Friday, May 30, 2014

1338 Back to You, Jodi

Television star, former waitress and former murderer Jodi Arias will not have the pleasure of amusing you each day at her penalty phase trial set to begin next month, barring incident.


The pneumatic problematic babe was convicted of aggravated first degree murder of her former boyfriend and every minute of the trial was carried on live television.


It was one of two great arguments for banning TV in the courtroom. Everyone played to the camera.  We suffered the insufferable prosecutor, an attack dog who would strike fear into the heart of angel convicted of jayflying in the Arizona desert.


The defense “team” was a ragtag couple of state-paid lawyers one of whom seemed to sleep through the proceedings while the other didn’t know what to say next.


The defense witnesses were ridiculous “experts” in abuse and who talked in the riddles common to their trade.


The jury deadlocked over whether to send her to the chair or just lock her up forever.


Arizona law says the murder conviction stands but the state can form a new jury to consider the punishment.


If the new jury deadlocks, the judge will impose sentence, but the chair will have left the room.  The decision is life without parole or life with eligibility.


So… the cameras can come in and record every thrilling moment of the trial.  But their owners can’t broadcast the pictures until the whole thing is over.  Not a single frame.  Not a millisecond of sound.


What we’ll get instead is standups from reporters who’d been in the courtroom, once they’ve moved to the great lawn in front of the building.


And we’ll get the constant drivel of the legal analysts, law enforcement analysts, psychologists, court watchers, historians, media critics, profilers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.


The first trial lasted for a million days.  Jodi was on the stand for at least 100-thousand of them, spinning lies, trying to tone down her cheap pinup image with a pair of glasses and fake upset.


The TV decision was a wise compromise between people who think television should never be in a courtroom and those who think every nose blow should be shown to satisfy the “public’s right to know.”


The other case that showed why cameras shouldn’t be on was the OJ Simpson circus where everyone played to the camera and the beleaguered judge, Lance Ito, lost control of his courtroom.


There are those who say OJ would never have been pronounced not guilty if there weren’t cameras. The jurors wouldn’t have had to go home and face angry friends and neighbors for voting “guilty.”


The camera ban is a minority view in the world of journalism.  Most reporters, editors and producers want every bit of the action on video.  Especially during sweeps week.  Especially when there’s a hot girl accused of a miserably brutal crime.  Especially when the victim’s family sat in the courtroom and cried consistently.


We have had enough of Jodi and the whole case.  And that’s beyond a reasonable doubt.


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

© WJR 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

1337 Mass Murder

Seems like we hear about a new mass murder every other day. Columbine, Newtown, Connecticut, Virginia Tech, the Amish school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Colin Ferguson on the LIRR, Aurora, and on and on, and most recently a college town in California.


We’re not talking about the Ted Bundys or the John Wayne Gacys, the sons of Sams, the Jeffrey Dahmers or anyone of that ilk.  They’re serial killers. We’re talking about multiple deaths in a short burst of time.


So what ties these murderers together?  What makes this happen?  What do they have in common?


Gun control advocates will tell you it’s the availability of firearms, even when the killer uses a knife or a baseball bat or a shoe.  And they’re partly right.


The National Rifle Association and a legion of claim-filing psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers will say the killers are mentally ill.  And they’re partly right.


And these things play out in much the same way.  All the killers were people who friends and relatives knew should be watched.  All the victims were saints. And the enormous number of former and retired FBI profilers will appear on the various news channels to hand- wring about the dearth of non-former or non-retired FBI profilers.


Maybe the answer is simpler than we’re told.  Sure, guns, violence on television, the disconnect between video games and reality and the unabridged dictionary of mental diseases play roles.


But what worries some of us is not a mental illness, but a mental condition. What all these killers share is a feeling of deprivation and its emotional brother, blaming someone else.


We all feel sorry for ourselves some of the time.  Most of us shake it off -- or have it shaken off -- and go on with life without hurting a garden slug let alone killing a bunch of contemporaries.


In the Elliot Rodger’s video selfie, lecture, “manifesto” and threat list, he blames other “men,” for his failure with women.  He calls them obnoxious brutes, while labeling himself the true gentleman and alpha male.  And he blames the “spoiled” “blonde” “sluts” of the “hottest sorority house on campus” for his troubles.


And had he lived after killing six others, he would have repeated versions of that for his jailhouse interview with Anderson Cooper or Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew or Dr. Lechter.


Do the self-pitiers who murder have a stronger case of “poor little me and it’s your fault?”  Hard to tell.  But that’s where we need to start looking.


