to Maiden Lane, way downtown. Somehow this seems right. Midtown was never a place for an outfit like that to put down roots, though the new building looks more like one of those glass brick towers than a lower east side tenement.

--The paper's owner, the Workmen's Circle, remains on 33rd Street. C'mon, fellas. Get with the program. The lower east side is cool. And it's where you too belong.

--David Souter is writing his memoirs. It will run ten, maybe 12 pages. Then, he'll do the talk show circuit where Larry King and Matt Lauer will have to do headstands to pry more than "yep," and "nope" from the guy.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

570 Phone Calls

570 Phone Calls

The phone doesn't ring too often these days. In fact, most of the calls come from "entities" with which a "prior business relationship exists," which is well within the law governing the Do Not Call list. Most of those can be blown off with a hangup (for the robo versions,) or a polite "thank you but I'm not interested" when there's a live humanoid on the other end of the line.

Sometimes the humanoid -- who is, after all, merely doing his job and probably hating it -- will take a request that he stop calling. This usually draws a response like this: "You realize that if we stop calling you, you won't get any future word on exciting money saving and special event offers we may be making?" Nature's answer to this is "Yep. Not interested in your exciting money saving and special event offers which always end up costing more than whatever you're getting now." Nature's answer to THAT is "it may take four to six weeks for your request to be processed, please understand we may call you before we're able to move you off the list."

Yeah. It takes six weeks to unplug a name from a call list. Sure.

True to their word, the half dozen companies who received that request have stopped calling. So it's more effective than the old ploy which was to tell the caller ".. oh, he died. In fact, I'm just watching the house while his widow is at the funeral." Nature's reply to that generally is something like "...well, is there anyone else available who might like to take advantage of our free HBO for six weeks offer?"

Not even an "I'm sorry to hear of your loss..." let alone an "I'm sorry to have bothered you."

Getting back to that lack of calls, and a glorious lack it is, thank you: the only time people who count seem to call is when the house is empty -- which doesn't happen a lot.

"You have 16 new messages. First message...."

It's like people know when you're not home and call then.

Hey, wait. That's not a bad idea. Turn it around and use it to leave messages for people you have to call but you don't really want to talk to.

Shrapnel:

--How's the tap water in Bundanoon, Australia? It better be decent, because that's all the water you can get there. The town has banned sales of bottled water, hoping to save the earth and some bucks.

--We learn the above from the Bundanoon Daily News newspaper. It's going along with eco-project by printing on both sides of paper so thin you can use it instead of Glad Wrap. The problem comes when you try to read it.

--Have you noticed that the cell companies no longer give you free phones? At least two of them have. But mail-in rebates remain if you are very very very patient and fill out the proper forms in the proper way.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

569 The Power of Positive Thinking

569 The Power of Positive Thinking

Not that Norman Vincent Peale didn't do some good. But he also did a mess of harm and we're just now starting to realize it. And pay for it. By the time he published "Positive Thinking" in 1952, he already was a powerhouse preacher with a wide ranging magazine and radio audience, and with a warm voice that you'd call a whiskey voice on anyone but a preacher, he cooed and cajoled us into believing one of two or three of the greatest lies in history, without ever stating it in plain English. Here's the lie: Positive and negative thinking are axiomatic.

Smarmy Normy never said that in those words. But that was the premise behind his message. Perhaps that message would have gotten into the ether on its own, or from someone else's pen or radio show. But Norm's the guy put it out there. The rest of the world -- or a good chunk of it -- ran with the idea. A good chunk still does.

And this is what we are fighting today: the idiot notion that we can "...be anything we want to be..." that we can "...set our mind to any goal and accomplish it..." A load of ideological manure. And it's hurting us every day. The great entrepreneurial movement leaves no room for backup. When we fail in our attempts to re-invent the wheel, we get a job flipping burgers. Oh, sure, entrepreneurs succeed with a combination of work, help and luck and being in the right place at the right time with the right idea. But to tell people that a certain mindset will carry them to the top of the heap? Nah.

