Wednesday, May 30, 2012

1024 The IPO

1024 The IPO

What ever happened to taking risks?  Facebook’s initial public offering -- its IPO -- was one of the biggest busts in recent history.  After months of buildup, they finally started selling their stock.  But the expected frenzy of activity died aborning.  

Anyone with any brains could tell you that while people use Facebook a lot, almost no one responds to the constant barrage of ads.  GM, which no longer has money to burn decided to cancel its advertising contracts.  And as Engine Charlie Wilson of General Motors is often misquoted as saying, What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.  In this case that’s true.  (Wilson actually said “what’s good for the country is good for General Motors and vice versa.”)

If GM bails on a big contract with Facebook, what does that mean for Joe’s Real New York Pizza of Pocatello, Idaho?

Right.

The banks and others tried to shore up the stock.  It didn’t work.  Plus there were trading delays caused by some computer screwup.

And first day buyers are all atwitter (oops) about losing their shirts on Facebook.  Hey... you buy in, you might do well and you might lose your shirt.  What do you want, FDIC insurance on your stupidity?

What drives the stock market?  Institutionalized investors.  Forget the old-time widows and orphans who bought carloads of AT&T, GM, GE, Long Island Lighting.  Nice conservatively run companies with dividends you could live on.  The widows and orphans don’t stand a chance in today’s world.  Stock prices are swayed by whether the heads of a couple of mutual funds and retirement systems get up on the wrong side of the bed on a particular morning.

Buying stuff -- even from MegaBucks TV -- carries risk.  So don’t get all out of joint when a pump and dump stock just dumps.


---

From the mailbag:  A reader writes a general comment ending with “try not to be an idiot all of your life.”  Dear Reader: I have not yet lived all of my life, so there’s still hope.

Another reader objected to my including Newsday’s Ellis Henican in a list of top newspaper columnists.  My opinions are my own and you’re welcome to reject them as you are to accept them.

After running “Dishwasher logistics,” in came an e-mail that asked “you wash dishes?”  Nope.  The machine does.  But I have learned to fake polishing the furniture by spraying Pledge into the air and leaving the can sitting in plain sight so it looks like (and smells like) it’s been used.


Shrapnel:

--China and Taiwan are trying to outdo one another in improving relations across the Strait.  At the same time, both sides are building up their military, buying or building new jet fighters and placing landing strips in places that make it easy to stage an invasion.   Believe the Air Forces, not the politicians.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

1023 MegaBucks TV

1023 MegaBucks Television

Welcome to MegaBucks Television the new shopping channel for investors.   No more CNBC for you.  Or Bloomberg, Fox BN!  We’re here 24/7 to bring you bargains and exclusives that make your financial channels, newspapers and websites, your brokers and bankers obsolete!

You’ll be first to see new products.  You’ll get bargains on the things you need every day!   It’s just like Home Shopping, QVC, JTV, Liquidation Network and all the rest.  But it’s all here for you, the investor.

Later today, we’ll show you some new products that will not only help you make money, but will help the environment as well.  BV is your exclusive source for used plastic bottles.  It’s a hot commodity, and you’ll want to buy now while the price is low.  It’s SO new, there isn’t even an exchange for trading it.  But we have it all here for you.  Everything from portable sports drink bottles, to multi-liter cola bottles to great big water cooler tank-bottles.  Keep these things out of the landfill and get in on the ground floor of this exciting opportunity.  Be here at 3PM eastern for the debut of the BV Water Bottle Exchange.

Now, on to today’s special.  Berkshire Hathaway “A” stock.  BRKA closed Friday at about $119,400.  But because it’s today’s special, here, we’re going to give it to you for only $119-even.  That’s a whopping 400 dollars off the list price.  And since this is today’s special, you save the $200 usual shipping and handling charge … today, shipping and handling are free!  And you can choose EZ Pay!  Yes, easy pay.   Get this value home today for only $100.00.  We’ll charge your credit card another hundred for each the next 1200 months!  And you can bring home a share of one of America’s most prestigious companies today for only $100!  As a special bonus if you order now, you’ll get a copy of Warren Buffett’s Investment letter, absolutely free!

The phone lines are very busy, so keep dialing.  Or go to our website EmBeeTee.com.