And we don’t need an FBI profiler to pick them out ahead of time.  We know them because they live with us and sometimes because they ARE us.


Shrapnel:


--The median pay for CEOs of large companies has risen by 8% since 2012, according to an AP survey.  It now tops $10 million.  How much the median pay for an hour has changed and in which direction is one of life’s great mysteries but the guessing is down and about 5% in buying power.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014


Monday, May 26, 2014

1336 Drug Problem Solution: The Electric Chair

1336 Drug Problem Solution: the Electric Chair

 

A fellow who was born and raised in a rural village with a big prison once said when they used the electric chair, all the lights in town dimmed.

Fortunately for nighttime readers, the state didn’t execute a lot of people.  But when they did, the electric chair was their eraser of choice.

Of course, we’ve become much more humane now.  So we use drugs.  Except sometimes they don’t work. Like in Oklahoma last month. And sometimes, there’s such a drug shortage, the executioner can’t get enough of them to do his job.

Pharmacies don’t typically carry a supply.

What to do?  Well, we could try to get those drugs listed on the Medicare Part-D formulary.  Or we could return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

One lawmaker in Utah wants to bring back the firing squad.

In Tennessee they didn’t wait for debate.  They’re bringing back the electric chair. But wait, before you start talking about cruel and unusual punishment, understand the fine print.

They will use it only when they can’t get their hands on the death drugs.  Or when the executee is found to be less dead with generic versions than with the name brands.

Or if there’s a sudden emergency execution.

Of course, in the age of conservation and environmental interest, someone’s soon going to demand that electric chairs meet Energy Star specifications like your washing machine, refrigerator and 95 inch plasma TV.

Prisons have just so much in the budget to pay the electric bill, and have to watch what they spend.

The gentleman’s village is situated on the Marcellus Formation.  Right now, there’s a 49ers-style gas rush not much smaller than California’s gold rush.

So you’d think that budget and economy-minded legislators would consider the gas chamber over the chair.  But no.  Never gave it a thought.

The chair was first used in New York State and has been in general use since 1890, 124 years.  It has a rocky history.  But most states have stopped using them.

And it’s not like it’s easy to find one.  You can’t just waltz into a furniture store or bid on one at eBay.  Many prisons have dismantled their old ones or put them in storage.  And after all those years in a dusty storeroom, they need testing before use.

Volunteers are scarce.

Grapeshot:

-Why do they use a germ-killing alcohol swab when inserting the death drug needle in the arm of the person they’re executing?

--All executioners work freelance.
--Executions are punishment, not deterrent but could be if televised live on C-Span.

--We have a “war on drugs” which isn’t working too well and maybe we should be channeling those resources into a war on treason which is committed every day in the House of Representatives, on the radio and on the internet.

--We could also have a war on war which if won would slow the growth of graves to decorate on Decoration Day, which is today.

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

1335 The Electric Bill

Time for a few thoughts on wall hangings.

You know, the stuff that you put on walls that are neither pictures nor degrees and certificates of some kind.

I am going to frame and hang my latest electric bill.

Why?  Wait a sec, while I give you some background.

I’ve always put stuff on walls that doesn’t necessarily belong on walls. A pipe from a pipe organ, a balalaika my mother brought back from a tour of the Soviet Union in the 1970s… figures of elves made from scrap metal by a goofy wonderful artist and her blowtorch.

A couple of months ago in utter frustration we had installed a tankless water heater.  That way more than one person could take a shower either one right after the other or even at the same time  -- we have two bathrooms.  

Previously, you had to wait half a day while the second of our two consecutive failing tank heaters heated enough water for a second shower.  And heaven forbid we ran the dishwasher or did the laundry with warm water.

These tankless jobbies are expensive… with a capital E.  Maybe four times the price of the traditional models.

And the high price did not include running gas lines which also was expensive with a capital E.

When the gas bill arrived, it was a bit higher than usual, but that was expected.

When the electric bill arrived it was … zero.

You heard right… zero dollars and zero cents.

The utility company had overestimated the previous bill by a good bit and this time did an actual reading.  When they overestimate, I over pay. Next time, they even it up.

But never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to see a zero electric bill.  Nor do I expect ever to see another.

But this one is going to be framed and hung.  And not just with one of those dimestore frames, either.  It’s going to get a custom made, designer designed, imitation museum quality frame you could put on a wall in the Met.  Maybe the Louvre. One of those faux carved faux gold curlicues.  Maybe a couple of angels with harps.

And it’s going to have a motion detector-activated  overhead light.  And maybe some music.