There ARE limitations. You HAVE limitations. Fail to recognize them at your peril.

Yes, Normy helped put us on the road to where we are today: deeply in debt, mindlessly "individualistic," reliant on our own internal machinery and not up to the task.

The power of positive thinking is as often the power to destroy as it is the power to create. And it's no axiom.

Shrapnel:

--They called the memorial "Jacko's final act," but it wasn't. Why do you think Grandpa and Grandma want those kids? It's so they can unleash a new set of Jacko-monsters on an eager public.

--The United States and its Good Friend Russia have signed a bunch of new agreements, and peace and happiness reign throughout the land. Now all we have to do is stop the unpaid former Soviet Generals from selling their secret stashes of nuclear warheads to someone. Like Iran?

--Oh, and then theirs our Good Russian Friend Sergey Aleynikov. He's charged with stealing secret code... not from the CIA or the Pentagon, but from Goldman Sachs, which needed it for one of its trading divisions and may lose a bunch of money as a result of the theft. True capitalism has come to the former Soviet Union.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, July 06, 2009

568 The Web Maven

568 The Web Maven

Young Einstein is busy trying to build a website. He has this ultra cheap place that registers names for next to nothing and has pulled the trigger. First thing he learns is that cheap isn't cheap. You have to buy a site builder thingy that any oaf can figure out and use. "You'll have your website tonight," says the introduction to the software. But just in case, give us your phone number and we'll give you a "welcome" call and answer any questions. Pick a time frame that's good for you. The software is many times the price of the registration.

Young Einstein gets the call while at work and says to the guy "I can't figure this thing out. It doesn't do what it says it's going to do."

Young Billgates on the other end of the phone says "call me back when you're home and in front of the computer. Meantime, I'll send you some helpful hints." The helpful hints turn out to be the same "information" links that came with the software and are useless.

Y.E. wades through reams of "tutorials" and still can't make a home page appear. He keeps going to the web address and finds an "under construction" sign. He goes to the software "dashboard" and then the "home page" tab. It has ABC news. It has facebook, it has all kinds of junk he doesn't want, and no way to get rid of the stuff.

Hey! How about pushing the "add a page" tab? "You have used all the pages your agreement allows. Would you like to upgrade?" No. So far 'stein has managed to put a picture of the George Washington Bridge (outbound) one one of the precious few pages, and not much else.

He's planning to call the web "help" guy back one day, but none too soon. Maybe some people were just not cut out to be web mavens.

For now, it's back to the endlessly gibberishtic "tutorials," half of which are trying to sell something.

They say website "tonight," but they don't say which tonight. Or for that matter, what year.

Shrapnel:

--Palin's actin' like someone in a wild west movie who hears the words "get out of town and I won't shoot ya." Except when it comes to governors these days, it's "prosecute ya" instead of shoot. Who was it said Palin makes Sanford look stable?

--Howcome it's okay to surge in Afghanistan when it wasn't okay to surge in Iraq or even be there. Bush II was trying to show he did better than daddy, and that and oil is why we went to war. Is Obama trying to show that we can do what the Soviets couldn't?

--The Knight Brothers charitable foundation is increasingly active these days. Let's hope they know more about "founding" than they did about newspapering. And how is it the foundation has all that money while the papers went bust?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

567 The Rebels of Arkansas

567 The Rebels of Arkansas

So Wal-Mart has gone over the wall. The Great Satan of American commerce has sipped the socialist Kool-Aid and in a stunning reversal of policy and genetics now supports the Obama health plan which would make employers offer medical insurance to its workers. Stunning. Unthinkable. Unheard of. Positively Kremlinesque. Joe Stalin, channeled in rural Arkansas.

The commentators are shocked. The White House is shocked. The competitors also are shocked, but not for the same reason as everyone else.

The competitors are shocked because if the Wal-Mart Commies win, they get yet another leg up. The policy shift was a stroke of competitive genius, not some Great Awakening.

Wally World already supplies what passes for medical insurance to about 80% of its workers. It built the costs into its operating budget long ago. It's like the light bill. It comes, they pay it.