We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, ExxonMobil and all other major credit cards.  Don’t wait.  We’re expecting a sellout!

Now, let us introduce a special guest, Charles Ponzi, who will explain derivatives and hedge funds and has a few special exclusive MBT offers.

Charlie, welcome to MBT, and let me start by asking you if it’s possible to buy derivatives without “assembly required?”

“No, Dan, that’s part of the fun of derivatives.  You have to kind of put them together yourself.  But not to worry.  We include easy instructions with every item and you can always call our Derivative Help Line and speak to a customer service representative and assembly expert for a nominal fee.”

Please remember that past performance is no guarantee of future gains.  Loss of principal and interest or dividends is possible.  Market conditions vary.  This information is valid as of 5/28/12.  MBT does not warrant gains and by ordering you accept responsibility for your investment’s performance.  These are not government guaranteed securities.


Shrapnel:

--

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011

Friday, May 25, 2012

1022 With Feet of Clay

1022 With Feet of Clay

Okay, enough, already.  American Idol season eleven sealed it.  Never again will a “singing” competition darken the TV in this joint.

The season finale on Wednesday (5/23/12) was the worst television program since “Supertrain,” “The Adventures of Paddy the Pelican” and “The 700 Club.”  And it’s really tough to beat Paddy (pelican) and Pat (Robertson.)

The Idol final was a two hour and six minute scream fest with more flashy production than an explosion in a costume jewelry factory.  Not flashy enough, though, to hide the fact that if this was about singing, then singing is dead.

One major talent this year: Jessica Sanchez.  She’s a 16 year old kid from California, Filipina-Tex-Mex with a voice that puts a generation of so-called greats to shame, but who was encouraged to screech like a cat in heat instead of to sing.  She came in second.  No worries.  Her future is a done deal.  The winner, Phil Phillips is a Paul Simon wannabe who can’t carry a tune, can’t articulate a word, can’t play the guitar but has great teeth and nice hair.

Sanchez on a quiet day and last year’s winner, Scotty McCreery, are the only two performers in all eleven seasons to make actual music.

But the rest of the cast this year was even worse than the winner and the runner up.  You had Joshua Ledet who showed some promise en route to his exit.  But someone should have told him “this is not the Full Gospel Church on a Sunday Morning or a Motown Soul Club at closing time when everyone is drunk and WANTS to hear screaming just to stay awake.”

There’s a difference between vocal acrobatics and vocal contortions.  Someone tell the music mavens who run this thing.

To be fair, it’s not always the contestants’ fault when they sound lousy.  The producers force styles and song choices on them and they’re often unable to handle the challenges.  No reason the kids who vie for the title can’t pick better stuff.

Enough, already.  Idol, X Factor, the Voice, the Sing Off, America’s Got Talent.  Keep ‘em all.

Oh, and one more thing:  assuming accurate counting, there were ten million more votes for the Idol finalists than there were for the 2008 presidential elections.   And that’s pathetic.

As is this question:  this voting’s on the level, right?

Shrapnel:

--Will someone tell that pathetic paternalistic fundamentalist right wing whack job Huckabee that the Presidential Oath of Office is an oath of office and not a job description?  He’s busy railing against Obama because the president’s “job” is to uphold the constitution, not “give everyone a fair shot,” as Obama intoned the other day.  But even if you consider the oath a job description, that doesn’t make what Obama intoned wrong.

--It’s nice to see that Arizona has satisfied itself that Obama was born in Hawaii.  But that wasn’t enough for the Maricopa County Sheriff who sent his own posse to Honolulu to do its own investigation... at government expense.  Think he’d have done that if Obama were born in, say, Porcupine, South Dakota or Elizabeth, New Jersey?

--City Supervisor John Avalos of San Francisco says he consulted a Ouija board before voting on a non-binding resolution to name a ship after Harvey Milk, the openly gay supervisor who was murdered.  Avalos says he contacted Milk’s spirit and was encouraged to vote for the resolution which passed.  Send your supervisor, U.S. Senators and Representative Ouija boards of their own... their performance will improve.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.  ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

1021 Orwell in the Supermarket

1021 Orwell in the Supermarket

George Orwell has risen from the grave to take over the labels in your supermarket.  Not the nutrition labels, mind you.  Those get a federal once-over now and then and no one wants to run afoul of the FDA, not that there’s much risk of that.