I don’t want anyone who comes in to miss it.

You want a first hand look? Give me a call.  I’ll be right here in the shower.

Oh, and the new water heater?  It, too is a wall hanging.

Shrapnel:
--Where is Yul Brynner when you need him?  Imagine a coup in Thailand when he was running things. All the people would still be happy and singing on key.

--NBC’s Brian Williams spent four hours recording an interview with Eddie-the-Mouth Snowden.  A cut down version is to be broadcast next week, but you don’t have to wait that long. Wikileaks will have it on its website before that.

--Here’s a dog bites man story: Sears reported a lousy quarter and may close more of its stores and K-Marts.  You can bowl in the aisles, so apparently many people think the stores are already closed.  And a repeat of a prediction made here years ago: This outfit is going to turn itself into a REIT and make a bundle.

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



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

1334 President Roosevelt Walking Up a Ramp

That sounds like a title of something, doesn’t it?  Maybe a painting in a museum or a short, grainy, black and white movie?

Well, it’s a movie alright.  And it’s pretty short.  Eight seconds.

President Roosevelt had polio and could not move his legs.  When you saw him standing it was only because he was wearing iron leg braces.  Mostly you saw him seated.

Jimmy DeShong of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was a major league baseball player and a shutter bug. Played for the Philadelphia Athletics, the New York Yankees and the Washington Senators.  He had just gotten a new eight millimeter camera and had it with him at the All Star Game in Washington. Pretty high tech for 1937. Talk about a Kodak Moment.

So Jimmy was shooting home movies instead of warming up in the bullpen and here comes President Roosevelt in an open car.  Jimmy rolls film.  A fellow passenger, probably his son James, helps the president out of the car and Roosevelt, his arm still being held, appears to walk up a ramp to his seat.

Roosevelt couldn’t move his legs.  But he learned a kind of hip toss that allowed him to swing them.  

Jimmy’s descendents just donated that film to the Pennsylvania State Museum. Note, donated. Not sold, lent, rented but donated.

People knew the President couldn’t walk on his own. But they didn’t think much about it.  It didn’t come up often.  And when it did, the secret service confiscated the camera.

The Evil Media cooperated with FDR’s wishes and kept its collective eyes closed.

Somehow, none of the palace guard noticed Jimmy’s camera.  Either that or he outran them, which is something most major leaguers could do then without performance-enhancing substances or stratospheric paydays.

But now we see Roosevelt as we’ve never seen him before.

And it changes our perspective.  He doesn’t look feeble by any stretch of the imagination.  But he does look vulnerable, which is not the impression anyone got when thinking about him, looking at film or photographs or hearing him speak.

In today’s climate, the affliction would get all the attention.  There would be debate about his ability to lead from a wheelchair.  It would be a campaign issue. As a country, we couldn’t afford that in 1937.  We had a depression to end and a war to win.

We can’t afford that kind of mental clutter now, either.  But that doesn’t stop us from lining up to dish it out or scoop it up.

Shrapnel:

--Finally, a way to solve the football problem, go the way of Governor’s Stadium at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, northwest of Nashville, where a 40 foot sinkhole has opened in the endzone.  Step two, open the thing up to the size of a football field and fill it with the walls of the stadium, then cover it over with grass and turn it into a park.  But, alas, they’re working to fix it and figure the work will be done before the start of the football season.

Grapeshot:

-Peay is pronounced “pea.”


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


Monday, May 19, 2014

1332 Rube Goldberg in the Classroom

If you have kids in grade school or high school, be afraid.  If you have kids that have finished grade 12, be grateful.

The common core standards for math and English are going to turn today’s elementary schoolers into haters of education and then into haters of intellect.

Before that, they’re going to turn average learners into morons, morons into imbeciles and imbeciles into idiots.

Edu-fads have come and gone for years. Educrats pop them out in litters and the litters multiply like rabbits.   

We had the new math. We had the new physics.  We had the open classroom.  We had the closed classroom.  All of these gave individual school districts the green light to wreck minds.  But you could escape. You could move.  

Then we got “no child left behind,” “outcome based learning,” and now “common core.”  These three are edu-fads that can wreck minds on a national scale.

Common core turns simple basic math and language into Rube Goldberg Contraptions of such stunning complexity that they’re guaranteed to fail.  Cartoonist and humorist Goldberg made a point with his drawings. Hundreds of cartoons with the same theme.  In summary:  if you need to swat a fly, get a flyswatter and use it.