Not so some of the some of the other retail biggies. If they have to follow suit, and they do, eventually, they're going to add those costs to their merchandise and you'll end up paying for it. Prices go up at Smartstores Juniorwear or Circuit City (oops) and not at Wal's? Well, it turns out this benevolent and communistic move is nothing more than a ploy to hurt competitors unable to afford the extra cost as easily.

Does the company's support mean anything in the real world? Of course it does. It makes the legislation creating the new health insurance system easier to pass. Wally is America's largest private employer. And if it hints to its employees that they'd look good if they wrote to their legislators and urged passage -- well, that's a lot of pressure.

And it makes Wally look like a good corporate citizen, to boot -- unless, of course, you're Smartstores Juniorwear or were Circuit City.


So the Great Satan of American commerce may have put on some makeup and hidden the horns under a Little Rock Little League baseball cap, but he's still the Great Satan of American commerce.


Shrapnel:

--Trying to wade ones way through the "simple" instructions for setting up a new website is like reading the instruction book for an M16.
You first have to learn the terminology, then the parts -- and only then can you start using the thing. After which, the gun -- or the website -- immediately jams and blows a hole in your face.

--Guy from the Bronx is on a commercial airplane and decides to take off all his clothing, then gets into a fight with a flight attendant trying to put a blanket over him. The defense: he's bipolar and didn't take his meds. Nonsense. He probably just trolling for the in-flight ugly award.

--When Reagan took Nancy to a Broadway show, his sycophants swooned. When Obama took Michelle to a Broadway show, he got slammed. And he paid a lot more for the tickets.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

566 2159

566 2159

It's the year 2159. It's New York. Mike Bloomberg is in his 39th term as mayor. A pack of cigarettes costs $119.45 on 42nd St., but only $116.10 on Queens Boulevard. Bernie Madoff has served his sentence and is about to get out of jail. He's been behind bars for 150 years, or 54, 750 hours, of which he has worked 18,250 in the prison laundry at 75 cents an hour. He leaves the clink with $13,687.50 in untaxed wages, ready to start a new life as a free man.

Bernie just marked his 221st birthday. Mike is a mere 217 and speculation is running high that he's going to seek a 40th term, "just so it comes out even." Mike's been working out and so has Bernie. But Bernie didn't have a personal trainer like Mike. He had to rely on help from his homies in the lockup.

No Club Fed for Bernie. Not exactly hard time, either. But no Club Fed. So for a guy that old, he's in pretty good shape. So, don't you go messin' with "The B-Man." He's learned to take care of himself. The New York Times wanted to interview him on his release, but it went out of business back in 2012. Generations of kids have asked their grownups "Why do they call that place 'Times Square?'" Only history buffs remember.

There was a "Welcome Home Bernie" celebration scheduled for this day, but no one lived long enough to show up. Just as well. There probably would have been a bunch of protesters on hand with their hands out.

His lawyer, Ira Sorkin, has put his court bills into collection. But with only about 14 grand in his pocket, they're going to have a hard time getting much. Plus the collection agency doesn't have much chance of calling Ira's client, who plans to live in the Barry Manilow Home for Men somewhere downtown. No phones.

The street scene seems strange to Bernie. The buildings look familiar, some of them. But no cars. Mike banned motorized private transit at street level back in his 28th. Now, there are hydrogen powered buses for what remains of the population, down to about 8,000 from the 2,000,000 when he first set foot in the Big House. But the air is as pure as a snowfall at David Souter's house.

Some things haven't changed. You still need to speak decent Korean to find out whether the stuff on the salad bar has been sitting there for more than three days (Mike eliminated the Board of Health in his 31st term. Budget cuts, don'tcha know.)

Macy's is still having a 20% off sale. When Bernie passes one of Macy's windows, he notes there's a computer screen on display with an Internet news website showing. The top story is about some guy running a Ponzi scheme. He shakes his head in disbelief. "Who would do such a thing?" he asks.

Bernie has been rehabilitated.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009