It’s the front of the package labels that are getting so Orwellian they have to be classified as Tabloid Companions.

Here’s a bag of potato sticks with relatively little fat in it.  Nice.  Not bad tasting.  But it’s not exactly a “Vegetable Garden in a Snack” as the label tells you.  Some minor things like celery powder and ground tomato are ingredient numbers 325 and 487, right between the various preservatives.  And, yes, potato is high on the list and is a vegetable.  But really.

Then there are the strawberry ice pops which are “made with real fruit.”  And, yes they are … pears and some other things, but no strawberries.  Pears are real fruit.  They are ingredient 19 out of 23.  

There is a difference between “Natural ingredients” and “all natural ingredients.”

And there is no universally recognized standard for “organic.”

How do they load the white bread with whole grains and still make it white bread?

How do they get 8 grams of fiber in a “serving” when in earlier years they could barely squeeze in two? Wonder Bread and Sara Lee with whole grains doesn’t taste like sawdust.  But really.

What about those “farm raised” fish and “free range” eggs?

Then there’s the vegetable juice that tastes like fruit.    You drink that to get a dose (serving) of vegetables without tasting them.  You don’t like V8?  You’re a damn commie terrorist fascist.

Oh, and two of the touchy-feely brands, Morningstar Farms and the new agey Kashi?  They’re owned by Kellogg’s.  Nothing wrong with that but why hide it in the fine print?

Of course, the full Orwellization of the supermarket won’t take place until they sell pigs with only two feet.  But that day will come.


Shrapnel:
--Judge Glen Berman in New Brunswick NJ got it right when he sentenced Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail and three years probation this week for posting his video of his college roommate in gay embrace.  The roommate, Tyler Clementi,  later committed suicide.  Berman points out there’s a difference between a hate crime and a bias crime and this was the latter.

--Why do the current owners of Chock Full O’Nuts coffee feel obligated to tell us in huge letters on the top of the can that there are no nuts in the grind?  After almost 90 years there’s no one left alive who needs to be told that.  It never did, and most coffee drinkers know that, too.

--The Germans, the Russians and the Chinese don’t share a lot culturally, but one thing they do share is wry, sarcastic humor as evidenced in this dialogue is which is real:
He:  I took a sleeping pill and I’m half dead... She:  So take a second pill.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

1020 Out of the Frying Pan

1020 Out of the Frying Pan

We’ve all been inundated by ads for those “green” frying pans.  They do this, they do that, they do the other thing.  Turn you into Martha Stewart or Emeril overnight.  Stuff just slides off.  Withstands oven temperatures.  Lasts a lifetime.  Use it as a hammer, it’s so strong. Now just $19.95.  But wait, there’s more.  Order now and get a second one free (just pay additional shipping and handling.)

Well, never let it be said that cheap TV ads don’t work.  We ordered in March and they delivered in May.  In the intervening weeks, we spoke to our new old friend Gomez at customer service several times.  Each time he soothingly promised that our four to six weeks shipping time was delayed by an overload of orders and lack of stock.

So it arrives.  They, actually.  Oh boy! Sunnyside up eggs for breakfast!  All you have to do is slick the pan by oiling it, heating it, cooling it, wiping it clean.  No problem.

Stove top?  Check.  Vegetable oil? Check.  Smoke detector on? Check.

Easy as can be.   The oil is to break the pan in.  Cooking won’t need it, say the instructions.  So fluffy and slick you can just blow it off the pan and onto the plate.

Not quite.  A powdery residue prevents that.  In fact, it prevents getting the egg off the pan in one piece.  So far, it’s no better than the stuff they sell at Pans R Us.  But for ten bucks, what the hell.

“Clean with warm soapy water and towel dry.”

Except for the black spots that have become part of the skin of the skillet.  

The eggs tasted fine.  Eat your heart out, Martha and Emeril.

The pan is no more no-stick than any other.  And the new decorations are inelegant..

So let’s turn ‘em back.  Call Gomez.  (How often do you get the same customer service rep twice? Three times leads one to believe there’s only one guy there.)