You don’t need great series of complicated steps and great numbers of moving parts to swat the fly.  And you don’t need a great series of complicated steps and great numbers of moving parts to do simple math or read and write simple English.

Of course, Goldberg gave you the finished product.  Teachers who don’t understand Common Core can’t do that.  They’re too busy dimming their own bulbs to dim your kids’.

All math is counting.  Get a bunch of blocks. Line them up. Give them numbers.  Block 1, Block 2, Block 3, Block 4. There you have everything you need to know about numbers.

How many blocks?  Four.  That’s all you need to know about counting.  Take away one block?  How many left?  Put it back in the line.  How many now? That’s all you need to know about addition and subtraction.

Multiplication is shorthand for adding.  Division is shorthand for subtracting.

C’mon, guys.  This isn’t battlefield strategy or rocket science or brain surgery or any other of the current cliches for complicated.

To teach fractions, all you need is a pie crust.  To teach decimals after dividing the pie, all you need is a ruler.

As for English: too many moving parts as it is.  All you need is some simple basics.  Words are the building blocks of sentences.  Sentences are the building blocks of paragraphs.  Paragraphs are the building blocks of everything else.

The most important sentence ever written in the English language is “See Spot run.”

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

1331 Jill and Dean

The rumors had been flying all over the place since last weekend, so it was no huge surprise when the New York Times fired executive editor Jill Abramson and replaced her by elevating managing editor Dean Baquet.


Who cares, right?  What does it mean to those of you in Pocatello or Parson’s Grove or Pensacola?


It means.


The Times is the Titanic of news, and someone has to make sure it doesn’t hit the same iceberg that has gouged the hulls of many a lesser  ship.


Jill wasn’t the captain they needed, evidently.


Jill was the Great Experiment,  a woman in charge.


Her replacement, Dean, is the Great Experiment - II. The first African American in charge.


Actually, neither is all that experimental.  Both are respectable first tier journalists and first tier editors with excellent credentials.


But again… who cares who has the job?


Well you should. Why?


Because the Times sets the tone and agenda of news in America.  You can be the TV network down the avenue.  You can be the Great Upstart Website of the moment. You can be the Grand Poobah of magazines.  You can be the wire service of record.  You can be the Pennysaver or weekly newspaper of Sunapee, New Hampshire.  But you rely on the Times to some extent.

The executive editor of the New York Times is the single most important newsman or woman in the country, directing everyone else’s coverage, even the National Review and Mother Jones.


So here’s the haggard and -- according to her -- underpaid Abramson tougher than Mike Tyson in his prime out on the street. She won’t be living in a washing machine box.


And here’s the slightly younger and ink-in-his veins Baquet, now with one hand on the wheel and reading the charts in hopes of avoiding the iceberg.


You won’t notice any difference in the paper. At least not a sudden difference.


Maybe Baquet can scale back a bit on his boat’s self involvement.  But he can’t unbuild the huge overpriced and ridiculous headquarters building on 8th Avenue.  


He can’t buy back the Boston Globe or the Chattanooga Times or WQXR Radio.  He can’t undo the owner’s choice of a CEO in Mark Thompson.


But at least he has the support of his navel-gazing staff, his clueless Publisher and maybe even his paper’s readers.


And you’d best hope that he can keep this thing afloat, else you will be relying on lesser lights to keep you informed.  And eventually, the lights will go out.


Shrapnel:


--Abramson’s ouster was handled in what has become a typically ham-handed way.  Especially at a place like the Times, which thinks of itself as the picture of dignity.  This isn’t the first evidence that the Sulzberger lights are on and nobody’s home.


--And Sulzberger is far from one of those room temperature inheritors of an empire.  But he is a man of the Times and the times.  Is this what they teach at Harvard Business School?


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

© WJR 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

1330 Round Up the Usual Suspects

Here’s a question… you’ve probably looked at the paper or watched some TV in the last day or so, and a lot of what you saw was news, or at least labeled as news.

So, how many times did you hear or see the word “suspect?”  Chances are, more often than you should have, I … um … suspect.

A suspect is someone who authorities believe committed a crime but has not been convicted.  But it’s become a synonym for criminal.  Or is becoming one.

Guy wearing a ski mask walks into the Famous All Night Shoe Store, holds up the clerk and runs off.

Police say they have a security cam picture of the suspect.  No they don’t.  They have a security cam picture of the robber.  The guy in the picture?  The one wearing the ski mask and holding a bag and a gun?  He’s not a suspect.  He’s the robber.

The store clerk says the suspect drove off in a white SUV with New Jersey Plates.  No he didn’t.  The ROBBER drove off in a white SUV with Jersey plates.