He turns on the light, gets out the truncheon and asks “why are you returning it?”
In the end, he promises to send a replacement, free.  No shipping or handling charge.  Seven to ten business days (don’t hold your breath.)

A “small number” of the latest batch of pans are defective.  Just dumb luck that one of them ended up here.  Eventually we’ll try the original "free" one (plus postage and handling.)  Chances are it, too, will be among the “small number” that is defective.

If it’s business as usual at Telebrands, the third one will arrive sometime before Labor Day and we’ll take that one for a test drive, too.

If it’s also among the “small number” all three are going back via UPS and when the credit card bill comes, it’s going to be challenged.

Meantime, come on over.  Have some eggs with blackish brown powder undersides.  Delicious.  Environmentally friendly.  Cooked in a pan you can use as a hammer.

Shrapnel:

--Word wonder?  Since “iota” is based on the number ten, is “not one iota of difference” the same as “not a dime’s worth of difference?”  And if so, who thought to translate the Cyrillic/Greek/Latin former into the American latter?

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

1019 Punish Pedro

1019 Punish Pedro!

Pedro Espada is a thief.  This is not news, because everyone already knew that.  But now he’s a convicted thief.

Espada is a former State Senator from the Bronx.  He has been in one public job or another for around 30 years.   And all he says about his thievery is that it’s a bunch of charges trumped up by his political enemies.  That’s what they all say... or at least all who get caught.

Politicians who steal are a dime a dozen.  What’s special about Espada is that he skimmed money from the supposedly non-profit healthcare network he started and he heads.  Another rob the poor job.  The Bronx has produced some elegantly corrupt office holders.  Most of them understood you had to give back.  Not Pedro.

His company is called Soundview.  And Espada used his corporate credit card to buy little things like lobster and sushi.  You can buy an awful lot of that with $100,000.  How much lobster can one guy eat?  But the lobster and sushi are small fish.  The real stealing went into the millions.

You may remember this guy as the Democrat who defected to the Republicans after his original party won a majority in the State Senate.  That brought chaos.  Of course, chaos is standard operating procedure in Albany.  But this was even more chaotic chaos than the usual.  No one knew what to do.  Pedro did.  He went back to the Dems and they elected him leader of the pack.

Fortunately for everyone but his girlfriend, he beat her up and that got him thrown out of Albany.  But it didn’t get him thrown out of Soundview.

How many doctor visits and colonoscopies and mammograms can you buy for what Pedro stole?

Now, lock the guy up and let him skim scam and steal for cigarettes and cerveza in the federal pen.

Meantime someone has to put Soundview back on sound footing.  Is there a doctor in the house?

Shrapnel:


--NYU researchers in southern France have found what they say are the world’s oldest cave paintings, perhaps 37,000 years old.  One says “even then, people wanted to decorate their homes.”  Hard to believe since God created the world only five or six thousand years ago.

--Things are tough in the banking world.  First, there was the two billion dollar trading loss at Chase.  Now First Republic, about one millionth the size of Chase is cutting back on the grace period for renewing CDs, and probably further lowering interest payments.  But they still know your name when you walk in, which is becoming easier because no one will walk in after the latest changes.

--Stop using “comparing apples and oranges” as a contradiction... you know who you are and it isn’t.  Both are spherical fruit, both grow on trees, both can be eaten raw or juiced, both are filled with seeds.  It’s a perfectly decent and legitimate comparison.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

1018 Remembering Mike McGrady

1018 Remembering Mike McGrady

Mike McGrady used to like to quote me.  I never could figure out why, because I never had much to say, didn’t say it all that well and was a relative kid and worked in radio, which at the time, most newspapermen deplored as superficial and sensationalist.

Mike was the Newsday columnist, creator of one of the great literary hoaxes of the last 50 years and a fairly conflicted guy.  But he was also a brilliant writer, perceptive observer and a quiet hellion.

His best known work was a parody compilation called “Naked Came the Stranger,” which was the story of a nymphomaniac woman from Long Island and her exploits with half the neighborhood.  Each chapter was written by a different Newsday reporter, editor or writer, with McGrady putting the whole thing together along with Harvey Aronson also of Newsday.   

It was a best seller.  It still is more than 40 years later.  Mike’s other books didn’t do as well.  There was one about how he became a house husband.  Neither the book nor the job lasted long.  And there were two books about Linda Lovlace, star of the porn movie “Deep Throat,” and the troubling life she had before, during and after her swing at stardom.

Mike went from columnist to food critic for the paper.  As such, he put on colossal weight.  And the accompanying brown bottle didn’t help.  He also put on some financial weight that some say came from writing good reviews -- or bad ones about someone’s competitor.  Didn’t happen.  But once that was in the air, Mike was washed up as a restaurant critic.  Didn’t exactly help that everyone knew what he looked like, either.  Can’t do much anonymous dining like that.

We saw eye to eye on a lot of important issues.  The fight for birth control rights, civil rights, opposition to the Viet Nam war, the gross stupidity and corruption of local officials.  And we traded notes.

Then one day, he vanished.  Gone.  No one knew where.  Well, almost no one.  He ended up in  Lilliwaup, Washington.  Huh? Where?  Strange place for a New Yorker and with a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard.
When Newsday finally got around to writing the obituary, it said he “retired” in 1990.  No writer retires at 57.  No writer retires, period.

McGrady had the talent to be in the same pantheon as Henican and Breslin Kempton and Earl Wilson and Paul Sann.  But he never made it that far, which is our loss and was his.

And dying at 78 as he did the other day, was too early.  Far too early.

Shrapnel:

----A Texas website called webuyjunk.com has linked these posts on its webpage and wants us to link to theirs in return, which won’t happen. In return for the additional exposure, they deserve a plug, which they now have.  But what does it say about this site that it interests places that deal in used car parts, broken down farm machinery and scrap metal?

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

1017 Mitt Fitt

1017 Mitt Fitt

It’s really hard for a parodist to come up with anything funny about Romney.  He leaves us no material.  And parody has to start with reality.

With Mitt, reality changes so often, there’s nothing to sink your teeth into.  

The other guys in the Republican primary were easy.  Some of you received our notes from Sick Rantorum as he campaigned for the US Championship in the more-Catholic-than-the-pope contest.

What’s his name from Texas... the other Rick... the guy with the craggy-faced good looks of a movie cowboy and had the brains of a rutabaga, but with a poorer memory was an easy target for verbal cartoonists.

Ron Paul?  All you have to say is he looks so much like Jack Kevorkian, they could have been cousins or maybe roommates at med school.

And the balloon man Gingrich is a treasure trove of marital, economic, nutty professor academic hot air so outrageous and off the charts he’s impossible to resist.

But Romney? Ken Doll but with less personality?  Prep school-nanny-raised rich kid who hoses down dogs which he’d previously tortured with that top of the car trip to Canada, and who writes off his cruel bullying as “pranking?”  How do you get funny about stuff like that?

How do you write off leading a roving band of nasty private school boys who cut off the blond-dyed long hair of a fellow student who likely was gay?  And how do you excuse provoking a blind teacher to walk into a glass door?

Taken as individual incidents, all of this stuff is relatively petty.  Taken as a pattern -- and it is a pattern -- the whole becomes more important than the sum of its parts.

Cruelty is cruelty.  Picking on the weak is picking on the weak.  And that was still going on with Romney as late as his days at that crumb-vacuuming, bottom feeding takeover firm.  Loot the weak.

The real issue is that America has allowed the Romney campaign to frame the conversation around his simplistic and unworkable and so far mostly secret economic plan.  

The real issue is character, character, character.

And it’s tough to make fun of something that doesn’t exist.


Shrapnel:

--Attention jurors in the John Edwards case.  His fate will soon be in your hands.  Check your mail each day for a little something from Bunny Mellon.

--Edwards has been quoted as saying he could be to poverty what Al Gore is to the environment.  What is that?  It’s a guy in a mansion with a bigger carbon footprint than his neighbor, Neyland Stadium and who chases grants instead of ambulances.