When they arrest the guy, THEN he’s the suspect.  Or even better, the accused.

Suspect, of course is a specialized word that’s become mangled through misuse by cops and news people.

But it certainly has plenty of company.

One favorite is “solutions.”  Solutions are either liquids or response to problems.

There’s a truck I often see that advertises “flooring solutions.”

And since most floors aren’t problems, they must be sellers of stuff like mop-n-glow, Pine Sol or some kind of wax.

Nope. They sell wood, linoleum and stone.

Flooring solutions, indeed.

Another flooring truck advertises the same three solutions but with the slogan “We lay anything.”  Is it possible to write a complete sentence using nouns and verbs that have come to mean nothing?

How about “You need to utilize your time to give the optics more transparency.”  That one has a double bonus because it also includes the ugly phrase “You need to” and the completely unnecessary word “utilize.”

Here’s one that could go either way: “The birds are impacting the growth of my lawn.”

And then there’s Premium.  A premium is something you give away when you sell something else to someone.  Or your insurance payment.

But we have premium gasoline, premium ice cream, premium toothpaste, premium wall solutions -- that would be paint -- premium checking accounts.  And on and on.

I refuse to buy anything labeled “premium” except the cracker.  And I’m on the fence about that since they came out with salt-free saltines.

Shrapnel:

--C’mon, guys, come up with your own meaningless words and sentences and send ‘em along.  I’ll post them.  With or without credit (or blame) as you wish.


Grapeshot:

-How did things get this way at the Brody Mine in West Virginia where a couple of miners were killed in a wall collapse but where well known and unaddressed safety problems were so numerous that it had been branded a Pattern Violator, the worst possible rating from regulators?

-Ditto the story near Istanbul, only the numbers are much higher.

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

Monday, May 12, 2014

1329 Apples and Oranges

NEW YORK -- Scientists say they have determined that the ages-old stricture against comparing apples and oranges is based on urban legend and not scientific fact.

A large-scale study published in the peer-reviewed journal Plantset, concludes that the two commodities are indeed directly comparable. Lead investigators Peter M. Holzapfiel of SUNY Cortland, Rodrigo Arbol of Florida State University’s Study Center in Valencia, Spain and Anthony Spettro of Columbia University are to present the pronged study at a conference in a city still to be named.

“We wanted to find a country where neither apples nor oranges are grown,” Holzapfel said.  “We want to be on neutral territory when we present our data live.”

Researchers say they have reached two major conclusions.  First, Apples and Oranges are spherical fruit that grows on trees in moderate to subtropical climates, and propagate using seeds. Second, the average color of an apple measures 614 nanometers on the color wavelength scale and the average color of an orange measures 620 nm.

Dr. Spettro, who performed the color measurements for the study, says “the difference in color is only a handful of nanometers on the huge spectrum of color waves and frequencies.”

While the lead researchers say they don’t expect people to stop misusing this example, others do.

Professor Peter Roget-McGill of Edinburgh University and a descendent of the author of the first thesaurus, suggests comparing one or another of the fruits with an inanimate object or gas.
“I think comparing Oranges with Cinderblocks has a nice ring to it,” he said, “or perhaps apples and hydrogen.”

Both apple and orange growers have expressed approval of the new study.  Max Arthur of Watkins Glen, NY is the fourth generation of his family to grow apples in the region.  Arthur says “They keep labeling the comparison as wrong is unfair to both fruits. Reese Keller of Winter Park Florida, a relative newcomer to the orange growing community says he’s “pleased not to have to deal with this fake contradiction.”

Lead researcher Holzapfel says “It’s going to take some doing to rid people of this awful phrase.  But our statistics should eventually put the whole thing to rest.  I don’t know how it came about in the first place.  It’s just one of those annoying phrases we can’t seem to free ourselves from.”

And Columbia’s Dr. Spettro adds “Look, spectral analysis doesn’t lie.  These colors are right next to each other on the wavelength chart.  It’s about time people got a good dose of reality.”

And apples and oranges mix just fine.  Ask anyone with a juicer, a Ninja blender or a Nutribullet.

Shrapnel:

--We have all three of the above named appliances.  They were listed in order of difficulty to clean, starting with the hardest. But whatever one uses, fresh fruit or veggie drinks taste wonderful with any meal and making them yourself is more fun than buying it from the supermarket.

--Making your own juice is kind of like playing the role of a mad scientist.  There are a million recipes.  But making one up as you go along makes you feel like a budding nutritionist, which, in fact, you are.

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