--The legal case against Edwards is iffy at best and it wouldn’t be surprising if the jury declares him not guilty, even without any encouragement from Bunny.  But as a public figure, he’s through. And like so many other politicians it isn’t what he did that got him in trouble -- we have high tolerance for guys who can’t keep their pants on and even those who embezzle or make secret tapes of their oval office meetings and phone calls.  It’s the coverup, stupid.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

1016 Dish Washer Logistics

1016 Dish Washer Logistics

The first logistic problem is deciding whether “dishwasher” is one word or two.  Because the spelling police prefer one, you’ll see it here as two.

But the main issue is how much stuff do you put in and where do you put it.  We all know that the lower shelf gets hotter than the upper.  So putting “dish washer safe” stuff made of plastic or rubber you know automatically you put on the top shelf so it doesn’t melt and ooze all over everything else.

And since you load the machine throughout the day, running it only once to save water and electricity, you’re constantly rearranging everything in it.

The teeth rising from the bottom shelf seem skillfully designed to hold... nothing.  The spaces are not narrow enough to hold a flat plate up straight and they’re too big to hold a bowl or a bowl-shaped plate upright.  So you’re forever placing and re-placing stuff so they kind of prop each other up.

Then there’s that square hole dead center in the bottom shelf.  You have to keep it “clear.”  Why waste that space?  Here’s information could save you from finding out the hard way:  the hole sits over the center of what looks like a ceiling fan in the base of the unit.  During the wash cycle, water pressure pushes a collapsible telescoping phallic symbol up through that hole and it squirts hot water all over everything.

This telescope and square hole arrangement is hidden from young prying eyes and questioning little minds, thank goodness.  Else GE, Kenmore and Kitchen Aid would constantly be hit with porn charges.

Then there’s the basket that holds flatware.  The intuitive thing would be for you to put all the spoons in one, the forks in another and so on.  But that would be wrong.  Not only is your dishwasher performing a sex act behind closed door, but it’s a big advocate of diversity.  If you don’t alternate utensils in the little places they don’t wash properly.

Damn Godless liberals at Maytag.

You do this for awhile and you get to be pretty good at arranging things.  Especially when you screw up and have to hand wash everything when the cycle is over.  After you inspect them... after you clean the steam off your glasses.


Shrapnel:

--You can’t make this stuff up.  A police car in Syosset on New York’s Long Island caught fire the other day.  It was parked in front of the village fire house.  The guys inside watching a security camera saw the flames coming from the engine compartment before the cops could make a 911 call.

--Dud grenade department.  No one commented the other day on this space’s definition of an Israeli centrist.  Maybe no one reads this far down on the page.

--A drug store in Kansas submitted a total of 1,000 prescriptions for each of two Medicare patients last year.  When people get sick in Kansas, they must get really sick.  Impossible to believe that there’s any other explanation for something like this from those upstanding heartlanders... is there?

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

1015 OMG, Austerity!

1015  OMG, Austerity!

Back in the school days, our parents voted each year on a proposed budget.  Most times, the budgets were approved even though they usually meant a tax increase.  There was always the threat hanging in the air -- clearly articulated by the sponsors of the budget -- that with rejection came “austerity.”

In the case of a local school district that means cutting all discretionary stuff, firing faculty (but not administrators) reducing or eliminating bus service, extracurricular activities, athletics and programs in music and arts.  No one ever seemed to consider the third way, which was to cut some stuff, but not to eliminate everything that wasn’t mandated by an outside authority.

(Note to PA readers:  in the real world school and public library districts vote on budgets every year and political parties are barred from participating in school board elections.)

Now, here in America and over in Europe, there’s that threat of “austerity” once again.  Except now it’s not about music and art, it’s about medicine, social security, welfare, food stamps, road repairs, and anything else you happen to like or need.  (But never congressional or White House staffs, overlapping agency programs and the Pentagon.)

The problem both here and there is the so-called leadership falling at the feet of the central bankers.  The bankers can’t help themselves... they’re doing only what’s in their DNA:  trying to squeeze money out of people who don’t have it and wrecking the lives of people who can’t fight back.

So they’ll do what they’ve always done, cutting benefits, extending work days, years and eligibility ages.  Not one of these guys ever had to work for a living.  But they depend on the rest of us for their ill gotten gains.

The EU has to kill the Euro and send Brussels back to the backwater it was before someone decided it was the capital of the continent.

Austerity in school budgets can sometimes hurt.  In national budgets, it can kill.  And it will if we don’t kill it first.

Shrapnel:

--Lugar lost his primary in Indiana and North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  Lugar was one of the few normal Republicans left in the Senate and North Carolina has created the (Bible) Belt and Suspenders template since a law banning same sex marriage already was on its books.  This country is turning into a Parody of the parody movie “The Dictator.”

--Israel’s centrist party has joined with Likud to form a coalition government.  What, you may ask, is an Israeli centrist?  An Israeli centrist is a guy who wants to give away only half the country.

--Karma’s a bitch as you might ask Thomas Bodenschatts, of rural Cambria County PA, but you can’t.  Bodenschatts, 66, ran biology programs at local schools and was collecting frogs along a road when he was struck by a car and killed. The coroner has elected not to dissect... er... conduct an autopsy.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Monday, May 07, 2012

1014 BMW Envy

1014 BMW Envy

(Note: this post contains adult content.)

So there’s this guy, Henry Wolf of somewhere in California, and he has a lawsuit against BMW about his motorcycle.  This was reported by radio station WWJ in Detroit.  It says Wolf bought this Beemer bike, a 1993 model with an after-market seat made by an outfit called Corbin Pacific.

He gets on the thing and drives it around for awhile and he gets an erection he now says lasted for almost two years.  He says erection or not, he can’t have sex and he can’t work.  So he wants Beemer and Corbin Pacific to compensate him for his emotional pain and lost wages.

An informal survey of two doctors, plus one interview the radio station conducted says, in essence, “huh?  Who’s he kidding?  But then, in true CYA (or CYP) medicalese each launches into a small lecture about compression of blood vessels... blah blah blah.  One of our medical experts says there are no data to support the guy’s claim.

Another says “I should have his problems.”  

The third said “When I had a bike I used to try and warm up the girls by giving them a vibro ride.  It never worked.”

Alas, poor Henry.  Legions of willing California Girls may be writing him to ask if they can show him how to overcome this relatively new disability.  But all he wants is to contravene the side effects.  No matter he saved hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars in Viagra expenses.

Maybe the things should come with the same warnings that as the erectile dysfunction pills:  “four hours is too long.  See a doctor.”

Can you imagine taking one of those pills on, say, a Saturday night and Sunday morning you’re still “ready?”  Find a doctor on a Sunday morning... or head to the emergency room and wait while they clean up all the shootings and stabbings and car crashes from the previous evening.  Where does something like this fit in the triage hierarchy?  

Probably the guy is uncomfortable.  Probably he doesn’t want to work because his condition might be obvious when he walks into the office or factory.  But a lawsuit?

For the record, BMW North America/Southern Michigan in Detroit says it’s not the fault of the bike, it’s the fault of the seat.  The seat maker hasn’t been heard from.


Shrapnel:

--Who writes those odd graphics with letters you put into an “e-mail this” box to prove you’re a human being and not a bot?  The machines can’t read phrases like “flongi beato” or “hapdig vlidim” in distorted letters.  But much of the time, neither can we.

--Guy next door is in full compliance with the Disabilities Act.  The squirrels have grown so fat they no longer can climb up the bird feeder to eat, leaving it completely to the birds.  But before they sued, he made sure there was a ground floor supply for the little rats, too.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Friday, May 04, 2012

1013 Big Spenders from Arkansas

1013 Big Spenders from Arkansas

Wal-Mart, the giant you love to hate, is back in the business of spending lavishly.  Wal-mart? Spending lavishly?  Depends on what you mean by lavish.  Eight figures qualifies.

That’s the money supposedly paid to authorities in Mexico, where corruption is legal and publicly celebrated.  It went to get building permits abutting ancient ruins.  Or making the glacially slow Mexican approval process for new structures move as fast as cars on the autobahn.

Of course, there is a question about whether these apparently shady payments were actually made.  If you ask the folks at Bentonville, Arkansas, retail capital of the known universe, they’ll tell you they’re looking into it.  An internal investigation is moving apace, much like those cars on the autobahn... the ones that ran out of gas halfway between Cologne and Bonn.

Eventually, heads that didn’t roll when word first leaked out will roll, too.  And Wal-mart will be clean as a whistle for a while.

But the Mexico thing raises some questions.   Who knew about this?  Who signed the checks?  Where else might this be taking place?

No worries, folks.  Nothing to see.  Move along.  And oh by the way “Have you noticed our plastic bags are now made of recycled materials?”

Yes... we have noticed.  Because their color is clothes dryer lint gray instead of white and there, in huge letters, is the notice “Made of 30% recycled materials.”  We’ve also noticed because the new eco-friendly bags break more easily than a one dollar wine glass.  (The old ones broke only more easily than a $2 wine glass. Big difference.”)

Checkout clerks, being actual human beings have taken to doubling bags when there’s anything heavier to be packed than a greeting card and the latest edition of the Midnight Globe tabloid. Saving... what?

But the company’s three biggest problems remain officially off the in-house radar: the way employees are treated … or not treated... the enforced hillbilly lifestyle of what they sell, along with book and movie selection only an Arkansas fundamentalist could embrace... and the endless lines that make checking out seem like a Tai Chi marathon.

Maybe they should bribe you to shop there.

Shrapnel (Media Mogul Edition):

--A British parliament committee has declared Rupert Murdoch “unfit” to own the huge media conglomerate he owns, what with all the hullabaloo about phone taps and payoffs.  In Britain that can be grounds to yank broadcast licenses.  But he’ll still cry all the way to the bank.

--CNN insiders are complaining about reduced ratings, and fiddling with programming and personalities without realizing that the slump is not because of something they do or don’t do but because of something they don’t have:  Ted Turner.  The buttoned down MBAs at the network’s owner, Time Warner, can’t run something that was designed and built to be run by a strong personality with brains and guts.  Until they hire someone like that, they’ll continue to be what they are:  something about which it’s easy to say “Turner off.”



I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

1012 Spring Renewal

1012  Spring Renewal

“I can’t die, I’m booked.” -- George Burns

He said that on turning 100.  He made it another 45 days and then, booked or not, he died.

Those not quite of the age where buying green bananas is an iffy proposition or the sight of flowers scares us still have to consider the future.

For example, do we renew our AARP membership for one year, or take advantage of some discounts in the fee for renewing for two or even three years.

When a five-year certificate of deposit matures, and the only interest rate approaching a whopping two percent is for a five year renewal... what do we do?  (It’s entirely possible these days that the bank will die before we do, but you never know.)

And what happens to those term life insurance policies we bought 50 years ago and which now have predeceased us?

We are the children of the parents of what Tom Brokaw calls “The Greatest Generation.”  And we are not getting the same kind of attention now given to the baby boomers.  Probably that’s good.  And it’s not something we’re going to have to worry about as long as they will.

Last time someone paid us heed, we were told we had a duty to die.  That was the idiot Governor Richard Lamm (D-Colorado) who this year will turn 77 and has yet to do his “duty.”  Guy should have gotten in touch with Dr. Kevorkian while he had the chance.  “Doctor, I have a problem, a permanent and debilitating disease, age.  Can you help me?”  No one ever saw Jack Kevorkian smile in public.  This might have changed that.

Eventually we're all going to go.  Life is, after all, temporary.  And with the onset of age we can expect changes.  AARP dues, CD terms and life insurance that expires before we do shouldn't have to be among them.


Shrapnel (Imbecile websites edition):

-- “Facebook” needs a “hate” button or at least a “dislike” button to go along with its “Like” button.   Clicking on this would send a message to the receiver. As with everything else with that site, you could “customize” what you send by checking one of a series of boxes: “your site sucks,”  “you are really annoying,” “get off my (virtual) lawn,” to cite some examples.

--You can customize “Google Drive” and “Google+.” The more you customize the more annoying the ads they send.  You can defeat this by logging out.  But then, you can’t use the features... which isn’t a half bad idea.

--And “Twitter” should get rid of the instant viral “retweet” selection.  If you have one or two people you’re following and they retweet everything that they see on the internet, you’ll have trouble finding the posts you DO want.

Note to readers:  John Wydra’s superb coverage of world events and his intelligent and perceptive commentary, linked on the right side of this page, has ceased publication.  His reasons are here.  Thanks, John for good reads. And any time you have something you want to say to Wessays readers, please send them along... your ideas always will have a welcome and a home here.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012